Jan 25, 2016

“How much you can earn at Stock Agencies”
- Kirill Kedrinski , Photostock


This is another question which many have tried and are trying to answer in their blogs.

There are two very big problems here:


  • The first problem. Many of those who write about earning nice numbers on stock sites have never been anywhere close to them. These guys have uploaded some work and realized that they won't be earning millions just like that. But what about the American dream where you get your riches out of thin air? Still there! That is why these personas have blogs and actively write nonsense, whilst sharing referral links. What does it give? Of course, a small amount of money! When someone registers via that link, the stock site pays the owner of the link some money according to how much this someone sells or buys. This method allows you to make money out of thin air, but it's usually very little amounts. Just as a bonus.
  • The second problem is that a lot of the information in these blogs is outdated, and a lot has changed since then.

Thus, below I will try to answer how much you can really earn, if you register on stock sites now - in 2016 and on. And this info will be based on personal experience and observations made by new stockers, many of whom have come to me for help, training and advice and shared information on the results achieved.

At present it's not as easy as it was 3-4 or even 5 years ago. Back then it was enough to regularly upload photos of good quality in modest quantities and not bother with research, selection of relevant topics and so on and so forth and the income of 3-5 and more thousand dollars per month was very achievable. Now it's not all the same.

Currently, there are a huge number of photographers and studios who supply work of an extremely high quality on various themes. Most work is in the "mainstream" - the most popular themes. For example, it's "Business", "Medicine", "Sports", "Family" and such. But, also a lot of work goes in "Fashion and Beauty", "Travel", and other slightly less popular but still well-selling categories.

These people and teams have excellent equipment. Most often, these are the top models from Nikon or Canon, or even Hasselblad. When it comes to lighting everything is great too – they have Profoto, Hensel, Elinchrom, Bowens, other brands are more rare. When it comes to uploads – 500-1000 works every month.

You have to understand that if your equipment is worse and the speed you work with is less, you won't be able to compete on this market. And it's no use expecting big or even sufficient for a comfortable life sums of money.

But everything's not that bad! Therefore, we'll have a look at different options of working with stock photo agencies and what one can expect from them:

Beginner level.

You SLR camera's price is up to $700. You also have a couple of inexpensive lenses. You have no lighting of your own - maybe only a cheap on-camera flash and reflectors. Also, not a lot of work experience. You cannot say that you earn a living in the sphere of photography. Rather, it is a hobby or just first attempts to earn something, or a bonus to your salary.

In this case, you may pass the test on the stock sites. Probably not from the first time, but from the second or third. But if you carefully read through this blog, it won't be a problem to pass the test from the first time!

You can upload approximately 200-300 works per month.

You should consider the stock sites as a decent boost to your base salary, as well as great motivation for growth and development. The better your shots, the more you earn. And the more you are proud of yourself. Therefore, I would say that in 6 months you'll be earning about $300-400 a month, and a year later about $500-700-1000. Of course, it is not an absolutely accurate value, but please remember it to avoid any negative feelings after unfulfilled dreams of earning millions.

I repeat, at this stage, the stock sites should be considered as an additional source of income and as a motivator for growth.

Valuable advices:

You can upload pictures from private shootings, asking the models to fill out the release. To be fair, provide a discount to clients when signing the release, but if you work for free, you have the full moral right to sell your work, so the release is the iron rule for non-commercial photoshoots. Thus, you can quickly earn enough money to buy some new equipment.

Second piece of advice - invest in your future. You can go through a thousand tutorials and workshops, but they will pass and you'll be still shooting with shitty cameras and lenses (sorry). So first of all, invest in equipment. Equipment will help you achieve better results and it can always be sold just in case. But the money spent on training cannot be returned, and there is no guarantee that the level of your photos will increase. Invest in equipment, acquire knowledge from free or inexpensive sources, shoot more. That's all you need to do at the initial stage.

Advanced level.

You have a good camera worth up to $ 2 000 and excellent lenses. Also, you have a good workstation and maybe a set of studio lighting.

Great! Your borders are very wide. You are already earning a living by taking photos. And it's most probably good money that you make. However, if you decide to move, or live in another city or country for some time, your former customers would find another photographer, and you would need to find new customers abroad.

And that's one of the reasons why you decided to become a stocker. Because stock sites do not care where you are. If you have your equipment with you and the Internet, then you can work on stock photo sites and get your money in the nearest bank.

You can make about 500-700 photos per month.

On such conditions you can easily reach $700-800 a month in half a year, and in a year you'll be getting $1500-2500 a month and this number will be growing with time. In a couple of years you will be standing on your own stock feet and only a very solvent client will be able to make you do a shooting for him/her.

At this stage, it makes sense to improve your technical capabilities as far as possible, and skill will develop with experience. However, you should not refuse visiting various photo events that take place on an international level. Foreign colleagues are very open and there is a great chance for you to meet someone very helpful, and also to get some valuable experience, if you're a regular guest at international gatherings of photographers.

Wow, that's lucky!

You have great equipment - top-end Nikon camera, for example, or even medium format. A great collection of best lenses. A lovely set of lighting equipment. Unreal workstation like iMac or MacPro, lots of cool staff, rich experience in various shootings. But most importantly - you have helpers in the form of retouchers, stylists and other assistants. Wow! Then you have all the chances to become a star on the stock photography sites!

You can make 1000-1500 or more photos per month.

Then working your way up to $1500-3000 a month in the first half a year or 9 months is not a problem. In a year you can expect 5-7 thousand, and the year after that you will win over 10 thousand. Moreover, the deeper you look into this area of photography - Stock Photography - the bigger these numbers become!

In this case, the best decision is to take photos and to look into the market. Dig and dig! The faster you understand why some works are sold and others are not, the faster you are able to create huge hits in huge quantities and end up with great sales!

All photographers, who decided to start making money on stock photo sites, can be nominally broken into such groups. If you were able to relate to one of the groups, then you can safely rely on the income mentioned. It can be lower in case you are not working hard, lazy, unorganized, have low motivation, etc. But it can also be much higher, if you are extremely motivated, well-versed in SEO optimization and you have wonderful works...

But, in any case, you have to understand:

Working with stock photo agencies brings great results to those who work hard, constantly develop and improve, and love their job more than anything!