How To Sell Your Own Stock Photographs

Jeff Colburn

Stock photography used to be a great source of income for many photographers, and some made all of their money from stock. But things have changed over the past few years.

The stock photography industry had gone through major changes due to five main factors:

  1. Photography went from film to digital.
  2. Microstock sites came into being.
  3. Royalty free images were offered.
  4. Getty Images’ embed feature lets people use images on blogs and social media for free. Some claim this was meant to put the small stock agencies out of business as their main income is from sales to blogs and social media sites.
  5. Everyone, and their cousin, putting photographs online.

These changes have reduced the income from stock sales for most photographers. I know of some photographers whose stock sales used to be 80%-90% of their income, but now make up only 10%-20% of their income. They’ve had to totally redesign their photography business model to generate income from other sources.

I never focused on stock sales, but I did get occasional sales over the years. But for the past ten years I haven’t had even one enquiry about stock usage.

It’s tough out there, but stock sales can still be a viable revenue stream, and you have three options to do this:

  1. Sell through a stock agency. Prices here are usually set by the agency and you don’t have a lot of say.
  2. Sell through sites like, where you set the price.
  3. Sell images on your own website, where you also set the price.

I’m going to explore the last option here. The first two are topics for future blog posts.

Unless you have some unique kind of photographs, which are in demand, like American Eagles, icebergs, erupting volcanoes or movie stars, you will most likely sell few if any stock images. The competition is just too steep, and too many people are giving their images away. If all you have is generic images, like landscapes, travel images from Hawaii, etc. you may be out of luck.

When selling from your own website you will need some things.

  • A form on your website where clients can tell you what images they want and how they will be used.
  • A contract between you and the client stating all the details about how the photograph will be used. I email the contract to them as a PDF (already signed and dated by me) and have them sign it and email it back. After I get the contract and payment to my PayPal account, I send off the image.
  • A spreadsheet or database to track sales and clients. You want to stay in touch with the companies who buy from you.

Stock pricing is pretty complex. It depends on the image:

  1. Size
  2. Placement
  3. Circulation
  4. Number of uses
  5. And much more

To decide on an industry standard price, you have three choices:

  1. If you’re a member of an organization like ASMP, you can use their pricing guide.
  2. You can purchase price calculating software and services like fotoQuote pro
  3. You can go to a stock agency, find an image like yours and see what they want for the rights you’re selling. This can be time consuming though.

On your site you can have set prices, but you need to be able to negotiate too. You may want $1,000 for a cover image, but if they want to buy additional images for inside the magazine, they may want a discount.

If a nonprofit wants free images in exchange for offering you great exposure to people who will hire you, which almost never happens, ask them this:

  • Do you have a salary?
  • Does the CEO have a salary?
  • Is the organization’s rent and utilities current?
  • Then why can’t you afford to pay me?

I do provide a 10% discount to nonprofits, but you need to decide what you want to do.

Since your sales will likely be small, don’t invest much money in a website and shopping cart until you see a consistent volume of sales coming through. When sales start to grow, you can invest in a site that has a built-in shopping cart and fulfillment, like, or Or you can buy your own shopping cart from places like

I wish you the best of luck.

Have Fun,

P.S. There’s a good article on selling stock photographs through agencies at called How to Sell Stock Photos Online – A Complete Guide for Photographers Check it out.

If you’re interested in Fine Art Prints or stock images of Arizona, visit

4 Comments on How To Sell Your Own Stock Photographs

  1. Very glad that I found this blog post, as I’ve been photographer for quite some time now but never was considering selling my images as stock. However, as the time passed I end up building on relatively substantiation portfolio and I wanted to start exploring the possibilities of utilizing the images as stock and print. For this I consider, as most ethical and in favor of all the photography industry, to sell through my own website in contrast to using any of the “parasitic” stock agencies – unless there is one that may is sharing 60/40% in favor of the photographer.
    Thank you very much for the good info Jeff!

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