By doing a quick calculation, my photos make up 0.002% of the still images available on GettyImages.com
Which means I have 1600 photos for sale out of about 80,000,000
How does it all work?
By using a third party like Getty Images to sell my photos, I’m giving up all negotiating power when it comes to how much a photo sells for and to whom. I also only get 20% of that sale. Why would anyone ever want to do this? Because Getty is the largest marketplace when it comes to buying and selling stock photos. You’ve got to go where the customers are. By handing over all these licensing rights to Getty, which is exclusive, I’m putting my images in front of people and companies from around the world. These are people that would probably never see these photos without a service like this. That means I can sell these photos so much more frequently than just on my own. Which also means that the 20% I get from a sale still amounts to more money than I would make putting in the hard work to get my photos in front of buyers. And all I have to do is send Getty the photos.
What I really have to do.
OK, so it’s not as simple as just uploading photos. They need some level of curation and editing. I have to think about whether they are “sellable”. Could I see this image being used to sell a product, idea, concept or lifestyle? I need to edit them to make them stand out from all the other photos that will be in that category. A quick search for “TRAVEL” on gettyimages.com.au brings up nearly 3 million images. This brings up another important part of searchability which is keywording. For each photo that I upload I have to add information. The location, the date, a brief description and up to *50* keywords. 50 is a lot of keywords when you think about it. For any of the images I’ve put in this blog, try and come up with 50 individual words to describe the scene. It is very important that these keywords are added though, and that they match exactly what a customer would be looking for in a stock photo. This brings up new thoughts on how to describe the photo. “Copy Space”, “Backgrounds”, “IncidentalPeople”, “TouristDestination”. These are some of the more common keywords that I add to photos to make them more searchable for people wanting general stock photography. Now imagine having 300 photos from a trip to New Zealand to upload and each one needs 50 relevant keywords. This takes time.
I was waiting in the airport one day and saw this photo in an advertisement on a television display.
With the exception of a few, all my images are Royalty Free. This does not mean the photo is free. It means that you can pay a one off fee and use it for whatever you like. You pretty much just pay for the size of the image and then use it how you want. Images can sell from a small size for $50AUD to a Full Resolution size at $775. This means for each sale I can get between a few dollars to over $100, that’s my 20%.
When I license my images on my own terms I treat them as Rights Managed. This is because the photos I show to the public, and I am likely to be approached directly for their use, are what represents my brand directly. I want to know exactly what these photos are going to be used for and for how long, and because I spend more time on them, they come at a premium price.
On Getty, the key to making a decent amount of money from doing this is quantity of quality. Having 2000 average photos on there won’t do as well as 200 super stocky clean photos. Because stock photography isn’t my full time job, I find having a large amount of decent photos does quite well. When I go out to shoot, I concentrate on getting photos for my website first, and also think about generalised shots of a location that would be good for stock. I end up selling between 15 and 50 photos a month. This unpredictability means I don’t rely on this income, but some months can also be cause for celebration.
This photo sold to Microsoft last year and now appears on their Windows login screen occasionally.
What does well?
Not what I’d expect…
Some of the images that sell make sense that someone would want to buy them and some of them I can’t understand why someone chose that photo. This can make curating which photos to upload tricky, so as long as they are technically good and visually appealing in some way then they should make the cut.
Here is the image that has made the most money for me:
An Origami modular star I made for fun and took some photos of it as evidence that I did it. Turns out people like it.
Here is the image that has sold the most amount of times:
This one kind of makes more sense in my head. Everyone loves the Great Barrier Reef.
Second highest in both amount sold and money made:
An old photo that use to be one of my best but certainly doesn’t make the cut for my website artwork now.
How can you make money?
How many of you have a hard drive full of photos just sitting there? Photos that aren’t bad but you don’t want to print them out or share them because they seem maybe too simple or generic. Why not look into stock photography? There are lots of stock photography websites out there besides just Getty Images. Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Stocksy or pretty much anything else that has the word “stock” in it. Check out which ones fit your style of photography and make sure to read how much they give the photographer and whether or not they require exclusive rights to sell you photos, which they probably will. Most of them have a “test” you’ll need to pass before you can be a contributor, but once you get to to uploading photos, all those photos gathering virtual dust on your computer could be making you money with a little initial hard work. Make the effort to get them in front of paying customers and then the stock photography site does the rest. Please, please, please don’t just throw them on unsplash or label them as free to use as this says to everyone that whatever photos they find online are free to take and use. Stock photography can be a great way to start generating a passive income that will grow over time as you build up your *ahem*… stock portfolio.