Digital Stock Photography Portfolio – Contributor

Sunrise through clouds

Over the years I have taken quite a large collection of photos with camera’s such as Canon EOS 350D, 500D and 7D. However, every photographer gets to a stage where they have a large volume of photo’s sitting there doing nothing. That being the case, I finally got around to uploading my collection to a stock photography site in an attempt to develop my online presence as a photographer and maybe even earn a small amount from my photo’s which were otherwise doing nothing but occupying space on my hard drive.

So in this post I wish to introduce the world of royalty free stock photography, my experience, my portfolio and the pros and cons.


Stock photography is an industry offering photographs, graphics, and pictures in general for commercial use. They are purchased by people or businesses to use in their advertisements which could range from mining companies to Christmas goods and services. As a photographer, I contribute to a large database which many stock photography companies share, so my pictures are now globally distributed and I haven’t paid a cent.

Rights and privileges
Some stock websites offer rights managed, exclusive rights or royalty free pictures, which all have pros and cons for both the contributor and the client.

  1. Rights managed: Allows the client to purchase the rights to use the image only once, they then purchase for every new use of the image. This can be quite profitable if you can target a niche
  2. Exclusive rights: This is where the client purchases the owners rights to the image, in this case no one else is able to use the image, not even the creator. This is often the highest profit option, but loosing the rights to your own images is the trade off.
  3. Royalty Free: Allows the client to purchase only ones and use as many times as they like, the purchase scheme is based on the resolution of the picture, the higher the resolution the more you will get paid as a contributor.

Exclusive rights and rights managed options are also the most difficult to contribute to, they require the highest quality images in your collections only. Where as royalty free allows you to submit a much broader range of images, plus it gives you many more options, like distributing your images on more than one database. A word of caution: Read the rights for every stock photography website before you become a contributor, because some royalty free services offer you all the benefits of royalty free, however, they require you to exclusively distribute on their network only (iStock photo for example).

Submission Criteria
Each network have there own submission and moderation process, your images are checked for composition, lighting, legality’s and commercial viability.  An image that is accepted on one site may not be accepted on another, and ensure you have the necessary model release signed if you are taking photos of recognizable people, or property releases for the anyones private property you may have captured in your pictures. Usually it is preferred if your images are taken on a SLR camera, however, some point and shoot camera’s of 10MP or more may also provide suitable images, you may need to experiment.

Well it has only been two weeks since I have uploaded my collection and I haven’t made any sales so far.  And really it is entirely dependent on the supply and demand process, if your photo’s portray what businesses want then you are in the money, but if they are just landscape photos of nothing in particular then you might make only a few sales in as many weeks. But it’s better than nothing. The most important thing is that your images are extensively key-worded to target niche markets. But for royalty free images you can usually take up from 30-60% of the image purchase price (varying depending on the resolution purchased). Some sites offer a varying commission percentage depending on how popular your photos are, the more you sell the more profit you get. If you anticipate selling low volume (like me) I recommend a fixed commission structure, like offer 50% flat rate on every image sold.

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