Stock Photography Guide for Beginners Starting in 2024

Stock Photography

The art of selling photos online often starts with Stock Photography. While it is not a “get-rich-quick” scheme, it surely is a start.

You get to build a public portfolio, reach millions of users online, and earn year-on-year returns till your images are being used by the public.

According to a survey on Micro Stock Group, 53% of responders are earning more than $500/month.

That being said, the quality and usefulness of the images do play a critical role here.

Eager to learn more and get started? Great. This guide definitely covers everything you need to learn about Stock Photography.

So, without any more delay, let’s get started with this actionable guide right away.

What is Stock Photography?

What is Stock Photography?

Stock Photography is a photography business niche where images are sold or licensed for primarily commercial purposes. These images are most commonly used by marketing professionals, developers, or graphic designers.

Stock Photography is done with the purpose of creating an online asset that people and professionals can use. It is not done for the use of individuals but is done for the masses.

The Stock images are generally high-quality, professionally captured, edited, and retouched images. The images can be used under the terms of pre-agreed licenses.

What does a stock photographer do?

A stock photographer is a professional photographer who creates and sells photographs for commercial use through stock photography agencies or websites.

Stock Photography provides a way for photographers to monetize their work by making it available to a broad audience of potential buyers worldwide. It also allows photographers to create a portfolio of their work and present it to a wide group of commercial audiences online.

How To Become a Stock Photographer?

To become a Stock Photographer, ideally, one should understand the basics of professional photography to capture high-quality images.

While one can surely get started with basic-level skills, it is always recommended to create high-quality shots.

That is what people prefer when looking for a stock image, and hence that is what stock agencies and websites promote.

In addition to the skills to capture high-quality images, here are a few steps that you can follow to become a Stock Photographer.

Research Thoroughly Before Photography

Research Thoroughly Before Photography

Trends and events are some of the most important times for a stock photographer. Some of the most recent trends were the boom of AI, pandemics, strikes, and political changes.

While you surely can start with nature photography, street photography, and portraits—you have to keep in mind that you’ll be competing with images with millions of impressions and downloads.

But a trend like Open AI’s Chat GPT in the industry is new. Every blogging site wants to share their views and they need images for the same.

In stock photography, such trends may occur quite regularly. And when you are getting started, you can benefit from them.

Once you have a good understanding of what works, you can start to do further research on what are some common gaps between demand and supply.

If you don’t see images of kids in sneakers even though it has a high search volume—that might be a niche that you can capture as well.

Plan Out Your Concepts and Ideas

Plan Out Your Concepts and Ideas

Once you have an idea of what you want to trend or idea you want to capture, it’s time to brainstorm the ways through which you convey it.

This is the part where you decide whether you want an indoor studio shoot or an outdoor shoot. If you need a model or the props. If you need natural lighting or neon lighting.

A lot of it will depend on what you want to shoot, how you wish to shoot, and what results you are aiming for.

It is highly advised to learn about the trend or event that you are targeting in stock photography. A mood board of all this information will allow you to create a more accurate representation.

When you are getting started with Stock Photography, we’ll advise you to capture a concept from as many angles as possible. Remember, the goal is to cater to a wide audience.

For that, you want to give them the option of choosing what they wish to use. Many Stock Photography websites show related images to the audience.

More images around a concept give viewer options from your own portfolio to choose from.

Gear-Up With Right Equipments

Gear-Up With Right Equipments

We are now on the steps of execution. Based on what you are aiming for, gather the equipment you need.

It is important to keep the production cost as low as possible, as well as, the quality of images as high as the industry standards. It is a challenging task, but an important one.

Curate a list of equipment and props you’ll need for the shoot. If you believe an item would not have a secondary use—go for renting options.

Overall, treat a stock photography shoot professionally and create a cost-effective system that doesn’t affect the quality of your work.

Be Aware of the User’s Intent

Be Aware of the User’s Intent

Often the day of the shoot is hectic since one has to manage a lot of elements together. During all this, it is important to keep the intent of the audience at superiority.

When you are capturing an image, understand where the image can be used by an audience.

This will help you decide the elements of the shoot you would like to keep in frame. It will also help in defining the orientation that would be best suited for a user.

Based on the stock photography idea, such questions help in creating a useful image hence increasing your profits over the years.

Edit Stock Images Professionally

Edit Stock Images Professionally

Unless your target is to license RAW images, you must always edit stock photos professionally.

The reason behind using a stock image is it’s a ready-to-use trait. This means the image is professionally captured as well as edited for use.

Additionally, it is important to note that while editing the image—the quality must not deteriorate.

Remove any unwanted elements from the shoot and try presenting useful images that the masses can easily use.

You can also use professional photo editing services to outsource image editing to experts. This reduces the cost as well as helps in getting professional results in a quick turnaround time.

Submit & Optimize Images for Better Search

Submit & Optimize Images for Better Search

Keywords and Metadata of your images will play a critical role in Stock photography.

After signing up, based on the Stock photography website you upload your images, and you will be presented with the licensing options for your image.

These options are Royalty-Free (RF), Rights-Managed (RM), Extended Licenses, Editorial Use Only, and commercial Use. Learn about them as they help in deciding how your images can be used and how much you will be paid.

Along with that, when you are uploading images to a Stock photography website, you’ll be asked to add keywords, descriptions, and tags. This is essential information that will help users find your image more effectively.

Make sure you are describing your images based on how a user will search for it. This means through the elements in the image, the mood of the image, and the idea or even that you are targeting.

How To Get Accepted By Stock Photography Websites?

How To Get Accepted By Stock Photography Websites?

It is quite tricky when doing stock photography for stock agencies.

You can photograph anything as long as you have permission slips and model releases.

To start selling and earning on Shutterstock, you need to have a 70% success rate, the first time you upload photos.

If you don’t succeed to get these seven out of ten ratios, you can try again only after 30 days.

Their screening process is programmed to cull the wheat from the chaff and give you an idea of the quality you should be having in your images.

They will allow you to submit almost any subject, but they are vigilant regarding quality.

Similarly, this applies to different stock photography images. But, there are a few fixed things that’ll help you win every place.

Follow these ten things to make sure you succeed:

  • Master the noise in your photos
  • Check the sharpness
  • Submit multiple photos with different subjects
  • Be mindful of description and keywords
  • Leverage photo editing techniques
  • Beware of logos and faces without Model Release
  • Try submitting illustrations
  • Use all three necessary things mentioned above for stock photography
  • Submit your work to multiple stock photography sites
  • Keep trying and never give up


While this Stock photography guide is only an introduction, it shares some key insights on how to get started and get results effectively.

As a stock photographer, it is important to understand the business behind capturing a stock image. The guide surely shares that perspective and gives you questions that you must ask.

The next best step to get started with stock photography would be to look for simple and trendy ideas and try this business yourself. You may start small by capturing a keyboard or mouse.

But as we shared, it is always best to research first and execute based on the same.

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