Stock photography can be great revenue generating sideline to your photography business portfolio. If you can break into a few of these stock and mirco-stock sites, your images can sell while you sleep and continue to do so for many years to come. If there is one universal truth to be found in the stock photo industry, it's that high quality images are always in demand. And there's no reason your high quality photos can't be among them! This listing of the current top stock agencies is intent on presenting a bit of what you can expect when applying as a contributor. The companies are listed in no particular order.
Envato Market's PhotoDune
Envato Market is a large digital marketplace, with millions of items for sale, from video to photos and more. Envato's top authors make over $20,000 per month selling digital products and stock to a thriving community of over 6 million users across eight marketplaces.
PhotoDune is the photo marketplace on Envato Market. It offers non-exclusive authors 55% of each sale. This percentage increases if you place your photos exclusively on the site. Learn more about how to become an author. Also, Envato Unstock is where to sell premium authentic photos, which have simple, straightforward licenses and purchase options.
Almay offers photographers 60% of each sale made on the site and currently lists over 15,000 photographers. You retain all copyrights and they are a non-exclusive site, meaning you can sell your images on other stock sites. They have an exacting QC check of a small percentage of your submissions and if it fails, all submissions in that batch fail. Dedicated help line for photographers.
Crestock boasts one of the fastest upload sites for photographers. Their site is easy to create an account with and you can get started uploading photos right away. As with all sites, your photos will undergo a quality check (QC) to make sure they are up to Crestock's quality levels. Crestock does not require exclusive rights so you are free to shop them around to other stock photo agencies. They have a preference for shots with people in them and like a lot of stock shops, they have more than enough sunsets, flowers, cats and dogs.
123rf, as the name implies, is a royalty-free stock site. Royalty-free sites offer a static price per image download, no matter on the use (to some degree, as there are limits). These sites can work well if your collection is large or in a particular niche. They currently offer 50% commissions from customers who download with credits and $.36 per download from subscription customers. Uploads are fairly easy and straightforward with options for FTP, Java or basic uploader. There is a 300MB limit for each upload.
The payouts at Shutterstock work on a sliding scale, so the more images you have downloaded, the more you'll earn per image. The scale currently starts at $.25 per download so it will take a sizeable portfolio with stellar images before the bigger returns roll around (this is true with all stock agencies, though). With over 9,000,000 photos and growing, Shutterstock ranks well among the other stock agencies and also offers video footage if you have high quality content.
Dreamstime is a great place to get your feet wet if you are new to the stock photography game. While the payouts may not be as large as some of the other companies, Dreamstime does offer an extended licensing program to help increase the amount garnered from each sale. An extended license gives the purchaser additional rights beyond the normal royalty free license. For instance, under the standard royalty free license, the amount of print items (t-shirts, mousepads, calendars, etc...) is limited or excluded depending on the agency. With an extended license, certain additional rights may be granted for an additional fee. A good company will let you control which extended rights you wish to see, as Dreamstime does.
Corbis was established well before the internet opened up the stock photo industry. Gaining a foothold at Corbis is something of an elusive process. You will note when taking a look at their site that there is no easy "Submit Here" button like a number of the other companies listed. Instead, Corbis seeks out talent, typically by word of mouth in photography circles, and then invites them to become contributors. As you can imagine, a lot of photographers covet signing on with Corbis.
Like Corbis, Getty is a traditional stock photo agency and the entry process is different than most of the royalty-free sites on the internet. The entry process is one of the more rigorous in the industry but the payoffs are worth the effort for many. To apply, you will need to register with the site, review the guidelines for submitting, take a quiz and then submit a link to a gallery of your finest images. As with most stock companies, Getty is looking for images with a strong connection through use of concepts and emotions. If accepted, you will be offered the opportunity to submit photographs for one of Getty's House Collections with a specific theme.
Stockxpert was one of the smaller, well positioned micro-stock agencies gobbled up by the larger, traditional stock companies. In this case, they are now owned by Jupiter Images and offer 50% commissions on all credit purchases. They pay electronically, if you like, through Paypal and Moneybookers. Otherwise a check can be mailed to you. They list the license you are agreeing to assign to purchasers right on their site, which is nice to see before signing up. They also have the ever popular extended license if you want to kick up revenues for select images. Earnings are monitored in real time and they have an affiliate program to increase earnings.
Fotolia also employs a sliding scale with royalties per image download of between 30-61%. This royalty can increase if you decide to become a photographer exclusively with Fotolia. One nice thing about Fotolia is they list the commissions and credits earned per sales (depending on size and license) right on their site before registering. This lets a contributor decide if they want to be fully exclusive, partially exclusive or non-exclusive right off the bat. All images must be in JPEG format, at least 2400x1600 pixels, in original resolution and you must be the license owner. As with most sites, you may not upload images with protected logos or trademarks in them, which is standard practice.
Big Stock Photo
Big Stock Photo also offers 50% commissions and that means your sales will range from $.50 for the smallest downloads to $3 each for the largest. Payouts start as low $50 of accumulated proceeds and can be paid through Paypal or MoneyBookers. They list the images that are most in demand making it very useful to target your work if the subjects are up your alley. Conceptual images are popular with this and other sites as they can be sold to a variety of markets. Uploads are easy and quick.
iStockphoto is one of the leading micro-stock agencies on the internet. Because of their sizes, the QC process can be more rigorous, not to say any of the stock agencies is much of a slouch. iStockphoto also offers an exclusive images program with larger commissions if your images are only sold through iStockphoto. They further leverage this exclusivity and package a number of high caliber photos into a program called Vetta, which helps boost sales for extraordinary photos.
jupiterimages is another of the heavyweights with little information on working directly with them. It's best described as a, "Don't call us, we'll call you" arrangement.
Veer is an arm of Corbis Images with a view to the 'affordable market'. The submission process is more exact but stringent. You'll be asked for experience in the industry including references, what your specialization is, where Veer can see your work and the size of your collection available for stock. Veer will be more suited for those with an established portfolio they wish to shop to other sites. Not that a new photographer can't break in with outstanding work, but experience is important at this agency.
With a specialty niche in the USA's largest state, Alaska Stock is the place to go for images of the last great frontier. While any photographer can submit photos, the subject matter needs to be located in the state of Alaska itself. Alaska Stock also markets itself as a great resources for those looking for assignment photographers in the state, which makes it great for those living in Alaska who specialize in a niche.
Can Stock Photo
Can Stock currently offers photographers 50% commissions on all direct image purchases made on their site and $.25 for each subscription download. The sign up process is easy and straight forward, just link to your portfolio and upload three images for review. Can Stock does have an exclusive program if you wish to be shown at only one agency. They do allow simultaneous submissions to other agencies as well.
Share Your Experience
Are you particularly familiar with any of the above stock websites? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments on which have worked best for you!