Selling Your Digital Photography

Digital Camera Stock Photograph

The other day I paid a visit to Shutterstock, a seller of royalty free stock photographs. I wanted to get a feel for the stock photography market. I have a large collection of photos, an unfortunately large number of which are still trapped in negatives and 35mm slides, and felt that selling some via a stock photography web site might be a good way to generate some additional income. It was chance that took me to Shutterstock first.

My first step was to find out what sort of photographs they were selling. I found that the photographs they sell are organized into 30 different categories. My primary areas of interest are astronomy, landscapes, abstracts, nature, and science and technology so these are the areas in which my collection is strongest. Based on my interests I found that the following categories are probably most appropriate for me:

  • Abstract
  • Animals/Wildlife
  • Backgrounds/Textures
  • Buildings/Landmarks
  • Nature
  • Objects
  • Parks/Outdoor
  • Science
  • Technology

I then went to the relevant galleries to see what types of photos were being shown there. This is important because Shutterstock makes the call when deciding which of your submitted photographs to accept. If they know their business, then they know what is more likely to sell.

Shutterstock also has a web page that features their top selling images. Using a filter to limit the search to photographs, excluding illustrations, I was able to look over the Top 50 Images Ever. While I could understand the appeal of some of these images, I was quite surprised at some of the others. What this signaled to me was that what I thought would be good photographs to sell is not necessarily what people are looking to buy.

Now that I had an idea of what people were buying, I decided to check out what people were looking for. To do this I visited the Top 100 keywords for the past month. The top ten keyword searches were:

  1. flowers
  2. family
  3. background
  4. flower
  5. vector
  6. people
  7. nature
  8. abstract
  9. fashion
  10. beach

Fortunately, flowers, background, nature, and abstract are all keywords relevant to a number of the photographs that I have to offer.

My final step was to investigate Shutterstock's submission requirements, terms, and what they pay. For payment, the photographer gets .25 cents for every download. Images being uploaded must be at least 4.0 million pixels, which works out to 2000 pixels wide by 2000 pixels high for square images. There are also content guidelines to be considered.

At first look, Shutterstock looks okay but I won't know for sure until I have the opportunity to compare them with their competitors. My next step will be to visit some of the other online sellers of stock photography and undertake a similar investigation for each. Only then will I be able to make an informed decision on who to go with.

And no, that is not my camera in the picture. Rather it is a free stock photograph from

Ad Astra, Jim

| Return to the Blog Index | This entry was posted on Saturday, March 24th, 2007 at 10:45 am and is filed under Digital Photography.