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Stock photography – your new part time job?

Whether you are a professional photographer or just have a love for the medium, there are great opportunities within the stock photo industry to create an additional income. And if you already have hundreds or perhaps thousands of images sitting on your hard drive, not being used for anything else, then wouldn’t it be great to make some money from them? In this blog post we are going to look at how you can make stock photography your part time job.

We’re currently working with over 70 000 photographers from across the world and they all have different ways of working with stock. Some photographers are highly specialised in specific areas, and others literally photograph everything that falls down at their feet. We see some photographers uploading images on a daily basis and some once a year, whatever your tactic is its worth keeping in mind that almost anything can sell in the world of stock photography. There are however some ways of working with stock photography that are more successful than others, and if you want to make stock photography your part time job, I would recommend trying out the following steps.

Graphic designer using computer at work
Cultura RM / Alamy Stock Photo

Decide on your workflow

Time always gets in the way, so deciding on a workflow that will work for you is your first and most important step. We have a lot of returning customers at Alamy, and they’re always on the lookout for content they haven’t already seen. We see that photographers who are dedicated and update their collection on a regular basis often get more sales because of this. If you already have a full time job, decide on how much time a week or a month you are willing to put into stock and stick with it. It’s a bit like going to the gym really, the hardest part is to get there, once you’ve created the routine you start to enjoy it and in the end it all pays off. Start by uploading your existing collection, then move on with a plan on how to make it grow. I’m not going to lie, a bigger collection will help getting in regular sales so setting yourself a couple of milestones will help you get there. We recommend to first aim to upload at least 500 images, then try and get it to 1000 then perhaps next goal should be 5000. These numbers sound enormous for some and small for others. Again it depends on what kind of photographer you are and what your starting point is. But if you have a long term plan every upload will get you closer to your goal and work as an investment for the future.

If you are time-poor, there are different ways of speeding up your process. Have a look at our photoshop cheat sheet specialised for getting your images through Alamy QC (quality control).

Tag your images well

Since licensing photography through a stock site is based on the customer having to search for the image they want rather than commissioning a photographer to specifically shoot it, the discoverability of your images is (forgive me) MORE important than how they look. Don’t get me wrong, brilliantly shot images are of course what our customers love more than anything, but if they can’t find them, they might as well not be there. Tagging your images is therefore crucial to your success as a stock photographer. If you have not got any new photos to upload, why not spend the time you’ve set off to revisit your tags and improve them? When tagging your images, include both specific and conceptual words. Different customers will have different ways of searching. Customers in the editorial industry might search for very specific words, sometimes even in Latin, whilst customers in the advertising industry could be after a concept rather than a specific scene. If relevant to your images, trending tags as “hygge”, “instagram look” “diversity” and “authentic” could help attract a different type of customers. Many photographers choose to add their tags to the image metadata in Lightroom or Photoshop before uploading. Our system extracts embedded metadata automatically so doing this might save you some time. Have a look at our advice on best practice for image tagging to optimise your opportunities as a stock photographer.

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Luc Kordas / Alamy Stock Photo

Stay on top of trends

Incorporating current image trends to your images could be a real game changer. Image trends constantly evolve and they equally apply to image topics and aesthetics. Our customers will for example always be after images showing the latest tech, with people wearing contemporary clothing. On top of that they often say something like “we need those images to look like they were shot for Instagram, but with really good DSLR quality”. We do our best to keep our contributors updated on latest trends via our Twitter feed and here on our blog. We also spend a lot of time identifying all the gaps in our collection. If you are able to fill some of these gaps, then put it on your shoot list as this is a unique opportunity to:

  1. Create content that no others have covered
  2. Create content you know customers have asked us for

If growing a collection of images based on tapping into picture needs and trends is your ultimate goal, well…then you’ve already started your new part time job.