Most photographers believe that shooting images, any images, of any subject, is enough to earn money. Many know that stock photography today is not what they knew years ago and have left the industry or will do soon, others are shooting microstock where the individual prices may not be great, but multiple 14 cents can make, if you are lucky, some money worth handling.

However, not all is as it seems and many photographers should pay attention to a number of details to see their results improve. Here are the Top 5 reasons for low sales results worth considering and putting into practice:

  1. Imagery that is not relevant is the most important reason that photographers lose business. Relevance describes how pertinent, connected, or applicable something is to a given matter.  Therefore if you go to the street and shoot images without thinking how they will be used, you are in fact wasting most of the time you are shooting. A thing is relevant if it serves a given purpose, being advertising, decorative or even editorial, but boring street scenes with little more acumen than point and shoot are for the most part a waste of digital technology and sadly many photographers shoot this way today. Who wants to spend time looking at boring, predictive, point and shoot images taken with a digital camera kit?

  2. Lack of MR/PR´s: No matter how many times it is repeated, photographers still don’t realize that shooting “editorial” (or “No MR available” in the industry terminology) is not a good idea now that stock agency websites sell images worldwide.  It’s a bad idea because (1) the editorial concept is not universal, but varies by country, so anyone can have a legal entanglement in a country where images could be published, but no “editorial protection” exists and (2) images of people without MR/PR´s can never be sold for commercial uses. In spite of all odds, there are still some lucrative advertising sales that “editorial photographers” will never see and in these moments of low prices, commercial uses supply a bit of oxygen to suffocated shooters.

  3. Bad captions and lack of good keywords is another pending matter that photographers who submit images need to overcome. It doesn’t even matter if keywords are added by the agency, because if an image of a beach only specifies in the caption “Cambodia” or “Vietnam,”  that image will have a little chance of sale or appearing on the web provided it is not uploaded to Flicker and even there the possibilities of selling it are, at best, slim. 

  4. Too few images and a lack of persistency is another revenue-eroding factor; nowadays, shooting constantly and submitting regularly to the stock agency of your choice is a must. Otherwise, you will get sporadic, lucky sales but not solid, persistent sales month after month. 

  5. Ranking, the capacity of your images of being seen in the first pages of the search results, affects those that don’t supply images regularly. Nobody wants to promote photographers who don’t submit frequently in these days when the offer of images is so vast that it makes the editing process difficult (and if the images are irrelevant, pretty tedious as well).

Take it or leave it, being a stock photographer today is hard and if on top of that, you miss the obvious, then you are severely limiting your own possibilities.

Actions: E-mail | Comments (7) |


July 5. 2011 10:12
As always Alfonso you are spot on. I heard lots of complaints about the stock business. Most boil down to "it used to be so easy and I'd make lots of money. What happened?"

What happened is the Internet and not things like iStockphoto. In the past stock involved the physical shipment of images from discreet locations. A fairly time consuming process that in effect limited supply. Limited supply meant higher sales prices in a sellers market.

With instant access to images it has become a buyers market. As I think you are saying, photographers, have to think outside the box, think of the marketability of images more than creative expressions.

It has gotten much harder and it is in a way a thinning of the herd, in a brutal Darwinian way.



United States alfonso
July 8. 2011 00:41

I´m not sure that I´m in agreement with you in some of your conclussions.

The Internet is neutral in this, Steve. If photographers are accepting repoprts of 14 cents a picture for really good images, the market response is buying more images at 14 cents instead of a $140 or $1400, etc. per image, and the subsequent effect is that everybody will sell images cheap. So, lets do not complain, photographers produce the images and stock agencies only sells them at the price they can. Cheap now.

And, yes, I say that photographers have to start thinking on marketability of what they produce rather than shooting without thinking first what use my images can have besides personal enjoyment. I would not define the examples I gave as precisely creative expressions...



United States Andre
July 9. 2011 15:51
One very important thing I'm really missing at AGE Fotostock is statistics. How will a photographer know which pictures are requested, viewed, in demand? I couldn't find any way to check how good my keywording or just the theme of an image is.
So basically "relevancy", "captions and keywords", "persistency" and "ranking" are pretty empty terms if the photographer can't check their performance.

United States alfonso
July 15. 2011 14:26

Maybe you are not used to the age fotostock website because photographers have a public profile that shows a bunch of data, sufficient enough to show their performance. Furthemore every sales reports have a click to see all thumbnails of all the pictures sold every month and there is a "Market segmentation" area that shows in which market segment the images are selling.

If you want to say that we have not advertised all enough all that, you are right; we wanted to give a lenghty public try to the photographers profile application before announcing something that may need adjustements. However many photographers have found their p;rofile without us telling them anhything. Why not you?

So, I don't know what do you see empty....

United States Andre
July 28. 2011 13:37
What I'm saying is that I'm with AGE Fotostock for almost 3 months now. I have 388 images online but haven't had a single sale so far.
I, as the photographer, have no chance to check the performance of my images, captions or keywords. Maybe I'm shooting the wrong things, maybe my keywording is totally off. Who knows?
I'm not trying to blame AGE for my nonexistent sales history, but I do respectfully criticize that the photographer can't really check the performance of his images/keywording. That might be something to work on on your side. Just trying to improve the partnership.

August 9. 2011 17:53
Andre, 3 months in a stock agency is basically no time. By the time a client finds your image, decides to use it and we invoice and report a lot more than three months may elapse. We edit every image we receive so if we have managed to accept 388 images, congratulations friend!! you are in the offer and clients will decide (buying your images) if our choice was correct. We review the keywording and if it is really off we tell you what is wrong, if you have not received anything from the keywording team, congratulations again!! and finally there is another team that review your images from technical point of view and warns photographers if there is something wrong, if they have not approached you, please receive my third congratulations!! Maybe you didn´t know all these, or maybe your are new into stock, who knows... The worse part of a blog is that one never knows who is at the other end. Just like in your case, I can´t tell what I think about your images, keywording, etc., etc. because I don´t know who you are therefore I can´t look at your images...

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