This is a question I’ve been hearing a lot recently from people so I decided that I’d write out a post explaining exactly what stock photography is and how it differs from other forms of photography. The first thing to note is that stock photography is all about commercial value. When a stock photographer does a photoshoot he/she’s going through all of the normal steps in producing a high quality photograph(s) (settings, subject, composition, lighting, etc…) but the most important question that dominates all others is, “How much commercial value is this photo(s) really worth?” Like any other entrepreneurial work, stock photography is all about providing what’s in demand on the market, otherwise you may spend time taking great stock photos that just aren’t in demand.
So what exactly is a stock photo? As I said earlier, it’s a photo that has some form of commercial use. Have you ever gone to Wal Mart and bought one of those picture frames that already have a placeholder photo in them? You know, ones with smiling families, or a happy old couple, and even flowers? Those are examples of stock photos, and they can be seen literally everywhere you look. Almost every advertisement has some form of stock photo, as well as websites and other forms of media. So who takes these photos? Ordinary people like you and me take stock photos and upload them to stock media websites, from there each photo is reviewed for quality and if it happens to be good enough it will be approved and put on the market for buying.
A big question is whether or not stock photographers make a lot of money from this. It all depends on how creative you are combined with the proper equipment and the effort you put into it. Some people might disagree with the equipment aspect of things, because sure, having the greatest camera body and expensive glass (lenses) to go along with it, you might get amazing quality photos but if you lack a certain creative originality you will not be able to go very far. Stock photography is all about watching market trends and providing the best photos you can on that subject in order to get a nice payday. That’s fairly hard though, coming up with creative ideas for general subjects is almost impossible to do. Try it yourself; think up a great idea for stock photo and then search for it on Shutterstock. Chances are you’ll notice that the concept has been done thousands of time.
It is very possible to make great money from this, most people use it to cover the costs of new camera equipment and are more or less hobby photographers. Some use it as an extra income for the family, or save it for a special occasion. Although it’s very difficult there are still a good handful of people who strictly make a good living off of stock photography. These people tend to be the Bill Gates’ of the stock photography world. There’s something about their work that people enjoy enough to keep buying over and over again. What it all comes down to though is how much effort and creativity you put into this with a slight side of luck. Anyways, this was just my quick explanation in short about what a stock photographer does and what stock photography is.