Thanks to Stock and Microstock Photography we are about to talk a little bit about licensing, the business behind trademarks and pretty much every intellectual property that can be used for commercial purposes.

Stock Photography has been the term used to refer to the supply of photographs under license for various commercial purposes. There are three major groups of Stock Photography business models. The ones offered by macrostock, the ones of midstock and the more common in these days, microstock. The difference between them is the royalty that the maker of the image received through agencies.

The abundance of microstock photography websites or services has democratized the field of stock photography, giving both amateur and professional photographers, a way of making an extra income (or full income) thanks to the royalties gained through stock licensing of their images.

The major trick for a photographer getting serious income through Stock Photography is to offer both quality and volume. Thanks to a large amount of photographers supplying microstock websites, we can say with truth at our backs that the competition is harsh, but not it is not impossible to stand up from the crowd.

Here we are going to talk about some tips that will help you in the process of making your roll in the stock world, a more solid thing.

Watch the Trends

Major clients of stock websites are agencies and designers that are working with other brands. For them, photographs found in the stock sites are viewed more like visual assets rather than unique identity for their clients. If you have this in mind, you'll end up taking trends very seriously. Doing this with discipline is part of innovation (just like Technology Forecasting, the big brother of trend watching is).

The best example I can think of has to do with food. Some years ago we were bombarded by ideal looking dishes with overworked food styling techniques. Nowadays, many restaurants and even manufacturers are presenting their edible products in a more organic portraiture. I think social media has a lot to do with it, but many food businesses apparently listened to this, and are now presenting their foods in a more "back to basics" approach.

Do your homework

Recollect several sources of information that have to do with advertising and similar stuff. Browse the most popular images in stock photography websites, and study them in order to find the key elements of the image, so you can offer something better to the market.

Know your rights

For once in a life, don't lie with the button "I've read and I agree" regarding the agreement of Terms of a stock photography site. This is your contract, and all the rights, fees, and royalties, should be stated here.

There are several rights and contracts when it comes to licensing, but in most cases, the more solid microstock photography websites are based in "royalty free" agreements. This means that a single image can be used forever by all the people in the world with a single payment (which is usually very affordable).

Of course, these websites have the option of giving exclusive rights of an image to a client as well. And this is when things get really interesting in terms of money because quotes can be rocketed away from $10.00 of the royalty-free agreement, to $25,000.00 for a single image with exclusive rights.


Eventually, people that will like one of your pictures, will get to your profile. If you achieve a certain level of consistency in your work, you'll be highly reconsidered by a happy client.

Learn about body language

Stock Photography is used to enhance a message sent in an advertisement or a piece of work through social media. Learning about body language, and later applying it to the poses you'll be directing for your stock photographs, will result in very desirable pictures from the users and clients of the stocks.

Model release forms

Serious stock photography websites ask for model release forms when people are present in your pictures. Never forget to have all these papers in order. You can get some blank forms of this here.

We can thank H. Armstrong Roberts to this peculiar and well-intended standard of the stock world. He made all the people that appear in front of a pictured named "Group in Front of Tri-Motor Airplane signed proper model release forms, expanding the commercial possibility of the image.

Work with various platforms

Microstock photography websites (in the most known cases) don't ask for the full rights of the images and work more like a jobber between you and clients all over the globe. Thanks to this, you can work with many platforms in order to maximize your reach, therefore your possible incomes. Here is an incomplete list of notable online stock firms.

Keep it clean

There is an unknown term that I like a lot. Photography Hygiene, which refers to maintaining your images as clean as possible in terms of post-production. Try to get almost all the thing done on camera. This is not because of "purist" reasons but more of making an image's scope as large as you can, and let’s face it, not all the people like overcooked steaks for example.

Portfolio reflection

The images that you offer need to be a consistent reflection of your overall portfolio. All the clients are important, and if we see this the other way around, every image should be top important and needs the proper passion put in its creation too. Don't post images just because you can, giving them away like shots to the air. Eventually, people will stumble into your portfolio, and sloppy images will put a lot of negative impact on the portfolio you have worked so hard to construct.

Think as designers

The most important thing you need to consider when doing stock photography is to think of the users of the images. These are always graphic designers that will maneuver them into fitting them perfectly in several advertising tools like billboards or flyers for example. Do not crop the images to start, and you can always ask a designer about the utility of the image before you upload them to the stock pool.