Selling Your Photography

sell photography

Until recently, becoming a professional photographer was a serious financial commitment, with the cost of cameras, film and development presenting a significant barrier to the dilettante. Dipping your toe in to get a bit of practice under your belt before deciding if it was the right career for you could be a very costly endeavor. Now, with the proliferation of cheap, reliable digital cameras available from high street stores like Curry's (see their website for affordable, quality cameras) it's easy for the amateur photographer to test the water before making a career of it. The limitless nature of digital technology, and the ease with which post-production techniques can be employed to manipulate images, has opened the door for a generation of casual snappers to consider turning pro.

But with this accessibility comes increased competition for work. How do you get your work seen and, more importantly, published? For real money?

The first thing you must do is accept rejection. If you're serious about turning your hobby into a career, it has to happen gradually, with the likelihood many knockbacks along the way. This happens to all self-employed content creators, especially in a field as competitive as digital photography.

Selling stock photography is perhaps the easiest way in to start making money. Book publishers, magazines, advertising firms, film companies, web designers, graphic artists - they all use stock photographs to save money and time. The photographer makes a percentage of the image sold. It may be as little as 25p per photo, but the more images you have out there the more you will make. You really must be prolific as well as creative.

Among the big agencies selling stock photographs are iStockphoto, Fotolia and Dreamstime. Each one has different requirements, but generally you need a camera that takes images no smaller than 2mp. Once signed up, you can start uploading images. If any of your shots are accepted, they will become part of the site's stock inventory. If one sells you receive a small payment. If you sign up to a few agencies and upload hundreds of good images, you can start to make a living, or at least a good supplementary income.

The best thing about this approach is the ease with which you can track the success of a picture. If your images are doing well, an agency might offer you an exclusive contract, meaning more money per image.

You can save yourself a lot of grief and disappointment by thoroughly researching the agencies you submit to. Find out what their technical guidelines are. Take time to discover which kinds of image sell the most. Read the small print so you can avoid falling afoul of trivial errors like unauthorized logos.

Remain distinctive and avoid clichés. There's no shortage of cats and babies on the internet, and no reason why your bundles of fur and flesh will stand out from the crowd. If it's easy for you to capture, it's easy for anyone - so get out there and find interesting subjects if you want to increase your chances of success.

Another great thing about microstock photography is that it's a true internet meritocracy. Traditionally, photographers had to hustle and politick, working their way into a network of contacts who would employ them, yes, for their photographic skills, but also for their social skills and likeability. Working as an online stock photographer removes all judgment except that passed down on your work.