How To

Joining Royalty Free Stock sites

Leaking hose
Standing Apart
1st day of school.
A fishing boat.
St. John's Church
Great Form
Perfect Volley
US Capitol Building

One of the fastest growing and most exciting areas of photography is the royalty free market. A royalty free stock photo is one that can be purchased, granting the buyer a limited one time use of the image. The photographer retains the copyright and though they don't earn much per image, is able to sell it over and over again. Sounds easy right?

The truth of the matter is that the photos submitted to stock sites are put through a rigorous review process. The image must be technically sound. It isn't good enough to have a beautiful picture. This article is about how one joins a stock site, some tips to help one get accepted, and why it is such fun.

I like to start with the fun stuff. Working on building an online stock portfolio improves one's technical skills. I think most people enjoy improving at their craft, I know that I do. The next best part is the external validation. I was filling up my car with gas two summers ago and there was a hose lying on the ground. It had the tiniest pin hole in it. Water was spraying out and it looked interesting. I took my camera out and got two pictures. The fun came when I had my first sale of 'Leaking Hose'. I made 25 cents, and one would have thought I had won the lottery. I was giddy. Now two years later, I still feel good every time it sells, or any of my images for that matter.

Ok, so on to the tips.

1) The larger the photo the better. Prices increase with the size of the image, at most sites. Some people will want really large images, and those that have only the minimum size allowed will be left out.

2) Don't upsize your image. The inspectors are very clever and they will reject it immediately.

3) Learn and understand the sites rule with regard to copyright. If the image has a person who is identifiable, or a child of any sort, you will need a model release. The model releases can be downloaded from the site. If there are any copyrighted images within your shot, they must be edited out. This could be a logo on a pair of jeans, a sign above a restaurant way off in the background, or even building that is famous. The Eiffel Tower can be photographed during the day, but all the night photos, with the lights on are copyright protected. Any of Frank Gehry's buildings are off limits. Don't even think about using the Oprah House in Sydney. And lastly, most all makes of car and all cruise ships, if they are the main subject, are not allowed by most places.

4) Learn to use Photoshop CS 2, 3, or 4, or something similar. Stock photography is about creating images that are saleable, not about capturing 'truth' as one would do in journalism. On average I spend between 30 minutes and 3 hours working on a single image.

5) Shoot in Raw! This is worth repeating. Shoot in Raw! Raw gives one the most flexibility with regards to adjusting the white balance and getting the highest quality images possible.

6) Learn to shoot images isolated on white. This gives your customers a good deal of flexibility; they can use the image in combination with their own designs.

Lastly where do you find the stock sites? I have seen some advertised here on JPG. A few of my favorites are,,, and

Stock photography is a bit different from artistic photography. Check out the forums on the sites and find discussion about the types of images that are selling well. Flowers may be beautiful, but there are lots of people with pictures of tulips, a leaky hose may sell better.

On most sites I am Ecocandle, or Brian Meeks. Feel free to send me a message to ask for help, I will do my best.

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8 responses

  • Steve Baker

    Steve Baker (Deleted) gave props (2 Dec 2009):

    Cool. Great advice, even if I personally am probably too lazy to benefit from it.

  • Brian Meeks

    Brian Meeks said (2 Dec 2009):

    Thanks to John Casper who pointed out that it is an Opera house, not an Oprah house. Though I am sure she could afford to buy the Sydney Opera house, and turn it into a summer home, that was obviously a typo on my part.

    A typo that made us both laugh.

  • Brian Meeks

    Brian Meeks said (2 Dec 2009):

    I am well aware that I could edit this article and fix the 'Oprah House', but then that would rob everyone of the opportunity to chortle at my error.

  • Marco Martinez

    Marco Martinez gave props (5 Dec 2009):

    Great tips. I found it very informative. And, I agree, with you, Brian, leave the essay as is.

  • Susan Littlefield

    Susan Littlefield gave props (7 Dec 2009):

    Although I would never have the ability to do this, I truly appreciate the clear, concise information you have given here. I did catch the Oprah error, and then had a good LOL when reading your comments. Well done, and certainly deserves publication!

  • Karen Foto Fiddler

    Karen Foto Fiddler (Deleted) gave props (22 Jan 2010):

    I have thought and thought about joining some stock sites and I get oerwhelmed when I thinkof it..I am just beginning to expamd my photography skills and appreciate this most informative essay. I voted.

  • John Smith

    John Smith (Deleted) gave props (23 Jan 2010):

    Voted....very good info...Thanks.

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