How to Start a Stock Photography Business in USA UK (Business Plan)

Stock Photographer

Do you have these questions in your mind?

  • What is Stock Photography?
  • What are some of the essential equipment in photography?
  • How do the stock photo business works?
  • How can you earn money in stock photography?


In this article, you will find answers to all your questions. So please grab a cup of coffee, and let’s get started.

Table of Contents

What is Stock photography?

With a worldwide value of over $6 billion, Stock Photography is one of the world’s most famous & trending industries in the world right now.

Stock photography is a type of photography that is licensed for specific uses. 


Businesses, marketers, and publishers often use it to illustrate their marketing materials, websites, and other media without commissioning a photographer or creating original imagery.


This business works for photographers, earning commissions from when each of their photographs is used; if you have a passion for photography, this is the field for you. 

The stock photography market in the United States and the United Kingdom is a significant and growing industry. The stock photography market in the US is valued at around $2.3 billion. The stock photography industry in the UK is valued at approximately £300 million per year.

Stock Photographer

How the Stock Photo Business works 

A stock photo business involves creating and selling licensed images for use by individuals or organizations. Here’s how it works:

  • Photographers capture high-quality images meeting the needs of a wide range of customers. Images can be of people, places, or other subjects.
  • The images are then uploaded to a stock photo website or platform, where customers can browse and search for the pictures they need.
  • Customers purchase licenses to use the images on websites or in marketing campaigns. Their terms include duration and scope of use, depending on the stock photo website or platform.
  • The stock photo business makes money by selling licenses to use the images. In addition, some websites or platforms may offer subscription plans, where they can access a certain number of pictures for a monthly fee.


Stock photo businesses can be an excellent way for photographers and artists to monetize their work and make it available to a broad audience. 

Stock Photographer

Pros and Cons of Stock Photography

Pros of Stock Photography

  • Quick and easy access to a large variety of images 
  • Cost-effective solution for businesses and individuals on a budget 
  • Professional quality images with no additional creative effort required 
  • Ability to customize images to fit specific needs 
  • Images are licensed for multiple uses and are often royalty-free 


Cons of a Stock Photography

  • Limited creativity and variety in the images 
  • Lack of exclusivity, as many businesses widely use images 
  • Risk of copyright infringement 
  • Images may appear dated or overused in specific markets 
  • Images may not represent the desired message or brand identity

Investment required to become a Stock Photographer

To start your stock photography journey, the investment mainly depends on whether or not you have the required equipment for your photographs. 

If you are content with all your equipment, you are good to go. But starting from scratch may need some equipment to click your images. 

Equipments you may need for your photography 

  • Digital Camera 
  • Lenses  
  • External Flash  
  • Tripod  
  • Computer  
  • Editing Software 
  • Softbox 
  • Umbrella 
  • Backgrounds
  • Light Stands
  • Memory Cards 
  • Battery Pack 
  • Camera Bag 
  • Filters 
Stock Photographer

How much can you make as a Stock photographer?

The amount you can earn as a stock photographer depends on various factors, including the quality and popularity of your photographs, the demand for the types of photographs you offer, and the terms of the license you provide for your photographs.


In general, stock photographers earn a percentage of the sale price for each license of their photographs. However, the ratio can vary depending on the license terms and the stock photography agency or platform you use.


Several ways to increase the chances of your photos selling:


  • Take high-quality photos: 
    Make sure your photos are in focus, well-lit, and composed attractively.

  • Choose a popular subject matter: 
    Photos of popular subjects, such as landscapes, cityscapes, and portraits, sell well.

  • Use the right keywords: 
    When you upload your photos to a stock photo agency or website, use relevant and accurate keywords to help buyers find your photos.

  • Follow the terms of use: 
    Make sure you have permission to sell the photos you take and comply with copyright or licensing requirements.

  • Promote your work:
    Share your photos on social media, in online communities, and with potential buyers to increase visibility and attract interest.

  • Consider offering exclusive rights: 
    Some buyers may be willing to pay more for the exclusive right to use your photo, which means you can’t sell it to anyone else.

Ways you can promote a stock photos business online:

1. Create a website

2. Use social media

3. Participate in online communities

4. Use SEO

5. Offer discounts and promotions

6. Collaborate with other photographers

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Stock Photographer

A step-by-step guide to becoming a stock photographer

Starting as a stock photographer can be a rewarding way to turn your passion for photography into a source of income.



1. Develop your skills:
Have a good understanding of photography and be proficient in using your camera. Consider taking a photography course or workshop to learn more about composition, lighting, and other technical skills.

2. Choose a niche: 
Stock photography covers various subjects, from landscapes to portraits to business concepts. Narrowing your focus to a specific niche can help you stand out in the market.

3. Build a portfolio: 
To attract potential buyers, have a selection of high-quality images to showcase your work. Start by taking and editing various photos that fit your chosen niche.

4. Find a stock photography agency: 
Research different agencies and choose that aligns with your goals and style. Some popular agencies include Getty Images, Shutterstock, and Adobe Stock. 

5. Submit your portfolio: 
Once you’ve chosen an agency, follow their submission guidelines to send them a selection of your work. Be sure to read the fine print and understand the terms of any agreement you sign.

6. Promote your work: 
Consider setting up a website to showcase your portfolio or using social media to share your work and attract followers.

7. Keep shooting: 
Stock photography is a competitive field, and it’s essential to continually update your portfolio with fresh, high-quality images.
Keep practicing and learning to improve your skills, and consider attending workshops or networking events to stay up-to-date on industry trends.
Stock Photographer

Types of Stock Photography

Stock photography is a collection of photographs licensed for specific uses, such as creating marketing materials, designing websites, or illustrating articles or blog posts.

There are several types of stock photography, including:

1. Royalty-free stock photography: 
This allows the purchaser to use the photograph multiple times for an unlimited period without paying additional royalties.

2. Rights-managed stock photography: 
This requires the purchaser to pay a fee each time the photograph is used. The fee is based on factors such as the intended use of the photograph, the duration of use, and the size of the distribution.

3. Microstock photography: 
This type of stock photography is sold at a lower price point than traditional stock photography. As a result, it is often used by smaller businesses or individuals who need a large volume of photographs for a limited budget.

4. Celebrity stock photography: 
This type of stock photography features photographs of famous individuals, such as actors, musicians, or politicians. These photographs are often used in advertisements or other marketing materials.

5. Editorial stock photography: 
This type of stock photography is intended for news or editorial contexts, such as articles or blog posts. It is generally not used for commercial purposes.

6. Creative stock photography:
It is used mainly for creative projects, such as advertising campaigns or design projects. Therefore, it is often more stylized and creative than other types of stock photography.

Practical tips for stock photography:

1. Invest in Quality Gear

2. Be Creative

3. Utilize Editing Software

Stock photography covers various subjects, from landscapes and architecture to people and food. Consider what types of photos you enjoy taking and are skilled at, and choose a niche that you can specialize in.

Start by taking high-quality photos in your chosen niche and organizing them into a cohesive collection.

Stock Photographer

Licenses you need in Stock Photography

Depending on the specific agreement terms between the photographer and the buyer, several different licenses may apply to stock photography. 


Essential licenses you may need in stock photography include the following:


1. Royalty-free (RF) license: 

This type of license allows the buyer to use the photograph for any purpose without incurring additional royalties or fees. 


The photograph can be used multiple times in various media without the need for further permission from the photographer.


2. Rights-managed (RM) license:

This license allows the buyer to use the photograph for a specific purpose and a limited period. 


The buyer must obtain permission from the photographer before using the photograph for any other purpose and may be required to pay additional fees or royalties.


3. Extended license:

An extended license allows the photograph to be used to generate significant income or promote the buyer’s business or product.


It’s important to carefully review the terms of the license before using a stock photograph, as there may be specific restrictions or requirements that you need to follow. 

Stock Photographer

Trends and Challenges in Stock Photography

Trends in Stock Photography

  • Use of more authentic and real-life imagery 
  • Photos representing a diverse range of people, cultures, and lifestyles
  • Lifestyle photography
  • Photos designed for use on social media platforms 
  • The use of technology in photography
  • Aerial Photography 
  • Sports Photography


Challenges and risks in Stock Photography

  • Competition
  • Limited pricing power
  • Changes in technology and consumer behavior
  • Risk of copyright infringement 
  • Quality control
  • Dependence on external factors


TIP: In stock photography, Aerial photography has been gaining much traction. Drone rental can be a good option for those who need a drone for aerial photography but want to avoid purchasing one themselves.

Stock Photographer

Tips for shooting stock photos that sell

While you may have the skills and equipment to click professional photographs, you still need to consider what kind of photo sells and what does not. 


Some tips for shooting simple stock photos that sell are:


1. Focus on simplicity:

Simple and uncluttered compositions are more appealing to buyers. Avoid including too many elements in your photos, and keep the background as plain as possible.


2. Use natural light: 

Natural light can add a sense of warmth and authenticity to your photos. Try to shoot for the best results during the golden hour (the hour before sunset).


3. Experiment with angles: 

Try shooting from different angles to add interest to your photos. For example, you could try shooting from above, below, or at a low angle.


4. Pay attention to composition: 

Use the rule of thirds to create balanced and harmonious compositions.


5. Use a tripod: 

A tripod will help you get sharp and well-composed photos, especially in low-light conditions.


6. Edit carefully: 

Basic edits such as adjusting the exposure, white balance, and color can make a big difference in the quality of your photos. 


However, be careful not to over-edit or add too many filters, as this can make your photos look artificial.

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Stock Photographer

How do Stock Photo Websites make money?

Ways Stock Photo Websites and Businesses make money:


1. Selling photos

Stock photo businesses typically sell photos royalty-free, meaning the buyer pays a one-time fee to use the photo and can use it as often as they like.


2. Subscription models

Some stock photo businesses offer subscription plans that allow customers to access a certain number of photos per month or year for a set fee.


3. Licensing

In addition to selling photos, some stock photo businesses also offer licensing services that allow customers to use pictures for a specific purpose or a set period.


4. Partnerships and commissions

Some stock photo businesses may partner with companies or individuals to create custom photo shoots or license their photos for marketing campaigns. 


The business may also earn commissions from referrals or from promoting other products or services.


5. Advertising

Some stock photo businesses may also generate revenue through advertising on their website or through sponsored content.


Overall, the primary way that stock photo businesses make money is by selling photos or licensing them for use in various media.

Stock Photographer

Where can you sell stock photos?

Many websites allow photographers to sell their stock photos online. Here are some popular options:

  • Shutterstock:
    One of the largest and most well-known stock photography websites, Shutterstock allows photographers to sell their photos as royalty-free stock images and earn a percentage of each sale.

  • iStock: 
    Owned by Getty Images, iStock is a popular stock photography website that offers various licensing options for photographers.

  • Adobe Stock: 
    Adobe Stock is a stock photography website integrated with Adobe Creative Cloud products, making it easy for photographers to sell their work to a large audience.

  • Alamy: 
    Alamy is a stock photography website that allows photographers to sell their images as royalty-free or rights-managed.

  • Depositphotos: 
    Depositphotos is a stock photography website that offers various licensing options for photographers, including royalty-free and rights-managed.

  • Getty Images: 
    Getty Images is a well-known stock photography website that offers a range of licensing options for photographers.

  • Bigstock: 
    Bigstock is a stock photography website that allows photographers to sell their work as royalty-free images.

  • Dreamstime: 
    Dreamstime is a stock photography website that offers various licensing options for photographers, including royalty-free and rights-managed.

  • Fotolia: 
    Fotolia is a stock photography website that allows photographers to sell their work as royalty-free images.

  • 123RF: 
    123RF is a stock photography website that offers a range of licensing options for photographers, including royalty-free and rights-managed.


It’s worth noting that each website has its submission and review process, so be sure to research the specific requirements and guidelines for each site before submitting your work.

The stock photo agency pays the photographer a percentage of the sales revenue generated from the sale of their photos.

Some stock photo agencies may offer additional services, such as custom photo shoots or image editing services.


For photographers, Stock Photography is a good idea; the profits are rewarding, and it’s passive income once you have a large set of stock photos. 

With low entry barriers and easy access to resources and customers, stock photography is expected to overgrow in the coming years; Stock photography is here to stay and continues to grow in photography.  

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Handpicked inspirational Youtube videos for you

What Sells in Stock Photography? My Best-Selling Stock Photos! – YT Channel ‘Laura BC’

Make $500.00 this WEEKEND with PHOTOGRAPHY! – YT Channel ‘Chris Hau’

How We Sold $47,000 in Stock Photos – YT Channel ‘Mango Street’

A. Stock photography businesses generally charge customers based on the size and resolution of the image they want to use, as well as the type of license they want to purchase. The price of a stock photo can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars or more, depending on these factors.

A. Stock photographers earn a percentage of the sale price for each license of their photographs. The percentage can vary depending on the terms of the license and the stock photography agency or platform you use.

A. Yes, you do need licences if you want your stock photography journey. Key licenses you may need in stock photography include the following:

1. Royalty-free (RF) license

2. Rights-managed (RM) license

3. Extended license:


A. If you are interested in getting started in stock photography, here are some steps you can take:

  • Develop your skills
  • Choose a niche
  • Build a portfolio
  • Find a stock photography agency
  • Submit your portfolio
  • Promote your work
  • Keep shooting

A. It is difficult to determine the overall profitability of stock photography in the UK, as the industry is highly competitive and individual photographers may have very different levels of success. Some photographers may be able to make a significant amount of money through stock photography, while others may find it difficult to earn much income from their work.

A. The stock photography industry in the US is very competitive, and it can be difficult for photographers to make a significant profit from their work. However, those who are able to succeed in the industry can potentially earn a good income from their stock photography business.

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