What is stock photography?
Since there is a number of reliable resources, all definitions can be found on the Internet, so let's make it simple: Stock photos (stock photography) is the business of licensing your artwork (it can also be vector, illustration, video, footage, audio, etc.) and granting someone else the right to use it for the purposes of: advertising, designing, printing, selling and many other. It is very important to remember that even though your image can be used after you sell it to someone, you do not sell the property rights and you continue to be the only owner of the image.
Stock photo licensing
There are several types of licenses you need to be aware of when you sell/buy stock photos. Royalty-Free is the most common license, Rights Managed offers exclusivity, and Extended License allows for extra uses. You should carefully read all licensing terms and conditions of each stock photography agency, as permissible uses can vary from company to company.
● Royalty-Free (RF) License (Commonly known as a Standard License) - it means your image can be used multiple times without paying a royalty. It is usually chosen by budget-minded designers, who do not want to spend a fortune on hiring a professional photographer. RF images are non-exclusive, meaning you can sell them multiple times to many customers (and on other stock photo agencies including your own website).
● Extended / Enhanced (EL) License - presently most stock photo agencies allow customers to purchase an Extended or Enhanced License giving them permission to extend the uses of a previously licensed work (usually Royalty-Free). It may include increased number of copies, use for resale purposes (prints, postcards, calendars, t-shirts, greeting cards, mugs, etc), or allow for other methods of distribution and use.
● Rights Managed (RM) License gives exclusive, time-limited use of a stock image. RM licenses are granted on a pay-per-use basis, meaning your stock image can only be used by the licensee for one particular project, only for a set period of time, and/or only in specified geographical area. Rights managed images are expensive, but designers are willing to pay for it in order to make sure nobody else can use the artwork or to be able to run more prints.
● Editorial License - some agencies now accept Editorial Use Only images. It means they can only be used in: a newspaper or magazine article, on a blog or website for descriptive purposes, (in a non-commercial presentation) and cannot be used for commercial advertising purposes.
What images sell best (and which don't)
Most of the stock photo agencies list their requirements of what type of stock images they need, so check it regularly. It will vary from site to site, but in general the following types of photos will probably sell best, as long as they are "stock oriented images with high commercial value":
- Business people and concepts - shots of people at work, business equipment, offices, and office buildings, people in business attire.
- Financial concepts.
- Concepts & metaphors - be creative to explain something in a new way.
- Food & drinks - cuisines from around the world.
- Groups, teams - people working together.
- Holiday & seasonal themes - more than just religious celebrations; local festivals and customs are preferable.
- Home & garden - household images of beautiful interiors, furniture, modern kitchens and toilets, gardens or pool side views. Home repair and improvement are also needed.
- Non-business jobs - mechanics, cooks, garbage men, baristas, etc.
- People interacting: Human interaction is a constant in this world.
- Religion & spirituality.
- Diversity - families, groups, cultures, ethnic backgrounds.
- Sports - especially team sports.
- Science & technology - electronics, telecommunication, mobile phones, etc.
- Social issues - all these things that impact us.
The following will not sell well, as all agencies are overloaded with this type of images:
- Flags - there is so many of them.
- Nature snap shots - make sure you are really good at this, otherwise it will not be accepted.
- Light blurs - unless it is great they don't consider it good stock.
- Photoshop backgrounds - designers are looking for something extraordinary.
- Shots of people without any concept or idea.
- Single fruits and vegetables - be creative, as they say that those days of a single apple isolated on white has already passed.
- Sunsets, cloudscapes, skies - these should be stunning, otherwise don't bother submitting.
- Pet shots - we all love them but make sure your images stand out from the crowd.
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