The first three parts to this have gone very well and I’d like to welcome all the new reader to Randomn3ss who found there way here via Get Rich Slowly and all the other various blogs and social networking sites that have linked to the stories. I have had several questions asked and will be making Part IV of the series a Q&A post.

On with the questions and answers!

What kind of money can you make selling stock photography through these sites?
Because I’ve only really used iStockphoto, I can only comment on them. I had considered using others, but my relationship has been very good and their customer support is top notch. The royalty structure at iStock starts at 20%, however you can earn up to 40% if you become exclusive (requires a free account to read). Once I became eligible to become exclusive, I made the choice to for a few reasons.

  • Didn’t want to be bothered with joining several other sites and re-uploading files, along with key wording all of them again.
  • Better rights management – If an image of mine gets used in an unauthorized manor, I know they could have only got it from one place, which makes tracking down the buyer of that image much easier. This could become a problem if you have the same shot on 5 or 10 different sites, as it will be nearly impossible to figure out where the image was downloaded.

With iStock, exclusive photographers get images approved faster and have their own section on the homepage for recently updated pieces.

When I initially started to write this article, I had no plan of divulging how much I make from selling stock, and I’m sticking with it. I will say that I’ve had one image be able to pay off a new 7mp point and shoot camera in less then 6 months of having it online. Several friends of mine have also joined the site and reported back to me that they were simply amazed that the dozen images they uploaded had generated $20 their first month, shots they had no other real use for.

The amount of money you can make really boils down to how much time and effort you put into it. Quality photographs that have solid keywords will always do well. Images that are of current events always do well. When the gas prices first started to rise out of control a year or so ago, the demand for photographs of gas station prices was very high. If you can spot, predict and follow these trends, you can help increase your income. Several people on iStock use the site alone as their main source of income.


Could you supply an example of a Model Release Form and explain a little more in detail how many times we have to give this out?
Sure. The sample form from iStock can be downloaded here (.pdf format).

To quote iStock’s FAQ page:

When do I need a model release?
If the images that you are submitting have an identifiable human face, then you will need a model release.

Do I need a model release if I’m the only one in the picture?
Yes, every valid image on iStockphoto with an identifiable person (or face) requires a model release. This includes; the deceased, self-portraits, children (minors), movie stars, political leaders, etc.

How do I get a model release for a deceased relative?
The executor of the person’s estate would have to sign. If there is no executor, a family member, preferably the next of kin, would have to sign on behalf of the deceased relative.

In other words, if you are at a baseball game and take a photograph of the crowd and there are visible faces in it, you will need to get a release signed for every single one of them.

What are the common methods of payments from stock photography sites?
Again, since I’ve only used iStockphoto, I only know of their payout options. You are eligible to withdraw money when your account reaches $100, note that this does not happen automatically, you must make a request for it. This has come in handy for me on several occasions, as I’ve let my royalties grow for several months then made one large withdraw to put towards a new lens, currently I am saving for a new laptop. The payment methods they use are check, PayPal and Moneybookers. You can also use your earnings to buy credits for downloads or prints.

Should we or should we not be selling our photos that we have setup in a flickr account that is publicly viewable?
If you are not exclusive, it is your choice. I am still somewhat in the dark ages as I have not signed up for a flickr account yet, however it could be used as a marketing tool for you. If you want to use it as a marketing tool, my suggestions would be to:

  • Only upload a file that is no larger then 600 pixels on the long side at 72dpi
  • Watermark the image in the standard accepted format of © / Year / Name, example: © 2007 Mike Panic
  • Use the description field to create a hyperlink to wherever you are selling the photo at, instant marketing.

I wouldn’t suggest allowing others the ability to buy prints of it though, nor download high-resolution versions of your image. Generally speaking, you should never really put a file online that is larger then 100kb or longer then 800 pixels on any side if you want to help prevent image theft or images being printed without your permission. The lower resolution file won’t produce a good quality print and the watermark on the image should prevent it from being used in any graphical element.

Update: It has been brought to my attention that according to the terms of service with flickr, you may not use their site for any commercial purposes. This does not mean you cannot watermark your images, I would suggest doing that anytime you put photos online, but you cannot create a hyperlink back to a commercial place of sale. With this new information, I would suggest using other social networking sites like MySpace to help spread the word, as well as buying your own web hosting and setting up a gallery there. The later will be covered in detail in an upcoming article.

Why should I go with a microstock site when I can make more money with the larger companies?
When I started with iStock the two big players in the industry were and still are Getty Images and Corbis. At the time, my portfolio or lack there of, was not good enough to be accepted by either of them. I gave iStock a shot and images started to get downloaded the same week. As someone who has now been shooting for nearly 10 years and currently working in the imaging industry I have a fair amount of experience under my belt of both shooting and seeing others work. Most people right out of the gate and even advanced amateurs just don’t have the quality shots that the big stock companies demand. I have had some experience with iStock’s now defunct sister site, iStockPro, where the photographers could set their own price scale and split royalties 50 / 50, as well as having more control over the rights management to each photograph and did OK with what I submitted. Most people were selling their high-resolution files at $50-500, however the number of downloads was much, much slimmer.

In my opinion, the bigger sites like Getty (which now owns iStock) should be a goal for anyone who is seriously looking into profiting from stock photography, but the microstock sites can be great proving grounds to get your feet wet.

As this series continues, please keep the questions coming, they are welcomed and will always get a response.

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