The Stock Photography Experiment – can I make money selling stock photography?

After launching the Photography Masterclass in February, I wanted to see how easy it was to make money with stock photography. I’ve read a bunch of articles online about how the heyday of stock photography was back in the mid-2000s when there wasn’t much competition. It seemed like now was not a good time to get into it. But with mobile phones taking better photos than ever, and apps being developed for the sole purpose of helping you sell stock photography, I thought ‘how hard could it be?’. 

I did a little research and downloaded a couple apps. I tried Dreamstime, Instant by Fotolia, and Contributor by Shutterstock. I realized quickly that I needed to have accounts for each. Shutterstock would take more time and effort because they have very strict rules at becoming a contributor like having to have 10 approved photos. Instant kept crashing and was very frustrating. Dreamstime was the one app that worked well-enough (it still was buggy at times and took a long time to process uploads and postings). But ultimately, Dreamstime is the one I’m doing this stock photography test with.

Below you can see my Dreamstime profile page from their desktop website. It shows how many photos I’ve uploaded including the latest/most popular. Up at the top right, it shows total earnings. And woohoo – a grand total of $1.05 from 3 photo sales. These three photos came about a week into the experiment. Since then I’ve been busy getting married, so I didn’t get a chance to post many more photos. But I’m excited to see if this can turn into any sort of recurring income.

Dreamstime Profile Page

The review time on Dreamstime varies from a day to multiple weeks. I noticed that if I submitted photos via the app (taken with my phone), they were reviewed and approved/denied within a couple days. If I posted photos through their website (taken with my DSLR), they take a lot longer. Some photos got denied because there were already similar photos online. Other times they just didn’t like it. I’ve realized they don’t like shallow depth of field photos.

As you can tell from the image above, I’m going for the texture niche. Most photos were just snapped on my walks around the stock photo results googleneighborhood. Some were taken while I was waiting to pick up my wife at the bus stop. Others were snapped on my lunch break. So there’s not very much effort in doing it. But obviously, I hope I make more than $1.05 because I’ve put at least a couple hours into downloading the app, taking photos, posting photos, etc.

In conjunction with posting on Dreamstime, I’m also creating a micro-YouTube channel of Free Photo Textures. The channel includes short videos for the different textures that are part of the free photo texture bundle that you can download for free here. It’s my way of giving back to you, the reader. Putting videos on YouTube is my way of building SEO for my photo textures (a very competitive market). I’ve already noticed the benefit. If you type in ‘abstract green plant texture’ my video pops up right below the image results on YouTube.

People then have the option of donating to me for downloading the photo texture pack. So far, no one has donated – but that’s fine! It’s really just a way to build up a bigger audience and give back.

An example of the simple YouTube video:

I will continue to update you as things improve/change with my stock photo experiment. For now though, it seems like a decent way to earn a few extra pennies for not too much work!

The histogram is yet another tool. You’re the artist.

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Thanks for checking out, I really appreciate it. If you have any comments or thoughts about photography, let us know in the comments below!