The photos used on many websites, small to large, are often stock photography – See how you can leverage and/or profit from this industry.
Ever wondered where the photos people use in association with their articles, advertisements, and blog posts come from? Maybe you’re browsing the web and noticing that hardly any of the photos on any well-known websites appear to have come from an iPhone or other digi camera. The reason for that is because they probably didn’t.
Generally, for the photos on many websites, what the web masters are using are stock photos. Stock photos are essentially photos of almost anything and everything that you can use in association with your work. These are photos that are generally taken by professional commercial photographers or those who are aspiring to be commercial photographers.
Simply put, a beautiful image captures attention and not everyone can take beautiful pictures
Beautiful images have always captivated people. Before the Internet exploded into the image and video friendly beast that it is, people used amazing images in books, posters, and even movies to catch people’s attention. After all, a picture says a thousand words, right?
For the average online publisher, there are a plethora of reasons that using a stock photo is more beneficial than taking their own photos. Let’s go over some of the biggest reasons they’re often preferred.
1) Financially smart: Taking one’s own high quality images takes time and money. A lot of times a model would need to be paid, a camera would need to be rented or purchased, lighting would need to be setup, and sometimes there is even a venue related cost attached to the price tag. And let’s not forget the learning curve associated with taking quality photos. Time is money in business. Which leads me to…
2) Efficient use of time: When someone is trying to start a business, time is of the essence. As a business owner, one must evaluate and assess where their time is best used. Chances are, unless they’re running a photography-centered business, spending hours a day setting up and taking beautiful photos isn’t going to make them much money.
3) Diversity and simplification: Typically, every photographer has their own style. If you look at a collection of photos from a photographers work, you can generally pick up patterns in it and eventually it all sort of looks streamlined.
When one is using stock photos within their web based content, they can easily (and cost effectively) pull from multiple photographers all from different parts of the world with varying styles.
Where do stock images come from and why is it cost effective for the photographer and not the typical web site owner?
So, you might be wondering – if taking these beautiful photos isn’t cost or time effective for the average web site owner, why do photographers bother with it? Aside from the fact that taking pictures is a passion for photographers, there are a lot of things that make each photo less expensive for them.
For example, many stock photographers setup shoot venues and pay for one day, and can get between six and ten complete shoots in that day depending on how much time they dedicate to it. This means that if each shoot gets an average of 20 photos, they’re getting up to 200 photos in one full session.
A little bit later, we’ll break down how the photographers earn their money and why this number is so acceptable for them.
Another reason that getting all of these photos is cheaper for the photographer, is because they already have all of the equipment (and sometimes), models, and even a venue to work with. They aren’t usually paying $100 a day to rent their camera. These people generally have good cameras and lighting at their disposal as part of their main business.
How do different people make money from stock photos, and do you need to be a photographer to do it?
Photographers make money from many streams with their stock photos. In a lot of cases though, the photos may sell for $3 to 15 per use. That cost relates to how much the user would pay to use the stock photo.
Of course, the distributor generally gets a cut of that. However, let’s say the distributor gets a healthy 50% for every stock photo sold, and the photographer gets the other 50%. In one session of 20 photos at the lower end of the pricing spectrum, the photographer is making $30 if each image only sells once.
That one session probably only cost them one of their eight hours during their shoot day. What’s more important though is that images will often sell significantly more times than just once. It’s rare for a photo or photo set to sell just one time.
Some stock photo sites show you exactly how many sales an image has had, and it’s not unusual to see good photos with hundreds or even upwards of a thousand sales over time. This means even if the lower spectrum number is used, one photo can easily earn a picture-taker $100 to $1,500 or more.
Keep in mind though that these photographers are offering good quality photos for sale. A lot of photos, if of poor quality, probably won’t sell at all. But of course, any photographer that stand by his or her work would not put lower quality images into the marketplace.
Making money selling or promoting stock photography
There are a variety of ways to make money in the stock photography industry. This holds true for photo-buyers and the artists that snap the pictures.
Users (content publishers that buy stock photography) make money from their stock photos in a couple different ways. One approach they could take is to become an affiliate of a web site that offers stock photos for sale, and earn a commission for referrals to that site. This way is very functional because they can simply add an affiliate tagged source link below every stock photo that they buy for use on their own sites. When someone follows the link and makes a purchase, the user will make some money.
Then perhaps we can consider the indirect approach. In this case it would be the sheer value of a good quality photo. Posts with good photos catch more readers’ attention and travel faster, with the potential of earning the site owner more money.
Designers can make money with use of stock photos as well. Given that most stock photo licensing allows it, designers can use good stock photos to allow their content to shine and create info graphics, sharable images, and awesome layout demos to increase their sales.
Selling stock photography online, hosted or self-hosted
Naturally of course, a photographer could also make money selling stock photography. He or she could add their collection to existing stock image sites, or launch their own online portfolio.
Adding their photos to existing sites will put their products in a “photo shop” in front of people who are ready to buy. But this comes with a price of course. The shop owner will want their cut and deservedly so. Now, if a photographer were to launch their own site, there would be less restrictions but initially less of an audience as well in most cases. Opening up the doors to affiliates to promote the images is a smart move, as many of the image buyers will become promoters, as pointed out above.
If you are using the WordPress platform for your website then you could use a plugin like the WP Photo Seller to sell your stock photos.
How much money do people invest in the images for their content and web sites?
The amount of money spent on stock photos differs and depends on a few key components.
The first and potentially most important component is how large the following is for a given web property. The larger the following, the more value a good photo will have for the site owner. If they’ve got thousands of people looking at their site regularly, it becomes more cost effective to put good money into buying photos.
If there isn’t as many followers yet, they can get by with spending less money initially and still get a decent amount of traction. In most cases, for example, it wouldn’t make sense to spend $15.00 on one post that is likely only going to be seen by 100 people. But on the same token, the potential is there to amp things up by leveraging a good quality image to pair with good quality content
So what are the actual ranges in pricing for stock photos?
I’ve seen stock pics range from free to $0.01 (in mass bulk), all the way up to maybe $25.00 depending on if the site uses a dollar amount or if they use a “credit” system. I find that the lowest cost place to get professional stock photos (aside from free resources) is photodune.net.
The different stock photo resources on the web
Photodune.net seems to be geared to entry level photographers, which allows them a more cost effective sale price. It works because there are a lot of amateurs out there who are really good and only getting better, and stock photo production is a great way to earn money on the side while building their portfolios.
And let’s face it, a lot of times people just aren’t ready to build out their own sites yet.
The pricing on this site for an “average” sized image is $2.00 and the greatest part about it is that they have a standardized structure, so almost all images are priced the same. In essence, you don’t see a lot of price fluctuation.
iStockPhoto.com is one of the most popular stock photo sites available in this space and has some of the highest quality images you can find. These are seen most frequently in medium to large sized businesses and their images are more costly in general than PhotoDune.
The pricing structure on iStockPhoto is however a “points structure” which means you pay for points and then buy images with your points instead of each photo having a dollar value. This can be useful if you have the capital to buy points in bulk because the more you buy up front, the less you’re paying per point. On average the images I’ve come across end up equaling out around $5.00 for the small scale images – but there is so much fluctuation with images on this site it’s hard to tell.
GettyImages.com is a site that is known for its editorial content and gallery of popular professional photographers including paparazzi. If you need celebrity photos, this is a great resource.
If you’re just looking for stock photos, they have that too. Having been around for quite a long time, GettyImages has a huge selection. From what I’ve observed the ranges here are maybe $3 to $10 per standard sized images with prices going up depending on the exclusivity of the images.
For example, if you’re buying an image of a highly sought after celebrity, be prepared to pay double digits. Additionally, their licensing has strict rules about the audience of the images. The bigger your audience, the more you pay for your image.
ShutterStock.com has photos from a mix of professionals and amateurs. This site is great because they offer free branded (or watermarked) images as well as paid images and have a lot of selection. It’s important to mention that the photos here tend to be very generic commercial photography and while there is some, there isn’t a lot of creative photography to be seen.