Stock Photography: What is it?

What is Stock Photography?

Stock photography is the reselling (licensing) of content such as images, vectors, videos or music that may be "recycled" into different projects depending on the needs of the buyer. Such projects may be blogs, Youtube videos or maybe a restaurant menu.

In this post we will be focusing specifically on photography and video but the same concepts apply for designers or music creators who may want to become contributors as well. Keep reading to learn more..

Why do people purchase stock media?

This may be for a variety of reasons but the main ones would be availability and cost. In order to make it easier, let’s put things into perspective and put ourselves in the shoes of a journalist writing an article about New York City.

What is easier and more cost effective?

A) Booking a flight to New York City?

B) Searching online for "new york city stock photo"

You've guessed it! The right answer is B 🙂

So where do you come in?

Shooting stock is not just reserved to professional photographers/videographers, and anyone can become a contributor.

Getting Started

There are various micro-stock agencies that one can sign-up for; some are legitimate and some are complete waste of time.

Although most agencies are now selling a mixed bag of media (photo, video, vector, music) not all of them excel at each.

The below link are the ones that I found to be worth uploading to. I will update the list if I find others

Pond5 - Focuses mostly on video

Adobe Stock - Great for Creative Cloud users

Dreamstime - A good all rounder

Shutterstock - Top seller but low payout

What should you upload?

Really and truly anything may sell; the world is a weird place and you never know what people might need. I would refrain from uploading images of ducks in a pond or the flowers in your garden unless you already have them saved; let me explain. Micro-stock has been around for a long time and all the agencies have more than enough of such images. In order to kick-start your portfolio I suggest that you harvest your hard disk first. If you're anything like me, you've been hoarding what are possibly Gigabytes of photos and video for years. Going through your old hard disks may reveal some content that has commercial value and give your portfolio that initial momentum. Consider these images as a testing ground to gauge what sells in micro-stock and see if you've got what it takes to make it in stock content creation.


This is probably the hardest and most time consuming part of being a micro-stock contributor. Finding the right keywords is what determines if you make sales or not.  If you are uploading to multiple sites, it makes sense to keyword just once and upload in bulk. For this task I would suggest using Xpiks. With Xpiks you can keyword multiple images as well as titles and description. However please note that not all stock agencies will recognise the titles and descriptions done by Xpiks; there there will still be a degree of "copy and pasting" but at least the keywording would have already been done.

Unfortunately, I haven't found a software that does a similar job to Xpiks in terms of video. Key-wording is a skill that comes with practice. If you need more help with key-wording, I would suggest vising the contributor platform's help section for more tips and guidelines.


Your main aim should be to fork out a high number of images of good enough quality. Do not start micro stock and expect to quit your job next week. Micro-stock photography/videography requires a lot of work and a huge portfolio to be profitable.

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