5 Pro Secrets To Getting Accepted At A Photo Stock Agency

By Jason Row / January 11, 2019

Have you ever thought about selling your images through a photo stock agency? Here are 5 pro secrets to getting accepted.

Trying to sell your images can be a very frustrating exercise. Unless you plan to be a full-time photographer, it is unlikely that you will have the time to market yourself and your images. If you don’t market yourself then buyers are not going to find your images. 

There is, however, a way to make money without having to go full time. I am talking of course about being a stock photographer. Stock photography is where you hand over a selection of your images to a photo stock agency and they will sell them for you. 

Sounds great right? Well yes and no. With the right attitude, photos and time, you can make some money from stock agencies. However, don’t think that uploading 100 of your favourite images will allow you to buy that brand new BMW you have been lusting over, it won’t.

However, with time and effort, you can reap some reasonable rewards, enough to call it a second income. So how do you go about getting images accepted at a photo stock agency?

1. Understand Licensing And Copyright

There are several reasons as to why images get rejected by a photo stock agency. Among the most common is not understanding how to licence your images. The majority of stock agencies today deal in Royalty Free. That means the image can be bought by the client and used for whatever purpose they intend and as many times as they wish. 

Within Royalty Free, some agencies divide that license into Editorial and Commercial. A Commercial license can be used to sell a product. An Editorial license can only be used to illustrate, for news, documentary or other non-commercial entities. 

If you plan to sell your images under a Commercial license, then any recognisable people must have a model release. Furthermore, any company logos, certain famous landmarks or artworks may also require releases. You might think that your shot of a Rolls Royce in front of the Monte Carlo casino would make a great commercial shot, but unless you have a release from Rolls Royce and the casino, it will almost certainly be rejected by the agency. In this case, you will need to resubmit as an Editorial image. 

When submitting, think about each image. Consider the content and ask yourself does any element in this need a release. If it does, submit it as an Editorial image. 

Some agencies would reject this image without a property release. Photo by Fred Mouniguet on Unsplash

2. Being Technically Perfect

Stock agencies deal in bulk, pile em high sell em cheap. For this reason, there is actually little interaction between the image buyer and the photo stock agency itself, everything is pretty much automated. For that reason, the vast majority of stock agencies require your images to be technically perfect.

By that, I mean sharp focus, no blown highlights, no excess of noise and no dust or blemishes. If any of your images exhibit one or more of these problems you will get rejected. 

Before you submit any batch of images, inspect each one at 100% for sharpness and blemishes and check the histogram for any exposure issues. 

Great shot but could be rejected for overexposed highlights. Photo by Antonio Lapa on Unsplash

3. Sellable Not Always Stunning

You might have a selection of incredible landscapes and never sell any of them. This is because they are not what the buyers are looking for.

Many images these days are sold for blogs and news websites so following news trends is a good way to determine what might sell. For example, plastic pollution is a major issue of the day. You might find that rather than sell a stunning landscape shot, you might sell a similar landscape scared by plastic pollution.

A photo stock agency is unlikely to reject images that are not in demand, but you need to consider is it worth your time and effort to upload them if they are never going to make any significant money. 

Mundane but given the news of plastic pollution in our oceans, sellable. Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

4. Shoot A Diverse Collection

Another common reason that images get rejected by agencies, is that they lack any diversity. By this, I mean you upload 30-40 images of the same location or subject with slightly varying angles and exposure. Be ruthless when you select your images. If you have a lot of images at one location, whittle them down to the top 3 or 4 best and submit those. 

Also, try to avoid the obvious cliches such as cats and sunsets. Agencies these days are likely to reject anything that they already have huge numbers of.

Cute but unlikely to be accepted. Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

5. Get The Metadata Correct.

Metadata, that is captioning and keywording is a vital part of selling stock. Without it, your images will not get seen and sold. It can also be a reason that agencies reject your images. Some agencies, when submitting commercial images, require you to write the caption or description in a very specific format, usually denoting the date and location of the shot. Others require both a caption (short) and description (long) if you do not add both you may get rejected.

Lastly, make sure you do not keyword spam. This can be where you cut and paste the same keywords from image to images despite their relevance. Alternatively, using the same keywording multiple times in the same image in an attempt to boost its rating – this is a no-no, as many agencies have algorithms to detect this when you submit, so this can also be a source of rejection. 

Getting your metadata right is essential. Don't spam keywords. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Final Thoughts On Getting Accepted By A Photo Stock Agency

Selling stock requires time and effort. It's not a simple case of selecting a few images and uploading them to a website. You need to have an efficient workflow, varied collection of technically good images and well thought out metadata.

With these, and over time, you will find your images selling and your revenue growing. The last thing to remember is that stock agencies like you to be active. You are more likely to sell images consistently if you submit regularly. 

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About the author

Jason Row

Jason has been writing for Light Stalking for over six years now and has 35 years of experience as a professional photographer. He now concentrates on producing travel stock photography and video from around the world. You can find his portfolio here. His work has been featured in numerous publications, both online and in print, as well as for major companies such as Virgin, Etihad, Tripadvisor and Booking.com. Jason has also produced a number of video tutorials for Light Stalking and Photzy. Born in London he now lives in the beautiful city of Odessa, Ukraine.

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