Is stock photography dead?


Lusaka, Zambia : Labour Day, May 2016. Three police ladies taking a break

Libraries are making good money from stock photography. But what about the photographer? Is it still worth taking photos and marketing them as stock?

In the 1990s, when I began shooting stock, I submitted colour transparencies. And for each image that was accepted, on average I used to receive nearly two US dollars a year. Even then it was a numbers game, but at least the odds were better than they are now. With good digital cameras more affordable than ever, competition is fierce and stock prices have been driven down.

Well that’s the bad news – but is there any good news? If you’re willing to be patient and methodical, I’d say there is. Demand for stock photography is higher than ever. The skill lies in making it easy for buyers to find your pictures and being fairly paid.

Here are my thoughts on improving the odds of success:


  1. Choose subjects that you enjoy shooting. You need to be patient and persistent, so there’s no point in taking pictures just because they’re in demand. You’ll soon get tired and your lack of enthusiasm will show.


  1. Once you’ve found interesting subject matter, focus on it – make it your niche. A scattergun approach might have worked twenty years ago, but it doesn’t any more.


  1. Use keywording, to make it easier for buyers to find your images. The basics are covered in my post : Stock photography : the importance of keywords.


  1. Develop strong relationships with photo buyers. Once you’ve made a sale to somebody, it gets easier to make further sales to them, especially if you’ve specialized. Become a valuable resource for picture researchers – their first port of call.


Finally, I wish you the best of luck – I’d love hear how you get on.

2 Responses to “Is stock photography dead?”
  1. Maria Christou says:
    • Richard Alton says:

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