How to Sell Editorial Images as Stock

As of last week, online stock agency iStock started accepting editorial submissions… and a few other agencies already do, such as Shutterstock, Bigstock, and Dreamstime.

The great thing about selling editorial photos as stock is that you don’t need a model release, and you don’t have to worry about logos and trademarks in your images. What you’re trying to capture is the truth. However, you have to try to get the image perfectly exposed and in-focus in the camera.

We talked more about editorial for stock a couple of weeks ago. If you missed that issue, you can read it here.

Since iStock and Shutterstock both accept editorial submissions, and since they’re my highest-earning agencies, I decided to look through my travel images on my hard drive and pick out a few to sell as editorial use stock this weekend.

In case you'd like to do the same, I asked stock photographer Shelly Perry for her take on selling editorial images as stock. Shelly submits exclusively to iStock, but much of what she told me applies across the board at different agencies.

Here’s a peek into our conversation…

Interview with Stock Photographer Shelly Perry

Bonnie: What’s your prediction for editorial images on iStock -- do you think they’ll sell?

Shelly: I imagine they will sell. I am sure there will be some cross-over in buyers, but in some ways it opens up the doors to a whole new breed of buyers as well. Time will tell really how well it will work out but it's a hopeful turn of events for those of us who are more "documentary" photographers in style and approach.

Bonnie: If I were to go back through my hard drive looking for editorial images to submit to iStock, what should I look for?

Shelly: At iStock, it will be very important to present your "knock out shots." Especially as this thing takes off, you want to set yourself apart from the crowd by presenting your very best work.

For editorial, that means get your technicals right. You want to get everything as close to perfect as you can in-camera, since very little post processing is required or even allowed for editorial.

[Ed. Note: See more on iStock’s editorial requirements here.]

Editorial shooting is a totally different thing. It's important to understand that it’s not about thinking like a designer, as with regular stock -- it’s about thinking in stories and presenting the facts as they are. So when going through your hard-drive you should be looking for stand-out shots that really tell a story and are timeless in a way. Hot news of the moment is not what iStock is looking for -- though other sites may be, so always check the guidelines.

Bonnie: Is this like shooting editorial photos for a magazine or newspaper? What makes it different?

Shelly: It's very similar, yes. The editorial expectations would likely be the same for most newspapers and many magazines. What makes it different in my mind is the idea of timelessness. With editorial stock we're not looking for that urgent news event that will be plastered on the front page of every paper tomorrow morning (though if you see it, certainly take it!) and we're not going to run out and shoot the local sports team, or turn into paparazzi… all of which can fall under the editorial umbrella. Instead, we are looking for interesting stories, be they about people, cultures, places, etc…

Bonnie: Thanks, Shelly!

Some of the most downloaded travel images for editorial use stock include:

Well-known landmarks

  • Times Square
  • The Vegas Strip
  • The Sydney Opera House

Life in other cultures

  • Kids in school in other countries
  • Kids and families in Africa
  • Street performers
  • Festival dancers
  • People working the fields

The act of travel

  • Planes in flight
  • Trains in the station
  • People with their luggage
  • Taxis and buses driving
  • Local transport - double-decker buses, tuk-tuks, gondolas, rickshaws, etc.

Take a look through your travel images -- you may find a few “timeless” shots that you can sell as editorial use stock. Of course, before you upload, make sure to read the guidelines for each agency.

I’ll let you know how it goes once I’ve submitted a few editorial shots.

-- Bonnie

Bonnie Caton
Great Escape Publishing
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Update from Marianne Campolongo, who we heard from a few weeks ago: Was accepted on iStock last week so now I can add them to my roster. I am eager to try offering photos through their new editorial section. I've licensed over 40 editorial images through Shutterstock and some through Dreamstime as well, so I'll be interested to see how iStock does given their reach. I offer most of my editorial images as RM on Alamy, but I like to try a lot of different venues and it seems to be working. Only time will tell.

Kind comments from Roni Java, who just joined Breakfast Stock Club Premium: I want to thank Bonnie (and everyone else) for all the work that goes into creating this forum and program for us. You are inspirational! I got accepted to iStock and BigStock back in 2009 and uploaded a handful of shots, then nothing more because, as John Lennon says, "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." LOL. I appreciate all of this encouragement to get back to it and spent tonight u
ploading from what I already have on hand. Now, time to join some other sites and -- YES -- shoot, shoot, shoot. Thanks again and keep up the great work!

From Kathy Anderson, who's out shooting photos for the Breakfast Stock Club Premium Challenge: Textures and patterns are very interesting. Some of the ones that I have taken are very dull and dead looking… They have no life. The ones that I really like are the ones that have life… the ones that I want to reach out and touch… the ones that I find something new every time I look at them.

How exciting -- keep shooting!

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]