Where can I sell my photos?

If you're asking yourself "Where can I sell my photos?" then I'd like to introduce you to these three big markets: stock, editorial, and fine art images.  It's important to understand the differences between them and recognize that many images will sell well to more than one.

Although “stock” images technically include all images that are NOT photographed for a specific client or use (that is, photos you haven’t been commissioned to create), the term “stock” is commonly used to describe images that are in the collections of stock photography agencies.

These images are often purchased by a variety of clients -- from companies looking to create new ad campaigns or websites… to high-school students looking for images to illustrate a book report.

Because competition among agencies is stiff, stock houses often accept only images that are technically perfect and require that photographers provide the appropriate model (and where necessary) property releases.

And, because images need to be technically perfect, it’s often the photographers with more expensive equipment that make the most money.  Their images can be sold in larger formats (which cost more and therefore bring in higher commissions) and higher-end cameras often do a better job at creating technically perfect images in low light and extreme lighting conditions.

Editorial images, on the other hand, are the kind you submit together with a travel article or magazine story idea.  They’re used to help illustrate a story.  And, they’re typically reviewed as one piece of the whole.

As a result, they don’t typically need to tell a story independently.  They can be combined to tell a story and they’re usually accompanied by a caption of what they depict.

Most camera types (from point-and-shoot to SLR models) are able to produce the type and size of digital files required by magazines (8x12 jpegs @ 300 dpi is a common request).

And, releases are not usually required, making editorial images a little easier to sell in that sense.

Fine art images are a little harder to describe, since art, by nature, is subjective.

Very generally, an image that will work as art is one that someone (hopefully a buyer) deems aesthetically pleasing. Local subjects that people have a connection to sell well as fine art.

So, if you are showing your work in an art fair in, say, San Francisco, you should have some shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and other area sights.

Of the different types of photographs I license, the best-selling for me is the editorial type. Here are a few tips to help you increase your sales of these images:

1.    Shoot locally: Let’s face it. Everyone photographs icons, and you should, too, because they sell. The trick is to photograph icons in unique or different ways. Living close to a particular icon will give you an advantage most other photographers don’t have. I have an image of Santa Fe Baldy under heavy snow that I have sold many times to magazines and tourism publications when I lived in Santa Fe. After a huge snow storm, I snow-shoed to the perfect overlook and took a variety of images in unique (snowy) conditions.

2.    Shoot with a shotgun first, a rifle later: Especially when starting out, your image collection will need, well, everything. Remember that icon near your house? Photograph it vertically, horizontally, at an angle, with people, without people, in winter, in summer, its details, you name it. Make sure you take these pictures in nice light and that your compositions are strong. Repeat with the next subject.

3.    Let local publications know you exist: Once you have enough images of area subjects, send a selection of 20 images or so to the local magazines, state tourism department, and other local publications that might have a need for tourism-related images. Let them know that you are a local photographer with fresh images and that you would appreciate being on their photographers’ mailing list. Once you get on a handful of these lists, you will be on your way to licensing your images.

4.    Keep shooting: Things change. The picture you have of the local shopping scene with everyone wearing bell-bottoms and long hair is now a “historic” photograph (and you should keep it for later). Keep your collection fresh by re-photographing the same or similar subjects on a regular basis.

[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.]