Does stock photography still make sense in 2023?

Oct 12, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Does stock photography still make sense in 2023?

Oct 12, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me “Why don’t you do stock photography?” Or for every time a new photographer told me they wanted to start selling stock photos. It’s a niche many people start with, dreaming they will just sit and do nothing while the money pours in. But is that really the case? And more importantly, is it still relevant in 2023, when the market’s oversaturated with AI-generated images? In this video, Scott Choucino discusses it, giving two cents on this topic.

YouTube video

Types of stock photography

Scott gives valuable insight based on his one-year deep dive into the world of stock photography. As he says, he did stock photography so you don’t have to. He divides stock sites into three main groups: generic stock sites, press photography, and syndication. And here’s some thought and explanation of each.

Generic stock sites: Low effort, low return

Most conventional stock sites are notorious for their low payouts. They range from the miserable 33 cents to $26 per photo, but they’re still often the first stop for budding photographers who dream of easy money. But how easy is it really? You still have to take and edit photos, organize the photoshoots, and whatnot.

As Scott highlights, the revenue from these platforms is hardly worth the effort. The photos are often stereotypical and generic and have a low market value as they’re neither artistic nor unique. Not to mention that you can generate them using AI software. In fact, that’s what I did for the purpose of this article and to illustrate my point.

Press photography: A step up

Scott notes that press photography is a more lucrative field, catering to clients like newspapers, magazines, and online websites. While it doesn’t demand artistic masterpieces, the images still need to be culturally relevant and newsworthy. Press photographers, positioned at the right place at the right time, often capture images that continue to generate income long after they’ve been taken. This is especially true for photos of celebrities or significant events.

Syndication: Targeted efforts, higher rewards

Syndication is the lesser-known side of stock photography. It involves archives syndicating a photographer’s work, targeting ad agencies specifically. This approach can lead to higher payouts, and I mean, much higher! Scott shares that he earned £3,000 from just two photos in a year.

But before little dollar signs appear in your eyes, keep in mind that the effort involved in preparing and uploading the images is immense. Not to mention that you need to constantly update to keep the content fresh. So, this poses the question of whether the return justifies the investment of time and resources.

What about stock video?

Interestingly, Scott reveals that stock video content is currently a profitable venture. In fact, it seems to me that it’s more profitable than stock photography. However, Scott predicts a decline due to market saturation and technological advancements. These include the high-quality video capabilities of smartphones, but also the advancement of AI videos. However, the latter still has a long way to go.

So, is stock photography still relevant?

The main takeaway from Scott’s video is the importance of evaluating the return on investment in stock photography. The low-hanging fruit of generic stock sites seems tempting, and many new photographers fall into its trap, so to speak. However, the financial return here is minimal. What’s more, the risk of devaluing your work is another serious consideration. Selling your images for peanuts and having them used everywhere can harm your professional reputation and future market value according to Scott.

Instead, Scott suggests that you should aim for sustainable income. Consider improving your skills above all, and choose syndication over stock sites. Alternatively, or simultaneously, you should consider directly approaching press and wire agencies.

In conclusion, stock photography isn’t the gold mine it used to be. In fact, I think it’s been a while. However, it still holds some opportunities. The key lies in strategic positioning, constant learning, and choosing the right platform. The platforms you choose should align with your career goals and the value you place on your work. And as the industry evolves, you need to adapt! Finally, always be mindful of the delicate balance between effort, compensation, and the inherent worth of your work. It’s not easy – but you’ll get there!

[EASILY Make a Fortune with Stock Photography in 2023? via FStoppers]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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8 responses to “Does stock photography still make sense in 2023?”

  1. Kaouthia Avatar
    Kaouthia

    It hasn’t made sense for me in years. It stopped being worth it as soon as sites like iStockPhoto started popping up. Unsplash made it even more useless. I still have an account on Alamy but I quit uploading to it years ago.

  2. Libby Sutherland Avatar
    Libby Sutherland

    I used to work in the business on the management side. The bottom fell out about 2014. My brother used to be an active submitter to 5 or 6 of the microstocks. Around 2007, he was making about $700 USD per month total from all of them. Now he makes about $300 per year, and that’s in a “good” year. Granted he is no longer an active submitter. If you want to try and get anything at all worthwhile from the micros today, you must continually feed the beast with high commercial vale images. The days of apples and oranges on a white background are long gone.

  3. Chung Dha Lam Avatar
    Chung Dha Lam

    Photoshop build in AI feature no need to search for stock and just type in what you need and you be faster with it than haven to look through a lot of ugly stock images to find the perfect one with the right angle of something and AI just already put the object in the right angle in the right place.

    1. Hervé Ramboz photographie Avatar
      Hervé Ramboz photographie

      Chung Dha Lam the pictures made like that are poor.

    2. Chung Dha Lam Avatar
      Chung Dha Lam

      Hervé Ramboz photographie If you look at video tutorials showing what they can do, its pretty good.

    3. Johnny Martyr Avatar
      Johnny Martyr

      Hervé Ramboz photographie that’s what we used to say about digital stock photos

  4. Andrus Chesley Avatar
    Andrus Chesley

    LOL had to look up what Stock Photo was! Guess due to the fact I take 95% of my own.

  5. Vic Hernandez Navarrete Avatar
    Vic Hernandez Navarrete

    Based on how many articles come out about we should quit photo and do a regular 9-5