$47,107. That’s the precise amount of money that these two photographers have made from stock images since signing up to the Stocksy platform. Although admittedly that amount is not exactly hitting the big time (particularly when divided and broken down into yearly figures), it’s a respectable number and would be a nice extra as part of multiple income streams.
In this video, Daniel from Mango Street breaks down how he and his wife, Rachel did it and what type of images sold the best, to give you some ideas in case you want to up your game in today’s ‘stock market’.
The site that Mango Street use is Stocksy, and from a quick look at the site, it seems as though royalty-free image uses range from $15 for the smallest size to $125 at the largest. Commercial licenses are obviously more. In terms of stock and microstock those are not bad amounts, although as we will see, it’s definitely a numbers game.
Daniel begins by showing us a 30-minute shoot he did with a model and shows the variety of images he got from that. The images have been up for 2 years and out of those 100-odd images, 9 of those have made a total of $332.50. Not exactly megabucks yet.
But he points out that that was only a 30-minute shoot. If he made a curated half-day or full-day shoot with several models then he could easily add a couple of hundred quality images to his portfolio of stock. I assume the models are being compensated for their time. The second point he makes is that these images have no sell-by date (aside from changing trends and fashions) and they will potentially be earning money for as long as he’s a photographer.
Between Daniel and Rachel (they are a married couple), they have 1045 images uploaded to the site, and during 2020 when many event-based photographers had a less than great year, Mango Street fared OK and it made the difference to them being able to stay afloat during what was frankly a bit of a pants year. For the whole of 2020, they earned around $5,000 from stock photography, which Daniel says is a pretty average yearly amount for them.
So what kind of photos sell the best? The couple’s number one best selling image is an environmental portrait of a couple of laughing baristas in a coffee shop. They did the shoot for free but gave the business licence to use the photos for their own promotional purposes in return for them selling them as stock images with model and property releases. That one single image has sold 37 times and made them a total so far of $1,353.13. That’s probably more than a local independent coffee shop would have been able to pay for a promo shoot.
The next most popular subject is their dog, a wrinkly cute bulldog called Carlton who in just 2 images has earned around $1700. He does tick all the boxes for millennial dog owners and is obviously an easily accessible thing to photograph. If you have pets, that would be an ideal and popular subject with a little creativity. And unlike regular models, they accept payment in biscuits. In total all the many dog images have brought in around $5,000. That’s a lot of dog biscuits.
Another interesting point that Daniel makes is that one of those images of Carlton was never intended to be a stock image, and he is surprised by how popular it is. You may have images sitting on your hard drive that would actually be quite decent sellers, it’s certainly worth having a look.
Balloon letters spelling out different words have also been a huge success. With minimal props, you could create a lot of different images based on the same theme. A $40 investment for the balloons has netted them around $4,000.
So what about lighting? Daniel says that the majority of the images are shot using available light, with perhaps just a reflector. very occasionally they will use a strobe or off-camera-flash. Keeping things simple has been good for them and works with their aesthetic.
And what type of images do buyers want? Anything from portraits, business, coffee, technology…Daniel says that these are all good subjects to pursue. The important part (and probably most difficult) is to be able to capture it in a creative way that hasn’t been done a thousand times before. Another way to see what’s popular is to look at what images are already trending on stock sites. Think about holidays and seasons and try to plan ahead for those.
Now of course there is one caveat: Stocksy is very selective with how many photographers it takes on, and which images it chooses to be uploaded. But there are other sites to check out, such as Adobe Stock, and twenty20 which is a subsidiary of Envato. In the end, multiple income streams and passive income are never a bad idea. These days I wouldn’t advise anyone trying to earn solely from stock images, and even these figures show that it’s more of an added extra than a sizeable chunk of income. But if you’ve got decent photography skills and you’re going out and taking these sorts of images anyway, why not give it a go?