How to Sell Stock Photography

The May Oklahoma City SMUG meeting, our 3rd meeting, was attended by almost 30 photographers, including 4 that made the trip from Tulsa! We were graciously hosted at Ackerman McQueen‘s corporate office in NW OKC, where we heard from AM’s Photography Manager, Justin Morris, about marketing and selling stock images as a freelance photographer. I met Justin after moving here in December when I met with various ad agencies. After assisting him in the AM studio and getting to know him better, I asked him if he’d be willing to lead a SMUG meeting. I was so happy he agreed to do so! Thanks, Justin. Scroll down for a summary of his advice.

We started the meeting in the 21st floor conference room (which, incidentally, is a lot more comfortable for 30 people than my living room! :))

We ended the meeting with a tour of the AM studio.

Justin has experienced success in his freelance stock sales, selling many images through Getty Images, Veer, Fotolia, and Alamy, and he offered the following advice:

  • Royalty Free vs. Rights Managed:  Microstock [discount] outlets, like istockphoto, only offer royalty free images to buyers, which is the preference of most ad agencies, according to Justin. Royalty free images may be used by the buyer multiple times once purchased. In contrast, major stock houses like Getty Images offer [more pricey] rights managed photos, in which case, pricing is based on each use and according to very specific details (i.e. print vs, web, size, time period, circulation, etc.). Usually, rights managed photos are scenes that are more rare, involving models, significant planning, technical difficulty, staging, etc.
  • Keywording:  Justin stressed the importance of keywording. He attempts to add 20-30 keywords to every photo he puts online. He keeps a spreadsheet tracking his keywords for each photo, so that he can copy and paste his keywords to multiple stock house sites without starting from scratch. Certain vendors, like Getty, don’t require photographers to key word; rather, they have staff that add key words to all of the photos on their site.
  • Using Flickr to Sell Stock:  Flickr and Getty have a partnership that facilitates stock sales through Flickr. Photographers may post photos and mark them as “available for request to license.” If a buyer finds a Flickr image they’d like to license, they click on this link, and Getty then contacts the photographer to facilitate the transaction. That image then becomes part of the Getty collection, and the photographer becomes a Getty photographer. The catch: Getty always requires exclusivity, which means that from that point on, as long as the image is listed on Getty, the photographer cannot sell the rights to that image, or any “similar” image, through any other stock house.
  • Model & Property Releases:  Justin stressed the importance of having model releases for stock images in which a face is recognizable, or property releases for images in which a specific property is featured. Stock houses will not accept such images that do not have a release attached. He suggested using phone apps such as iRelease to facilitate gaining releases while on the go. Gaining releases can be delicate, since stock images can be purchased by anyone – how many people would want to have their face end up in a ad for a herpes medication, for example?
  • Marketing Directly to Buyers:  Stock may be sold directly to buyers by photographers (versus going through a stock house); Justin suggested making a book to present at meetings with local ad agencies. Based on his experience at AM, stock is used much more frequently by ad agencies than assignment work (1,000 : 1 ratio), and Art Directors and Photography Managers are constantly looking for stock, especially local stock. He said Oklahoma images are in short supply, and suggested that local photographers create catalogues such as City Scapes, Bricktown, Downtown, Native American imagery, etc. and either host them on their own websites, or Flickr or the stock houses.
  • Pricing Stock Sales:  The standard for stock pricing is set, for better or worse, by Getty Images. To determine the relative market value of your stock images, search Getty for images that are similar to yours, and price them out according to how yours will be used. That will give you a place to start negotiations when dealing directly with a buyer.

Other Resources:

Justin mentioned a few valuable training sites that he uses frequently:

  1. PSD Tutorials on PSDTUTS and Chromasia
  2. Digital Photography School

Read more about how to manage stock sales on ASMP’s helpful tutorial. Note that ASMP does not endorse the contract that Getty requires for its photographers. Make sure you understand the issues in today’s stock market, and protect your business interests. 

More Info on the Oklahoma City SMUG:


About Mosaic Collective, LLC

I am Holly Baumann Ambuehl, founding member of Mosaic Collective, LLC, which was founded in early 2017 and is based in Central Illinois. I own and operate Mosaic Collective with my partner in business and life, my husband, Nathan. Mosaic Collective, LLC houses our rental property, my consulting contracts (with the nonprofit and public sectors on various work), and also my commercial and portrait photography business, which has been doing business as Holly Baumann Photography since 2008 long before the formation of our LLC. My blog posts feature client work, but I just love to write, so I also write about owning a business, food and drink, travel, and sometimes, my personal life! I am always honored when clients trust me to capture their vision, and equally so when my readers converse with me about what I've photographed or expressed here. I hope we'll have an opportunity to collaborate professionally and/or become friends. I'd love to hear what you think! - Holly
This entry was posted in Marketing Ideas, Stock. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How to Sell Stock Photography

  1. rick cotter says:

    Hello Holly… we appreciate all you do. I was unable to make that last meeting but very interested in it was it recorded? If so how may I get a copy I will pay.. thank you.. ps you can call if you want at 4056237943


    • Thank you so much! My pleasure, really. Unfortunately, this meeting was not video taped due to logistics…usually we tape and will try to do so again in the future. And when we do tape, there’s no fee. 🙂 Hope to see you at the next meetings!


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