In order to visually compare the requirements for images on different photo stocks. I chose three popular services, created accounts there and uploaded the same photos. I will also talk about the results of this experiment in the article.

How photo stocks work

Photostocks are giant repositories of photos, pictures, videos and other media. That anyone can download and use for their own purposes. As a rule, such files are in demand among  content managers , website and media editors, bloggers, manufacturers of various products, such as photo wallpapers. All of them need images for products or advertising campaigns, and they do not have their own large database.

Photo stocks can be free, for example, there are more than 2.2 million images in the public domain on Pixabay. On such stocks, the author of the content will not be able to earn anything. They can also be paid, for example, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock , DepositPhotos, Dreamtime, etc. In this case, the author of a photo, picture or video receives a percentage for each sale. As a rule, in money it is only a few cents.

If one photo is sold an unlimited number of times, this is the microstock model. On microstocks, the buyer pays once for the content and uses it as many times and as he wants. Examples of microstocks are the same Shutterstock, DepositPhotos, Adobe Stock , Dreamtime, etc.  It is this model that I will talk about in the article, because only it is available to beginners.

Navigating the World of Stock Photography From Microstocks to Macrostocks and Everything In Between

There is also a macrostock model – the buyer pays every time he wants to use a photo, picture or video. Content on such stocks is more expensive, because it is of higher quality. The stockers are selected by the administration of the stock. Examples of macrostocks are PhotoShelter, Cavan, Alamy, etc. Make Money on 2d Animation

The more often the content is sold, the more money the author earns. On some stocks, such as Dreamtime, there is a progressive reward scale. The more photos of the author are bought, the more expensive each sale is. At the same time, content buyers on stocks have their own subscription and preferential tariff systems. Thanks to which they buy photos, pictures and videos cheaper, and sellers, accordingly, earn less because of this.

The main problem of photo stocks from the point of view of the content author is very high competition. For example, Shutterstock in November 2020 featured over 350 million images from creators around the world. And of course, most of these images are made by photographers and designers. They follow trends and shoot specifically for stocks, because this is their main income. But this does not mean that you should not even try to go to photo stocks with your content. Just for big earnings – from 500 $⁣ ( 46,900 R ) – and you will have to work regularly and a lot.

For example, I will give here the top ten most famous photo stocks, I will talk about the first three in detail in the article:

  • Shutterstock
  • Depositphotos
  • Dreamtime
  • Adobe stock
  • IStock
  • 123RF
  • Photogenics
  • Lori
  • CanStockPhoto
  • big stock

Licenses and copyrights for stock images

When an author uploads their photos to a free photo stock. They can usually set their own restrictions on their use. For example, allow the use of photos for non-commercial purposes and prohibit printing them on T-shirts or souvenirs. And it can allow commercial use, but with the obligatory indication of its authorship.

Authors on paid photo stocks do not have such an opportunity. The rules for licensing files in this case dictate stocks. Each stock has its own policy for selling licenses, but as a rule, you can always buy a standard license and an extended one.

The standard license allows the buyer to use the photo:

  • On the Internet – on websites and social networks, in  online advertising ,  etc.
  • In printed form – on product packaging, business cards, magazines, newspapers,  etc.
  • In outdoor advertising, including billboards.
  • Films, videos, television series, commercials, etc.
  • For non-commercial purposes.

The extended license allows the buyer to use the photo:

  • For  the same purposes as under the standard license.
  • For printing on souvenirs, magnets, calendars, stationery, postcards, t-shirts, mugs, candy wrappers,  etc.
  • To create site templates.
  • In their own works, such as books.

By sending files to the stock, the author agrees that they can be sold under both the standard and extended licenses. At the same time, the copyright still remains with the author, that is, no company, even if it prints a photo on its business cards, can be considered its author. Also, the author of the photo that was printed on the business card cannot be considered the author of the business card.

Some photo stocks, such as Dreamtime , recommend that buyers indicate the author of the image when using it, but this is only a recommendation. Other stocks, such as Photogenica, a large Russian photo bank, immediately fix in the rules that the name of the author may or may not be indicated – and the author must agree with this.

Who can sell files on photo stocks

Typically, photo stocks do not impose special requirements on content authors. That is, it doesn’t matter if you are a professional photographer or an amateur, what equipment you shoot with and for how long, the main thing is that the photos match the quality of the stock.

The only restriction is age: the file seller must be at least 18 years old. This rule is relevant, for example, for stocks such as Shutterstock, Depositphotos and Dreamtime. To check the user’s age, the stock can request a scan of his passport – for example, “Depositphotos” does this. Or the user will have to enter the date of birth when filling out the tax form, like Shutterstock. You can find out if a minor can upload and sell his photos on a particular stock from the rules of this stock – I recommend that you carefully study them before registering.

Exam. Some stocks, such as Depositphotos, have stricter rules for selecting authors: you can’t just register and start selling photos – you need to pass an exam. As a rule, for the exam you will have to upload several of your works and wait for the moderators to check them. If the quality suits them, the author will be given the opportunity to use the service.

Related Topic:

What should be the photo

Any photo stock has two main requirements for the files that it will pass for sale:

  • The user must have rights to sell these files.
  • The files must be of high quality.

Rights And Permissions

There will be no problem selling photos that the author takes himself. But you cannot, for example, buy a photo on a stock and sell it on another stock as your own. In addition, if photographs of people are put up for sale, you need to get their permission to publish. And if the shooting took place on private territory – consent to publication from the owner of this territory.

The release from the model is called Model Release. Any stock will require it if the photo contains faces, figures or other signs of people by which they can be recognized. If there are several people in the photo, consent from each is required.

On different stocks, the Model Release forms, as a rule, are similar: information about the author and model is always indicated and the signature of a witness is required. If desired, you can add a close-up photo of the model. If the model in the photo is naked, you need to add her ID to confirm that she is an adult.

Rights And Permissions

The permission from the owner is a Property Release. It is required if the shooting was carried out on private territory and you can find out exactly where exactly from the photographs, for example, in museums or estates. Separate permission is needed if the photo contains recognizable interior elements, such as paintings.

The Property Release form is filled out with information about the author, a description of the property and address, information about the owner of the property, and the signature of a witness.This means that photos purchased under such a license cannot be used for commercial purposes – only for descriptive or illustrative purposes, for example, for news, documentaries, non-fiction books.


On different photo stocks, the criteria for the quality of photos may differ –  moderators on one stock can reject the same image, and accept on another. In addition, stocks have different technical requirements for photos, they also need to be taken into account. I’ll tell you more about this in the section with the analysis of the rules of Dreamtime, Shutterstock and DepositPhotos.

To better understand what photos are in demand on the stock, you can study thematic collections – large photo stocks regularly publish collections of the most popular photos by topic. For example, Shutterstock has:

  • annual selection of future trends.
  • monthly selections of the most popular images.
  • monthly forecasts of the most requested materials.

Keywords.In order for photos to sell better, you also need to work with metadata – the title, description, and keywords for the image. By metadata, photos are ranked in the photo stock database – the more accurate they are, the easier it is for the buyer to find them. At the start, you can even borrow keywords from the best-selling photos if you have a similar theme.

Keyword Gold Tag Your Photos for Maximum Discoverability

It is best that the keywords are specifically associated with what is in the image. That is, you don’t need to drive in too much: if you took a beautiful flower on which a beetle sits, then you should write “summer”, “beetle”, “violet”, “flower”, “Russia”. No need to write anything else like “creative”, etc. The less unnecessary information, the better. This is respect for those who will look for photographs.

There are also many problems with hashtags. For example, they are often written illiterately, with errors in English words. But I rarely search by hashtags – this is not my search option. My option is to search by keywords, and the keywords need to be entered not in the plural, but in a very simplified way, for example, “shovel”, “stone”, “Russia”. Or “man”, “hand”, “Russia”, “Moscow”. That is, use the simplest language, as in search engines. I also often search by keywords in English. But for Russian authors, I recommend duplicating keywords – both Russian and English. And make sure the translation is correct.

Pro Tips for Budding Photographers How to Get Your Work Seen And Sold

For novice photographers , I would recommend registering for Depositphotos , Shutterstock , Adobe Stock , Gettyimages. There is also a cool free Unsplash stock. It is used, for example, in  the same Meduza. In T⁠—⁠F, we also look at photographs there. You can post your work there, and if someone decides to use it, the author will be indicated. There is always a chance that thanks to the signature, other people will switch to the photographer, who will use his photos and even, perhaps, will call him to take pictures later. That is, even thanks to free drains, prospects can open up.

In Shutterstock, you can specially collect collections, that is, create folders in which it is convenient to add your favorite photos. I also make bookmarks with authors of interest to me who have good photos. When I need photos, I quickly go to these photographers and see which of their work can suit me. Folders are the same. We have sections on the Tinkoff magazine website . I make folders with the names of these sections and put covers in them that could potentially go into our material. When I search, I often get cool photos that can be used in other headings. When I have a need later, I buy them.

Often, photographers can also write directly to the photo editor in the publication and offer their services or photos for use. For example, if a photographer sees that a publication uses a certain style of photography and that his photographs fall under this style, he can show these photos to the publication. For example, in T⁠—⁠J we have a column by Ekaterina Miroshkina “So what”, for which I sometimes buy photos directly from photographers.

What photos can not be placed on photo stocks

In addition to the fact that you cannot post other people’s works on photo stocks, passing them off as your own, there are a number of restrictions. They all come down to the fact that the pictures cannot illustrate something illegal or immoral.

Thus, images of a pornographic nature or nude photos without the consent of an adult model will not pass moderation, and models under the age of 21 will not pass moderation on Shutterstock.

It is forbidden to publish offensive content related, for example, to drugs or racism, which violates the rights of third parties. Any photographs depicting illegal or violent acts or animal cruelty will not be accepted for publication. If the photo shows the implementation of any fraudulent scheme, it will also be rejected.

If you want to dive deep into the rules for selecting photos for photo stocks, I recommend studying the document from Photogenics , it is in Russian and takes into account almost all the nuances that a beginner stocker may encounter.

How much can you earn on photo stocks

The amount of earnings of the author on all photo stocks, as a rule, depends on two parameters:

  • How many of its content are bought. The level of the author depends on this – the higher it is, the higher the percentage or minimum bid for each image sold.
  • How much does the buyer actually pay for it. Actual income depends on this: you can have a high level and receive 60% of each sale, but if the cost of a photo for a buyer is 0.1 $⁣ ( 9 R ), then 60% of this amount does not particularly contribute to earnings.

Some photo stocks, such as Photogenica, guarantee the author a stable percentage of earnings – there is no level system. But this does not change the second condition. Sometimes photo stocks, such as Dreamtime, offer a higher price for placing some images on their site – this is the sale of exclusive images, or they are ready to sell your work more expensive if you do not have accounts on other stocks – this is working with an exclusive user.

How much can you earn on photo stocks

At Dreamtime, for example, a non-exclusive user for the sale of a non-unique image receives 25% of the price and a minimum of 0.34 $⁣ ( 32 Р ), and for the sale of a unique image – 27.5% and a minimum of 0.37 $⁣ ( 35 Р ). The exclusive author in any case receives 60% and a minimum of 0.82 $⁣ ( 77 R ). Considering the actual prices of images, making money at the start is unlikely to suit people who want to quit their main job and live only on money from stocks, but you can consider this as a side job.

How much can you earn and how to withdraw money

How much you can earn on stocks in general depends on the activity of the photographer: the more photos he uploads, the more sales he has and the higher his income. The rule works: the more a photo is bought, the better it sells. That is, the system evaluates photos that are well bought as more valuable and brings them to the top so that they sell even more.

You can start with 10 $⁣ ( 938 R ) per month, then get 20-100 $⁣ ( 1876 – 9380 R ) and reach an income of 1000-6000 $⁣ ( 93 800 – 562 800 R ) per month – some there is no limit on the amount of earnings. At the same time, a photo can be sold immediately after uploading, or it can lie for a very long time – a year, two or three, and then even reach the top. No one can predict this – how lucky.

Now I work on two photo stocks and earn 200-300 $⁣ ( 18 760 – 28 140 R ) from each, although I do almost nothing for this. But I did a good job before – in three years I uploaded 4000 photos. If I start uploading 100 photos a month again, I will quickly increase my income to about $500⁣ ( 46,900 Р ) per month from one stock, and if I upload 100 photos a week, I can reach $1000-2000⁣ ( 93 800 – 187 600 R ) per month.

Cashing  in on Your Creations Seamless Payment Systems for Stock Photographers

From all the stocks that I work with, money is withdrawn only to electronic wallets. But for me it is convenient: there are no commissions, to withdraw, you just need to click the “Withdraw money” button and specify the desired amount. Transfer, as a rule, comes the next day, money can be transferred from the wallet to any bank card.

On some stocks, for example, on  “Adob stock” , in order to withdraw money, you need to press a button in your personal account, specify the amount. On other stocks, for example, on Shutterstock, automatic withdrawal of money is set up – every month the money is simply transferred to the wallet.

Naturally, at the start you need to spend time choosing and registering an electronic wallet, attaching a card to it, specifying the details on the stock, but this is easy – there are instructions for each action. The only negative is that the money goes from the stock in dollars, and the wallet is credited in rubles at the rate of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. But if it is very important, you can make an electronic dollar account.

What photo stocks can you earn on

There are many photo stocks where you can register and sell your photos. But the rules and working conditions for most of them are very similar: the author uploads the photo, the moderator checks it, if the verification is successful, they appear on sale, and if someone buys them, the author  receives his fee. I will tell you more about this using the example of three large photobanks – Dreamtime, Shutterstock and DepositPhotos.

How to work for Dreamtime

Dreamtime  is a stock of photos, illustrations, video and audio files. In November 2020, there are 148 million photos and almost 39 million users, including 671 thousand authors.

To start working on Dreamtime, you need to register. No documents are required for registration – only an email address and a password. You and your account will not be checked either, so you can upload photos immediately after registration. Dreamtime has two requirements for the content you upload: it must belong to you and be of high quality.

While the verification is in progress – from 1 to 24 hours – the files are in the “Files under verification” tab. If there are no problems, the materials will appear in your “My Files” tab and in the “Dreamtime” catalog. If the moderators don’t like something , they will go to the “Unaccepted files” tab, there will also be a reason for the refusal, plus it will be duplicated in the mail. After correcting all the comments, you can download them again.