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The Photographer’s Guide to Earning Money on Adobe Stock

by Mat Stark
featured, photo & video

Adobe Stock allows photographers to earn cash pursuing their biggest passions (and without leaving Lightroom) — but “stock sales strategies” isn’t a phrase commonly found on most photographer’s resumes. And to actually earn money in stock photography, photographers have to pinpoint what images will sell and why. To bridge the gap between photography know-how and stock photo marketing skills, we asked Adobe what photographers can do to up their chances of earning a steady stream of cash. Here’s what photographers need to know to get started —and build an income — on Adobe Stock.

Why Adobe Stock?

Photographers have hundreds of different potential platforms for selling stock photography — so what makes Adobe’s platform, launched just in 2015, different? Adobe Stock is directly integrated within the Creative Cloud platform, so buyers don’t have to open a web browser – they can search, preview, edit and download stock content directly without their desktop apps. Sellers can upload faster too through the Lightroom CC and Bridge CC integrations. That means more buyers and more convenience for photographers, as well as a 33 to 35 percent commission rate.

Photographers can submit JPEGs between 4 and 100 megapixels from any camera, and the platform is also open to graphic designers and videographers too. Content needs to both follow the guidelines and be approved by the moderation team before being available online.

How do I make sure my image sells?

Beyond just checking off a list of submission requirements, to be a successful stock photographer, you need to shoot images that sell. A good stock image doesn’t just hit all the right atheistic marks, but also fits in with the type of content stock buyers are looking for to use in advertising, websites, broadcast, design, editorial and more. To make a photo that’s both artistic and in demand, photographers should:

Make your photo relevant and authentic. Stock isn’t the same as it was ten years ago — most buyers are looking for something that both covers a specific topic and feels authentic, not the stiff business photos that were so popular in stock several years ago. Adobe says the photos that use models tend to be more popular than people-free photos, but images that incorporate cultural diversity, technology, fashion, food, portraiture, lifestyle, architecture, beauty and business are also popular sellers. Do a quick search on Adobe Stock before you shoot, and if it’s a popular image like a sunset or a cat, make sure that your photo idea is unique enough to stand out over existing photos.

Follow stock trends. Just like those bland business-suit stock photos are no longer in demand, the stock photo trends change quickly, and following the biggest trends can give photographers a significant advantage. Pay attention to the styles of images that you see every day, whether that’s on Instagram or in advertising. Adobe Stock also keeps a running list of the latest trends, updated quarterly.

Use the right keywords. Even great stock photos won’t sell if buyers cannot find them. Using keywords helps make sure buyers find your shot of Fido when they are searching for dog photos. Keywords should be as descriptive as possible and listed in the order of importance. For example, in that shot of Fido, put “dog” before “animal.” Keywords should also indicate whether the shot is just one dog or a group and if there are any other objects in the photo, like a bone or a dog house. Be sure to include action words too, like “petting” or “running.” Buyers that have a specific image in mind will search with specific terms, so it’s a good idea to include keywords on more than just the subject, like whether that dog is sitting on a white background or running outside. Adobe also has an auto keyword tool that works well, but be sure to look over the terms and add any missing keywords and arrange by relevance.

Make sure your photo hits all the right marks with post-processing. One of Adobe Stock’s biggest assets is the ability to upload right from the Creative Cloud, so, make sure the image is as flawless as possible before uploading. Correct color and white balance, straighten the horizon with the crop tool and remove noise, lens dust and scratches and color fringing.

How can I shoot great stock photos on a budget?

Getting great stock photos can mean renting a studio and hiring models — but photographers can also get started on a minimal budget. Recruit friends and family to be in the photos — just make sure they are willing to sign a model release. Set up shots inside your home or in public locations (and get a property release for any recognizable places). If you don’t have lighting gear, try natural light outdoors or setting up near large windows.

Stock shoots can generate more than just one good photo too. Plan ahead of time to alter the props — this will allow you to use different keywords and reach more buyers without investing much more than a few minutes. Change the composition too, remember, some designers may be looking specifically for a horizontal image while others may need a portrait orientation for their project. Try taking close-ups and shots farther back — climbing on a ladder and shooting top down works too, a style that’s particularly popular with images using a tabletop. Shoot some photos using the Rule of Thirds and some using the extreme edges, leaving space for designers to add text or additional graphics to the empty space. By getting a variety of different shots from the same shoot, you can extend the potential income without spending more.

How do I get started?

Contributing to Adobe Stock is free — if you already have a Creative Cloud subscription, use your account and sign-up for the stock portion. If you don’t have an account, you can create one for free. You need to be at least 18, and the sole owner of all the files you upload.

Once you create an account, you’ll be asked to provide a government-issued photo ID to verify your identity. When your account is approved, you can start uploading images directly from Lightroom CC or Bridge CC. In Lightroom, you can find the plug-in in the Library tab under “Publish Services” on the left. For Bridge users, the option is in the Essentials window and the publish tab. Users can also upload directly to Adobe Stock using a web browser. Once the images are uploaded, photographers just need to add a title, category and keywords and upload a property and model release if there are any identifiable people or locations in the image.

Adobe Stock’s integrated platform makes stock photographer easier — and by integrating a few tips for capturing and uploading unique, authentic images, photographers can create images that are in high demand. One of the biggest advantages of stock is that once your files are online for sale, they have the potential to generate recurring revenue for years to come. That means earning money while you’re out shooting, or at your day job, or even when you’re relaxing on vacation.  

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Mat Stark