Yesterday the BBC published a very interesting piece on making money from photography. The article suggested, admittedly correctly that we all theoretically could make money from photography. It looked easy and although technically accurate in its content there is a interesting counter reality worth considering.

There are a number of different micro stock agencies out there. One of the largest photo agencies in the World is Getty Images who actively recruit via photo sharing website flickr. There are many amateur photographers who have had their content not only selected but also sold via Getty Images, a tremendous success and the excitement of receiving your first royalty cheque is overwhelming.

Stepping back though, for every image selected there is a significantly large number of images that didn’t make the standard. Looking at other Stock Photography services there are a number of hoops that have to be jumped through before you see any earnings from your work.

1. Application

Many Stock services have an application process where you have to verify your identity, complete paperwork and sort out tax information. Once this is complete you then have to submit a range of your best images for approval. If any (or a percentage) of these are rejected you have to wait a period of time and resubmit a new set of images.

2. Submitting Images

Once you are approved on a Micro Stock site you can then start submitting your photos. Each site has their own criteria for dimensions and resolution. Submitted photos enter the queue for approval and approval time can vary from hours to weeks. Once an editor has looked at an image you will receive an email informing you if the photo has been accepted or rejected. A high proportion of images end up rejected and rejection can be down to focus, artefacts on the image, lighting or plain old not being sellable as a subject.

3. Approval

Approved photos appear in the Micro Stock library. Once they appear in the library they are available for sale world wide but remember this doesn’t mean they will sell. It can be days or weeks before a photo sells and the revenue then depends on the size of the image sold. As you submit more images you start to learn the type of lighting, composition and content each company prefers.

4. Waiting Payment

Many companies have a minimum payment threshold. This can be anything from a few dollars to $50. This can mean you have to wait a number of months to clock up enough sales to request a payment.


I am not for a single moment suggesting amateur photographers can’t make money from their work, they can ! the point is it isn’t anywhere near enough to cover equipment costs, and the time and effort involved in submission. The reality is most amateur photographers capture images not for make a profit but for the enjoyment and love of photography. The creative process of capturing a moment and learning from each time you press the shutter.

If you are picking up your compact camera with the hope of making a second income from your camera I would suggest you think again, there are considerably easier ways to make money. Take photos to experience the creative process, it is considerably more profitable than trying to sell.