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Top 4 Stock Photography Agencies for Beginner Digital Photographers

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/28/2009

Take a series of digital images once and sell them again and again. Watch the cash roll into your bank account without doing a thing. Let your stock photography keep right on making money for you - sound good? You bet it does. Here's how to get started even if you're an inexperienced shutterbug.

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    Selling Stock Photography

    The overall process seems simple enough: take a variety of clear, well-composed digital photos, upload them to one of the more than 300 stock photography agencies or websites after creating a photographer’s account, then just sit back and collect royalties on your photos which sell each month. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Well, in basic principle it is – but all stock photography sites are not created equal as discussed in "The Truth Behind Stock Photography" and a related article on iStockphoto, "Stock it to Me". Therein this inequality, lies one of the big “rubs" in making money from stock photography. So let’s examine four of the top stock photography sites to determine which might be the best ones for beginner photographers, or perhaps less experienced digital photographers to successfully sell their images.

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    Stock Photo Websites for Selling Your Digital Images

    As mentioned earlier, all stock photo websites are not created equal. That being said, here are sites which accept digital images from both amateur and professional photographers giving virtually anyone the opportunity to earn money from the sale of their digital images. In this article we’ll examine the best stock photography websites for beginning digital photographers.

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    1. Shutterstock

    Free to join, the Shutterstock current payout to digital photographers per image sold is 25 cents until $500 in earnings is reached. At that point the photographer’s payout increases to 30 cents per digital image sold. Digital images from new submitters are required to be a minimum of 4 megapixels in size. Shutterstock's detailed image submitter guidelines provide rich detail to prevent possible rejection.

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    2. Fotolia

    Any digital photographer can upload images for sale to Fotolia. Accepted digital image formats include JPEG, AI or EPS. You create a free account and submit images for review. After completing an online training in the “Toolbox" section of the website, images are uploaded by going to the “My files" page and selecting an upload option. Uploaded images are prompted for individual keywords and a title. Fotolia editors then review images and notify the photographer of acceptance or rejection of images. The photographer is paid via PayPal or Moneybookers when a minimum of 50 credits are earned.

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    3. Dreamstime

    Selling stock digital images on the Dreamstime site couldn’t be easier. First you’ll need to register, which is free. Next, you Upload Files at the option under “Photographers tab". Follow the prompts and that’s it. All digital images MUST meet the following Dreamstime criteria for upload approval:

    • you must own the image copyright
    • images need to be at least 3 megapixels in size and saved at the highest possible JPG quality
    • you’ll need a signed Model Release for all recognizable persons
    • images must be free of copyright infringement issues, i.e., no labels, logos, comics or cartoon characters, emblems or trademarks of any type are allowed
    • Dreamstime does not accept images of explicit nudity, drug use or paraphernalia, people demonstrating gestures or in offensive positions, profanity or racism of any type
    • uploaded images need a relevant description of more than one word which explains the image

    For further image upload guidelines you can view the full set of requirements online at their site.

    The digital photographer receives 50 percent for each digital image sale with any exclusive uploaded images receiving 60 percent of sales fees for every approved transaction. The site states that, “Dreamstime awards the highest royalties in the industry, according to a study of PDN Magazine".

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    4. Featurepics

    Another stock photo site which made my final cut list is Featurepics. To upload digital images you must adhere to a set of straightforward upload guidelines published on the site which include:

    • All digital images MUST be original and your copyright
    • At least 1200 pixels in size on the short side of the image
    • JPEG or EPS format image uploads only
    • No offensive, hate or porno images allowed

    Payouts are made to digital photographers, when earnings exceed $50 USD, via PayPal, Moneybookers or by check. According to the Featurepics website, “All photographers receive a 70% commission rate." As long as photos meet website requirements, any digital photographer can register and upload stock photography for sale.

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    Four of the Best Stock Photography Websites

    Finally, while you’re checking out stock photography websites to begin your stock photography sales empire, you might want to take a quick peek at Stockphoto. The FAQ page at Stockphoto contains a wealth of specific information for prospective stock photographers interested in selling the digital images online there.

    There you have it, four of the best stock photography websites for beginners, inexperienced digital photographers and professionals alike. They’re free to join, provide clear, straightforward digital image and upload guidelines, accept a wide range of digital image types, image sizes (once minimum requirements are met), pay well and promptly for uploaded digital images that sell.

    Who could ask for more?