Westminster fountain at sunset

by Jorge Córdoba

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I am hobbyist photographer and take different types of photos such as landscapes, architectural photographs, historical sites, fireworks, food and utensil photographs and abstract and experimental photographs. I also have some digital artworks and collages. I am tossing up between using stock photography sites or building my own website to sell my photos online.

I've noticed stock photography sites such as istock only pay 15% to non-exclusive members, which I think is really low. Also depending on the types of photos I have, I was thinking stock sites may not accommodate everything I have on stock. I was thinking of either using my own website entirely to sell my photos or using both my website and stock sites. I am a web developer. So I have no problem creating my own site. I will be using my site as a blog as well, which might help a bit in marketing and search engine optimisation. What would be my best option?

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2 Answers 2

As a web developer, you should know already the developer's adage: Don't reinvent the wheel. Building your own website would force you to handle not only the design, but the online payments part, as well as all the SEO.

Stock photography websites, by comparison, already give you a platform on which to work with, as well as better visibility from the get go.

iStockPhotography is a microstock website. Which means that of course, they're going to try to offer a lot of content for a very low price. The business model would be "quantity over quality": Selling a huge amount of pictures at a low price will be the business model.

regular stock websites such as Getty Images, on the other hand, will have a much stricter "contributing" process. Prices are higher, payoffs as well, and they will use the "quality over quantity" model. I cannot tell you the percentage you'd get from a sales on Getty Images, as I'm not there myself, but I've seen their prices, so even 15% of something licensed for $500 would not be bad.

I would advise building yourself a proper portfolio on flickr, or 500px (maybe flickr would be better, for their Getty partnership), and make yourself known there, in the hopes of setting your foot in the door of Getty Images.

As you mentioned, you are a hobbyist. I don't think the time required to build everything from scratch is worth it. Had you been a pro photographer, my answer may have been different, though...

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Everything in life is a tradeoff -

If you go the micro-stock route you lose all control, your pictures will be sold for low prices, you will get a ridiculously low percentage and your pictures will be in a catalog with millions of other pictures so the chance of someone actually picking you picture is pretty low unless it's something unique.

If you go with your own site you keep total control and almost all of the money but you have to do all the marketing activity and find a way to bring people who want to buy images to your site.

You should make the choice based on what's right for you.

Just remember - building a portfolio site is easy, handling payments and fulfillment is easier than people think but marketing and getting buyers to your site is very difficult.

By the way, smaller stock sites offer higher payments and have smaller catalogs (so you get more money on average per site visitor) but has less visitors (again, tradeoffs)

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