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The stock photography earning potential question is one of the first questions we usually get. We will lay it all out for you here. There is no set answer, as it will depend on your skill, ability, and determination, but we can give you some guidelines.

Images sell for anywhere from $.35 to $75 and as a contributor you’ll usually get between 30 to 50 percent of that income. Most images sell for between $1-$3 and your commission will be around $1. So how much could you actually make? Well, alot.

The top stock photographers in the world make easily over 500k a year and probably closer to a million. We are not on that level yet, but we make enough to support our family and travel the world, work when we want and do what we want. As I write this we are on a four month trip to Thailand, Hong Kong, and Bali. We have sold over 700,000 pictures over the last 12 years, so based on that you can do the math. We make enough to treat our models well and live the life we want.

Best Case Scenario

Rather than deal in averages it might be best to lay out our best case scenarios for a photo shoot. You make most of your money from your best shoots, so if you are really on your game, this is what you could achieve.

One of our top shoots was also one of our first shoots, and is comprised of only four pictures. I took these four pictures of my wife and daughter outside our home when I was first starting. They took off. 12 years later and each of the four pictures has sold over 2,000 times, and the total earnings from the shoot is over $14,000.

stock photography earning potential

I think it had something to do with the connection in the eyes and the trend at that time to move to a greener society. If you are able to really hit one of those concepts when it is new, the earning potential is enormous.

I spent about 2 hours total on that shoot, from images to editing to uploading. $7,000 an hour (and counting) is not a bad days work.

Stock Photography Earning Potential

Our second best selling shoot was a home health care shoot of my wife and her parents. We have made over $11,000 from this 2 hour shoot. We hit this concept exactly when the home health care industry was booming and everyone needed pictures for their website. The fact that we had some of the only images in this area that featured minorities probably helped.

stock photography earning potential

What an easy concept. We literally just shot these in our living room in about 15 minutes. A little over $5,000 an hour on this one so far.

To be clear, these are our two best shoots, they are not all like this. But, on the other hand, we have never lost money on a shoot, and we pay our models pretty well.

Your earnings will always be dictated by your ability to anticipate and capture what is needed in the marketplace at any given time. Not everything will be a homerun, but if you hit some singles and knock a few out of the park you’ll do very well.

Stock Photography Guide

This post, Stock Photography Earning Potential, is part of our Stock Photography Guide. If you are interested in selling your pictures, check it out to earn some income.

Rob Marmion

Rob is a commercial photographer with North Georgia Media. He has had over 650,000 pictures published in a variety of media. We sell many of our pictures at Shutterstock. You can earn money selling your pictures there too!

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