When I first heard about stock photography, I was intrigued. It sounded like a win-win for any photographer. I would take pictures of things I found interesting and have a shot at selling them to others on stock sites.
Although commercial stock was originally my go-to, I began to split my uploads between it and editorial once I learned the differences.
Recently, I’ve seen quite an uptick in my editorial sales, and below, you can find a few reasons to consider adding editorial stock to your portfolio as well.
1. I was going to take the photos anyway
I found the more time I was outside with my camera thinking about stock photography, the more excited I became to photograph editorial subjects, no matter what they were.
Suddenly, architecture was on my radar. I began to photograph building exteriors, with and without people in the frame. I also found myself studying the interior of buildings—empty restaurant tables, natural light streaming through the windows, and open-for-business signs.
Later, when I’d upload the best images to stock sites, I was sure to word them like those below. I’d include the landmark name as well as the month and year I visited.
I also loved that I didn’t have to worry about model releases: these were editorial images and only listed as editorial stock.
2. Not all writers take photos
I know they say everyone and their brother can be a photographer today. While that might be true, thanks to the terrific cell phone cameras out there right now, not everyone wants to be a photographer. That’s where you and I come in.
Exciting things happened once I figured out how to upload editorial stock photos: one morning I woke up to find that 51 images from a recent trip to Cleveland had sold overnight from one of my stock sites. That made my day, for sure!
A beautiful image of an extensive exhibit of knights, tapestry, and armor, shown in one of many rooms. Cleveland Art Museum, Ohio, 2016.
I don’t know who bought the photos. I imagine someone writing an article needed a comprehensive photo essay to complete the package for their editor.
3. I don’t need to travel far to build my editorial portfolio
No matter where you live, there are editorial images you can take and sell on stock sites. Especially now, as the world is beginning to open up again to travel. Just walk down the main drag.
Think about taking photos of people strolling down your hometown streets wearing masks, practicing social distancing. Search out college buildings getting ready to welcome students back to class, picnickers, or people practicing yoga in the park. Honestly, the possibility for editorial sales is endless.
Below, you can see how the description format is different on Shutterstock editorial than the Dreamstime site above. Each stock platform will refuse the shot—even if it’s excellent—if a photographer veers from their preferred sentence structure.
Saratoga Springs, New York—Summer 2019: Historic architecture that now houses one of the elite Skidmore college’s students and classes.
4. My photos had to be authentic
With editorial stock images, there are very few, if any, alterations allowed to the photos you submit. That meant I needed to concentrate on the lighting, composition, rule of thirds, etc. before I pressed the shutter. Of course, those things are always important in photos you want to sell, but even more so with editorial.
I loved this because I could capture many different types of editorial photography: people wandering about a museum studying artwork, families playing in the park, or diners enjoying their meal outdoors, to name a few.
Tupper Lake, New York—November 2019: Families playing together in the spider web’s center, a section of the Wild Walk, where trails of bridges and exhibits educate the public on area wildlife.
5. Editorial images are hotter than ever as the world reopens
Like I mentioned above, I have a habit of checking in on my stock sites every day. It’s a hoot to see what’s sold, for how much, and even where it ended up. These last few months, although I’m certainly selling a good amount of commercial stock, I’m selling several editorial images every day across the board. I love that they include real-world subjects, too—like objects, people, and places from around the world.
Because warmer weather is right around the corner, I’m looking forward to the Tulip Festival in Albany, the Oz-Stravaganza in Chittenango, the re-imagined Cheese Trail in Western New York, and all of the fun water sports on Lake George. This year I’ve decided to add some editorial videos to my portfolio, too; events like these will help me do just that.
No matter what type of image you decide to concentrate on in your stock photography career, I suggest you try your hand at editorial as well. It’s super fun, can be easier than commercial stock, and always makes my bank account happy when I cash in a few hundred dollars at a time.