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If you’ve ever built a website or created any type of print media, then you’ve probably had a need for using stock photos. Then again, maybe you consider yourself a shutterbug and would like to sell some of your images. Either way, you’ll need a clear definition of a stock photo.

A stock photo is any image that’s available for use either on a website or in print media. If you need an image of a group of nurses on your website, for example, there’s no need to gather these people together and take a photo when there are already thousands of similar photographs for you to use. Likewise, if you would like to sell photos you have taken yourself, there are methods for that as well. Either way, a stock photo agency is the answer.

What is a stock photo agency?

A stock photo agency is a company that gathers and resells photos on behalf of photographers. The compensation in this field is usually commission-based, meaning that every licensed image that is sold would earn the creator a percentage. Most stock photo agencies charge to use their images , although there are some free ones available around the net as well. They also handle the business-end of licensing out the photographs so the creators can focus on their actual art.

Can you sell your images to a stock photo agency?

Stock photo agencies in general do not take pictures submitted by amateurs; even when the quality is outstanding. If you’re just not the type to take no for an answer, however, then the way for a beginner to go is through what is known as a microstock, which is simply a stock photo portfolio.

The chances of you ever having just one or two photos ever accepted by a stock photo agency are zero, but by building a portfolio, the chances of breaking into the stock photo business are greatly increased. With a microstock portfolio, you will license out an entire portfolio of images, not just one at a time. This allows the stock photo agent to make higher returns on each license and it helps new photographers to get their foot in the door.

Once artists become more prominent within the industry and their photos are in-demand, they can easily make a small fortune. Of course, some artists create their own stock agency on a website. There is quite a lot of work involved in creation and marketing aspects, but successful stock agency sites stand to make very good money since some images can sell for as much as $175 each. Beware: this is certainly not as easy as it sounds.

Where can I get stock photos?

There are literally millions of different stock photos out there,meaning that there is plenty of variety for almost any image idea. Finding specific types of photographs is not a massive deal either; below are just a few that are known in the biz as being the biggest and the best around-

1. iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto is clearly one of the biggest stock photo sites in the business and they offer everything from particular collections to searchable images to fit your needs. There are a plethora of search options available (by price, Dpi, size, etc) through millions of available images. At iStockPhoto, users purchase credits and then use them to get licenses for different products.

2. GettyImages

GettyImages is another household name within the stock photo world and clearly one of the most popular overall online destinations for any type of photography needs. Their database is well organized and easily searchable, using a purchase system similar to the one found on iStockPhoto.

3. ShutterStock

Although they have not been around nearly as long as the other two stock photo sites, ShutterStock managed to accumulate a very large database of photographs for just about every occasion. With great usability, fair prices, and several innovative display options, this company is easily the 3rd best choice overall for any type of advertising needs.

DPI in Stock Photography

DPI stands for Dot per Inch and on the internet, most images are 72 DPI. Other forms of media (like postcards, magazines, or a tri-fold brochure) have a minimum 300 DPI. While the difference may appear to be little more than a numerical value, it actually defines how large images can be enhanced in larger campaigns. Now, images on the Internet will look just fine in either format because they are being displayed digitally, but once the photograph hits a sheet of paper the difference really shows.

Do I always have to pay for stock images?

Not necessarily, but in this case free is not always better. There are several free image sites around the net and most of them offer a basic selection of 72 DPI photos. For common images that do not necessarily have to be original, this is a great option to save a little bit of cash.