Every business that’s ever thought of launching an online website, portfolio or simply publicizing their business, the following question has been most redundant: “Where can I find images that are free and easy to download, without the associated hassles of signing-up or paying?”

As a photographer, you would know the answer lies in stock photography.

Dissecting the ‘Stock’ of the Lot
So you’ve got a great photograph of the Champs-Elysees taken towards dusk? But you don’t really know how, where or what to do with it? Well, there are others like you. The smart ones are putting up such photographs on  iStock Photos, Getty Images, Think Stock Images (By Getty Images) and Shutter Stock. Millions of photographs, illustrations and vectors flood stock these photo sites. These are characterized as royalty-free, low-cost or premium, covering diverse budgets and cutting across business sectors and categories.

Architecture, art, buildings, festivals, countries, symbols, landscapes, people and lifestyle categories continue to be some predominant categories under which you might choose to submit. You might be in competition with user-generated content, or that which is shot professionally. Most stock photo sites provide free membership, rate and tag photos, allow remix or tweaking as well by consumers to use it in a way that’s most suitable for them.

Stock Photography and it’s Untapped Potential
As part of the photo industry, this systematic collection of consumable products, leads to a service that small and medium businesses can hardly afford to overlook. But what prompts businesses to reach out for stock photos? For one, undertaking a project to shoot photos especially for their projects can be an exceptionally time-consuming process. From finding the right photographer, to finalizing key deliverables to actually getting down to shooting schedules – it’s quite a marathon. Next come the resources invested. A large sum is set aside to finance the photographer and his team, besides the energy and equipment that goes into it. There are a gazillion businesses adopting stock photography as their preferred way to procure great imagery for themselves. And that’s great potential for you, as a photographer.

Becoming a Contributor
As photographer or a digital illustrator, you’ve found your haven. Besides taking up projects with clients, stock photography is a great way to earn, and learn. You can choose to upload photographs that have not been utilized for exclusive projects and alternatively open up avenues. Most stock sites work on a royalty basis with the contributor. This may range from between 20-50%, depending on where you choose to head.

Besides the financial aspects, technically most of these sites have strict guidelines before they accept submissions, such as good resolution, clean images, high well-exposure, a focused shot and categorization. Additionally, there are numerous other aspects on which a submission may be adjudged, depending on the site that you propose to submit to.

Be Ready to Face the Tides
Here’s a fair warning: while these stock photos can be used for any purpose the consumer wishes, there may be times when you’ll find yourself struggling against those claiming ownership rights to stock photos. Also, while you may sign up with a contract agency, a redistribution agency might or might not be involved in the cycle and you can end up being paid a meager sum compared to what the ‘middle agencies’ might be cashing on.

The way out? Be prepared and well-read on essentially how to start a photo business and what will works best for you. Know that challenges have cropped up for many photographers when dabbling in stock photo sites. Having said that, a contributor must not overlook the various opportunities such platforms can offer, in terms of noticeability and additional revenue.