A different approach to stock photography


For stock photography, the rule of thumb is that if there are people in the shot, you need a model release.

But what if you don’t have a release and for whatever reason it’s not practical to get one?

Although model (and property) releases are always required for commercial stock photography, there is another option…

Images used for editorial content don’t require a release. These types of photos are often used by journalists and bloggers for educational purposes, as opposed to selling something. Think news stories, travel articles, event coverage, and textbooks.

This could be the perfect use for some of the photos that you’d love to sell but are missing a signed release.

Snap & Sell Photo Club member Teresa Otto has been having fun approaching stock by keeping both commercial and editorial in mind. Read on for more details.

Snap & Sell Photo Club Member Spotlight:
Interview with stock photographer, Teresa Otto

Bonnie: What are you enjoying about stock photography?

Teresa: I like photographing all sorts of things. Stock photography doesn’t hem me in – so if I feel like photographing wildlife or really nice goat milk soap, I can. I’m not sure why I didn’t have the revelation about editorial stock photography sooner, but now any public event or place is fair game.

Bonnie: What kinds of photos do you like to take and submit to your agencies?

Teresa: I most enjoy travel photography. Before last year, I worked very hard composing a photo without any people in it and still would get rejections for failing to have a property release. Now that I submit those photos for editorial use only, I am enjoying travel photography even more.

Bonnie: What’s the story behind your best-selling image?

Teresa: A closeup of the flag continues to be my best seller. The particular day I took the photo, I’d been out attempting to photograph bald eagles, standing in deep snow, not-so-patiently waiting for one to take flight. I had the camera shooting something like 60 frames per second and the only thing in focus was the green poop the eagle spewed in my direction before takeoff. Back to the flag – I noticed it on my way home, rolled down the window, took the picture, and uploaded it. It is a consistent seller.

Bonnie: Hah! That’s a great story. Any new images that are doing well for you? If so, can you tell the story of one?

Teresa: The editorial epiphany happened right before I attended a local pow wow. Before I started taking photos for editorial use, I only took pictures of family or friends for stock. Not needing a model release opened up a whole new world for me. Even though I asked permission to take the photos, I didn’t have to ask for a model release. Photos of the dancers and closeups of their amazingly ornate garments have done very well this year.

Bonnie: About how much income have you made with stock so far?

Teresa: So far I’ve made $2,600 on stock sales. Selling stock photos gave me the confidence to enter some framed photos in the fair. Three of them sold, netting me about $400.

Bonnie: Any new things you’ve learned over the last year?

Teresa: Editorial photos sell and you can bypass the awkward “I don’t know you, but would you sign a model release for me” conversation you need to have to sell the photo for commercial purposes. If the photo singles out one person though, I still ask permission to photograph them.

Bonnie: Your number one tip for beginners who would like to give it a go?

Teresa: Set aside your fear of rejection and upload photos to more than one site. I’ve had photos rejected at one and accepted at another. Sometimes the rejection is because they already have a number of similar photos and is not a reflection on the quality of your photo. If the photo has technical issues, they’ll let you know. I had several rejected for chromatic aberration. Shelly Perry had talked about it in one of the Snap & Sell Photo Club videos, so I reviewed the video, corrected the problem in Lightroom, and resubmitted the photos. All of them were accepted the second time around.