How to start a stock photography business | Foundd Legal

How to start a stock photography business

If you're looking to set up a stock photography business as an additional income stream or just starting out as a photographer and this type of business interests you, then there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it's important to recognise that building a successful stock photography portfolio takes time, effort, and dedication. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme, but rather a long-term investment in your photography skills and business acumen. 

Whether you're just starting out or looking to take your stock photography business to the next level, this blog has got you covered.  

So, grab your camera, buckle up, and get ready to capture success in the exciting world of stock photography. 

What Is Stock Photography? 

A stock photography business is a business that produces and sells a collection of images that are licensed for specific uses, such as commercial or editorial purposes. These businesses employ professional photographers who create images that can be used in a variety of contexts, from marketing materials to social media posts. 

Some examples of popular stock photography businesses include Shutterstock, Getty Images, and iStock. These companies offer a vast collection of high-quality images that can be licensed for use by individuals, businesses, and other organisations. Other examples of stock photography businesses include specialised agencies that focus on particular niches, such as nature photography, food photography, or sports photography. 

In addition to these large companies, there are also many smaller stock photography businesses that cater to specific markets or audiences. For example, some stock photography businesses specialise in providing images for bloggers and social media influencers, while others focus on providing images for small businesses and startups. 

Photographers can either sell their beautiful images through stock photography websites (like Adobe Stock, Getty Images, Shutterstock, iStock, StockSnap, Pexels, Unsplash and Reshot), print/electronic publications and advertising agencies or set up there own business online and as noted above you can niche down too! 

What Are the Types of Stock Photography? 

When it comes to stock photography, there are two main types: royalty-free and rights-managed.  

Royalty-free images can be used multiple times for a one-time fee, which means they're priced lower but can bring in passive income with each sale.  

On the other hand, rights-managed images are licensed for specific purposes and usually come with a higher price tag. Although they may be more expensive, they generate higher revenue per sale due to their specific usage license. 

The Benefits of Starting a Stock Photography Business 

If you're considering starting your own stock photography business, there are a tonne of benefits that await you.  

For starters, the flexibility is unbeatable. You get to work at your own pace, choose the projects that interest you, and work from anywhere in the world.  

Plus, once your photos are uploaded to stock photography websites, you can continue to earn money without putting in any extra effort. 

And perhaps the best part is that you have total creative control. You can shoot whatever subjects you like, try out new techniques, and really let your imagination run wild.  

I Want to Kick off a Stock Photography Business. What Steps Should I Take? 

Once you've grasped the basics of the stock photography industry, it's time to kickstart your own venture. Let's take a look at the essential steps you need to follow. 

Step 1: Create a Business Plan 

Before you launch your stock photography business, you'll need to create a solid business plan.  

This should include: 

  • a mission statement - Your mission statement should clearly define your business' purpose and values. What do you hope to achieve with your stock photography business, and how will you accomplish those goals? 
  • an overview of your target market - Your target market is the group of people or businesses who are most likely to purchase your stock photos. Who are they, and what types of images are they looking for? Do you want to operate in a niche area e.g. beauty products or travel specific? 
  • a marketing plan - This plan should outline how you intend to promote your stock photography business. This may include social media marketing, paid advertising, email marketing, and more. 
  • financial projections - You should estimate your business' revenue and expected costs over the next several years. This will help you to plan for growth and expansion. 
  • a plan for growth and expansion - Think about how you can take your business to the next level and what actions you need to take to make it happen! Even if your business is just starting out, it's crucial to have a growth and expansion strategy in place. 
  • Systems and processes – make sure you have everything set up to ensure your business foundations are set up right from the get go.  The right systems and process may save you time and money! 

Step 2: Choose a Business Structure 

When it comes to setting up your business, selecting the right structure is crucial. There are four primary business structures that people usually opt for. 

These include: 

  • Sole trader - If you're looking for a straightforward and cost-effective way to start a business, being a sole trader is the way to go. This allows you to have complete control and oversee all aspects of the business, even if you're working alone. Plus, you have the option to hire employees to help you out.  
  • Company - If you have chosen to go with a company structure for your business, it is essential to register your company with the Australian Government to make it official. You can do this here
  • Partnership - This is when two or more partners go into business together. 
  • Trust -  When it comes to trusts, there's this thing where one person or group – known as the trustee – has to take care of assets for another – called the beneficiary. The trustee can be a single person or a company, with the latter option providing some added protection for the assets. 

It's essential to make the right choice to ensure your business runs smoothly. So, if you want to chat about what structure is best for your business, you can touch base with us here.  

Step 3: Register a Business Name 

Once you’ve created a business name and chosen a business structure, it’s time to register a  business name

When you operate a business under a name that's not your own, you need to register a business name. This is the name your business will be known as.  

To register your business name, you can use the Australian Government Business Registration service

Step 4: Purchase Necessary Equipment 

To get started in stock photography, you'll need to invest in a few key pieces of equipment, including a high-quality camera, a variety of lenses and flashes, lighting equipment, storage and editing software. 

Step 5: Build a Portfolio of High Quality Photos 

This will be the foundation of your business and will be used to attract clients and customers. Focus on creating a diverse range of images that showcase your unique style and perspective. 

Step 6: Research the Market 

Take a look at the kinds of pictures that are in demand and see if you can identify a particular area that you can focus on. It's important to find your niche and stand out from the crowd. 

Step 7: Set up a Website 

If you're looking to display your work and make sales, creating and regularly updating a website is crucial. It's the perfect platform to showcase your portfolio and sell your photos. 

Step 8: Network 

If you want to connect with potential clients and customers, it's a good idea to use social media, photography forums, and other online platforms. These channels can help you reach a wider audience and engage with people who might be interested in what you have to offer. 

Step 9: Get your legal contracts in order 

If you wish to succeed in the stock photography arena, it’s important that you have a solid understanding of copyright laws and regulations in your area as well as any industry-specific regulations that may apply to your business.  

In addition, you need to ensure that you obtain the necessary permissions and licenses for each image you sell.  

You can do this by having the following documents on hand: 

  • Model Release Form: This is a legal document signed by the person(s) in the photo giving permission to use their image for commercial purposes. 
  • Property Release Form: This is a legal document signed by the owner of the property in the photo giving permission to use the image for commercial purposes. Click here if you are after this form. 
  • Licensing Agreement/Terms & Conditions incorporating licensing terms: This is a legal contract that outlines the terms and conditions of the license for the use of the photographs.  

If you are looking for templates for all these documents, click here

Its important to ensure you have the right contracts in place to protect your work your intellectual property! 

Launching and thriving in your stock photography business requires hard work and persistence.  


We hope this blog has given you some ideas and helps you get started to get that awesome business off the ground! 


If the legal stuff is doing your head in, you can pick our brain here or download our Photo Licensing Basics Checklist






***Disclaimer. Please read!!***  

This article is for general information purposes only and should be used solely as general guidance. It does not and is not intended to represent legal advice or other professional advice. 




All rights reserved. © Foundd Legal Pty Ltd 

Explore our legally legit templates!