Making Money with Outdoor Lifestyle Stock Photos

This photo sold 24 times in 9 months!

This photo sold 24 times in 9 months!

*This post may contain affiliate links. See full disclosure for details.

At some point along my journey, I realized I had tens of thousands of digital photographs (and scans of film negatives) on various hard drives. Most of them taken during solo or family adventures, hiking, boating, watching the sunset, paddle boarding, running, rock climbing, camping, etc. I used some for my blog posts, some were shot for specific clients, some were given away, I printed and framed some, and some were sold in galleries. But still….. thousands upon thousands of photographs!

After a friend invited me to submit a portfolio to a premium stock photo agency, I thought “why not?” I was accepted, and it began there. I didn’t put a lot of energy into it at first. But, after having a few images published in some pretty cool places, I figured I’d give it a bit more energy. My photos are now in several stock photo agencies, and although I’m still slow at uploading after each outing, I’m getting better.

So, if you are just an average, ordinary, adventure-loving photographer, and you have some good work, you could probably make a few bucks. It wouldn’t hurt to submit your portfolio. There are agencies that only lightly curate, and some not at all!

So, here are some pointers and thoughts on staying authentic and making money on the road (or at home) with your photography.

  • Photograph what you know! Your lifestyle, and things you love. Stay natural, authentic, and simple.

  • Do not over edit. Use Photoshop to remove any weird objects, like trash on the ground, (unless trash is your thing,) trash cans, random photo bombers, or anything too distracting. But, for the most part leave the scene natural. “Scrub” (remove) any labels: you can do this in Photoshop with the healing brush or a clone tool. I do nearly all edits in Lightroom (on my laptop.)  Occasionally, if I am in a rush, I will use Lightroom, Snapseed or VSCO on my iPad.

  • Shoot as large a file as you can. (Higher res photos make more money.) There is a market for mobile phone photography, but I shoot with a full format camera, and prefer the large file size.

  • When you import your photos into Lightroom, do you all your key-wording then and there, as some of the agency’s portals will pick those keywords up in the meta-data and you won’t have to separately keyword every single photo you upload. 

  • It’s best if you don’t cross post on different agencies (some require you to be exclusive.) Post a few photos on a few different agencies, and see which one works best for you.

Here are a couple photo agencies I have worked with: Getty Images, Aurora Photos, Cavan Images, and EyeEm Photography

To be honest, most of my photos sell through Getty (via EyeEm.) Many smaller agencies do outsource to partners, with Getty being the largest, I believe. The photo shown at the top of this post has sold 24 times in nine months (between $2 and $64 each time.) Which means I can keep making money over and over with the same image, (but I always retain the copyright.) I think the allure of this particular photo, is the large amount of space for text. So if someone wanted to use it as a poster, magazine advertisement, or what have you, they have plenty of room and a simple background to create text on.

I very rarely “set up” shots. I might have a concept in mind, but mostly I just carry my camera with me wherever I am! I will either set up a remote (intervalometer) timer and capture an image of myself (because I often travel solo) or I get my favorite model (my daughter) to stand there or go about her business in a beautiful landscape as I capture the moments. Or, I just shoot ordinary life. Ordinary is okay!  

Although stock photography work is considered passive income, it takes a good bit of work getting set up (photos edited, key-worded, uploaded, etc.) Sometimes if I let too much time go by, it can be a little overwhelming. As most of you know I also run a silversmithing/jewelry business, so I can get pretty behind on the edits and uploads.

I imagine if you’re still reading this post you are interested in stock photography, and making money with it! I’d recommend doing a little more research on which agencies you think might suit your needs and style. You could also send me a email; I’d be happy to answer any questions. And remember you don’t have to be an extreme sport, professional full-time photographer to make residual income doing this. It does takes some knowledge of photography and editing, but it’s a pretty enjoyable way to make money while on the road.

If you are interested in the gear I use, or which cameras and lenses I shoot with, go to the gear and resource page at the bottom of the site.

Below are some of the other images, that have each sold multiple times over the past year. As you can see, the photos that sell well (for me) have a theme to them. This is because these are the subjects I like to shoot. Backlit, sunset, outdoor adventure, yoga, etc.

FYI, Although I have been a film and digital photographer for over 15 years, I have only been actively selling stock photos for under a year! You can too, so get out there and get started!

Be Brave; Run Wild!


p.s. Check out this great program by 40 Hours of Freedom on how to create an Online Presence and make money online and while on the road.