Stock photography can be lucrative, so long as you manage to hit the right notes that will end in sales. In fact, some photographers can make a good living just from doing stock, and nothing else. But there are also a growing number of stock sites which give away images for free. So, why should you consider doing this when you’re trying to make a living? Here are some thoughts that might give you an idea.

Why should You Give Away Stock Photos for Free?

Photo by Peter | CC0

For exposure

One of the first reasons to do any kind of photography work for free is to get exposure. While this may have some of you rolling your eyes and groaning, it’s still a valid place for a beginner photographer to start. It can even be useful for a more established photographer, especially if it is done in a measured and deliberate way.

When stock photography is shared on a free site, you will still be credited as the author. You’ll have to sign up and create a profile in order to submit stock, which means that your name will be with the photograph. When others use the image, they might credit you as the author, whether on a website, a social media post, or so on.

Of course, it might not always be the case that you get credit for the images. In this case, it might just be gratifying to see your image being used all over the internet. It’s something that you can also use as a kind of visual CV. Knowing that an image of yours has been downloaded for stock use tens of thousands of times, for example, might be something great to put on your resume.

Why should You Give Away Stock Photos for Free?

Photo by Antonio Doumas | CC0

To collect tips

There can sometimes be a benefit to putting stock out there for free, even if you weren’t expecting to get any money out of it. Most free stock sites will leave an option where buyers can actually leave a tip for the photographer or author of the work, even though they don’t have to. Again, most of the people who download your images to use them as stock won’t pay anything at all. However, if only a few people do, you could still make a little bit of money back.

As a landscape photographer, you don’t usually have a lot of costs involved in making your images. You might need to pay for travel to a location, and you could argue there is some wear and tear on your equipment. However, the biggest resource that you have to put in is time. This isn’t the same for stock photographers who have to pay models, makeup artists, and other collaborators to do fashion or lifestyle stock. So you’re in a great position to take a risk with an image and see whether it will pay off. If you manage to recoup your expenses from tips, then you can definitely count it as a win.

To promote something

One option that you can take is a little bit sneaky. Imagine that you are working with a brand who wants to promote their products in a very subtle, natural way. The easy way might be to shoot stock photography that highlights their brand, giving their logo and preferably their company name so that viewers can see who they are.

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For landscape photography, there are a number of ways to take this. You could set up a camping scene, which would require everything from tents to small pieces of equipment like torches and lamps. This would give you the chance to capture all kinds of brands in one shot. You could also place a human model into the landscape, allowing you to work with clothing brands. You could even use it as a chance to promote photographic equipment, by stepping back and shooting a ‘behind the scenes’ frame.

There are lots of options to think about that would allow you to incorporate recognisable branding into a shot. Make sure that you have written consent from the brand, however. Some stock sites won’t take your images, even for free, unless you have proof that you have been given permission to share the images.

Why should You Give Away Stock Photos for Free?

Photo under CC0

To facilitate creativity

Stock photography can provide a basis for creativity, often in the form of photomanipulation. This is when multiple images are merged together to create a new scene, with lots of Photoshop trickery or even drawing and illustration combined into the final product.

Landscapes lend themselves very well to photomanipulation. After all, every scene needs a background. This means that there is a high chance of your free landscape shot being downloaded and used to create something new. If you love creativity and want to help others unleash their talents, then this is a great way to do it. You can even ask people to share links to their finished works so that you can check them out later, or use reverse image searches to find out if anyone has used your background.

It won’t earn you any money, but at least it’s gratifying to see someone creating something new out of the tools you have provided them. It might even give you the inspiration that you need to go out and shoot something else that would also work in the same way.

To learn the ropes

Every photographer has to start somewhere, and if you haven’t shot landscape stock photographs before, you might be wondering what works. What kind of images do people actually want to download and use? What settings do you need to use in order to get the right result? Where are the places around you that have the most interesting views?

There’s a lot to learn when you get into landscape photography for the first time. Shooting free stock can give you a purpose to aim for, so that you go out to capture images for a reason instead of just at random. It can also help you learn to shoot more challenging scenes, getting the right settings for dramatic results.

When you put the images up on a stock site, you’ll be able to see statistics for how many views and how many downloads your photographs have received. That might give you a good idea about which images are going to work well on real stock sites, where customers have to pay for the privilege of using your shots. Once you have tested things out on a small scale, you can go and aim bigger for your real stock work.

Of course, there’s also a good chance that someone will see your free work and want to find more of the same from you. This will give them the opportunity to go ahead and look at your paid stock, thereby earning you some extra money by generating a great lead.

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Why should You Give Away Stock Photos for Free?

Photo by Jorge Guillen | CC0

Stock is a great way to develop your skills and grow your portfolio. As you learn the ropes, you will begin to understand more about how stock works and what customers are looking for. With those tools in mind, you can make more of a name for yourself and even make some money along the way towards putting stock up on paid sites later on.


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