The Costs of Starting a Stock Photography Business

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Stock Photography and Videography Business?



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Some believe that starting a stock photography business only requires a camera and a computer- but there are so many more variables involved in the process, both monetary and business-wise. Here’s a table of the services and equipment I use (or will be using) for starting a stock photography business, and how much they cost. I have also included items that are optional, but highly recommended.


Making the jump from selling stock photos to stock videos is obviously not an easy, nor cheap one. Is it far more expensive to produce stock videos as your equipment must be more advanced, and you must employ far more services, like in post-processing, so it is a better investment. Despite it being a better investment, stock photography is much easier to start with. Photography is a skill that everyone has, and can develop quite easy if they put in the effort. For stock photography, skill is often a barrier to market. Producing stock video is much harder to start out with, as it relies on experience of producing stock photos, as well as completely different skills, such as knowledge of computers, cameras. For both stock photography and footage, you have to be fully dedicated to your business.I had a student that wanted to start producing stock images on the weekends along with her normal job, but she had no idea about how much it costs to effectively start your stock photography business. If you want to make any profits for this amount of money you’ll be spending, you have to be involved in your business.


Stock agencies for photo and video

Shutterstock https://shutr.bz/2HTf8yuDeposit

Adobe Stock https://stock.adobe.com/

Pond5 https://www.pond5.com/


My current studio set up.

Prices are generalized, so they might not be the same across the globe, especially concerning hardware and services such as internet. All prices have been rounded, and I recommend checking prices by clicking on the hyperlinks to check accurate prices, as prices change over time and with different packages. Before being shocked by these numbers, it’s important to understand that these are not all one-time payments, and will be made over the course of your business’ growth. These purchases must be made over time, otherwise you’ll be financially overloaded and won’t know what to do with all this equipment if you don’t start small.












1 Insurance can be tricky to calculate for yourself- these are my personal numbers. Your location, equipment price, history, and many other factors are considered for insurance. I use www.amfam.com to get my quote for insurance on my equipment.

2 This is my personal preference, as this is my current camera and lenses for food photography.



Optional





From scratch, it costs around $5,000 to start your first year of your food photography business. For videography, it costs double that, at around $12,000.

Insurance


First set up in studio space outside of my home.

Camera equipment is quite expensive, and it is inevitable that something bad happens to your equipment. Insurance is a must-have for your camera, lenses, and other equipment as they can be easily stolen, broken, or otherwise unusable. Since equipment is so expensive, it is often the target of theft, and losing all of your equipment at once is very expensive. Insurance allows you to have peace of mind, and in the case that something bad happens to your equipment, you won’t be in a bad situation.


Equipment I use to shoot for stock


Lenses and Cameras

The Sony A6300 with the kit lens is, in my opinion, the best camera for amateur photographers looking into stock photography and footage. Later on, I recommend upgrading your cameras to better match a growing portfolio of photos and video. I’ve written a list containing all my equipment, which has my cameras and lights. Lenses are a must have, and they must be of high quality (which often means more expensive)- I would recommend not cheaping out on lenses if at all possible. Using a less expensive camera with good lenses is a cost-effective strategy, as lenses will always affect the quality of your shots, and thus the quality of your photography business. These lenses are best seen as a good investment, as they may prove to be valuable for your business, as they are much easier to work with, and produce higher quality photos and footage.


Accountant

If you’re working in the U.S., an accountant is important to figure out the taxes that are associated with businesses. They can become quite complicated when figuring out if you’re working efficiently or not, so an accountant and bookkeeper are valuable in providing assistance to your business. I prefer to do my own bookkeeping to reduce costs, but having an accountant is very valuable for any business.


Props

Props can seem quite small, but since they are quite important in stock photography shoots, they can add up quickly. Especially for food stock photography, as you’ll be needing lots of props and cookware. Props cost very little, so purchasing a lot adds up and becomes a larger investment into your business. As your prop collection grows large enough, you’ll no longer be spending so much on props, but they are still quite expensive in the long run.


Assistant

Assistants can prove to be important, as every photographer will encounter a shoot in which they will absolutely need help, whether it be holding reflectors & lights or preparing food for a shoot. Personally, I use my family members as assistants- they’re nearby, reasonably cheap, and it’s nice to keep money in the family and paying them to help me out with shoots.


Phone Apps

Though some are free, I often use phone apps to check my different stock profiles, edit photos and footage, ensure productivity, and to read statistics concerning by stock photography business. Here are some lists of the apps that I use for both stock photography and video purposes:



Studio set up in the corner of the living room of my first year as a stock photographer.


Photography

Shutterstock

Adobe Capture

ProCamera

LD

Shootipedia

EyeEm


Video

iMovie

Spark Video

VlogIt

DJI GO

GoPro

FiLMiC Pro

Lightroom

Adobe Clip


Both

Over

Planoly

Tasty

Shutterstock

Microstockr

TPE

GenieAPP

Releases

Snapseed



The photography business is surely an expensive one, but it is also a hobby for others. While teaching beginner photographers, I noticed a trend among some people. They were under the impression that the stock photography business is a quick and easy way to make a lot of money with minimal investment and hard work, and that couldn't be further from the truth. Running a stock photography business requires enthusiasm and passion for photography, and those that do not often fail. As with all careers, some things cannot be bought- though investments are necessary, things like enthusiasm and willingness to start small are very important in being a full-time stock photographer.


A photography business is just like any other business, as it must be tended to and constantly working to produce money. It is impossible to get a few well-selling shots and coast off of the profits from them, as your media will depreciate as new technologies are made, and benchmarks for quality are established. Your equipment will also need constant upgrading, so if you’re running your business for long run profit, your equipment must always be up to date. Software is quite important, in that some software that is necessary for editing images and videos require a subscription, so you have to be constantly paying for it.


Some investments, however, are only made once, early on. For example, my tripod- I bought it when I first started my photography business, and I still use it a decade later. A computer is also something that lasts quite long, but it should be upgraded every 4 or 5 years, as video and photography editing software is very demanding on computer hardware. If you’re working with an older computer, staying in the realm of photography is a good entry into the market, as I did when first starting my business. A more powerful computer is required to process video, so an upgraded computer is better later in the life of your photography business. A good internet connection is also required, as you must be constantly uploading media to several stock agencies. A business-class internet connection helps speed up this process, as videos are especially large and harder to upload, though better internet can be particularly expensive. Your cameras should also be upgraded every 4 or 5 years in order to keep up with changing technologies, so your business will always be ahead of the curve.



Reducing Cost

These are obviously all very large and somewhat scary numbers, but it can be made a lot easier to get into the stock business. Buying used equipment is a great way to save money while getting high-quality equipment can cut down on high costs for lenses and cameras. I usually buy my cameras brand new, while buying lenses from consignment stores to keep costs low as possible. Using what’s available to you is also a great way to save money- almost everybody has a spare tripod or a small camera, so starting off with those instead of buying one is a great way to get into the market. It’s also important to understand that not everything is bought all at once, but are done in stages, and spending money as your business grows is the best way to get new equipment.




A complete list of my equipment



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