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Stock Media 101: How To Make Passive Income Selling Photos, Videos and Music

Introduction: In today’s digital age, there are numerous opportunities to earn passive income. Passive income is the type of earnings that requires minimal effort to maintain once the initial work is done. This article will explore how you can make passive income by selling photos, videos, and music on various online platforms. 

Selling stock media like photos, videos, and music can be a great way to earn passive income. With stock media, you create the content once and sell it over and over again. In this comprehensive beginner’s guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to start making money with stock media.

What is Stock Media?

Stock media refers to photos, videos, illustrations, and music that can be licensed out multiple times to customers. When you create stock media, you’re creating an asset – something that can generate ongoing passive revenue.

Here’s a quick overview of the main types of stock media:

Stock Photos – High quality photos including landscapes, objects, people, animals, food, business/lifestyle scenes.

Stock Video – Video clips of people, nature, animals, business, etc. Similar to stock photos but in video format.

Stock Illustrations – Vector images, animations, icons, templates, etc. Created digitally by illustrators.

Stock Music – Background instrumental music, sound effects, loops. Used for videos, presentations, games, apps.

Stock Audio – Voice over recordings, interviews, sound bites. Useful for podcasts, videos, presentations.

The great thing about stock media is that it can be licensed out over and over again. You create the work once, and then earn royalties each time someone purchases a license to use it. This makes it a great passive income stream.

What is passive income and how can it be earned?

Understanding the concept of passive income

Passive income refers to earnings that are generated with minimal effort on an ongoing basis. Unlike traditional forms of income, such as a salary or hourly wage, passive income allows individuals to earn money even when they are not actively working. This can be achieved through various means, including investments, real estate, or in this case, selling stock media.

Exploring different ways to earn passive income

There are numerous ways to earn passive income, but one of the most accessible and creative options is through selling stock photos, videos, and music. These forms of media can be uploaded to online platforms, where users can purchase them for their own use in various projects.

Benefits of generating passive income

Generating passive income has several advantages. Firstly, it allows individuals to make a living outside of a traditional 9-5 job. This flexibility provides freedom and the potential to create a work-life balance. Additionally, once the initial work is done, passive income streams can continue to generate earnings with minimal effort, giving individuals the opportunity to earn money while they sleep.

How can you make passive income by selling stock photos?

The basics of stock photography

Stock photography involves capturing high-quality photos that can be licensed and sold for commercial use. As a photographer, you can upload your photos to stock photo sites like Shutterstock or Getty Images and become a contributor. This allows you to earn money each time someone purchases and downloads your photos.

Choosing the right platform to sell your stock photos

When selling stock photos, it is crucial to choose the right platform that suits your needs. Consider factors such as commission rates, ease of use, and the platform’s reputation. Websites like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Adobe Stock are popular choices for photographers looking to sell their work.

Tips for taking high-quality stock photos

To maximize your earning potential as a stock photographer, it is essential to capture high-quality photos. Invest in a good camera, learn about composition and lighting techniques, and pay attention to current trends in the industry. Additionally, ensure that you have the necessary model releases for any identifiable individuals in your photos.

What you need to know about selling stock videos for passive income

Getting started with stock videography

Selling stock videos follows a similar process to selling stock photos. As a videographer, you can capture and upload video footage to stock video sites like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Adobe Stock. Earnings are generated each time your video footage is downloaded and used by customers.

Finding the right platforms to sell your stock videos

When it comes to selling stock videos, it is crucial to choose reputable platforms that cater to your specific niche. Research different stock video websites and compare commission rates, customer reach, and licensing agreements. This will help you make an informed decision on the platforms to upload and sell your videos.

The process of uploading and keywording your stock videos

Uploading and keywording your stock videos is an essential step in making them easily discoverable by potential buyers. Carefully select descriptive keywords that accurately represent your video content. This will ensure that your videos appear in relevant search results, increasing the chances of earning passive income.

Why Sell Stock Media?

There are several advantages to selling stock media:

1. Earn Passive Income

The big appeal is that stock media allows you to earn passive income. Once you upload your work, it will continue generating sales month after month with little added effort on your part. Stock media platforms make it easy to earn royalties from anywhere in the world.

2. Low Barrier to Entry

Anyone can register as a contributor on stock media platforms. You don’t need prior experience or qualifications. If you have marketable skills like photography, videography, illustration or music production, you can start monetizing them immediately.

3. Retain Copyright

When you sell stock media, you simply grant usage rights rather than handing over full copyright. This means you’re free to also license your work elsewhere. Retaining copyright gives you more control over your intellectual property.

4. Global Sales Potential

Top stock media sites have an international customer base. This gives your work visibility and sales potential in multiple markets across the world. You can earn royalties 24/7.

5. Variety of Content Needed

Demand for stock media continues to grow as it’s used in websites, ads, social media, books, magazines and much more. There’s need for diverse, niche and localized content which means opportunity for creators.

6. Lucrative Side Income

While results vary, it’s possible to earn hundreds or even thousands per month selling stock media, making it a lucrative side income. With enough volume, it can even become a full-time business.

7. Creative Satisfaction

Many stock media creators simply find it enjoyable and creatively rewarding. It can be deeply fulfilling to see your work purchased and used around the world.

Exploring other avenues for earning passive income through stock media

Creating and selling stock music

If you have musical talent or composing skills, creating and selling stock music can be another lucrative source of passive income. Platforms like Shutterstock Music and AudioJungle allow you to upload your original compositions, providing a platform for potential buyers to license and use your music in their projects.

Monetizing your creative skills through stock illustrations

Stock illustrations are another form of media that can be monetized for passive income. As an illustrator or graphic designer, you can create and sell your artwork on platforms like Shutterstock, iStock, or Adobe Stock. This allows individuals and businesses to purchase and utilize your illustrations in their projects or marketing materials.

Maximizing income streams by diversifying your stock media portfolio

To maximize your passive income potential, it is beneficial to diversify your stock media portfolio. Instead of solely focusing on stock photos or videos, consider branching out into multiple forms of media. This strategy allows you to tap into different customer bases and increase your chances of earning a sustainable income.

How much money can you make by selling stock media?

Factors that influence your earnings

The amount of money you can make from selling stock media depends on several factors. These include the quantity and quality of your work, the demand for specific types of media, competition within the market, and the commission rates set by the platforms you use.

Understanding royalty rates and licensing agreements

Stock media platforms typically have royalty rates and licensing agreements in place to regulate the usage and pricing of the media. It is essential to familiarize yourself with these terms to ensure you are adequately compensated for your work. Read and understand the agreements before uploading your media to any platform.

Tips for maximizing your income potential as a stock media seller

To maximize your income potential as a stock media seller, consider the following tips:

  • Continuously improve your skills and stay updated with industry trends in the stock media market.

  • Regularly upload new content to keep your portfolio fresh and increase your chances of making sales.

  • Pay attention to customer feedback and adapt your work accordingly to meet market demands.

  • Promote your work through social media, personal websites, and other marketing channels to expand your reach.

  • Engage with the stock media community to learn from others, share experiences, and gain exposure.

How To Make Money Selling Stock Media

Now that we’ve covered the benefits, let’s look at how to actually start earning from stock media. Here are 7 key steps:

1. Identify Your Niche

First, identify a high-demand niche that fits with your skills and interests. For photography, popular niches include nature, travel, lifestyle, business, food, aerial, architecture and more. For video, some in-demand niches are nature scenes, people, technology, abstract, animation, slow motion and timelapse. Identifying your niche will help you focus your content efforts.

2. Research Specific Needs

Dig deeper into your niche to research specific needs. Look at the style and types of content being used in that field. Read forums and groups to find common requests and pain points. This market research will reveal the kinds of media that will sell best.

3. Set Up Accounts on Stock Sites

Next, set up contributor accounts on leading stock media platforms like Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe Stock, Pond5, Storyblocks and AudioJungle. Make sure to completely fill out your profile and portfolio to stand out. Each site has its own signup process, requirements and guidelines.

4. Create High Quality Media

Use suitable gear and software to start creating top-notch stock media tailored to your niche. Meet the technical requirements of each site like resolution, aspect ratio, file formats and licensing requirements. Sites will review your submissions, so focus on visually striking and technically flawless files. Quality is key.

5. Optimize Metadata

Carefully tag your files with accurate titles, descriptions and keywords. Strong metadata optimization is vital because that’s how customers will find your work when searching the sites. Research best practices for metadata strategies.

6. Build Your Portfolio

Upload a diverse portfolio showcasing the range of your creative skills. The larger your portfolio, the higher your earning potential. Stock sites reward active contributors so aim to continually add new content. Stay on top of trends and seasonality too.

7. Promote Your Work

While stock sites have built-in traffic, you can boost visibility by cross promoting your portfolio through your own website, social media, contests, directory listings and collaborations with others in your niche. Promote your best work.

By following these steps, you’ll be ready to start seeing your first stock media sales and earning royalties. Be patient, keep improving your craft, and focus on building a substantial portfolio. Over time, you’ll see passive sales start to add up.

Licensing Models: How Stock Media Is Sold

Stock media platforms offer different licensing models for selling your work. Here are the 3 main models:

Royalty-Free (RF) Licensing

  • Customer pays one flat fee to use the media

  • Can be licensed an unlimited number of times

  • Creator gets 20-60% commission per sale

  • Common for stock photos, video, illustrations, music

Rights-Managed (RM) Licensing

  • Fees based on intended use and license duration

  • Exclusive rights for commercial or extended use

  • Higher earnings potential but more complex

  • Common for niche stock photos and video

Subscription-Based Licensing

  • User pays monthly/annual subscription fee

  • Can access and use a fixed amount of media per month

  • Creators paid based on usage/downloads of their media

  • Used by some video and music platforms

Royalty-free is the most straightforward and popular model. But some creators offer media under RM licenses as well for higher fees from commercial clients. Study the licensing models on each platform you join to maximize earnings.

Getting Started With Stock Photography

Stock photography is the largest segment of stock media. Let’s look specifically at how to get started selling stock photos.

What Type of Photos Sell Well?

Almost any type of high-quality photo has potential. For beginners, it’s smart to focus on evergreen niches and subjects like:

  • Nature – landscapes, animals, plants, weather

  • People – business, lifestyle, healthcare, sports

  • Travel – landmarks, cultural sites, street scenes

  • Food & Drink – appetizers, meals, ingredients

  • Technology – computers, mobile devices, apps, software

  • Architecture – exteriors, interiors, residential, commercial

  • Abstract – patterns, textures, backgrounds, close-ups

Do keyword research to identify in-demand topics and themes within those broader niches. Look for undersupplied niches too.

Technical Requirements

Stock agencies have strict standards for photo submissions. Here are the key requirements:

  • High resolution – 20+ megapixels recommended

  • Sharp focus – entire image must be crisp and clear

  • Proper exposure – no over or underexposure

  • Color corrected – proper white balance and saturation

  • RAW or TIFF format – retain maximum image quality

  • Title, keywords, description – optimize metadata

  • Horizontal orientation – most desirable for licensing

Refer to each site’s photo requirements guidelines. Using quality gear, mastering technical skills, and post-processing helps meet standards.

Where To Sell Stock Photos

Top stock photo sites include:

  • Shutterstock – World’s largest stock agency. Huge buyer demand.

  • Adobe Stock – Integrated with Creative Cloud. Generous commissions.

  • iStock – Exclusive contributor program. Quality over quantity.

  • Dreamstime – 70% commission rate. Specializes in microstock.

  • Alamy – Major indie agency. Large collection of rare images.

  • Getty Images – High payouts but vetting process is competitive.

  • Depositphotos – Up to 60% commissions for exclusive images.

  • 123RF – Managed by Inmagine lab. Draws corporate buyers.

Research each site’s conditions thoroughly. Non-exclusive options allow the most distribution. Make sure to read the fine print on exclusivity clauses.

Maximizing Photo Sales

To maximize stock photo earnings over time:

  • Build a large portfolio – The more photos you have for sale, the higher your potential earnings. Aim for hundreds or thousands.

  • Prioritize quality over quantity – Mediocre photos won’t sell well. Focus on excellent images even if it means a smaller portfolio.

  • Specialize in a niche – Having a niche focus like food photography or travel makes you stand out. Become an expert in your niche.

  • Stay on top of trends – Look at creative trends and topics that are currently popular and in demand. Cater to what buyers want now.

  • Shoot a variety of formats – Have a mix of vertical and horizontal images. Also shoot series, collections, isolated objects on white background, and close-up macro shots which tend to sell well.

  • Optimize metadata – Strong titles, keywords and captions will improve discoverability and search rankings. Do keyword research for tagging.

  • Promote outside stock platforms – Cross promote your best content on your own website, social channels and contests to build recognition.

  • Provide value-added services – Some photographers earn more by offering additional services like custom shoots, Clipping Paths, image editing, and consultations.

With persistence and high-quality images, stock photography can become a significant passive income stream over time.

Getting Started With Stock Video

Like stock photos, stock video provides an excellent opportunity for passive sales. Let’s look at the process of starting to sell stock footage and clips.

What Types of Video Sell Well?

Certain kinds of video tend to have strong demand across different niches and use cases:

  • Nature – animals, landscapes, underwater, weather

  • Lifestyle – people walking, exercise, relationships, celebrations

  • Business – professionals, offices, meetings, technology

  • Slow motion – 120+ fps clips, usually nature or people

  • Time lapse – sped up clips like sunsets, traffic, clouds

  • 4K HD – high resolution establishing shots, cityscapes

  • Abstract – patterns, motion graphics, animation, CGI

  • Healthcare – doctors, patients, hospitals, clinics

  • Food – cooking, restaurants, ingredients, close-ups

Do market research to identify needs in your niche. Look for undersupplied and unique content opportunities.

Technical Guidelines

Stock video platforms have strict technical standards. Here are key requirements:

  • 4K or high-res HD – at least 1920 x 1080p

  • High bitrate – 24 Mbps or higher

  • Proper lighting – avoid overexposure or underexposure

  • Steady shots – use tripods, stabilizers and proper technique

  • Sharp throughout – ensure full clip is in focus

  • Vertical clips – shoot some in portrait orientation

  • Logical sequencing – continuity, flow and narrative

  • No text/logos – unless part of public property like signage

  • Good composition – rule of thirds, leading lines, framing

Refer to each site’s specific video contributor guidelines. Investing in quality gear helps meet technical standards.

Where To License Stock Footage

Leading stock video platforms include:

  • Shutterstock – World’s largest stock agency also dominant in video

  • Adobe Stock – Integrated with Premiere Pro and Creative Cloud

  • Pond5 – Strong demand for 4K and niche content

  • Getty Images – High payouts but exclusive via invite only

  • Videvo – Free stock footage but you can also sell premium clips

  • Storyblocks – Top site for unlimited subscription plans

  • Artgrid – Curated collection of stylized, cinematic video

  • BlackBox – Specializes in HD and 4K stock footage

  • Dissolve – High-quality footage aimed at agencies/studios

Assess each platform’s conditions, exclusivity and commissions to maximize distribution. Non-exclusive options allow the most reach.

Maximizing Stock Video Sales

Tips for earning the most from your stock video portfolio:

  • Shoot lots of clips – The more content you have, the more potential sales. But focus on quality over spamming sites.

  • Specialize – Pick a niche like slow motion, timelapse, nature or business. Become known for your specialty.

  • Cater to demand – Monitor trends in video to identify what clients need right now. Capitalize on hot topics.

  • Film at high resolution – 4K and HD have the most demand. Upgrade gear if needed.

  • Highlight people – Video with people, expressions and narratives often sell very well.

  • Optimize metadata – Strong titles, descriptions and tagging is crucial for visibility. Do keyword research.

  • Promote creatively – Share sample clips on your site and social media. Enter video contests. Spark interest.

  • Provide extra services – Some videographers offer added services like filming custom clips, video editing, color grading, or consulting.

By diversifying your stock video portfolio and staying on top of demand, you can build a healthy passive income stream.

Getting Started With Stock Music

In addition to stock photos and video, stock music and audio represents an often overlooked opportunity. Let’s explore breaking into this segment:

Types of Music That Sell Well

Some formats tend to sell better than others:

  • Corporate music – positive upbeat tracks for business use

  • Background music – unobtrusive instrumental music

  • Commercial music – lively tracks for advertising

  • Inspiring music – motivational, cinematic, emotive

  • Specialty music – genres like electronic, reggae, rock

  • Production music – sound effects, loops, samples

  • Voiceover audio – professional voice recordings

  • Podcast music – themes, intros, transitions, underscoring

Do market research to identify in-demand styles, instruments, genres, tempos and uses. Focus on creating needed musical styles.

Technical Specifications

Stock music requires high-quality production and files:

  • WAV or MP3 – 24-bit rate, 44.1 or 48 kHz sample rate

  • Properly mastered – polished, balanced, compressed

  • Metadata – complete ID3 tags, descriptions

  • Length – aim for 30 sec clips to full compositions

  • Non-exclusive – rights to license music elsewhere

  • Instrumental only – no unauthorized samples or lyrics

  • Legal clearance – avoid plagiarism or copyright issues

Refer to each site’s technical guidelines. Invest in production skills and gear to polish tracks.

Where To Sell Stock Music

Top platforms for stock music include:

  • AudioJungle – Huge royalty-free stock music catalog.

  • Pond5 – Diverse media including music and sound effects.

  • Shutterstock – In addition to images/video, also has music.

  • Storyblocks – For subscription and royalty-free licensing.

  • MusicBed – High-quality tracks focused on video producers.

  • Musicvine – Specializes in 100% original stock music.

  • Envato – Leading marketplace for creative assets and tools.

  • SoundCloud – Popular for sharing music and audio.

  • Epidemic Sound – Subscription model stock music.

Compare sites’ commissions, non-exclusivity, and opportunities for growth over time.

Maximizing Music Earnings

Tips for earning more from stock audio:

  • Produce a lot of tracks – The more you upload, the greater your earning potential. But prioritize standout tracks over quantity.

  • Identify niche needs – Dig into specifics like genre, mood, instruments, tempo and length that are in short supply. Fill undersupplied niches.

  • Stay on trend – Monitor what styles are currently popular. Capitalize on trends while they’re hot.

  • Optimize metadata – Strong titles, tags and descriptions will improve visibility when people search for tracks.

  • Highlight range – Showcase your versatility across different styles, moods and genres.

  • Promote creatively – Share sample music clips on your site and social profiles. Spark interest.

  • Offer value-added services – Provide additional services like custom music, mixing, mastering, and music consulting.

  • Collaborate – Team up with others like lyricists, producers and marketers to expand capabilities.

With persistence andoptimized promotion, selling stock music and audio has major earnings potential over time.

Tools To Enhance Your Stock Media Sales

Let’s look at some useful tools and services that can boost your stock media sales and streamline your workflow:

Keyword Research

  • Find winning keywords to optimize your metadata and rankings using tools like Keywords Everywhere, Keyword Tool, and Google Trends. Stay on top of current demand.

Image Enhancement

  • Use editing tools like Photoshop, Lightroom, GIMP and Canva to professionally edit and polish images, video, illustrations and other media before uploading.

Collections and Bundles

  • Group related media into collections and bundles around a theme. They often show up higher in search results and sell better together.

Automated Uploading

  • Save time bulk uploading media to multiple sites using tools like Bulkinator. Makes it easy to distribute your work widely.

Account Management

  • Use software like BlackBox to track your media usage across platforms. Provides analytics to


By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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