A man with a camera. Learning to be a stock photographer.

How to Become a Stock Photographer. 20 Steps: Books, Tools and Photographer’s Starting Kit in 2021

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August 30, 2020 March 9, 2022 22 min
Rita Asta photoAuthor by:Rita Asta
Alina Soloviova Depositphotos.Article reviewed by:
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Article reviewed by Alina Soloviova, Content Curator at Depositphotos
on September 27, 2020

With more than ten years of professional experience in this field, she successfully executed fashion, fine art, and documentary photography. She published in Chasseur, Fashionisto, Flanellemag, Paperonfire, etc. At present, she works as a Content Curator at Depositphotos.com and manages personal commercial and creative photoshoots.

Learn about comment

  1. How to become a stock photographer?
  2. Who is a photographer and what does he do?
  3. A few reasons to become a photographer
  4. What does a photographer need to know?
    1. Using your camera
    2. Exposure
    3. Composition
    4. Balance, focus, and light
  5. Where to learn photography art?
    1. Books
    2. Courses
    3. Challenges
  6. Where to look for a photography job?
  7. What will be an ideal present for a photographer?
  8. How to Become a Stock Photographer: Free Checklist
  9. How can you earn money with the MasterBundles?
  10. Photography Books That Will Help You Master This Elaborate Art
  11. Best Editing Tools Every Photographer Should Know
  12. Photographer’s Starting Kit: Equipment for Beginners
  13. How and Where to Sell Your Masterpieces
  14. Best Stock Photographers Who Will Inspire You
  15. Top Stock Photos Bundles
  16. Conclusion

How to become a stock photographer?

How to Become a Stock Photographer. The origins of the word “photography” come from the Greek language and means “drawing with light”. Therefore, every photographer is an artist, a painter who creates beautiful images with light. Realistic images of the surrounding world became popular right after the first cameras became available. By now, the necessity of photos hasn’t decreased and even has grown. With the rising of the internet, the new ways of usage, storage, and sharing appeared. Cool professional cameras became widely available and the profession of a photographer is becoming more and more popular. If you are thinking about mastering this skill, I will get you through the basics, so you can define is it the profession you really want to get along with.

Who is a photographer and what does he do?

So, as I said previously, the photographer is an artist. This person takes pictures of different objects, both natural and artificial, in the natural lights or with the help of different lighting tools. Some of the photographers prefer to take pictures only in the studio, with the chosen surroundings and light, and others like shooting nature. In general, narrow specialists are rare, and the beginner photographer has to be ready to learn and constantly try something new.

Now, let’s talk about what do photographers really do. It is not only the process of shooting photos by itself but a huge amount of additional actions too. You will have to thought of a theme of pictures, find the place to shoot, find models (if you need them), do some editing and so on. The actual shooting will take less than 30% of your time. In general, there are two types of photographers – those who work in freelance or full-time.

Freelancers usually take orders from various clients and do the pictures according to the concrete wishes of the employer. Wedding, graduation or other events photographers are an excellent example. Besides that, photographers shoot pictures for online photo stocks and, therefore, are called stock photographers. About the photo stocks and their advantages, I’ll tell a little later.

Full-time photographers usually work with a concrete brand or for the company that constantly needs different photos, like news websites, magazines, fashion industry or even federal law enforcement agencies. This type of employment is really rare and mere photographers could get such a place, that’s why there are so many freelancers in this niche.

A few reasons to become a photographer

Despite the issues you will meet while going this way, there are plenty of advantages you get being a photographer. If you are not really sure about becoming one, here’s a list of reasons why you should at least try (I don’t want to list you the disadvantages, I’m sure you’ve already understood what problems you will meet). Those are the points besides making money, in the end, you could earn profit from other work too.

The different point of view. After about a month of taking pictures, you will notice that your point of view for everything has changed. You start to notice beauty in different, even simple things, you start to see the light, balance, and colors, you start to understand from which point it will look better. Every profession has some impact on the people mastering it, but the photography effects are, in my opinion, the most interesting and useful.

Creating art objects. Some photos become a real masterpiece. It is not an easy task to create an art object with the camera and lights, but the best photos are as precious as paintings. Yes, you could say that painting is more complicated than shooting, but that is not true. It could take thousands of tries to take the ideal photo, and you have to know lots of tricks, so photography is an art to the same extent as more classical ones, like sculpture or music.

Traveling and learning something new. To take the best photos you will have to go to some new interesting places and seek a fresh angle to show the common things in an uncommon way. Only surprising or impressive pictures attract attention, so you will constantly be in a seek for adventures. If you are now a home sitter and don’t go out really often – photography could become a perfect reason for you to change your life.

Meet new people. No matter how you are going to work, as a freelancer or seek for a full-time job, you will have to talk to lots of new people and some of them could be fascinating (not all of them, of course, it is hard to find a person that will fit you). If you will work with models – you will be able to witness some beauty and grace and if you are going to travel – you will talk to people of other cultures and witness how wide could the world be.

What does a photographer need to know?

I hope you didn’t expect that buying a camera will be enough to title yourself a photographer and start making money? Every human activity needs some training first, children spend some time to understand how to walk, so you will have to know a few details before you become a professional stock photographer. Here’s a brief listing of the most important things you have to know.

Using your camera

That is the most important thing for the photographer. You can’t prepare a dish without knowing how the oven works and you can’t drive a car without knowing how. So, first of all, master your main tool – the camera. It doesn’t matter what type or model do you use – read the manual very carefully and after that watch all the videos you find about using it. You need to know all its functions, the principles of its work, the tricks and buttons you can use to configure it. “You need to become one with your instrument” – that phrase could sound a little pathetic, but it is true in some way. To make fabulous photos you have to be able to work by touch and don’t start to sort out the functions when the moment you want to catch fades away. Here’s a great Expert Photography infographic about the basics of camera usage.


Aperture, shutter speed and ISO you saw on the infographic are the three key parts of exposure, and, thus, the quality of the photo. Those three features define how bright, light or dark, blurry or clear is the picture.

Aperture is the size of a hole in the lens that let the light pass. The wider the hole – the more light gets to the picture and the lighter it will be.

Shutter speed is how fast the shutter of the camera will close and how tiny the moment camera catches will be. The bigger this number is – the blurrier the motion will look like on the photo.

ISO is the quality of the final image. The bigger this indicator is – the higher will be the exposure of the picture, but the lover becomes the general quality of the picture. With high ISO different digital “noise” come.


When you understood how to make pictures it is time to go through the “what” you want to place on the photo. The way objects are composed in the picture is important to make it look attractive and interesting. The most basic composition rule is “the rule of thirds”. In plain language, it tells you to place the main item not to the center, but closer to one of the sides. If you divide the screen into nine pieces (just like in tic-tac-toe), the small objects should be placed to the crossing of the lines of the grid, and if the object is big and long you should try to place it to one of the rows or columns. Such kind of positioning makes the picture more eye-catching.

Balance, focus, and light

Those three features are sufficient for the good photo, but sometimes they could be ignored. Balance is something you feel about the photo just the moment you see it. When on the one side of the photo are gathered all the interesting objects the other side would look empty, but sometimes it is just the effect the photographer wants to achieve. Focusing on one item could highlight its importance, but it is also nice when all the objects are equal in the picture. Manipulations with light could completely change the resulting photo, so you should try and make some experiments. One way or another, these three points you should pay attention to, no matter how you use them.

Article reviewed by

Alina Soloviova, Content Curator at Depositphotos photo
—Alina Soloviova, Content Curator at Depositphotos

Due to my professional activity, I often come across people who make the decision to become a stock photographer. Typically, their checklist of preparation looks like this:

1. Take a camera and flash from a friend.
2. Learn the basics of composition.
3. Ask the friend from whom the camera was taken to be the first model.
4. Make more than 100 000 photos and upload them to the stocks.
5. Maybe a little bit to develop these photos.

The plan is quite realistic overall, but not devoid of some defects. I would recommend everyone who only plans to deal with stock photography, 80% of training time to devote to training. Starting with such detailed articles as this and ending with some paid courses. Pay attention to how popular photographers shoot - seek inspiration and ideas. But remember that you have to steal as an artist, if you adopt an idea for a photo, then make it a little bit better.

Well, then, train and practice. Is it worth saying that your first works can be immediately added on different stock sites, such as the DepositPhotos - we are extremely welcome to talented newcomers.

Where to learn photography art?

You can’t become a photographer after reading just a single article. Brief overview I gave you in the previous paragraph, certainly, is not enough if you want to become a professional. Every profession needs time and efforts for mastering, and photography is no exclusion. And as for every profession, there are several ways to learn the necessary skills.


That is a starting point of learning not only photography but every skill. Sometimes one book can give you more useful information that a learning course (it could be vice versa, though). To go through the basics read the Complete Digital PhotographyHow to Become a Stock Photographer. 20 Steps: Books, Tools and Photographer’s Starting Kit in 2021 by Ben Long or LIFE Guide to Digital PhotographyHow to Become a Stock Photographer. 20 Steps: Books, Tools and Photographer’s Starting Kit in 2021 by Joe McNally. To sharpen your technique try The Photographers EyeHow to Become a Stock Photographer. 20 Steps: Books, Tools and Photographer’s Starting Kit in 2021 and The Photographers MindHow to Become a Stock Photographer. 20 Steps: Books, Tools and Photographer’s Starting Kit in 2021 by Michael Freeman. And for some inspiration, you should definitely take a look at National Geographic Image CollectionHow to Become a Stock Photographer. 20 Steps: Books, Tools and Photographer’s Starting Kit in 2021. That is not an ultimate list, of course, those are just books I, myself, consider to be useful for a beginner.


First of all – check out if there are some live courses in your town. It is good to have a real person you can ask your questions and receive some hints about your works. Besides that, in such courses, you can meet some new interesting people, start creating your little network and just have fun. Practicing in a company of positive people and learning on the mistakes of others is also a pleasant bonus.

If there are no live courses – it is not a problem. Almost every online learning platform offers at least one photography course, so you have a wide selection. For example, you can apply for photography courses on the Udemy – after answering a few questions you will be redirected to the list of courses that fit your level of competence. Annie Leibovitz photography master class is also very detailed and nicely told. And of course, such a big learning platform as Coursera also has a bunch of photography courses. So, as you can see, if you would like to take a few courses – there will be no problem finding them.


To improve your skill, you have to practice constantly and tale lots of pictures and challenges are a fun and interesting way to do some everyday shooting. Besides that, challenges demand from you some specific types of photos, so you will probably try something new and thus develop faster. Here is a 52-weeks challenge for 2019, and if you want to do something new every day – try the 30-day photography challenge or 365-day photography challenge.

Where to look for a photography job?

You have read a few books, practices a lot and took a couple of courses. You feel ready for the first real job, but where should you go to get it? First of all, before trying to find something, create a nice portfolio. Put there the best of your photos and write a little CV. An ideal solution will be a portfolio website, but if you don’t know how to create it – it is not necessary. When your portfolio is ready and shines – start seeking.

Job platforms. Jobrapido or Glassdoor are perfect examples of such platforms – there are lots of vacancies for photographers there. Finding the job of your dream is, certainly, not guaranteed, but you can start from there. Send your CV and portfolio to a few companies and try your luck – you may find the first job very soon.

Social media. The power of Facebook is huge if you will make yourself a personal page and make a little self-advertising there – you can find lots of people who would like to hire you. Instagram is also an ideal social media for photographers – it was made to share photos. Create an account in LinkedIn too – there, chances are, you will find a full-time job.

Photo Stocks. Those are websites where photographers give their photos and then everyone could pay and download it. For every download you will get some revenue and the more photos you give – the more money you get. Some photographers even don’t do any other freelance job besides filling the stocks and they are called stock photographers. It is a great solution for a beginner, who already has tones of photos in a portfolio, but can’t find an employer. You can even work with stocks if you have another job – additional money will never hurt, huh?

What will be an ideal present for a photographer?

Every person in the modern world should have a wishlist. Even if it will be a piece of paper pinned to your fridge – you have to write it. As you are going to become a professional photographer – you will need lots of stuff for your career, so it will be wise to put them into your wishlist. Besides that, if you will have lots of friends-photographers it will be great to know what they can be happy to receive.

For example, take a look at this little cute instant camera. Fujifilm Instax Mini 8How to Become a Stock Photographer. 20 Steps: Books, Tools and Photographer’s Starting Kit in 2021 will be a great gift that will give you or the person you want to make a surprise to an opportunity to experiment with a new photographic technique.

Or this great instrument for a selfie lover (yeah, some photographers do their photos on the mobile phone camera too). You already understood how important for a good photo the lite is, so you know such a Selfie RingHow to Become a Stock Photographer. 20 Steps: Books, Tools and Photographer’s Starting Kit in 2021 will be a useful and fun gift.

I don’t want to add a huge list of possible presents here – there are dozens of items that will make any photographer happy. To get a few insights – go check this article, it lists more than 100 presents for a photographer.

Gifts For Photographers, Based On His Instagram Account

How to Become a Stock Photographer: Free Checklist

How can you earn money with the MasterBundles?

MasterBundles is a service that sells bundles of different digital products. In plain language, the bundle is a box, filled with some quantity of items. It is often sold cheaper than the price of all products will cost if bought separately and is limited in time. Why it is profitable for clients? The spend less money on the products. Why it is profitable for the seller? People are more likely to buy a bundle than a pile of separate products. Because of the cheaper price the volume of sells increase and that make your revenue bigger.

So, how can you, as a photographer, make money on MasterBundles? You can create the bundles of your stock photos and sell them on the website that is specialized in this kind of marketing. Just contact with the MasterBundles team and start earning money for your work.

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