My Stock Photography Workflow

My stock photography workflow
My stock photography workflow

Since I started getting into stock photography in late November, I’ve developed a stock photography workflow (a set of steps) to cover processing, uploading and submitting stock photography to the various microstock companies. I’d like to share that process with you, and maybe help you on your own stock photography journey.

I’ll start by saying that my workflow is definitely inspired by “Get Started in Stock” (affiliate link), a great guide to all things stock photography. I’ve taken the recommendations from that and adapted them to my own preference.

Why a Workflow?

You need to have a system for your stock photography. You want the process to be as quick as you can make it, so you can increase the volume of quality photos that you submit to the agencies to have the best income for the time you spend. If it takes you forever to prepare images for stock, you won’t submit very many, and therefore you won’t make much money. Not good.



Here’s my setup. I use Adobe Lightroom for my photo editing and organizing. You can use other software for organizing – heck, you can just use Windows folders – but Lightroom is hard to beat for searching and cataloguing your images.

I use Lightroom collections extensively for my stock photography. For each stock site, I have a collection set with five collections:

  1. To Submit
  2. Submitted
  3. Accepted
  4. Rejected
  5. Sales

(Lightroom doesn’t actually list them like that – it lists them alphabetically)

I also have three collections under my main Stock Photos collection set:

  1. Potential Stock Photos (set as my Lightroom target collection)
  2. In Preparation for Stock
  3. Stock Sales

It looks like this in Lightroom:

My stock photo Lightroom collections
My stock photo Lightroom collections

You’ll notice that I have the Stock Sales collection synced with Lightroom Mobile so I have that with me always.


My Stock Photography Workflow

Here’s my workflow. Refer to the collections above as appropriate.

  1. I search through either existing photos or photos from a recent shoot. If anything catches my eye as a possibility for stock, I press B / click in the circle in the top right of the thumbnail / right-click and select Add to Target Collection, then move on. If there are several similar photos, I add them all.
  2. Later, I review everything in Potential Stock Photos. I open each image and give them a second look. If I change my mind, I remove them from the collection. If I still like them for stock, I drag them up to In Preparation for Stock and remove them from Potential Stock Photos.
  3. For each photo, I go into design mode and do whatever edits I like. I don’t usually apply presets. If there are several images that were taken in similar conditions, I’ll edit one then copy/paste the edits onto the rest.
  4. I always will go into Spot Removal mode and check Visualize Spots at the bottom to look for dust spots, and clean them up. Logo removal happens here too.
  5. Back in Library mode, I add keywords, title and caption. I might copy/paste keywords from some of my other stock photos if appropriate and make edits.
  6. Once I have a set of prepared stock photos, I drag the group of them to the To Submit collection under each stock site. In a few cases I may not want to submit to all the sites, so I only drag to the ones I want to submit to.
  7. I right-click on the group, and select my export preset “Full Size JPEG” to build a set of full size JPG images in a certain directory on my computer.
  8. I then remove the photos from the In Preparation for Stock collection.
  9. I run FileZilla and open each stock site’s FTP site in a separate tab so they are all open at once. I’ve configured them so they start at the same directory that the full size JPEGs are in, so I don’t have to fiddle with that each time.
  10. For each site, I drag the images from the source side over to the target side to start the transfer. I do them all at once and walk away while the transfers go through.
  11. Once they’re done, I’ll give them a bit of time and then go to each stock site and see if they are in their Pending folders. I have all the stock sites saved as bookmarks so I can open them all at once.
  12. I’ll submit the pending photos, and once that’s done, I move the images from the To Submit collection to the Submitted collection for that stock site.
  13. Later, when the stock sites review the images, they’ll get moved to either the Accepted or Rejected collections and removed from the Submitted collection.
  14. When images sell, I add them to the Sales collection for that site and also to the master Stock Sales collection, so I have a master list of all of my sales.

I also have a spreadsheet to track statistics on acceptance ratios and sales per month.. something I’ll share another time. It’s not really part of the workflow.



I like this workflow because I always know where my photos are in the workflow and the submission process. I also know if I’ve submitted a photo before, so I don’t stumble across a photo in my library and try processing it for stock again.

One benefit of using these collections is that I can look at what collections a photo is in and see how “good for stock” it is. To whit:


4/5 agencies liked the Eiffel Tower image at top left.


This lock bridge photo was accepted by 3, rejected by two (one for copyright), and is still in the submitted stage for two others, plus it has sold at one agency. You can click on any of those to jump to that collection to find out more.



I hope this description of my stock photography workflow has been interesting. Maybe it’ll give you some ideas for your own workflow! Please feel free to provide comments, suggestions, or to share your own workflow.


February Progress Report

Here’s my February progress report to show how I’m doing in my photography side hustle. Numbers are as of February 1, 2016.

Goal Review

I have five goals for my photography side hustle in 2016:

  1. Gross income of $1,200
  2. Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  3. Net income of $700
  4. 2 paid work for hire gigs
  5. Write and publish one eBook

Here we go.

Gross Income

February progress report
February progress report

The gross income I’ve received is $40.15. If you look at that as 1/12 of what I need to reach my $1,200 goal, I’m falling short.

There’s money in the pipeline, of course, and some of it is imminent and some is “whenever”. Part of the problem with passive income like stock photography, videos, and so forth is that there is a minimum amount that you have to earn before you can request a payout. All of my (minimal) stock photography income so far is below that threshold, and there are funds stuck in Gumroad because they are below their threshold. I understand the reason for the thresholds – there is overhead to the company in issuing a payout – but it’s a bit frustrating. Since I count income only when I receive it, those funds are not counted in my gross income and it makes my gross income look worse than it really is.

All that being said, I’m still falling short of my goal.

I haven’t had any success in selling prints recently. I need to look at my portfolio and spruce it up.



Stock Photography Income

Stock photo - Large field of bright yellow sunflowers
Stock photo – Large field of bright yellow sunflowers

I accumulated USD $7.43 (CAD $10.37 at present) in stock income in January 2016. I’m very satisfied with that progress.

December’s stock income was a mere USD $1.45.

This is only February 3 and it is already a strong month, so I am pretty optimistic.

I am falling behind on submitting stock photos, so I need to work on that. I’ve shot and submitted a number of Valentines’ Day images, so I am hoping for some sales from those. My first batch of “shot for stock” images is starting to sell, which gives me hope that I’m doing the right thing.



Net Income

If I’m not hitting the gross income targets, I’m not hitting net income targets either! Currently my net income is negative because I invested in my web site hosting costs by pre-paying for 24 months for a 24% discount.



Work For Hire Gigs

I hope to shoot the Manitoba Marathon again this year, so that could be one of the two I want. I’m tempted to reach out to the Running Room and other groups to see if any opportunities are available. I’ve been scanning Kijiji and I found a few possibilities but nothing has borne fruit yet. We’ll call this…



Write and Publish eBook

I’ve done nothing on this, other than some thought on what I’d like to write about. I believe the next step is to assemble a list of possible topics and poll my mailing list / Traingeek Images followers to see what they would A) like to read and B) like to pay for.




So far, not great – failing at 3 and on track for 2 of my goals. I’m not too concerned yet but I need to work a bit harder.


Steps For February

  • Update portfolio
  • Submit more stock photos – Easter is coming up!
  • Assemble list of potential eBook topics
  • Poll followers for eBook topics
  • Look for paid gigs more aggressively