Welcome to the blog! twcdm.blogspot.com is all about sharing tips, tricks and tutorials all having to do with photography, Photoshop and getting into the stock photo industry.

Travis Manley

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Stock Photographers Camera Buying Guide

A lot of photographers out there might be asking themselves, what kind of camera do I need to take stock photos?

Really the only requirement for camera's among most stock sites are that they are at least 3MP (MP not MB, MP = Megapixel MB = Megabyte) or approx 2000x1500, not much bigger than a 4x6 photo.

If your not sure if your photo is big enough all you need to do is multiply the length by the width of the photo and move the decimal point to the left six spaces.

Example: If your photos dimensions are 4368x2912 do the math and you will find that your photo is 12.7MP.

Here are the current MP requirements of a few stock photo sites.

iStockphoto.com requires at least 2MP
Dreamstime.com requires at least 3MP
Fotolia.com requires at least 4MP
Shutterstock.com now requires at least 4MP

Even 4MP is pretty small considering most point and shoot cameras are 8-10MP.

So the big question you need to think about is, what is in your budget? Another thing to consider is maybe leaving some money aside for accessories (camera bag, filters, extra batteries, lenses, etc).

Do your research, there are tons on excellent resources to help you find the right camera. An important thing to realize is there is no one perfect camera for everyone your job is determine what is the right camera for you.

Here are some great sites that can help you find a camera.



I find that reviews on Amazon.com are helpful too, but you have to take them with a grain of salt because not all reviews are written by people who know what they are talking about.

Camera brands aren't as important as the features they offer. Chances if you go with Canon or Nikon you are pretty safe, but Olympus, Sony and Pentax all make great cameras too. "Its the photographer not the camera." Trust me these are words of wisdom, a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III in the hands of someone who doesnt who how to use it isnt going to be any better than if they were using a cheap point & shoot** camera.

Some important features to look for when buying a camera:

Digital or Film: You can submit film photos to stock sites? Yes, break out those boxes of old Polaroids, dust them off and start scanning them. If this sounds like too much of a project there are companies out there who can scan them for you. www.jaincotech.com offers scanning services.

This might be a good option for some, but I wouldn't recommend it. Stock photo standards are very high and unless you have good film photos to start with, access to a good scanner and have software to fix any dust or scratches it might be more trouble than it is worth.

DSLR*** or Point & Shoot - This is probably the biggest most important decision you will have to make when buying a camera. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

If you are on a budget and might not be ready to invest $500 or more on a camera a Point & Shoot might be the way to go. The downside to Point & Shoots are that you cant change lenses, and the sensor size is very small so the quality of the photo isnt that great, they also dont handle high ISO setting very well.

I would say the two biggest advantages of a Point & Shoot over a DSLR are the price and being compact and light weight. You might be willing to take your Point & Shoot with you too a lot more places than you would a bulkier DSLR and be able to get that many more shots. "The best camera is the one you take everywhere."

DSLR's, however have quite a few advantages over Point & Shoots despite being more expensive and being bigger and heavier. DSLR's give you the opportunity to use different lenses (wide angle, fisheye, telephoto, macro, prime lenses, tilt-shift, Lensbaby's, etc) which allow you to be more creative and take control over your photos.

DSLR's have larger sensors (that's one of the reasons they are bigger than Point & Shoot's) which means the overall quality of your photo is better and DSLR's can typically handle high ISO's settings very well giving you more opportunities to get usable stock photos.

Other advantages of DSLR's are more manual controls. I cant stress the importance of having full manual control over your camera. Shooting in full automatic modes are kind of like turning on the cruise control in your car and taking a nap while driving on the highway, you just never know whats going to happen or why it happened, but hey you might get lucky sometimes.

Sensor Dust Removal - This is one that is probably more important than you would think. Even if you have a DSLR and never take the lens off you are still going to end up with dust on your sensor. Dont ask me how, just trust me. Sensor dust shows up as small dark spots in your photos, usually in the sky. You can use software to get rid of it, but the best way is to just have your camera cleaned which can be expensive and damaging to your camera if done incorrectly. Many new cameras have a dust removal function that vibrates the sensor in your camera and can eliminate some or most dust.

Megapixels - Remember not all megapixels are created equal, you can have a Point and Shoot Camera that can take billboard sized photos, but if the lens that is taking those photos through and the sensor that is recording the image are not of good quality than that is going to be one big ugly photo. I would take a 6MP DSLR over a 10+MP Point & Shoot any day.

Camera brand -Like I said before camera band isnt as important as the features of the camera. The big advantage to going with a big name camera like Canon or Nikon is for one they have been making cameras for awhile and know what they are doing. Also, because they are so common and popular its usually easier and more affordable to find compatible accessories. I am a Canon user, but I think Nikon's are great too. You have to look at your budget and see who has the best camera in your price range. Once you pick a brand its a good idea to stick with it because you can use a lot of the same lenses, batteries, etc when/if you upgrade later.

So one last thing to keep in mind. Don't quit your day job when you get that first payout from your stock sales. Invest the money your earn right back into camera equipment for as long as you can. As tempting as it might be to use that money to cut back on your hours at whatever job you might be working you should spend at least the first year putting all of your stock earning right back into equipment.

I also encourage you to get creative and build equipment. This is a great idea if you have a limited budget. There are thousands of DIY guides and tutorials out there for making lighting equipment, mini tripods, etc. Strobist.blogspot.com is an awesome resources for making your own equipment and creative small light techniques.

This is going to be the first part in an ongoing series of blog posts all having to do with different types of equipment. I will be writing about tripods, lenses, lights etc in the future. Please let me know if there ideas or suggestions for posts in this series.

*Camera photo from my Dreamstime.com portfolio. Its a film camera if you are wondering.

** Point & Shoot = Non-DSLR, not as many manual controls as a DSLR, generally considered "non-professional."

***DSLR = Digital Single-lens Reflex (the subject is viewed through the same lens as the picture is taken with)


  1. I'm already a DSLR user, but if I was starting out on stock I would take a very serious look at the Panasonic G1 - it seems like the best of both worlds (lower size and weight, but larger sensor, higher quality and interchangeable lenses).

  2. Thanks for the comment Brad. Your right that Panasonic G1 looks like a nice camera, dpreview gave it a good review too http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicdmcg1/page33.asp.

    Like I said in my blog post so many people out there are asking "what camera should I buy?" like there is this one magic camera out there that will satisfy everyone. It really comes down to what best suits your needs (budget/camera size, photo quality, etc).

    I really recommend picking a brand and sticking with it so you dont end up having to buy all the same equipment over again like I did going from Olympus to Canon.

  3. Agreed - there is always a compromise somewhere along the line... Thanks for the tips.

  4. Great post...very thorough! I might add that the higher end DSLRs such as the Canon 1DSMKIII have superior seals and are more rugged. Durability can be a consideration for shooters who put their equipment into dusty, wet and "bumpy" environments!

  5. Thanks for commenting John. You made a good point, I didnt think to mention it because I dont normally shoot in conditions where weather sealing is a big factor.

    I can see if you do a lot of traveling and outdoor shooting weather sealing can be very important.


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