Stock Photographers Camera Buying Guide

posted on 28th of april, 2009

I just wrote a new article at my photography blog twcdm.blogspot.com about picking a camera to use for stock photography.

Here is an abridged version:

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.

The current MP requirement for Dreamstime.com is at least 3MP. 3MP 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.

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.

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.

Check out twcdm.blogspot.com for the unabridged article.

Hope this helps,

Comments (4)

Comment by Unaphoto on April 29, 2009

Thank you Travis!
As usual, useful and important information. I enjoy your articles very much.
Thank you for your time!
Best wishes

Comment by Lcjtripod on April 29, 2009

You did your research! Very well described and useful information for most new comer's.


Comment by Freedomphotos on April 28, 2009

Thanks so much, just what I need to be reading right now, I am looking at upgrading my camera and really dont know what to start looking for. Cheers

Comment by Rebeccaosborn on April 28, 2009

thanks for this, and for the links too! Very helpful!


This article has been read 2635 times. 2 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Travis Manley.

About me

I am a professional photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. I have a degree in animation from the Art Institute of Seattle. I approach every photo I take the same as I would if I was creating an illustration or a piece of art.

Sequim, US

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