Any enthusiastic photographer has at some point most likely considered turning their hobby into a career, but earning a living as a photographer isn't easy. A quick glance through the yellow pages of your phone directory will reveal that there are already dozens of professional photographers operating in your area. In London, it has been estimated that there are more professional photographers than taxi drivers, so setting yourself up to shoot weddings, portraits and other general photography means trying to break into a very tight market where you will be competing with people who are already well established. Unless you are very skilled, have enough money to afford the very best equipment and have the business acumen to make it work then you are going to have a very hard time. However there is a way to make money from your photography that is open to almost anyone with a digital camera and an eye for a good photo, and that is shooting for stock photography libraries.
The next time you're in town, take a look at the magazine section of any large bookshop, such as WH Smith here in the UK. The shelves will be stocked with hundreds of different magazines on a huge range of topics, and nearly all of those magazines will have colour photos on every page. As well as this, there are brochures, leaflets, signs, adverts, even items of clothing with photographs on them. Some of these photographs, such as big fashion spreads, will be shot specially by a photographer commissioned for the job, but a large proportion of the generic photos used to fill up page space are bought from stock libraries. If the magazine editor wants a photo of a woman in a business suit talking on the telephone to illustrate an article on communications, or a shot of a big pile of coins and banknotes to illustrate an article on home finance, he will most likely get these from one of the many photo libraries that keep huge catalogues of generic photographs for just such a purpose. It's a lot cheaper and more convenient than commissioning a photographer to shoot just a single photo.
There are many such photo libraries, and some of them are quite famous. Companies such as Getty Images, Alamy and iStock have been in operation for many years, and have supplied images to magazines, advertising agencies and designers all over the world. They have huge libraries of millions of images, but the demand for photos is ever-increasing so they are always on the lookout for more. This is where you come in, because as long as you are capable of meeting certain technical requirements, and as long as your photos are of sufficient quality, there's no reason why you can't shoot for these libraries as well. You may not make a fortune from it and you'll probably never become famous, but even a few sales can earn you some useful pocket money, and it does feel good to know that your photos are being used and published. Furthermore, if you have the time, the skill and the dedication it is possible to make a very comfortable living shooting for stock.