Getting Started in Stock
This is a question we all ask ourselves, having spent hundreds (thousands) of dollars on our hobby! I asked myself that question over 5 years ago, and decided the answer was to sell my images. After a slow start, I have increased my income to a run rate of more than $25,000 a year and I share the steps, the trials and tribulations in the newly revised third edition of my eBook – Getting Started in Stock. You are facing a simple choice – do you want to learn as you go, following the forums and their inconsistent information from people who may or may not know what they are talking about, or do you want to save hours of frustration and learn it all on one easy to follow guidebook?
Buy this new eBook directly from my site through a simple and secure shopping cart and get immediate access to the information you need to make money from your photographs!
If you have learned enough already and just want to start – it will help me if you use the links on the left to reach the stock agencies. Thanks!
As I was gathering my earnings for the month of October from the various sites, I got to thinking about which agencies I still upload images to, and why? I have tried various sites in the past, and have never actually deleted images from an agency, but for some, I just stopped uploading new images. I thought is would be interesting to put that in a table so that you can see how many images I have with each site, how much I earned in October from the site and draw your own conclusions. One issue with this – some sites are a bit volatile in terms of earnings – for some reason I’ve had two great months with 123RF, but normally earn closer to $100 on that site, and Alamy can be very variable – from next to nothing to a couple of hundred dollars. Zoonar is a bit like that as well, although it is getting more reliable for me – earnings from their partner sites drop into my account at regular intervals.
Anyway, enough of a lead-in – here are the results for October. Total earnings of around $2500, although I’ve estimated the Partner earnings from iStock, which makes it a solid month’s performance.
Earnings per agency and upload status
Just one explanatory note – my Shutterstock and Pond5 earnings include some video sales. I don’t have many – perhaps 100 clips or so, but I do generally get at least one footage sale per month. I really ought to train myself to take more videos when I am out shooting!
I’ve not been posting in the past couple of weeks as a result of a trip to Equatorial Guinea in Africa. In most people’s mind, a visit, at this time of Ebola scares, to West Africa is probably very low on the priority list, but I found it to be a fascinating location with a chance to photograph things that are not present in very many stock agencies. I’ve not decided what to do with my images from this trip – probably general “africa” shots will go to the microstock agencies, more unusual and scarce images with go just to the RM sites, Alamy, Corbis and Zoonar.
I only arrived back yesterday and so am still looking through my images, but to give you a taster, here is a shot of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary in Mongomo – a massive church and courtyard that was completed and consecrated in June 2014. What is interesting in deciding how to price these shots on my own stock site is that if you do a search on any of the main stock agencies for “Mongomo”, the town where this Basilica has been built, there are zero images. So how much is one of these photos worth to a newspaper or perhaps an oil company looking for a great image of this new building? My current conclusion is just to offer them on my own site under an RM model – ie no auto downloads – the potential user can contact me to discuss their usage needs and get a price directly from me. I’ve already started to upload Equatorial Guinea images to BackyardStockPhotos and will add more as I keyword them.
Basilica in Mongomo, Equatorial Guinea
Stations of the Cross against stormy sky
Close up of Stations of the Cross
Image Brief Award
I mentioned Image Brief before
as a great source for ideas for future stock shoots, but it is also a potential revenue stream if you are lucky enough to win one of their briefs. You can sign up here
if you are interested in joining them. They will check your portfolio so make sure you have a representative set of images available that shows both the quality and range of images you can take.
I’ve just been awarded my second brief – this time, an image of the back of my head. My costs for this image were not great – I had to have my hair cut, and also make sure my shirt was ironed, but all I used for lighting was a flash in a large umbrella and a reflector. I heard today that the designer chose my image to license – they paid $1500 and I get $1050 of that. Not bad…. As someone said, think what a picture of the front of my head would be worth…
Although the rate of awards is not high, I still find it gives me many great ideas for a shoot, and then I have images I can later upload to the stock agencies. For instance, there was one about a hand pressing a wall mounted thermostat. I happen to have a modern thermostat and so my starter picture was very simple – flash in an umbrella with a white card behind to help the isolation:
After some work in photoshop and adding in a blurred background from another room in my house, we end up with a pleasing and warm looking shot that sells most days on Shutterstock and the other agencies. I hadn’t thought about taking this shot before I saw the Image Brief request.
Final Thermostat Shot
So, if you enjoy the challenge of taking shots as they are requested by designers, Image Brief could be the site for you!
If you are anywhere near Washington DC, don’t forget that Nature Visions Photo Expo is on again this year between November 14 – 16th. We have some great speakers – Rick Sammon, Julianne Kost, Ian Plant, Jay Patel, Deborah Sandidge and a great photo exhibit as well. I organized the speakers this year so please come along and see what we have in store for you!
I’ve had two sales on Fine Art America in the past month or so. The first one was a framed print of fireworks over Washington DC. This sold with a profit to me of $51.70 in late September.
Fireworks over Washington DC
This was followed up in October with a very large print (just a rolled paper print) of a stitched panorama I took of Santa Monica Beach in California. This print measured a cool five feet long – 60″ x 13″. My profit on that one was $190 or so.
Panorama of Santa Monica Beach
I’ve noticed that my FineArtAmerica sales tend to happen towards the end of the year and so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for more sales as the holiday season advances. Perhaps I should add some more fine art images! My current portfolio is here if you are interested.
As usual, I’ve been a bit slow in posting – this time because of a 3 week trip to Europe including a cruise down the Danube (photos still in development…). As a result, I have only just updated my records of sales for last month. As it turned out, the month of September was OK – again, not great, but I ended the month with $2300. I’m sure a lot of you will think that “if, only…”, but I’ve noticed that Shutterstock seems to have hit a plateau for me – just less than $1000 this month, which is where I was 12 months ago, even though I have added about 1000 images over the past year to Shutterstock. I’m now at an average of 5000-6000 images on most of the sites. I’ve given up with new uploads to Fotolia, YayMicro and a few of the smaller sites as the effort/reward equation was not enough, but it is disappointing to see Shutterstock get stuck in a rut. Alamy was not good this month after $400 of sales in August – this month just $62. iStock seems to be working out OK for me. I upload images in batches when I have some spare time, and so I have increased my portfolio there to 4100, and in August I earned $445, September $294. A lot of this is turning out to be their partner program, but it is nicely boosting my income. Nothing, I’m afraid on my own stock site BackyardStockPhotos unfortunately. I think at some stage I must reconsider what to do with that site as it is costing me around $40 a month in the dedicated hosting I put in place for it. A shame, as a self run site seemed to have promise. Still, no need to make rash judgments yet!
Fine Art America turned out nicely – $51.70 profit from a sale in September and I’ve just seen a new one for $190 in October. I’ll post about that separately.
Still no loss of enthusiasm though – I take pictures because I enjoy it, and getting $25K a year from my efforts is still pretty nice.
I mentioned, a few posts back, that I look at the Image Brief site regularly, both to see if I can submit an image for a request, or just to get some idea for another shoot. Earlier this week was a request for outdoors adventure type images, but they were looking for landscape format. I immediately thought of this shot:
Climber in Colorado
BUT – the shot is clearly vertical and can’t be cropped into a horizontal format, and I don’t have a model release for the climber in question. What to do? Well, I did get model releases from one of my climbers in Colorado, and he has climbed that route up the mountain, so I was able to find a shot of the released climber in a roughly similar pose and extract him from one shot and paste from the waist upwards onto the new shot. Some adding of shadows under his arm and upraised hand adds to the realism. But, it was still vertical. So next, I copied the sun and the right side of the sky in Photoshop, flipped it and pasted to form a new left piece of sky. Then used content aware scale to extend it further. I needed the ground extended though, so I looked for a wide angle shot I had taken of the landscape, and cut out the land section from that and pasted in place. Still needing a bit of sky, I created a gradient of blues, added a bit of noise to help blend it in, and finally patched that in place. Finally, I had one other shot of the right hand side of the rocks that I used to extend the image a bit in that direction. End result, a square to horizontal image that is now model released!
Final landscape format released image
Of course, I may not get short listed for the Image Brief, but I have a nice new image to add to my collection. Perfect for an adventure shot if I happen to have any designers reading!!
One thing that beginners don’t appreciate is how much work goes into stock photography. If you track your earnings per hour, it can sometimes look pretty depressing unless you are taking the photos because it is also something you enjoy doing. As a practical example of what I mean, I recently went on a short […]
Well, to be more accurate, taking photographs of rock climbers in Colorado…
I spent the past week in the mountains of Colorado near Buena Vista both taking in the sights and getting some climbing images (with model releases) for my stock portfolio. I was also trying out my new Canon 16-35mm F4 L lens – […]