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Selling your digital photos for cash eBook

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!

Christmas Lights at Mormon Temple DC

I was reading an article in a photography magazine that made the point that you are the expert in your own region – you know where the best sites are, you can visit them when conditions are good and you don’t have to get back to your hotel or into the car for the next part of your vacation. Good advice and I took it yesterday to visit the Christmas lights at the Washington DC Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I arrived around 4pm before the lights were turned on, so I could get a range of images of the building and grounds – it was a bright day and the setting sun gave some great lighting to the building and grounds.
Mormon temple in Washington DC in late winter afternoon
I spent the first hour just wandering around – they have no issues with tripods and so I was able to get really sharp and clear shots at ISO 100 for minimum noise. Here is one of the side entrance doors to the temple:
Mormon temple in Washington DC in late winter afternoon
As it started to get dark, I was on the lookout for unusual views and thought this image of the reflection of the church in the windows of the visitors center with the statue in the background was something different:
Mormon temple in Washington DC in late winter afternoon
Still on the prowl, I wanted to get a different view of the traditional nativity scene in the grounds:
Camel in front of nativity scene
In this case, I warmed up the colors in the camel head and did a composite in Photoshop of the warmer head against the blurred background of the stable scene. By this time, the lights were fully illuminated and I thought this one of the christmas tree lights reflected in broken ice of a small pond looked interesting as an abstract (another photographer had been breaking the ice to make a nicer foreground for his image of the church…).Reflection of christmas trees in frozen pond
Finally, this is the scene of the church from the visitor’s center with the pond (and broken ice) in the foreground:
Mormon temple in Washington DC with xmas lights
I spent a couple of hours looking for both standard shots and interesting details – all in all an interesting trip!

Is it ethical to modify stock photos?

I must admit that I am prone to modifying my images to try to tell the story better – I’ve been known to replace a person without a model release with one that I have approval from – but in my mind that is still a great image for telling a climbing story!

I went to Bahrain a couple of weeks back and took some images that I really liked, but there were distracting elements. In the first case, a wooden dhow, the background was really poor. I couldn’t move the boat, and the positioning on the dusty sand gave a nice impression of the dry desert and perhaps even how water use is making life difficult for fishermen as some lakes and small seas recede from the original coastline.

Dhow in Bahrain - Original

Dhow in Bahrain – Original


I first of all tried to blur the background – that worked reasonably well, but still didn’t tell the story I had in my mind. So I decided to remove the offending huts and vehicles altogether to make it appear that the boat was on the dusty sand with the desert disappearing into the haze:
Dhow in dusty desert

Dhow in dusty desert

The evening before I had been at the old fort at Seef, and had a lovely sunset sky above the floodlit restored fort, but I was only in Bahrain for a couple of days and the tide was not right for the shot. If I had time, I could have visited at sunset at high tide, but that is often very difficult for a roving stock photographer. My image looked like this (it was an HDR from 5 shots to capture some detail in the shadowed sandy areas in the foreground).

The fort at Seef in Bahrain

The fort at Seef in Bahrain


Nice picture of the castle, not so nice in the foreground. Of course I could crop it to just show the fort, but the ocean is part of the story, and so I worked the image in Photoshop with the Flood plugin to add a reflection that could be the ocean at high tide. I’m sure that at some time during the year it actually looks like this!
Seef Fort at High Tide!

Seef Fort at High Tide!

So – the ethical question. This isn’t really photo journalism, but it could be used in a travel magazine about a visit to Bahrain. Is it acceptable to change the foreground like this?

Work those shots

I’m not saying that this is a great stock photo (in terms of its commercial potential), but sometimes we have to let our artistic side shine through! I was walking around Regensburg in Germany on my recent river cruise. Cloudy sky, bit of drizzle, certainly not the conditions to create fantastic travel images with a blue sky and billowing clouds. As a result I was looking for details that could enhance a travel article about the medieval town and I saw this clock on the side of a tower. I only had my 24-105mm lens on my Canon 5D, and so I took a shot from the ground looking up, leaving enough room around it for some perspective control (I thought). This was the shot:

Clock Tower in Regensburg

Clock Tower in Regensburg

I tried to position the wires where they were minimally intrusive, but it wasn’t a great location. You can see the sky – nothing! I really liked the design though with the clock and two windows and so I really tried to work it in Lightroom (to correct perspective) and then in Photoshop as I found that the perspective control lost quite a bit of the wall around the bottom window. I first created a version that I thought might be of interest to a travel magazine:

Improved Clock Tower

Improved Clock Tower

And then I moved on to create something that would look great as a large print over an old wood burning fireplace. In this one, I had to extend the wall vertically to get rid of the shadows under the roof, lighten up the wall around the lower window and also remove that fluorescent light from the upper right window. That rather spoils the timelessness of the shot! I decided to put this one on FineArtAmerica to see if anyone wants a nice print for Christmas!

Final Fine Art print

Final Fine Art print

Black Friday – Photographing Food Magazines on Sale

I reviewed this earlier in the year – I really enjoyed reading each of the issues of Taylor Mathis’ Photographing Food series. I haven’t seen his videos (to be honest I don’t like watching instructional videos much), but I thought the separate eBooks were interesting and thought provoking, but expensive.

I noticed that Taylor has a special Black Friday sale on his site with 55% off – Friday through Monday. If you are interested in having a relaxing read and learning about food photography, this could be a good opportunity. The special sale can be accessed via the button on the top of the home page here.

Worth checking out.

Can you take stock photos on a cruise – part 2

I wrote about this topic earlier this year after an ocean cruise around Australia and New Zealand. The basic question was whether the organized trips and activities gave a photographer any time to create useful stock images. In the fall, I went on a river cruise from Nuremberg in Germany to Budapest in Hungary, and every day was structured – arrive at a new city, go on a walking or coach tour, see the sights… Nice for a vacation (in fact it was like a floating hotel waking up each day in a new city with no need to pack and unpack the suitcase), but I wasn’t sure about the stock possibilities. Finally, I’ve processed and am starting to keyword the images (which is why that Lightroom slow running issue was so annoying) and I’m pleased to say that I ended up with 420 images that I plan to put on the various stock agencies. The weather wasn’t great, and so there are some cloudy shots, but there are some great opportunities for interior shots (of churches) as well as nice details that could sell. Of course, I wanted a nice set of photos of the vacation (and I put about 40 on my portfolio site if you are interested), but here are some that I have in my upload list:

2014-09-30-Europe-Heap-0159

Typical German Beer mugs

2014-09-29-Europe-Heap-0054

Interesting lock on castle door

Bricklayer on very steep roof in danger of falling

Very dangerous activity – 4 floors off the ground

Congress Hall in Nuremberg

Congress Hall in Nuremberg

So the simple answer is – take a vacation, enjoy yourself and keep looking for opportunities – both for artistic photographs and potential stock images.

Lightroom running slowly – try this

I use Lightroom all the time for both processing and keywording and describing my stock photos, and I now have 68,000 images in the main catalog or database. Basically, all my images since 2001 are in this catalog and I keep it like this as it is important to me to be able to go back and find any image from the past, however long ago I took it. The early ones are not keyworded very well, but pretty much every image that is any good since 2010 has a full description and set of keywords.

Processing is still working smoothly, but I started to find that when I added a new keyword, it would take a second or two to refresh the full list, and the same thing happened if I wanted to add the title or description – basically I would click in one of those two boxes, but I couldn’t start typing until I waited at least 2 seconds for the screen to refresh and allow me to start entering my phrase or description. Getting pretty annoying as you can imagine.

I started to think about whether I needed to split the catalog, but in looking at the size of the catalog under Catalog Settings (1.4GB), I saw an option to “offer suggestions from recently entered values” and also a “Clear All Suggestions Lists” button.

Catalog Settings

Catalog Settings

I did make use of those suggestions when typing a new keyword, but it isn’t that useful to me, so I decided to clear the suggestion lists. Like Magic… this solved my problem.

Lightroom now runs smoothly and with no delay in entering new metadata. Over time, I expect to see more suggestions pop up and if it ever gets out of hand again, I know what to do.

Which Stock Agencies do I support?

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

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!

Equatorial Guinea – stock photos off the beaten track

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 […]

Image Brief – Second Award

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 […]