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!
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 trip to Colorado to see some friends and, or course, take some photos, including the climbing ones I blogged about last week. Total time in Colorado was 4 days and we were pretty active, starting with sunrise shots in Denver:
Sunrise in Denver
Followed by a long stroll through the city spotting stock opportunities along the way:
Bike Sharing in Denver
Then a drive through the mountains to our destination – Buena Vista:
More Artistic Images
Then a few side tours to see places of interest – in this case, Cottonwood Pass just outside Buena Vista:
The climbing came next, but also an opportunity to watch expert kayakers in the white water playground that runs through the center of the town:
And, finally, a couple of hours drive to see the Great Sand Dunes National Park – luckily I grabbed a few shots from the road leading to the park as the clouds then came over and we had a very poor end to the day – no sun, no shadows…
Sand Dunes National Park
OK, so good. In the 4 days I took just over 1000 images – of course, some were stitched panoramas, some were HDR shots, and so that wasn’t 1000 unique images, but I ended up with 200 appropriate stock images from my editing process. So I had to process each one, take quite a number of the climbing ones into Photoshop to remove marks and designs from the climbing helmets, belts, shoes, shirts because although I had model releases, they were not really released without the removal of trade marks. Although I didn’t accurately track my time, I probably spent about 30 hours over the next 10 days processing and fixing the images in Lightroom and Photoshop. To give you some idea, out of the 200 images, about 75 needed to have some cloning or other work in Photoshop in this batch. Even so, 200 photos in 30 hours is about one every 9 minutes! Then I have to keyword them. Because they form quite a varied collection – I don’t want too many images of the same basic subject – the keywording isn’t a matter of doing one and copying to a big group of similar images. As a result, I have spent probably another 15 hours in total in describing and keywording each image. I use the Microstock Group keywording tool to help with this process, but even so, I try to keep my images a bit different to the most popular keywords for similar shots.
Then, I need to upload and get them accepted into the various sites. I haven’t done that yet, but I suspect that I will spend another bunch of hours on that in the coming days and weeks. Overall, a three day vacation and shoot turned into 200 saleable images after probably 50 hours of work. Bear that in mind if you are looking at this purely as a business venture.
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 – the one with image stabilization. I have to put my earnings to something, and I was really impressed with the reviews of this lens and decided to take some really wide shots of the climbers to give a feel for the location. The sun was in a great spot and I’m amazed how well this one came out – there was a little lens flare in the lower right (which I cloned out), but this was pretty much the full frame. No ghosting, no loss of contrast – great sharpness from edge to edge. This one was taken at 1/320 second and so the AF was not needed, but I’ve taken some very sharp shots down to about 1/10th second if I calmly breathe through the shot. I’ll be writing more about the locations and types of shot I was looking for on this trip as I finish processing and publishing the images.
Rock Climbing Buena Vista
What I like about this next image is that the entire weight of the climber appears to be on the toe of one shoe and these tight finger grips on the sharp quartz filled granite rock of the climb.
Hanging on with fingertips
Next up – don’t forget the details – the climbing shoes with ropes and other climbing aids. It all helps set the scene and could be used in a climbing magazine to illustrate preparation:
Shoes Ropes and Clips
As I had model releases, it was natural to capture some smiling outdoor enthusiast shots – in this case, abseiling down the rock face back to earth. The position I took nicely captured the distant mountains clouds and blue sky:
Glad to be outdoors
Finally, I wanted more technical shots of difficult moves with a lot of detail of the equipment necessary to climb these rocks. Not sure what they are all called, but I have a photo of them!
After a “dry spell” on Fine Art America, I awoke to a sale of a print of the harvest moon rising over Washington DC this morning. Some great sales on Shutterstock as well this month, so it could turn out to be a great month for earnings from stock photography. More later!
Harvest Moon over Washington DC
A few months back I wrote about my experience with the Singh-Ray Gold’n'Blue polarizing filter. Some people rightly made the point that it was expensive and the use of filters in Photoshop (or plugins) could do the same. I’m not so sure and recently used it in my trip to Tampa and surrounding area. On the boiling hot and humid day that is a Florida summer, I tend to minimize the equipment I carry and so I put my new 16-35mm F4 lens on my Canon and fitted the gold’n'blue to it. First – I didn’t really see any vignetting – the filter is sufficiently thin to avoid that. I also noticed that you had to be careful (as with any polarizer) for certain issues in the sky with a wide angle – the effect on darkening the sky is strongest at 90 degrees to the sun and gets weaker as you approach 180 degrees (ie sun behind you). That is the same with this polarizer and occasionally I had to back off the color change to account for this physical phenomenon. However, I found that it could almost always improve the almost greyish blue of a summer sky in the humid south with a much brighter more saturated look. Here is the image I took of a boardwalk path leading to the ocean with no filter. I was using the 24-105mm lens at this stage. I have processed this as much as I could in Lightroom to improve the sky and the contrast between sky and clouds:
No Filter on humid summer day in Florida
Then I went back to the car to get the wide angle lens, added the filter and started taking images with intent of maximizing the blue in the sky. This is the same location about 10 minutes later:
With Gold’n'Blue Filter
Quite an improvement (in my view) to the previous one. I continued using that same lens and filter for the next couple of hours as I made my way up the coast. Here is one of some sea oats with the yellow sun shades on Madeira Beach in the background. I used F4 on this to try to get close to the plant and blur the background. The lens was set to 30mm for this one (on a full frame). Again, a lovely deep blue sky, which was nothing like the image I was seeing at the time. Remember – stock photography is not about what something looks like, but how you can create an emotion in the reader that makes them want to go there!
Madeira Beach, Florida, with Gold’n'Blue Filter
Another update in my regular series. Total income for the month was $2217, which is about $200 higher than last month, but, on the downside it is pretty similar to what I earned 12 months ago on a smaller portfolio! That isn’t a great sign for me. As usual, Shutterstock easily overwhelmed all other sites with about 45% of total earnings. iStock was next with $235 and finally I am out of the 6 month “recoupment” program where they were with-holding money each month because of an overpayment on the Partner program last year. I’m not expecting much from iStock though – they seem to have hit a plateau. Alamy was pretty good at $204. As I have mentioned before, I am separating out interesting, unusual and definitely editorial images these days and putting them only on my own site plus Alamy, Corbis and Zoonar (as RM). So far, I have been on Corbis for 5 months or so and have grown my portfolio to 345 images. Although I have reported no earnings yet (they pay when everything is cleared) I’ve seen some early sales and have perhaps sold 10 images so far.
My own stock site BackyardStockPhotos.com had $44 in sales, which puts it well above CanStock for the month. Sales are intermittent, but I keep my fingers crossed! I did talk with one buyer who was looking for a large panorama for his office wall. He thought $20 for the file to make a 5 foot wide print was a good bargain!
Hope your sales are doing better!
Successful Image Brief Image
I’ve been working with Image Brief
for about a year now. It is basically an online image request service – a buyer with a specific need in mind posts their requirement and budget and photographers get to upload up to 10 images that meet that brief. I’ve been awarded one brief to date (and got $220 for it) – an image of the Acropolis in Greece that has ended up (I think) in a travel magazine. One key thing to bear in mind with this site is that they need to see a reasonable portfolio of images showing a selection of styles and also that they are really looking for Rights Managed Images. My recent strategic shift to put my best images (and editorial images) on RM sites is helping in this regard, but I also do submit (with the site owners agreement) some RF images to the lower priced briefs as long as I state in the comments that they may have sold as RF. I think they are reviewing this RM requirement, but you should also note that some of the more expensive briefs also look for exclusivity – so you need to watch for that.
I find the site intriguing – partly as a way to potentially earn more for an image, but mainly for the creative ideas I get from it. There was one one brief recently for concept images for gluten in bread and asked for images of a skull. I had a session in my studio (and photoshop) to create images like this.
Dangers of Gluten in bread and flour
I didn’t win this particular brief, but I am left with a series of images that I would never have thought about. Great for creativity!
Please use my link here to apply to the site – I may get a referral fee if you are successful with a brief!
Sunset skyline of Tampa Florida
My previous post covered the first two days of my recent trip to Tampa and how I approached it as a stock photographer. This post expands on the opportunities around Tampa if you are there for some other purpose (as I was) but have a bit of free time. I [...]
Hi Res Panorama of Tampa Skyline from hospital carpark
Tampa from Platt St Bridge
I had an opportunity to visit Tampa last weekend because of a business trip to the area, and so decided to travel early and spend a couple of days shooting the sights (and sites) to extend my portfolio. This [...]