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’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
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
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
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.
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:
Typical German Beer mugs
Interesting lock on castle door
Very dangerous activity – 4 floors off the ground
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.
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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]