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!
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 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 [...]
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 [...]