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!
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 was still searching for a good sunset, and so on the Tuesday evening after dinner I decided to try the city again, so back in the car and down to the General Hospital car park again for sunset and dusk shots of the city skyline. This evening was much better as far as light was concerned. The sun sets off to the west (naturally), but this still gives nice coloration to the sky behind the city when seen from the hospital. I took the shot above, then a stitched panorama:
Hi Res Panorama of Tampa City Skyline Florida
And then a series of HDR shots as the night slowly arrived. I use the merge to HDR function in Photoshop and then process the resulting 32 bit file back in Lightroom as that gives a natural look but also great noise control as you have a very wide range of exposure values to play with. I think this one is my favorite of the bunch of HDR shots:
Night time descends on Tampa Florida
Up early the next morning (my last day in Tampa) for the sunrise found me down at Ballast Point Park off Bayshore Boulevard south of Tampa. I wasn’t that lucky with the sunrise and the city of Tampa is some way across the bay from here – so a 200mm lens with 1.4x extender was necessary to fill the screen with the city skyline. Of course, that brought the mist and humidity into play (as well as steamed up glass on the lenses) and I struggled to get a good shot. Closer shots were more interesting – another fishing pier and a Great White Egret in the water:
Great White Egret at Sunrise off Tampa
But the day was not done yet – it was only about 7am and so I drove into Tampa to the University of Tampa and the old moorish architecture of the main building there. I found (later) that you can park in front of the building, but I found some street parking nearby, and took a good few shots of this interesting building as the sun rose higher into the sky.
Wide marble balcony of University of Tampa Floriday
Even then, a stock photographer’s day never really ends, so I went up to the top floor of the car park at the airport to capture a few editorial shots to finish my trip to Florida. All in all, I ended up with around 145 shots that I have uploaded to my own site. Quite a number of these are editorial in nature and I’m putting those on Alamy and Corbis. I may remove the signs from one of my Tampa skylines and submit that as RF on the microstock sites when I get a chance as well. All in all, a productive couple of days.
Terminal at Tampa International Airport
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 long post (which I might break into two) is intended to give a photographer’s view of the area and the best places I found to take iconic photos of this area. I must first give a word of thanks to Andrew Vernon, a photographer based near Tampa, with a great blog about the best places for sunset shots. Andrew kindly helped me with some sunrise locations as well as I will explain.
I flew into Tampa International Airport in the mid morning on Saturday. Nice airport, and easy access to the car rentals. A word of warning – both Thrifty and Dollar were extremely busy and the agents took a good 10 minutes per person, so I waited over an hour to pick up my car. I’m usually good at turning down the various “fees”, but they were threatening about the need to have a printed proof of my rental car insurance from American Express, and then caught me out with the toll charges you find on Florida roads where your number plate is photographed and the rental company can charge an administrative fee each time your number plate is snapped. Of course, for only $8 a day, they can waive this charge. I think I could have avoided a couple of tolls, but I couldn’t see an easy way around this extra charge! The other rental companies were far less busy – so perhaps if time is critical, choose one of those at Tampa.
I used my smartphone and Google Maps to get around – worked fine, as I had a car charger for my phone. My first destination was the car park of the Tampa General Hospital. Thanks to the tip from Andrew, the top floor of this car park gives a great panoramic view of the city and skyline. Parking is only $3 and free for the first hour. I decided to leave the car there and walk into the town, taking this view from Platt St Bridge along the way. I continued past the Convention center to Harbour Island (for a nice lunch at Jackson’s Bistro). From there, a walk back to town to catch the TECO tramcar to Ybor City.
Tramcar to Ybor City
Clearwater Beach Florida
The tram is interesting, Ybor City perhaps less so. There are some good street scenes, tattoo parlors, cigar shops for local color, and, of course, the trams. But it is pretty hot in mid summer (and humid) and so it was all I could manage to walk round a few streets then catch the tram back to the Convention center and back to my car to cool off. There is a ticket machine that takes cash and credit cards for the tram in the city center – they don’t have change on the tram itself. I decided to go to my hotel next – I decided to stay in the Hampton Inn in St Petersburg – nice and clean and close to my sunrise spot for the next morning. After unpacking, it was off on the road again for a sunset. Unfortunately, the clouds seemed to be gathering, but I had decided that Clearwater Pier was going to be my destination and I arrived a couple of hours before sunset. This is a congested area at the weekend – no parking close to the pier, but there are some public parking places a little south along the main street. The beach is typical for this area – white and wide and crowded. The clouds were still around and so I took the opportunity to take some lifeguard huts, some people shots and the coin operated binoculars on the pier. As there was no hope of any type of sunset, I headed back to St Petersburg to see if that had better opportunities. There is a jetty out into the bay with a now-closed restaurant at the end, and I walked out there to look back to the city of St Petersburg. Again, the weather was not helpful and so I didn’t even take a shot. Just decided to have a beer in the small bar at the entrance to the pier – perhaps 25 local brews if you like that sort of thing!
Sunrise from Fort de Soto Park
Up early the next morning for sunrise. I had decided on Fort de Soto county park to take shots of the Sunshine Skyway bridge that stretches across Tampa Bay. I was at the park well before dawn, but if you turn left on entering the park and then take a car park on the right, you can get a good view of the bridge from the beach. The sunrise was OK – not great, but a little manipulation in Lightroom brought out the colors that I was sure were there. I spent the next couple of hours in the park – lifeguard chairs, fishing piers, beaches, canoes, cycle races and some fellow photographers trying to get close to a sea bird.
Three keen photographers and a bird
Boardwalk to Sunset Beach
My plan now was to travel up the highway on the coast and check in on all the beaches that Andrew had recommended in his blog post. First up was Sunset Beach at the southern end of Treasure Island. Some great boardwalks and sea oats growing from the sand dunes. Of course it was boiling hot again, and I decided to leave the main camera bag in the car and just take my new 16-35mm F4L lens (the one with Image stability) and also try the Singh-Ray Gold’n'Blue filter
. I often find that I put a lens on the camera and that is fine for an hour or two – your eye tends to see the shots that best fit that lens. Here I was after the paths and steps to the beach. I’ll do a separate blog on the benefits of using this filter – but on hot humid days when the sky is more a light greyish blue, the picture here shows how the filter can really make a difference to the blues in the sky. I wandered around this area taking signs, more board walks, some beach scenes (although Florida beaches are not that photogenic in my mind…). So after an hour or so, it was back to the car and on to Madiera Beach. There is an interesting drawbridge over the channel here, and then a long wide beach with sea oats and grasses in the sand dunes again. A nice line of yellow sun shaded beach chairs to lead the eye down the beach as well. What surprised me with the filter is that even with a very wide angle lens, the sky was not suffering from the sort of polarization issues that you often get. You can rotate the filter to change the hue and I tried to balance it out to get the best blue color and wide coverage that I could. Of course, the wide angle helped with getting very close to the sea oats to give some foreground interest.
Madiera Beach behind Sea Oats
Redington Beach and the pier there was next. It is tough to find the pier – there is a small sign to a fishing shack and parking for that fishing shop, and that is the right spot. I managed to get some street parking here, which saved a little cash. The pier is interesting – wooden beams, perhaps now showing its age, but there were some good beach and detail shots here.
Fisherwoman in the sea by Redington Beach Pier
Sponge Diver Statue at Tarpon Springs
Now back to the car and on, I decided, to Tarpon Springs. A great pub/restaurant for a late lunch in the old town of Tarpon Springs (not the dock area), but after that leisurely snack, I went on to the dock area where the Greek sponge diver community still remains. It is pretty touristy now, but interesting and great ice-cream from a little shop in the small Sponge Exchange shopping center. There are also boat trips down the river, but I’ve never make that journey! This statue of a sponge diver is in the main street – this was again taken with the Gold’n'Blue filter and you can see one of the side effects – the blue colored reflections off the surfaces of the statue. Not a problem in this particular image, but the filter works by changing the colors of reflections – sky, water and other objects as we can see here. By now – mid/late afternoon on Sunday – I had to make my way to the hotel where my real work was about to begin. However, I made use of a bit more time in Tampa to take other shots – Part Two
will expand on that!
Blog size bought for $1
As I’ve mentioned before, I set up a Symbiostock based stock photo site
about 12 months ago. I’m steadily adding my backlog of images to the site – although I have focused on adding all new ones, and then the older portfolio images as I get time. My approach these days is to put any image that has un-released people or objects on Alamy, Corbis, Zoonar (under the RM license) and on my own site, BackyardStockPhotos. Images that I think are particularly good, or somewhat unusual in subject matter go on those sites as well. Standard stock images are submitted to those sites as RF as well as to all the microstock agencies. It is still too soon to tell if that is a great strategy, but I have enough images spread around various sites to be able to test it!
My own stock site continues to show some signs of life – I’ve tended to price images at around $20 for the maximum size, although sometimes I put that up to $40 for very large panoramas or particularly good shots. Again – hard to tell if that is a good strategy just yet! What I am seeing is a little stability in sales now – better than many of the smaller agencies that have a larger share of my portfolio – I’m at 3000 images now on BackyardStock. So how good is the sales record? The last three months have had sales of $31, $30 and $22, and so far this month I have sold four images for a total of $44. One image sold for $1 (blog size), one small size for $3 and I have sold two at the full size:
$20 for full size panorama
Sold for $20 at full size
Sold for $3 at small size
We have another week to go this month so if there are any buyers reading, now is the time to set a record month!!
One thing that is pretty strange – I have 3000 images for sale, and yet I have sold two copies of that Washington DC monument shot, and three copies of the panoramic landscape in Wales in the past three months. I’ve even sold a similar treatment of that surfboard shot and a different view of the glass of beer by the pool. I wish I knew what I have done to make those two shots either easy to find on Google, or so interesting to buyers. I have posted the sales on Twitter, but that is about all. If anyone can work out how these become more popular than the others, please let me know!
Back last November and December, my wife and I flew to Sydney to join a cruise ship (with Celebrity cruises) down the east coast of Australia, across to the South Island of New Zealand and around the southern tip and back up the east coast of NZ to end in Auckland. It was a wedding anniversary trip and really enjoyable (I would truly recommend Celebrity for a cruise like this), but I had questions in my mind about whether the organized day trips would be good for a stock photographer. Obviously, I’m back now and have been through the 3871 images I managed to take in the 3 weeks we were away. To be honest, some of these were panoramas, some HDR shots, so it wasn’t as extreme as it sounds. I took two bodies and my full set of lenses with me (the second body being the Canon Rebel T3i which I bought for its very small size) and had my tripod as well for land based shots. So I was prepared! Out of all those images, I edited it down to 653 images that I really liked and thought had some potential for stock, and in that batch I decided that 280 were better suited for RM on Alamy, Corbis and my own site, BackyardStockPhotos. As I’ve outlined before, I’ve decided that I have enough images now on the main microstock sites (around 5000 on Shutterstock, for instance) that I can afford to try different approaches with my new images, and so I’m taking images that I think could be saleable, including people to add some action to the shot, including art works where they are important, and putting those under an RM license on Alamy and Corbis and on my own site under an editorial license. In summary, this trip netted 370 RF shots and 280 RM images.
When I think about shots I took on the trip, quite a number were taken on land either before the cruise started (in Australia) or on the day trips. Being on land under your own control is obviously the best approach as you can be up for sunrise:
Sunrise behind Sydney Opera House
Or, indeed at sunset:
Sunset in Sydney
But, the cruise was actually OK for some stock shots. These fell into three main categories – the detail shots that are not really identifiable as being on a particular ship:
Christmas Tree on cruise ship
Then there are the shots that I managed to get from the ship itself as we went into port or into the various Sounds on the South Island:
Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand
Finally, there are the day trips. Trips around a city are fine, you get to see some interesting buildings, but the light is as you find it – no chance of waiting until dusk, for instance. The trips to see the countryside are harder on a stock photographer – you get put off at a viewing point, and you have to take the shot alongside your passengers. I went on a train trip into the mountains, which was fun, but the one open car was packed with people trying to get their holiday shots, so there was a bit of tension as I doggedly hung onto my spot by an open window!
Taieri Gorge Railway
You can see a general idea of the shots I took by searching on BackyardStockPhotos – here are the New Zealand shots.
Would the trip have paid for itself in stock sales – I very much doubt it! I did enjoy it as a vacation, could set the costs against my business for tax purposes as I took thousands of images for my stock business, which is also good, and I’m planning another cruise between Germany and Budapest (a river cruise) later this summer, so I guess that tells you all you need to know!
I’m going to get back to posting more regularly on my blog – I know I have been a bit slow of late. I’ve been working hard on rewriting my book – now at 3rd Edition, and also working more in my day job which pays better than stock photography! Anyway, back to some information on how sales have been going. Unfortunately, June 2014 was not great – I ended up with just over $2000, with no particularly good results on any of the sites. Shutterstock failed to reach the $1000 mark again, iStock ended with $267, and Alamy was an unremarkable $116. Here is what the graph looks like for earnings over the past 3 years or so:
Growth in Earnings June 2014
My own site, BackyardStockPhotos had two sales, one for $20 and one small one for just $2:
$20 sale on BackyardStockPhotos.com
I did sell one small print on FineArtAmerica, for a profit of $32:
Space Shuttle over Washington DC
Remarkably, I sold $60 on MostPhotos, which must be a world record. Normally it has been $5 to $10, but I’ve been noticing more sales there recently. As I have said before, I used that site because it was easy to upload to, and you could download the original image – so it made a great backup site for your images. But now that sales are starting to appear, it is turning into a nice site.
Finally, Zoonar continues to impress me – after $158 last month, I earned just $30 this month, but that is much better than a lot of sites. Again, easy to upload to.
If you plan to join any of these sites, please check my links over on the left!
I didn’t get around to posting earnings at the end of April. It was an OK month with total earnings of $2203 – a big drop from the $2729 earned in March. The biggest reasons for the drop in earnings was a few sites with large earnings in March not following through in April, and Shutterstock was unfortunately down to less than $1000 again. I plan to do a bigger analysis of earnings per site and will post about that later this month. Overall most sites performed OK, with Alamy at $249 and Zoonar at $102. The good news for me is that my Symbiostock site (BackyardStockPhotos.com) sold three images in April (at $20, $10 and $1) and so earned more than CanStock, GraphicLeftovers, YayMicro, MostPhotos, Cutcaster etc. This month (so far) I have sold two images at $20 and $10 and so things are definitely starting to move on that site. To be honest, it is still not paying its way since I moved the hosting to an upmarket VPS server but I’m OK with that. My strategy of uploading my general stock stuff to the main microstock agencies and then putting all the editorial and the better artistic shots on my own site plus Alamy and Corbis should eventually pay off I believe. The proof is still to come, but I am going to keep uploading new images to BackyardStock and not worry about the cost for now.
A second bit of good news from the Symbiostock stable is that Leo, the developer, is working on a streamlined and much faster version of the software. He has learned a lot of lessons from the past 12 months and is applying his learning to a new release coming in a few months. Symbiostock currently has 280,000 images on 179 sites and so is not going away.
My sales in April on BackyardStockPhotos were:
$1 sale for Blog size
$10 sale for Medium size file
$20 sale for full size stock image
My previous post recommended that you remove your images from the Dollar Photo Club because this $1 for any size image for almost any use will destroy the market for single use images on the other sites – that earn us a lot more than the measly $0.29 we will get from this Dollar Club. [...]
I tend to be a photographer who learns by seeing a neat idea, researches how to do it, and then incorporates that technique into my workflow. I’m not good a watching online videos, and have never been on a training course. So, what I am doing spending $695 on a two day creative photography workshop [...]