Maximizing your earning potential

An eye-catching title…but what can we do to increase our earnings potential from images already in our portfolio and online. I was thinking about this recently when looking at some of my better selling images on Shutterstock. One that caught my eye was this one:

microstock stock image of surfboard and blue summer sky

Good seller on Shutterstock

This is a nice clean bright and colorful image – stands out well in a thumbnail and has space in the sky for text or other copy. How can I maximize my earnings from this one image? Well, my first step was to realize that buyers might want to composite this in another image, and so why not make that easy by offering an isolated version. I carefully outlined the boards with the pen tool, and removed the background sky. The JPEG I uploaded contains the clipping path, which make isolation even easier for the designer. This image is on the third row of my most popular images on SS:

Isolated stock microstock surfboard image

Isolated Surf Boards

What next? Well, why not make this an image that someone can drop straight into an article about surfing in Hawaii? I have some nice existing stock images of beaches and ocean surf – can I create something that better illustrates a hot beach with surfboards and ocean? It is really important to use your own images for this background – you don’t want to lose your account at SS because of a copyright infringement! I decided on adding a new background to the scene, carefully blurring it (using field blur to blend from not much blur in the foreground of the beach through to more in the hills in the distance to help it blend in better). Then I ended up with an image with a very different feel:

Use of surfboard images for more stock photos

Variation 1

But what about the buyer looking for a vertical format? I decided to crop out some of the boards and make a vertical of part of this image. Arguably the buyer could do this, but as I downsize images for Shutterstock, it is a much better quality for me to do that on the original and then resize it as necessary:
Vertical format of surf boards by stormy ocean

Vertical format

Time will tell if these will sell, but for not much work, I can re-use existing images to create saleable and attractive new stock shots. They have been accepted by Dreamstime as well and so they didn’t fall foul of their “similars” policy! When you have a spare moment, think about images you already have (especially good sellers) to see if they can be modified to increase your income by catering to a wider range of designer.

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3 Responses

  1. Thejungle says:

    Hello, very useful advice! But I am wondering about all this “similars”. I am a novice, and I uploaded a few of similar shots of the same subject and they where refused because of similarity. What about that?

    • admin says:

      Hi – some sites have a strict policy, others less so. Dreamstime used to be very very harsh on similars but they have backed off recently. The key thing to keep in mind is what a designer or journalist would want. Are the pictures sufficiently different, so that they have potential different uses? Is one vertical and one horizontal? Do they tell a different story – ie the surfboards I have are set against a beach, a calm sea, a rough sea. Each of which tells a different story. So don’t just upload 20 very similar images to build up your image count – image count online (on its own) is not a measure of success. It is the sale of images that is the true measure of success and to do that with fewer images means you have worked less hard for that success.


  1. March 5, 2015

    […] Re-use those images Again, a favorite topic of mine covered in this post. Always remember that you can create new stock images from existing shots – add something in […]

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