Would you actually give money for your images?


posted on 27th of july, 2009

From an image editor's (generalized) stand point there is three categories of images we deal with: good, average, and such that simply leave you wondering.

In spite of the (by now countless?) microstock tutorials, blogs, forums, FAQs and so on, there still seems to be some misunderstanding as to what is suitable as a commercial product and what not. Especially in regard to people who are just starting to upload images for the first time. I don't intend to dig down to the very bottom of this issue, but rather ask you, the reader, a few guiding questions. So, here it goes.

1) Would you actually give money for your own images? There's only a few things that would help one understand the market better than being in the shoes of a customer. And let's be honest - if you were to spend your money on something, you'd want it to be as good as possible. So, are your images worth the buck? ...or even the subscription commission?
Looking back into my brief history, I see quite a few shots which I simply shouldn't have bothered uploading (even with the lower standards back then). Time has very well confirmed this (lack of any sales for over 2 years).
Before I get on to shooting something, these days I always try to pause and think about the commercial value of the subject. Not every object shot on white will sell, just as not every portrait in the park is suitable for an ad.
At the end, it is only fair to expect money for your image(s) if you yourself are ready to pay some. Otherwise we're just fooling ourselves.

2) Are your images well prepared? I know that many have made comparisons between the various niches of the image market... The macrostock is for pros and the micro - for wannabe photographers who snap a ton of pictures, and hopefully some can be called photographs and used as such. Mainly because the old pros know how to plan and prepare, as opposed to beginners. I'm quite far from the thought that microstock is a joke because I've seen so many impressively creative and high quality photographs... which on top of all have sold for a substantial amount of money.
The question for you, though, is: do you think that a properly prepared and photographed scene will earn you more money than a well composed snapshot? If so, do you actually spend the necessary amount of time in preparation? I'm not talking about the "oh, this is so obviously set-up", but about the touch-ups invisible to those who are not photographers themselves. Take the food shot at the right, for example. It required the right pan, the proper ingredients, some good lighting, and the extra work to get the fire burning simply makes you hungry. While your average customer doesn't think about all of these details, they sure do look for them and appreciate it when they find them (by purchasing the image, for instance).

© Ba-mi (Help)
3) Are your images surprisingly unique... or at least do they stand out a bit? With an average 4 or 5-digit search result (for the popular subjects), how do you expect the buyer to choose you? Say there was no sorting parameters and all images were displayed at once. If you were looking for a catchy, impressive, unique image of a car, would you really spend your money on something far below the average?
If your skills, equipment, facilities or whatever else is limiting you, at least try to aim for average quality in your submissions.

I could probably go on for days, talking about the images that so often leave me wondering... However, my idea is to somehow make you wonder as well, just in the other direction. :) Try to regularly put yourself in the customer's shoes. Do some practical exercising - go after a certain topic and try to find the image that appeals to you best. See how long it takes you to find it, but mostly, once you've found it - analyze it and note down the reasons why that was the image for you. Go into reverse, and next time you shoot - try to achieve at least several of these qualities. I guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised by the results... and so will we (the editors) be, as well. :)

Comments (9)

Posted by Stuartkey on July 29, 2009
... biased by the momentum they enjoyed when the shutter was released.

Love that line!

Posted by Conceptualcreations on July 28, 2009
Technically, I bought my photos when I paid for my equipment and paid for photography school. That aside, I'm still trying to figure out what works for stock. My photographic art sells, but what makes a stock image successful seems to still elude me. Still, I'm still trying to make the necessary adjustments. I guess I'll know when I hit on it.
Posted by Starletdarlene on July 28, 2009
Great article, very helpful, Thanks

"Not all competitions are about winning. I've mentioned this in the past - microstock is more of a marathon. As long as you "finish" you're a winner. A contributor who gets into the competition seriously will inevitably grow and improve his/her skills immensely. So much, that at the end it won't matter whether he/she makes more sales than this or that person. Plus, not everyone can be a top contributor. Each of us has his/her own relative niche, and as long as we're doing well in that place, we'll also be satisfied with the (financial and not only) outcome. As others grow and we improve, we move up to a higher level. In relation still under certain users, but in comparison to the personal past - much much better"

Thanks for the above encouragement!
Posted by Petarneychev on July 28, 2009
I'm glad you guys find this bit of information useful. It didn't come to me in an instant either, though - it was a process over time. As Serban pointed out, though, one of the most important aspects is being conscious about that reality and acting accordingly.
@Shootalot - Can the averagely skilled contributors compete with the pros - totally! Not all competitions are about winning. I've mentioned this in the past - microstock is more of a marathon. As long as you "finish" you're a winner. A contributor who gets into the competition seriously will inevitably grow and improve his/her skills immensely. So much, that at the end it won't matter whether he/she makes more sales than this or that person. Plus, not everyone can be a top contributor. Each of us has his/her own relative niche, and as long as we're doing well in that place, we'll also be satisfied with the (financial and not only) outcome. As others grow and we improve, we move up to a higher level. In relation still under certain...(More)
Posted by Claudiofichera on July 28, 2009
I agree. Although sometimes I think of photos resubmited that are then sold much... The mind of the buyers and editors is a mysterious worthy to be unveiled :)
Posted by Shootalot on July 28, 2009
Petar,you are right that Dreamstime has come a long way since I joined many years ago. Standards are definitely tougher with a lot of rejections coming my way. I especially like the shot of the shrimp and flames. If I tried to duplicate that shot I would probably set my condo and building on fire. Perhaps now that the database is close to six million Dreamstime is saturated with photos. Some stock agencies have the one year limitation on photos that do not sell-they get the axe after that. Can those with average photo editing and illustration skills compete with the top photographers here? Cameras have gotten a lot better as well. The 3 megapixal camera I started out with might not cut it today.
Posted by Achilles on July 28, 2009
The title of the article is conveying a very common mistake all photographers make at some point in their career: vanity about their own creation. Just as parents think their offspring is the best person on earth photographers tend to be subjective about their own creation. They're biased by the momentum they enjoyed wheb the shutter was released. This "sin" is more often met at amateurs as so many take photos during their vacations for example. It happens less and less as they move to the next level. Tehy apply thr above or simply start to create instead of just take photos. One of the common issues with micro is less common as photogs start to mature. The process is faster if you are conscient of the above.
Posted by Littledesire on July 28, 2009
Absolutely useful blog! You made me wonder about my images :))
Posted by Wildmac on July 28, 2009
Thank you for sharing your tips. Every little bit helps. Sometimes the obvious gets lost in the planning and logistics of just capturing an image when you are just starting out :0)



Comments (9)

This article has been read 2420 times. 15 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Ba-mi, Sergei Didyk, Eldorado3d.

About me

I am a photographer based in Europe. My work includes lifestyle, wedding, portraiture, commercial images, as well as still-life . I gladly photograph Christian, charity or other aid events or projects free of charge. For more information or if you want to see my extended portfolio, please, visit my website.


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