Well as usual my milestone got delayed by 4 days. I wanted 4000 photos approved and online on Dreamstime by 30th September, but somewhat missed that! I remember the first photo getting approved 3 years ago after uploading some 30-40 pics! It was of children crossing the street on a rainy day, not a technically good photo but still it was something of a huge excitement. Then my first sale of a baby monkey portrait, more motivation for photography. It is really weird how I have ended up here!?!?
My photography started a year before my stock photography with a Nikon F55, analog SLR. But it was very limited considering the developing and printing costs. My first digital camera Canon A310, a 3.2 megapixel was the start of my digital photography. I was tempted by the earnings of stock photography thinking its easy money and ending up understanding later that it was not. 3 cameras and 3 years later here I stand with 4000 images online on DT with more than 6700 sales, I am still striving to improve.
There are a few tips I would like to share with my fellow experienced as well as in-experienced photographers about stock photography in particular. I am giving these as business tips as a successful contributor (if you consider me one) and not as an experienced photographer.
1.Make you portfolio special. It is more important to have buyers adding you as their favorite more than other photographers adding you as favorite. The buyer shouldn’t search for any other portfolios when he has a requirement that you are specialized in. The buyer should directly visit your portfolio for his requirement instead of making an overall search regardless of any agency. Let your portfolio have a particular subject that you will pioneer.
2.Don’t follow traditional composition rules. These images might get approved quickly but won’t have good sales as non-conventional compositions would. ( I am sure that editors would disagree to this, but this is my individual opinion due to experience).
3.While clicking a picture, imagine your composition in a photo-frame or a brochure as applicable by the subject of your image. This approach will give you the best results in nature, still-life and non-studio shots.
4.Do not upsize. For beginners, don’t go for camera’s with higher optical zoom, instead go for a camera with higher resolution and lesser zoom so you can downsize picture to the required sharpness incase they are blur. Getting crystal clear sharp pictures is mostly possible with SLRs, tripods and/or studio setup. Generally consumer cameras that we use don’t give us required sharp results resulting in rejection of the image.
5.Its not the thumb-rule that SLR is the best. Most of the non-slr’s which are often termed as consumer semi-professional cameras give better results in terms of colors because of their consumer status. Try to use all the features of a small camera and you will be surprised with the results. Believe me, my bestsellers regardless of any agency or subject have been taken from NON-SLR cameras. SLR surely improved my approval ratio due to the manual controls, but then we don’t always get the time to set those controls. It is always ideal to carry a camera all the time, and a person like me whose main profession is not photography cannot carry an SLR everywhere.
6.Do not argue with any agency about rejection of your submissions. Believe me sometimes it is more profitable to have an X image only on 2 agencies instead of its presence on all 10. The vague and different pricing structures of different agencies actually benefits us for sales when that image X isn’t online on all agencies.
7.Give your models exposure and some help. When you find your own image used for some purpose you do get happy don’t you? If you pass your discovery to your model, it makes them happy… especially if they are seriously into modeling, a printout of the usage it adds to their portfolio.
8.Keep a watch on message boards and blogs. There will be a lot of information there which will help you learn about the stock photography business. You will also find many forums and sites which track the individual sales of contributors. Looking at those graphs will help you understand seasonal trends and subjectwise sales and also which agency sells how much in which month. Its very important to know all this.
9.Prioritize your image uploads by subjects as well as agencies. Some agencies might sell a lot for images with subject X wherein some other agency might not be selling the same images even once. So check what sells and most importantly… where!
Most importantly, past experiences of other pioneering photographers are important, but avoid the trodden path… Make your own one!