Lately, these seems to be alot of whining on the message boards about images not accepted, editor choices, acceptance ratio, etc. I have been thinking about these comments and I decided to reflect of my own progress.
Let's establish three facts before starting this blog.
1. I am a professional wildlife photographer that makes all his living from this one pursuit. There ain't no pension, saving account, or sugerdaddy funding this lifestyle. (hint: if you buy one of my images, it is going to a really good cause, feeding starving artists :)
2. Occasionally there is a free lunch but usually; I need to buy my food and that cost money; I need to make money to eat; occasionally, I like to not feeling like a starving artist.
3. I live in the wilderness of Far East Russia so my needs are diminished; but as I said, there is seldom a free lunch. If I do not sell my images, I do not eat; I am not fond of living of the land-I like commercial food that comes from a grocery store.
So we have established that I am a wildlife photographer that needs to make money; DT is a major contributor to my food budget. Now let's discuss the meat (pun intended) of this blog; acceptance of who you are; photographically speaking! I believe acceptance of who I am will help increase my productivity and thereby increase my DT earnings. When most of use joined the world of microstock, we had dreams of making tons of money. Most of us have read the blogs by Yuri and have seen that he has over 30,000 images on Dreamstime. Just thinking about this has me thinking of stacks of money and the ability to purchase new cameras, new studio equipment, steak dinners, margaritas, etc. Well, guess what; I just started on Dreamstime 11 months ago-I have accepted that this is going to be a long uphill battle. I am getting decent sales and making money but it will be a long time till I can afford a luxury lifestyle. With consistent daily effort, I will get more images online and thereby, make a bit more money. Also, as time passes, the same images begin to sell for a bit more money thereby increasing my earnings.
I have played the "stock game" here on Dreamstime about 25 times. Despite my best efforts, I consistently score between 50-70%; translated, at best-7 out of ten times I pick an image that will sell. I have now accepted that I am not the best judge of what will sell. Therefore, I will do my best to submit quality images but not be upset when some of them are not accepted because they are not stock material. Case in point, the birch tree image has sold five times; not what I would consider a top seller but it has done well for me.
My acceptance ratio has been hovering around 79% for the last six months; before a series of mistakes (like the rejection of 20 quality butterfly images-DT does not want your butterfly images, they don't sell and they have plenty), it was about 83%. Despite my best efforts, my acceptance ratio has remained at or near 79%. Of the rejected images, about 40% were rejected because they are not stock material. Duh, did I not just write that I am not great at picking the most sell-able images. Another percentage are rejected because of visible logos or other such nonsense; translated-I need to slow down and edit my work more consistently. About 5 percent of the rejections are because the DT editor made a mistake; yes, they are human and they occasionally make mistakes. If I feel strongly a mistake has been made, I send a polite letter to the staff and they usually get back to me in a couple days; sometimes they agree with my assessment and accept the image and other times, guess what-image still rejected.
Next on the acceptance agenda: I hate processing images. The first couple minutes processing an image is fun; after that, I am done and do not desire to spend hours at Photoshop tweaking an image, adding light streaks, doing cutouts or cloning, combining images, etc. So this results in the acceptance of the following fact: get it right in the camera or do not bother photographing it. If shooting products, make sure they are clean; make sure the light is even, make sure the composition in pleasing, etc. If shooting animals, watch the background for ugly elements, shoot as lowest possible ISO for reduced grain, use the correct camera setting so you do not introduce artifacts and such on post processing, use sufficient depth of field to get the subject in focus but not so much that the whole world is also part of the picture.
Lastly, I accept that an image that sells will earn what the buyers pays; not what the image is worth. Yesterday, I sold an image of the sign outside a national park; this image took 5 seconds to stop the car, roll down the window, stick out the camera and click. Made a little over six dollars for this one image; that's a lot of chinese noodles for my dinner table. I was at this same park for over a month. I photographed landscapes, deer, bear, salamanders, frost on leaves, etc. None of these images sold for $6.00 and I spend weeks trying to get the best images.
So I encourage all to consider who you are photographically and accept your place in the Microstock jungle. Please note, nowhere in the blog article did I say anything about producing sub-quality work and submitting that hoping it would be accepted. Nowhere did I say to be satisfied with your own personal status-quo; we all need to strive to improve.
I wish you all the best and I hope others are enjoying photography as much as I.