I have 21 images online - Why ain't I a millionaire?

posted on 18th of december, 2012

As a contributor who has put a lot of effort into learning about stock photography, studying my craft, investing in equipment and building my portfolio over the past two years, I think there is nothing that gets under my skin more then a slacker, whiner complaining about how their portfolio of 10 shots of isolated tomatoes or a snapshot of their cat sleeping on the couch isn't selling.

Just because your wife bought you a semi-professional camera, your mom asks you to take pictures at the family barbecue and microstock agencies such as Dreamstime allow anyone with any level of experience and background participate in this market place, doesn't mean anyone owes you anything just because you took the time to post your photos.

Microstock is a market place for real business people come to purchase images for building websites, illustrating blogs and selling products. Its not amateur hour. Just because amateurs are allowed to participate doesn't mean the business drops down to amateur quality.

Amateurs are allowed into this business model for one reason - to make the price point of imagery lower. It is only because technology prices have dropped to the point that amateurs can afford professional equipment, that amateurs are allowed to participate. But the image quality demands have not changed.

No one needs or wants crummy snapshots. If you are not selling as many images as you thought you would be selling then look around at your competition here on Dreamstime. Are you images up to the quality level of your fellow contributors?

Are you producing and submitting image that you like or images that image buyers want and need?

Are you taking pictures of pretty flowers in your garden? Take a look at the millions of floral shots already on Dreamstime. Are your's better that what already exists?

We are in the company of professional photographers who do this for a living or put their "extra" photographs in microstock. Amateurs can at least do their homework strive to accomplish images at professional level. Its your choice - cry and whine or do something to improve your skills.

This is no get rich quick plan. To make a decent return in microstock takes effort, perseverance and a large, diverse portfolio full of images that buyer need and want. So dry your crocodile tears and go out there and make some great stock images.

Click "useful" if you like this "kick in the butt" blog.

Comments (51)

Posted by Peanutroaster on January 11, 2013
Great story and advice Adeliepenguin. Thanks for your input in this discussion. Shoot to pay the bills if you want to live the life of a full time photographer.
Posted by Adeliepenguin on January 11, 2013
I love the key phrase you mentioned, Peanutroaster, about not selling photos, but selling other stuff. More than one very successful (and famous) photographer has said to me "Shoot what makes the money. Then you can use the money to shoot what you love to shoot." One interesting story, I met one such photographer on a trip to the Antarctic region. He was successful shooting botanicals. Pictures of plants used in catalogues, etc. Who would have thought that would make money, right? Well, he used the money to help pay for a trip to see the Emperor penguins, deep in the heart of Antarctica, one of the first ever trips to see the Emperor colonies. One picture from that trip was bought by National Geographic Magazine. It was an absolutely incredible shot. And after the trip, he went back to shooting botanicals. Every time I shoot the beautiful scenery and places that I love to visit, in the back of my head I keep hearing, "Don't forget to shoot the botanicals&...(More)
Posted by Digikhmer on January 11, 2013
@Peanutroaster: A quick success, is part of the dream which push us to open an account and start to upload silly snapshot pictures. Let dream together all around the world.
Posted by Peanutroaster on January 11, 2013
Certainly everyone starts somewhere. There is difference between putting in hard work and expecting overnight success.
Posted by Digikhmer on January 11, 2013
We are born photographers overnight. Everyone reached the top from the bottom of the mountain. It is not coming up we should throw stones on those who struggle and cry a little on the steep slope to climb the mountain. It is like the waves. If there are high waves, it is because there are small. Big waves and eventually die and become large after small waves. I would say one thing. You beginners, join us for this great mass of DT. Among you, there would certainly Cartier-Bresson!
Posted by Emulti on January 05, 2013
Yes you can think of it as a problem-solution split. I know it might sound contrary to what a photographer wants to take a photo of; perfection. But people have a propensity to criticize, and they love criticizing flawed events, outcomes and judgement. And they love believing they have better judgement i.e. they find it in the product for sale.

You can also see this when viewing drama, tragedy and comedy in movies, plays, TV adverts, books etc. The most entertaining drama, tragedy and comedy, going back to the days of Greek and Shakespearean plays, contain stories about people making wrong decisions and then trying to correct them.
Posted by Peanutroaster on January 05, 2013
Key phrase - "I'm not selling photos, I'm selling other stuff" - something contributors need to be aware of, its not about the most beautiful landscape (unless the client is selling travel destinations), its about illustrating a need for a product or a desire for a solution to a problem. Like being cold or worrying about the future or needing a new truck.
Posted by Peanutroaster on January 05, 2013
Thanks for sharing Emulti, that is very interesting. Any links to places you've used these images that we can look at?
Posted by Johnnywild on January 05, 2013
Very well put
Posted by Peanutroaster on December 31, 2012
Did you read more than just the headline?
Posted by Inekehuizing on December 31, 2012
I know the frustration, but keep in mind we are not the only ones, their are millions of photo's on DT. Keep the faith and go on; my biggest surprise was, that photo's accepted by DT sometimes are not sold by other agencies and the other way around. Also the number of new photographers is increasing rapidly, so more competitors come on the market. We have to try to shoot even more unexpected images. That is not only applicable for me, but for the most of us i think.
Posted by Miele on December 28, 2012
very good story :-)
Posted by Sportivs on December 27, 2012
Good blog. For most people (including myself in the beginning) microstock photography seems a good/fast way to earn some money.

The brand new Dslr, found under the christmas tree, seems proffesional even with the main dial on the green square. Just press the button and the proffesional images keeps rolling out.

But like you wrote, you have to understand how to produce the images that will sell; quality and subjects.
Posted by Peanutroaster on December 27, 2012
Thanks Wordplanet for an excellent addition to this discussion!
Posted by Wordplanet on December 27, 2012
Good article as always.
Even with experience shooting editorial and ads for magazines, newspapers & websites for several years before I discovered stock, it took me a while to get the hang of which types of photos worked best as stock, so it's not surprising that amateurs may feel discouraged or confused and vent those feelings in the forums.
But people need to be realistic. DT has millions of photos and if a contributor's are going to sell they need to stand out among the thousands of others with the same keywords. You might get lucky with the occasional grab shot - but consistent acceptances and consistent sales require a lot of time and hard work.
Even as a pro I find that I have photos that have sold close to a hundred times in the last year on some sites which were rejected on others, including some rejected by DT. Conversely, I have some good sellers here -level 4 and 5 photos, that other sites rejected. That's the reality of this business.
Travel and nature photos - which...(More)
Posted by Kentannenbaum on December 26, 2012
If someone whines that's usually their problem. What's become a serious problem for the universe of quality shooters is the willingness of previously thoughtful companies, like DT, to NOT allow the best of the image-makers to opt out of these nonsense subscription sales. I've been doing this a long time and consider my work above the ordinary...yet, I suffer the insult of 29¢ commissions. DT and others ought to be ashamed of the choice they made.
Posted by Kentannenbaum on December 26, 2012
If someone whines that's usually their problem. What's become a serious problem for the universe of quality shooters is the willingness of previously thoughtful companies, like DT, to NOT allow the best of the image-makers to opt out of these nonsense subscription sales. I've been doing this a long time and consider my work above the ordinary...yet, I suffer the insult of 29¢ commissions. DT and others ought to be ashamed of the choice they made.
Posted by Peanutroaster on December 24, 2012
That's a charitable and kind thought but truly there some pure whining posts.
Posted by Linushutz on December 24, 2012
Some people like myself ask specific questions because they want to know and gauge the time and effort, because maybe they are already doing other things (Wedding Photography, Portraits, FT job) and want to see if its any worth taking the time to expand to micro stock photography. But in the end I don't think they ever posted just to whine, the reasons was always to collect information and improve.
Posted by Peanutroaster on December 23, 2012
Yes, I think you need to strive to get to the point that you know what a good photo looks like and don't need to ask anyone. I've spent a lot of time at the college library just flipping through books of the classic photographers making mental notes.
Posted by Robinstockphotos on December 23, 2012
Well I always read everywhere "don't let your images sit on the hard drive", as if you can throw them out and they would go to level 5. ;)
That's really what a lot out there think. What I also learnt is - never ask family and friends "how is my photo"?
Posted by Chanevy on December 23, 2012
Flying dolphin, I can relate to that! I initially purchased my 7d because I had been wanting a DSLR for a long time and was getting ready Togo on a once in a life time trip. Then I stumbled across stock photography and thought I would try it. Somewhere along the way, I got addicted to the idea of getting accepted, then I wanted to make sales. I cannot do this full time, but I work hard to get better every month. My goal is to eventually have a bit of residual income to help make ends meet when I am able to retire from my day job and concentrate on generating income from things I enjoy.
Posted by Flyingdolphin on December 22, 2012
I hope I am improving, I am certaining more thoughtful about the photos I take and a lot more critical of the results. I know some people expect instant sales, but some of us are just enjoying the experience.
Posted by Peanutroaster on December 21, 2012
Are you an amateur who expect results without learning your craft? Or do are you constantly striving to improve your skill? There is a difference.
Posted by Flyingdolphin on December 21, 2012
I would like to add my comments as an 'amateur' photographer. I had been told that my photos were good, by friends and didn't think much of it really.
When I discovered microstock I originally just wanted to get approval from a professional source. I looked at the images and decided mine would probably not sell. But I started to submit some and have gradually learnt more about the images and standard required.
I have now started to get some sales and each one pleases me, especially as I have had a couple of extended licenses.
Originally I thought I would never get paid so my first payment request was unexpected really.
I am just trying to say that not all amatuers expect great things, and enjoy what sucess they have. Please dont be too hard on us.

Posted by Peanutroaster on December 20, 2012
Art, stock - its all commerce. I wouldn't split hairs over it.
Posted by Rosipro on December 20, 2012
@Gmargittai "... The amount of downloads and money a photo makes gives an objective way of measuring your art."

I wouldn't mess up art and microstock. Microstock is pure business with very high standards. But artistic shots seldom appear as commercially valued as isolated tomatoes or apples...
Posted by Rebeccaosborn on December 19, 2012
i could not agree more!
Posted by Littlemacproductions on December 19, 2012
Well the one good thing about the whinning is it prompted you to write a nice blog that questions why and what to do to get your STOCK ON!

See... there are positives in everything even whining!

BRADCALKINS your tomato is a level 5 because it has excellent quality!
Posted by Celiaak on December 19, 2012
I was a good kick on the butt, we need this to get back to work, work work and not expect the money falls from the sky. I have learned I am so bellow the standard here that I post photos only on the days I feel more corageous. Anyway I keep trying to make them better, hoping some day I'll get near the average.

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Comments (51)

This article has been read 4521 times. 9 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Ayeletkeshet, Peanutroaster.

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