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Sell your photos, create a Marketplace

The ability to make money as a stock photographer, is all about working with trends and applying your skills to the monetization of your talents. In order to make your photography-based business a reality, you should forget shooting what you want and concentrate on what the market wants. Luckily, inspiration can be found pretty much anywhere: street advertising, online influencers, newspapers and lifestyle publications, etc.

Before selling, you have to create a Marketplace. There are some Stock agencies you should start uploading photos to, as a beginner: Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Dreamstime, iStock. The best part when comes to uploading to Stock agencies is that you don’t have to promote your work in order to be found, as you have to do it if you open your own stock photography store. Stock agencies take care of the advertising process and as long as your content is interesting, money should follow. All major Stock agencies don’t require exclusivity, so this means you can upload the same images to multiple Stock agencies without worries.

The problem which most beginners face when they start uploading images to Stock agencies is the lack of a plan. You can find all kind of advices for beginners and the worse ones are:

 1. Upload everything you have on your hard drive; you never know when someone needs one of your images.

I started the stock journey on 8 January 2018 by uploading 10 images on Shutterstock. A day after they were approved, I had my first sell, which was an Enhanced license that made me 17$. What a better start, right? Well, that was the beginner luck but it was also the moment when I started to read more about stock photography. As a beginner, I didn’t knew how to filter the information found online, so I applied every single strategy I read about, hoping to earn money fast. Bad mistake! I started to upload food images, travel images, some illustrations, wildlife images, etc. My portfolio became quite diverse, but sales never showed up as expected.

Below are some of the junk images I uploaded during my first year as a stock photographer.

Then, I followed the second most spread of advices among contributors, the advice no. 2 from below.

2. You need to upload thousands and thousands of images to make some money these days from stock photography.

One year later, my portfolio had 950 images, most of them sets of similar images with all kinds of topics covered, but with only 25$/month in terms of earnings. Quite disappointing…

Well, in February 2019 I started to change my approach. I paid more attention to the top contributors who were also active on social media, I started to analyze their portfolios, to analyze also popular categories on each agency, to paid a lot more attention to keywording, editing and description of my images. Results started to be seen. I jumped from 25$/month to constantly 80-100$/month by the end of June. During this period of time (February 2019 – June 2019) I uploaded only 60 images and those images were the ones that were selling on Shutterstock and Adobe Stock – the agencies I worked with at that time.

The moment I knew I’m on the right track is when I decided to start uploading to iStock (at the beginning of February 2020) the new content I was producing. I have only 380 images on iStock and those images bring me around 200$/month. The same images bring me between 900 and 1200$/month from all agencies I work with. Not a bad passive income if we take into account the small number of images in my ports. For the record, the old images I left on Shutterstock and Adobe stock before changing my approach don’t bring me any income anymore, so I will begin removing them slowly (I should have done it by now already). I realized that quality and not quantity is the key to make money these days from stock photography. That and also the attention to details when comes to:

– editing (these days businesses are more interested in good to go images rather than old school edits due to the huge impact of internet and social media, which wasn’t so big 5-7 years ago)

– keywording (a crucial part in stock business because each agency has it’s own policy when comes to keywording and description)

– right time to upload; just an example related to the most popular topic of the year – Coronavirus. I see lots of beginners still posting images with people holding a thermometer in their hand with an added text in Photoshop (Positive for example) on the thermometer, hoping that such images will bring them money. An image like that would have been a good one at the beginning of the Pandemic. The market is over saturated by now with this kind of images and the demand for them is already gone. The focus should rather be on vaccination and/or the new normal lifestyle when comes to Coronavirus Pandemic. Some trendy examples can be found in my store, by clicking this link.

If you look at the images from my store, you will see what was the main thing I changed when comes to workflow. I started to shoot people because People photography will always be in demand as opposed to landscapes or food photography for example.

So, first things first: create a marketplace by making a contributor account on the agencies I mentioned above. Then follow some simple rules to avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made:

  1. Focus on people (you don’t have to work with professional models to achieve great results; start with friends and family because they have the advantage of knowing each other and your images will look authentic)
  2. Look for trends on internet (new normal it’s a popular topic so use this information and start shooting people wearing masks at work for example or people keeping social distance at restaurants)
  3. Focus on quality rather than quantity (pay attention to location, clothes, light on your models, accessories)
  4. Upload unique content and never similar images in the same batch (they will fight among them for ranking)
  5. Diversify your portfolio but keep including people in your images to make them sealable
  6. Edit your images only when you plan to upload them (trends are changing also when comes to color grading)
  7. Avoid as much as possible irrelevant keywords (for example, avoid using the keyword “portrait” in each image with a person in it)
  8. Forget about keywording programs to generate keywords for you (each agency has it’s own rules when comes to this aspect)

If this piece of information was of any interest, stay close because I’m working on an extensive Microstock guide which will be available to purchase by the end of February 2021, hopefully. It will also be available to acquire by chapters (model and property releases explained, how to find relevant keywords, editing process, props for shootings, etc.).

Remember, stock photography is a long term race, not a quick way to get a steady income.

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