The very first micro-stock photography image I ever sold made me a spectacular $0.24. Despite all the work, anguish, and disappointment I experienced to reach this point, that $0.24 was one of the most fulfilling photography objectives I've experienced.
Like so many other photography enthusiasts, it all began by me asking myself "how can I make money selling my pictures?" Unfortunately, I didn't have the confidence, portfolio, or pricing expertise to register for an art show booth where I would need to print an acceptable number of images in the right sizes and then sell them. I was also afraid that if I did enter a show, I wouldn't be able to compete with the professionals or be embarrassed in trying to speak intelligently about how the pictures were shot. I didn't want to get all excited because my friends told me I had great images and then endure possible disappointment. Hence I started doing my research on the internet and found all these articles about how to make money selling my images on micro-stock photography sites
My research from quite a few micro-stock websites was leading me to believe that I could make money with my images without doing any work and not having any costs. Even though my ego was telling me that I could sell my photography, quite my job, and buy a second or third home on a tropical island, the web blogs were telling me that micros-tock photography was not going to make the average photography enthusiast rich. Mostly because there are tens of millions of images available and the photographers that are successful upload hundreds of high quality images to many sites. This was not going to discourage me so I started applying to the several sites I researched, Fotolio, IStock Photo, and Shutterstock.
I'm not going to write about each approval process or about the pro's and con's of each site. I made my decision on these sites because at the time they were the most popular and I felt these presented the best opportunity at selling my images. There are many micro-stock sites. It is best to do the research and choose one that is right for you.
Each site required a free registration and had me follow very similar processes where I had to submit images for approval. Only after the initial approvals would I be allowed to upload additional images for selling approval. Looking back, I believe these site were trying to weed out the serious photographers from the "snapshot" photographers. Fotolio and IStock required three images to be approved by their screeners, Shutterstock required ten. Each site was very critical about these initial images. I could tell the screeners looked at each image very closely. I spent my time giving each image a title, a description, categories, and most important and painful, I assigned the keywords. I thought I sent them the very best images I had, but most were rejected for reasons such as:
My visions of a tropical island home were dwindling fast. I took their recommendations and learned what the sites felt were acceptable images. Images accepted on Fotolio were not automatically accepted on IStock and IStock accepted images were not automatically accepted on Fotolio. I was never able to crack the Shutterstock acceptance code. I became discouraged with Shutterstock and gave up.
Once I got accepted on Fotolia and IStock Photo, I thought I would start seeing the money flow into my bank account within the next day or two. I informed my family by showing them the pictures, I got my congratulations, started envisioning the cool camera equipment I could buy, and I started thinking about when I could quit my job. I started checking the statistics at least twice a day. No sales! I had my first images accepted on August 12, 2007. On August 29, 2007, a little over two weeks since I was approved, I checked my images and I had my first sale. I sold my "Sawgrass Lake Office Park" image and earned a commission of $0.24! I was so excited I called my family together to tell them the good news. The only issue I had was where was I going to spend the money.
I have been submitting and selling microstock photography since August 2007. The great majority of my images are hosted by IStock Photo. Over the years, I have learned a lot about shooting stock photography images and how web and advertising designers use the images in there projects. My current IStock portfolio consists of the following:
I'm glad I didn't quit my job. The bloggers were correct, I was not going to get rich selling micro-stock photography. Those that I have made contact with that are making a living, have hundreds of high quality images uploaded to many micro-stock sites.
Shooting stock photography is an art that takes practice, patience, and a keen sense of understanding the subject matter that someone may be looking for. Stock photography isn't about shooting photographs you like, or shooting nature scenes, or shooting fantastic sunsets, or cute pictures of your children. Stock photography is about creating high quality images that graphics artists and designers can use and manipulate for web pages or printed advertising. People are purchasing these images to apply them to a specific advertising theme. Good stock photography are quality images that have space for graphic artists to add captions or display a predefined message, or render a portion of the image into their theme.
For me, photography is fun and exciting. Walking the beach, meeting new people, exploring city streets, looking for and capturing objects that most people ignore in their daily travels adds to the mystery and surprise of what can I find and photograph each day. I look at each day I shoot as an opportunity to experience a new adventure while practicing my photography. Uploading my images and having someone buy an image for $0.24 or $1.24 just makes photography a more exciting and fun.
These are a few of my most downloaded images:
To view my IStockPhoto portfolio click here:
If you are interested in seeing how designers manipulate stock images with Photoshop watch this IStockPhoto Battle Royale video finalist.
I hope your first $0.24 is or was as cool as mine.
Enjoy and remember,
"Moments in time are lived once. Images of those moments live forever."