Stock Photography?

Stock Photography is something I have wanted to discuss for quite some time now.  Every one is doing it, right? They must be, if you visit any stock website there are like 8 trillion bazillion photos at each from like 8 trillion bazillion different photographers.  Inevitably there is always the photographer that everyone knows who submits stock and makes like 8 trillion bazillion dollars annually.

Well if your are not 'that guy' and you have more questions then answers, keep reading. I am going to share some key points that I feel everyone should think about even if you are a seasoned pro who has been at the stock game for quite some time.  So here we go!
Stock photography is all about sales and selling.  You are selling images to consumers who in turn want the image so they can use it to sell something else.  They could be selling an idea, a product or anything else you could imagine.  There are always consumers because stock is cheap, especially compared to hiring an individual every time they are in need of an image.   Why spend over $5,000.00 when you can purchase images ranging from .25 cents to $4,000.00.  I am willing to bet in the last statement your immediate attention went to $4,000.00.  That is a lot of money you might say for stock, now you are probably thinking of dollar signs and new camera gear, hell this could be your new career.  WRONG, reality check time.

This kind of money is usually associated with 'rights managed' stock.  Rights managed is where stock really started out.  Back in the late 80's and early 90's submitting stock was a very profitable endeavor where you could make a six figure salary with little resistance.  Today rights managed still does exist but the chances of making six figures has significantly decreased, SIGNIFICANTLY!  The reason for the decrease, the World Wide Web.  The web led to digital, which led to digital files, which led to quick downloads, which led to stock agencies getting a lot more images, which led to greater competition, which led to cheaper prices, which led to microstock.

Microstock is what most photographers will start out with.  These agencies are usually based on Royalty-Free images which can be downloaded for insanely cheap prices (.25 cents) per download.  You submit a photo, some one buys it for $1.50, you get .25 cents.  So how can you make money doing this?  Your photos can be downloaded more then once by more then one consumer.  Lets say one of your images gets downloaded 500 times at $1.50 per download.  That means ever time the image is downloaded you earn .25cents.  .25cents x 500= $125.00.  This is where you still have a chance in making some money.  An image that has a strong conceptual selling value can generate this amount and more.  So how do you make sure your image is 'that' image?

Earlier I mentioned the 8 trillion bazillion people submitting stock, so what kind of image can you create that will be different then the rest and hopefully be the one that gets downloaded?  This is the question you will need to think about more then any other.  The first place I would start is thinking about the image you want to create.  What is your subject matter?  WRONG QUESTION, you need to be asking what am I going to sell with this image.  Remember always that who ever buys this will generally be using the image to sell something.

Back to the image.  Lets say you came up with the idea to sell 'fun'.  Specifically elderly men and women having fun.  There are lots of potential clients that would want this image, elderly hospitals, nursing homes, elderly living communities and maybe even the elderly thong community.  Yeah I said it, thong, as in but floss, g-string, thong da thong thong thong.  Is there a community out there like this, I honestly don't know but we will assume there is for this example.  So that's it, you have got your idea.  Now you just have to go out and find some older people wearing thongs while partaking in some kind of activity while having fun.  Not so fast, have you checked to see if there are other images already like this?

How could there be any other images like this you might ask?  There are like 8 trillion bazillion people submitting stock, trust me, someone has usually already taken a similar picture that is technically perfect no matter how crazy it might seem.  This leads to a good idea you should listen to and try, before you go out and capture an image, search through stock libraries and find images that are similar to yours.  There are always similar images and this can help you to determine if your image has been way overdone or if your image could be better then rest.  Either way you should always take into consideration what photos are already out there. So now you find that there are like at least 30 other images of elders having fun while wearing thongs.  HMMMMMMM, how can your be different?

Lets create this image but in our the thongs will be red and the elders will be playing volleyball.  There doesn't seem to be any images quite like that and it probably would stand out.  So now you go shoot it.  You did it, just have to go home and upload the files and the money will start pouring in.  WRONG, still there is more to think about.

When uploading stock you should still be thinking about selling, but now you should be coming up with adjectives that describe your image.  The fancy term for this is 'Keywords'.  Keywords are what people search for when they are browsing through images.  The consumer has an idea and he needs an image that can help sell this idea.  It just so happens his idea has nothing to do with old people in thongs but that doesn't mean your image wouldn't be perfect.  The consumer might need an image that conveys obscurity, something random that you just don't see everyday outside the realms of stock photography.  He/She needs something that truly is different and would really give viewers that WTF response.  Back to keywords.  It just so happens you knew your photo was something you don't see everyday.  You were smart enough to add keywords like random, obscure, funny, fun, along with these you also added keywords to describe what the image really is.  Elders playing volleyball in thongs.  Well the nursing home doesn't want this kind of image but this other consumer, the one that is selling obscurity, well it is perfect.  It just so happens that there are a lot of other people who came across your image and loved it.  I mean elderly people in thongs playing volleyball, who wouldn't love that image ;).  So it's done.  Your off to the races.  You made some money.  Not millions but some money is better then none.

This is how I view stock, some money is better then none.  Once you get signed up it is a pretty simple process.  You can add a few images here and there and basically forget about it.  Check back and maybe you made a few bucks.  You probably won't be able to buy that new home you want but it definitely could help with the new lens you NEED.

If all else fails, at least you have some mildly uncomfortable very funny images of grandma and grandpa playing volleyball with their friends in nothing but thongs.  Trust me, that would be one hell of a conversation starter. 

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