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How to make money with stock photography in 2014
Getting into stock photography
Stock Photography is actually more important than most photographers think. Photographers make their money on images. As we get older, shooting a 10 hour wedding or lugging a couple of bags of equipment starts to lose its luster. Stock photography is a great passive income source for photographers and if you like it, it could be your main source. If photography is something you take seriously it is important to understand that the images you take today will become a major part of your income in the later years.
Stock Photography is a perfect addition income to what whatever you are shooting currently. It can be done in between clients, at your own pace and in some cases at the same time as a client shoot.
To start in stock image photography, Here are some helpful tips.
- Don't shoot something just because it is popular. You will burn out quickly if you do that.
- It takes time to build up a library of images so you might as well like the subject! Be true to yourself when deciding what you want to photograph. Doing it this way you will enjoy the work much more.
- It is better to “specialize “ in one photographic topic. You want to become “known” for shooting one thing more than anyone else. Is it horses, machine parts,farms, people in office settings, wines, adventure sports? whatever you like to photograph there is a stock image company that specializes in that type of image and that is who you want to get in contact with once you build up your library.
- This is a long term process. To get a great body of work you need to shoot many photos. The good news is you control how much you want to shoot. example: only adding 5 quality images a week in 5 years will give you 1300 photos that are bringing in income.
Jack of all trades, A king of none.
I can guess what you are thinking, you love to shoot many different subjects! I understand that. But I still suggest that you specialize in one subject matter. You cannot become known for 2 or 3 different subjects, if you try to do that, then you are just a photographer. Your goal is to be know as “ The photographer who shoots XYZ…”. When people think of a subject ( whales, cars, landscapes…) you want your name to be associated with it.
Once you have a Library of images you will earn some income off of each image.From my past experience I am a believer in the 80/20 rule, that says 20% of your images bring you 80% of your money. The numbers might seem daunting right now but if you start at your own pace and keep adding photos each month and year imagine having 1,000 or 5,000 or even 8,0000 images and 20% of them are earning you anywhere from $10 to $200 monthly is very possible. And here is the best part, this can all be in addition to what you are earning currently.
A retirement account you can control
I referred to stock photography as the Photographer’s 401K, or retirement account. We all might be your and spry right now but at one point lifting these heavy DSLR’s and lugging equipment might not be as much fun when you are 60, so selling stock images is how all photographers make money long after you can’t pick up a camera. In our old age income will come from licensing our images. It is never to early to start building your stock image library. Here is the good part, Unlike a 401K or retirement account, you can put as much into stock photography as you like as fast as you want to! The more you build it up the more you will have to draw upon later in your career.
How do I find them? The greatest website for stock agencies I have found is called stockindexonline.com(stock index usa) don’t let the name fool you, they list agencies from all over the world that sell stock photography. Even better is their book that has 1,000’ s of agencies listed by subject and with contact information. It is a great resource to use to find your stock niche.
Micro stock sites
The initial reaction is that they do not pay photographers much at all. But that might all depend on where you are at with a photography career. These sites have easy acceptance qualifications for photographers. It is a very good place to learn the ropes if you are completely new to stock photography. They actually provide free tutorials and paper forms you can use for photo permissions and usage. They also have internal forums where people share their findings again which are perfect for someone starting out with stock.
These sites are also useful if you have a lot of photography sitting on your hard drives NOT earning you income. Their payouts may seem low but I think it is worse to be sitting on a few terabits of photos not earning you any income at all! Something is better than nothing if the photo is just sitting there.
I have used a few of these websites for my own work. I started loading images in the early 2000s it is nice to receive a check every month or so for sales that I did not have to process
A few of the larger sites to look into
There are many others and most have a long enough business record that you can get a feel if you want to work with them or not. I suggest that you start with only one until you get a feel for the whole process.
Think of the stock photography industry in two groups. micro and regular. Stock used to be very lucrative for photographers. Before digital, a single stock image could get you $500 -$3,000 in one sale. Of course to be accepted as a photographer on those sites you needed to present 300-400 images in a portfolio to their main office in the form of slides. Things have changed and some feel not for the better. Either way, in 2014 a photographer needs to consider multiple streams of income for the long term. One of those streams that works for you, might just be stock photography.