The photographic explorations of a former film student.

My Adventures in Stock Photography

I tried the TV experiment, and I didn’t get anything a kid couldn’t do accidentally. The need for more research was evident. So I thought I would share a brief history of my experiment in stock photography to this point. Honestly, I haven’t gotten far, so I can tell you more what not to do than what to do. If you are reading this and know more than I do, please leave a comment with advice or correction.

1. Don’t try to start with iStock

You will only depress yourself if you do. Many stock sites require you to submit samples of your work in order to become a contributor. iStock requires you to submit 3, all of which must pass. If only 1 passes, you can just submit 2 more. However, you must wait increasingly long intervals between attempts. I think I quit at 3-6 months. It can go up to a year, and I’m afraid of what happens after that. Start with a site like Bigstock or Fotolia to get your feet wet. They don’t require initial approval. If you turn in 10 and only 1 meets their criteria, you are a contributor and you can turn in more any time you want.

2. Just because it wasn’t accepted doesn’t mean it’s bad. Just because it was accepted doesn’t mean it’s good.

Early on, I got a lot of rejections stating my photographs were not the right subject matter or composition for stock. Look at other stock (this is a good use of iStock) and keep trying. It comes with time. On the same note, if you wouldn’t want it in your portfolio, don’t turn it in. I know it seems like a no-brainer, but that brings me to my third point.

3. Personal quotas have their pros and cons.

Read any forum for stock photographers and you’ll be told it’s a numbers game. I have a tiny portfolio. I haven’t sold a thing. Every so often, I think “Let me shoot 10 images for stock today. Maybe I could do that 5 days a week.” Well, I am new to stock, and it’s not the only think in my life right now. I am looking for work, sometimes working, volunteering, and living with other people. I need to help with housework and pet care every so often. Not very many of those 10 a day made it through retouching to be turned in. Even fewer were accepted. Later, I set a goal of 15 in a week. If I had experience and better equipment, that might be reasonable. I don’t. I turned in 15, and I regret some of them every time I go to my Bigstock portfolio. See if you can guess which ones. Quantity is good, but so is quality. I set the goal at 10 a week. If I don’t have a goal, I’ll never do anything.

4. You don’t NEED expensive lighting equipment.

It would be nice, especially on cloudy days and at night. However, I take most of my photos using an open window and a large piece of white paper board, maybe a mirror. I’ve had some luck using old photography lamps that take standard lightbulbs. You might also try a desklamp. As the days grow shorter, I’m working on using my speedlight to create ambience I can use instead of the window.

My Portfolios:

My next goal: Shutterstock. This is the big brother of Bigstock. It requires initial approval of 7 out of 10 images. You can try again every month. Last time, I was only 2 shots short of acceptance. I’m also looking to have a portfolio of 100 shots on Bigstock by the end of January.


Next Week: Fake Flowers and Imitation as Flattery

I was just thinking that I’m not going to see many real flowers for quite a while, so I decided to take a close look at the fakes. Maybe a very close look.

4 responses

  1. I’m afraid I’m way over my head here, but I will say I found the post well-written and informative. Even a neophyte like me got something out of it.

    November 19, 2011 at 12:36 am

  2. Thanks for all the great tips, I don’t make stock photos, but it was an informative read :)!. Thanks for the “like” on my blog post about Operation Christmas Child :).

    November 20, 2011 at 1:28 pm

  3. StrangeLittleGirl Photography

    Thanks for the info, I’ve thought about giving images to stock sites, but never made it happen. Thus far have you earned any money off it? I can see it taking a while to actually make anything given how many images are on a site, and how people love to use free stuff.

    November 25, 2011 at 4:03 am

    • No money yet. I don’t have enough out their right now. I’ve also been told that some photographers in years past put a few pictures into it here and there to eventually help with retirement income. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait so long to get some kind of return.

      November 26, 2011 at 1:13 am

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