After all these years I still don’t know what to think about stock photography. Today I love it, tomorrow I’ll hate it.
When you look at the idea of selling stock images it seems like a sweet deal for everyone. But the things are a bit more complicated. It’s about money, off course. All involved parties want to earn more money or to spend less. Photographers think that piece of pie agencies left for them self is too big, agencies on the other hand don’t think so and every now and then they think of some way to pay photographers even less money. Buyer will never be satisfied with the price as low as it is and he will want more for less money.
So today we have situation that photographer receive app. 30 cents per photo sold on stock agencies like Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Dreamstime etc. You can make more money, depending on kind of package buyer has or how the photo is going to be used, but basically you are collecting crumbles and hoping that by the end of the month you’ll have big enough pile to achieve your selling goal.
A lot of photographers hate stock and stock photographers, they think they are ruining the photography business and guess what – they are right. But you can’t stop it because as we see the market hungry for cheap photos is huge. Every web portal, every magazine, designer, media company…they all have some kind of subscription on stock photos. They don’t want to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for one shooting, they need couple of photos and they want it for few bucks in just two clicks.
Hell…the market is so strong that 3 years ago Adobe bought Fotolia for $800 millions. Now their stock library is integrated into Adobe CC package.
If you are full time pro photographer you probably won’t do stock photography because you will make more money by chasing clients and do normal shooting. But there are a lot of photographers who want to work from home when and how they want. They don’t want to chase clients, negotiate about price, begging for their money, shooting what they don’t like.. These photographers will use stock agencies to make some extra money or even decide to do it as a full time job to make full month wage.
Can I make it?
Everything is possible in stock world, you can go home empty pockets or you can make millions like most famous stock photographer Yuri Arcurs. A lot of people quit their stock career before they even started for real because they think I will upload 20 photos and by the end of month I’ll have some nice money on my Paypal account. When that doesn’t happen they just said this is stupid and quit.
First rule of stock is It is a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t know what wise man said this first but every experience stocker is using that line. Because it is truth. There is no overnight success! You need to work for it – hard.
I will extract the guidelines everyone in stock business will tell you when you are starting with your portfolio.
- There is no overnight success
- be patient
- be determined
- upload, upload, upload
- think about every title and keywords
- follow trends
- shoot people
- upload photos to multiple agencies
Anyway, there are a lot of advice, but from my experience it is all throwing dust in the eyes. I know 10 people doing stock photos and every one of them has their own story.
To one of them success come after one big batch upload and since than he is making some decent money, he just went over the crumbles threshold and he is doing fine now. So he was convinced that you need to upload all the time and do it in big batches. He also thinks that your descriptions need to be like little poems.
Other guy, pro photographer is having nice photos, a lot of people in portfolio and he is making very nice money even though he didn’t upload anything for months. His sale is stable. And he doesn’t care for poems in description.
One guy opened account a long time ago, had some solid start, than he stopped and now after few years whatever he uploads it just doesn’t sell. So basically he’s not making any money.
Some people are uploading some really stupid shit and selling like crazy.
All I know is that I’m trying to understand and to work it but there is no improvement whatever I do. I would say, OK I have lousy photos so I understand, but I know even worse are selling. Then I was thinking about maybe my descriptions/keywords are not so good. Guess what – I’ve seen photos with misspelled words, missing main keywords, basic descriptions and they are still selling. Maybe I should follow trends they are recommending? Still nothing. Once I’ve uploaded batch with 20 decent photos of the trend subject they recommended and not a single one was sold.
So I really don’t know what to advice to newbies when they ask me. I’ve been sucked in stock abyss for around 7 years, and I’ve been pressing that F5 (refresh button) like crazy but there is not a single thing that I can connect with good or bad sale. Do this or don’t do that. I really don’t know what to say.
There are a lot of conspiracy theory about selling’s like agencies are giving more space to new photographers because they are paying them couple cents less, or they have locked our accounts for some time or at specific part of day. Don’t submit your photos during weekend because nobody buys over weekend and by Monday your photos will disappear from New photos and you won’t sell anything. If you are in their “lower drawer” you will have shitty sale.
At the end of the day is it worth it?
Well it depends. I don’t have time to do anything else and stock gives me freedom to do it when, and how much I want so for now I’m willing to spend some time on selection, descriptions, keywording and upload. I also like that careless money collecting. If you make it will be there waiting for you on your account.
But as I mentioned above I think my sales should be higher and if something doesn’t change on Shutterstock soon, I don’t know if I’ll have will to continue.