If you love to take photos and want to make money with your hobby, stock photography seems like a good opportunity. In this article, I will describe what you should consider and learn so as not to come up with unpleasant surprises.
Buy a quality camera!
Yes, if you are serious about stock photography, buy a DSLR or MILC.
Don’t get me wrong, photos taken with you mobile phone also have a place in stock photography! However, for the reason explained in my article Mobile vs. DSLR, you won’t be able to take advantage of stock photography if you’re only taking photos with your mobile phone.
There are photographers who insist on manual settings, while others use automatic settings. If you have a high-end machine, you can safely rely on its automatic settings. However, if you have bought a lower / middle class one, you are better off using the aperture priority mode. Or even the full manual mode. It's just a matter of practice.
A small mobile phone lens becomes a disadvantage if you want a nice blurred background. On the one hand, the software solution of your cell phone creates quite an artificial effect, and on the other hand, it is not always that perfect.
If you want to take stock photography from the hobby level to the business level, you have to invest in a DSLR or MILC interchangeable lens camera.
Learn the basics of photography!
In my experience, a lot of hobby photographers start off with stock photography, but the lack of knowledge soon becomes a pain. Stock photography is not an online money-making opportunity for anyone! If you look around a stock photo site, you’ll soon realize that serious, professional photographers are also uploading images that are sure to be hard to compete with if you stay at the "weekend photographer" level.
For conscious photography, you need to learn at least the basics and later develop your knowledge and skills through continuous self-education.
Ask yourself if you would buy your own pictures? If not, there is still room for improvement in your photographic skills.
You can find plenty of Youtube videos on the basics of photography, and have a look at my articles in topic Basics of Stock Photography for a start.
Read the forums!
Before you ask any question in a forum, take a close look at the posts, because chances are the same question has already been asked several times. Every newbie stock photographer goes through the same steps until they learn the specifics of the business.
The best way to speed up the process is to study the forums of stock photo sites. The photographers have accumulated a lot of valuable experience and advice over the decades.
Choose the stock photo site you like best!
Once you start to feel comfortable in the world of stock photography, I suggest you choose only one site, you like best.
You’ve probably run into forum posts where people keep saying that you need to upload your images to multiple websites at once to have enough revenue. This is true once you’ve got to know the stock photography routine and the quality of your images is also high. In the beginning, however, if you want to upload to more than one stock photo websites at a time, you could easily be overwhelmed.
This is because each stock agency is so different, both in their expectations and in the upload process, that sooner or later you will be fed up with the whole thing.
Study the forum of your favourite stock photo website and the conditions of uploading images!
If you've already found your favourite stock photo site, dive deep in their forum. Follow experienced people and even take important notes for yourself.
It is my personal experience that I never had to ask a question if I didn’t understand something because I always found the answers in the forum. Of course, sooner or later you can share your experience, but in the beginning it is better to have a one-way relationship in the forum.
Take photos primarily at your home town, but a lot!
I guess you started off with stock photography because you take a lot of photos and want to do something with them. If so, think about what topic you might be best at. If you live in a smaller town, not a metropolis, you can be sure that few or no people have uploaded pictures of the buildings, streets, landscapes, traditions, events of your home town. You can easily check this. Search for the name of your home town on your favourite stock photo website.
Set the goal for yourself that you will upload as many photos of your home town that the majority of the whole amount on this topic will be yours.
Choose from your existing images, be strict with yourself!
Have you taken a lot of photos and heard that the more you upload, the better your chances of selling? Forget that attitude. With too many, but average, even similar images, you only spoil your own chances.
When you sign up for a stock photo site, you will be asked for 3-10 photos to decide whether to accept your application. It's a good idea to show off your photos with as many different topics and composition as possible. You can use this method later too: the more diverse your portfolio, the more likely customers will prefer your pictures.
True, there are those who only upload photos in special topics (e.g., sea creatures or airplanes, etc.), but these topics are so special that there is very little competition. The number of sales in this case is no more than for a mixed portfolio.
Do you feel like a photo of yours is not what you wanted? Don't upload it for sale! Think about building a gallery where each photo tells something about your skills and perspective.
Look around the photos on your favourite stock photo website and try to create better ones!
It is very important to search the stock photo site for your topics before you upload anything. What did the photographers upload before you? Can you photograph better, more unique than them? It’s true that customers are looking for new content. They even search for a specific keyword every day to see if there are any new photos.
Take better or different photos than the ones uploaded by others! Customers will choose your images if they are taken with a different perspective and / or are of better quality than the others.
Strive for high quality and accuracy. Only upload images you like!
Always think of stock photography as a service to meet the needs of your customers. However, in the eyes of customers, quality comes first.
Accuracy is important for the discoverability of your images. Without relevant, well-worded titles and keywords, even the most beautiful photo will be hidden.
Keep improving your skills and knowledge!
It cannot be stressed enough that learning stock photography is an infinite process. Life is always confronts you with new, unknown situations in which you have to do your best as a stock photographer.
Gathering experience never stops. The content of the forums is constantly growing, so you will have your reading portion for every day.
Carefully maintain your portfolio, after all, that’s what customers see out of you!
Think of what you show about yourself when someone clicks on your name and sees your photos. Do you have any images that, to your present level of knowledge, you would no longer publish? If so, delete them from your portfolio.
Did you notice spelling mistakes, typos or misspellings in the image titles and keywords? Fix them now!
Browsing the forum or sales / search statistics revealed that customers are searching for different words you used in the title or keywords? Correct the titles and tags on your photos accordingly!
Never give up!
Many people give up stock photography if sales don’t start within 1-2 months. If you had to wait 1-2 years, it would seem like an unimaginable amount of time. A real example: photos uploaded to the Alamy stock photo company website often begin to generate the long-awaited regular revenue in 2-3 years!
If you strive for quality and uniqueness when taking your photos, you might want to wait for the business to start. If you consider your stock photography to be a business rather than just a hobby, you can expect increasing revenue.
Perseverance and consistency are the foundation of any business. This is also true for stock photography.