The digital age has paved the way for thousands of people to whip out their digital cameras and join the world of stock photography. Online photography marketplaces called ‘stock agencies’ or ‘stock sites’ host your images with the intent to sell them to customers who might need images for personal or commercial reasons. You get paid per image with the stock agency getting a certain commission. It is a very convenient setup for everyone involved, and as such, has garnered immense popularity with stiff competition as the inevitable result. The challenge for the stock photographer is to capture the buyers’ attention for more potential of a sale. Here are some great tips to help you rise to the challenge:
1. Do not scrimp on resolution – most stock agencies have a required minimum resolution size for submitted images. Even if they do not have one, always provide the highest resolution your camera can handle. All stock buyers prefer high resolution images and if your image size is small, it will most probably be ignored. After editing your shot, use ‘Save’ or ‘Save As’ instead of ‘Save For Web’ because this will shrink your image size. Don’t upsize your image, either, since this will enlarge each individual pixel and make them appear visible (pixelation.) Cropping will also reduce image size so avoid it as much as possible.
2. Decide whether to sell macrostock or microstock – there are two kinds of stock sites, namely macrostock and microstock. Macrostock images can be resold to various buyers, with the photographer deciding the price, ranging from a few to hundreds of dollars. The tricky part is to know how to reasonably price the images. One image can earn you a lot of money but sales may occur only once or twice a month. Microstock images, on the other hand, are usually sold for a few cents but there is a much bigger potential for more buyers. Due to volume buying, an image being sold for 25 cents can quickly accumulate a lot of money.
3. Look at your images from a buyer’s perspective – you might believe that all the shots you are uploading as interesting and saleable. Before you begin submitting dozens of photos of your family vacation or your pets, think first if people would want to buy them. Just because you find them pretty doesn’t mean others will find use for them.
4. Check out what’s popular – go to the community or forum pages of well known stock agencies and find out what the current trends are. They usually post suggestions to members as to what the buyers are looking for and this information would be greatly beneficial. Browse over member threads who also often discuss what themes or categories are most often used. You do not necessarily have to be a member of the stock site to read forum threads unless you want to write a comment. Stock sites also regularly post the most popular images of members and you can learn about sought after images based on these.
5. Have a wide range of subject matter – a common mistake people commit when uploading images is to upload the same subject in angles or positions that look similar to each other. Another error is to submit the same image in different treatments such as black and white, full color or sepia toned. Buyers can get easily bored looking at these photos, especially when they are presented side by side. Prune your choices and try to submit only your best two or three of the bunch. Also remember that there are many image categories and you should not limit yourself to only a few. The more image variety you can offer, the more chances of a sale.
6. Have a specialty – with hundreds of subject matter and thousands of photographers to shoot them, it’s no wonder that competition in stock photography is intense. By finding your own specialty or niche, and concentrating on being good at it, you can build a name for yourself in that specific area. What this does is it makes buyers easier to find you and it also gives you an advantage over others in that niche. Whether it is baby portraits or abstract background images, once buyers know you are a cut above the rest, they will keep coming back for more.
7. Be critical of your work – it is only natural to be protective of your own images. After all, you conceptualized them and spent time and effort shooting them. However, you cannot afford to be sentimental once you decide to upload them for selling. Microstock agencies have reviewers who pore over every single image to make sure they meet the site requirements. If they reject your work, learn from the reasons they give. Some stock agencies might allow you to submit whatever image you like. If no one buys your image for months, learn from that lack of response, as well. Be objective with how you see your images. Buyers will not care how hard it was for you to get that shot or how much you love it. If it’s not good, be the first to acknowledge that and do something about it; either find a way to improve it or do not submit it at all.
8. Inspect your image prior to submission – always always (did I mention always?) go over your image with a critical eye before you submit it to the stock agency. Look for photographic imperfections such as the appearance of dead pixels and sensor dust, oversharpening, unintended noise or grain, and awkward compositions. Stock reviewers might reject your photo in the first instance, and buyers certainly are expecting perfect stock images. Anything less will put them off from buying your image.
Tags: photography business tips, selling stock images, selling stock photos