Is Stock Photography Suited For Me?

Weigh your options in the business of photography and try to decide if stock photography is one of them. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help reach a decision:

Do my images have good composition? Are they nicely lit and free from visual clutter? 

Whether you are a seasoned or an amateur photographer, a blurry image is still a blurry image. Getting your images in any microstock site does not require you to be a professional. All you need are good images.  Stock sites have reviewers who peruse each and every uploaded shot before they are accepted in the system. If you plan to have each of your photos pass this rigorous test, learn to do quality checks yourself and be objective when analyzing your images. 

Is photography fun for me?

Photography is not all about money. If you are doing it for the money, then you are in for disappointment. It takes hours of patience and hard work to get the perfect images that would sell, not to mention post processing and getting them approved for uploading in stock sites. If this does not appeal to you, then it will definitely show in your work.

Do I have adequate photography equipment?

The most important thing to have is a digital camera. For stock sites, your camera should be capable of at least taking 4megapixels. Having a digital camera is a great way for you to practice and develop your skills without having to worry about cost of film, developing negatives, and the like. Just remember not to be too trigger happy and always spare the time to go through your images and find out the areas for improvement. You will also have to learn how to use photo editing software since this will greatly aid you in the post processing stage so you can correct all the minor errors appearing in your photographs.

Can I spare some time to focus on creating stock images?

Whether you decide to upload in microstock or macrostock sites, make sure you upload only the best images you have. Check on the current trends, what are the images that sell the most, and always upload fresh images so that the clients always have new options. All these require effort and a certain amount of time devoted to building your stock portfolio, especially in the beginning when you are still making a name for yourself. 

Do I want to earn from my photos?

Many good photographers take pictures because they love it and do not really think of the monetary aspect of it. If you are doing stock photography as a hobby and not as a main source of income, you might be satisfied with earning a few dollars now and then from your images. If you want to earn more than what would amount to spare change, you will have to be more serious as well and try to learn the tricks of the trade to get the most out of it. 

Am I willing to accept image payment of only a few cents each shot?

For some people, there is still that mindset that a photograph is certainly worth more than a few cents and microstock sites are harming the value of a high quality image.  For others, the low rates being offered in microstock sites is not considered an issue since there are thousands of potential buyers who can acquire the same image and these few cents will accumulate into hundreds of dollars over time. Your personal perception of how the stock system works will affect your decision whether or not to join stock sites.

Am I known professionally in the photography world?

Once you have already gotten the hang of the skills and expertise of being a good photographer and are earning a living out of it or are well-known in the craft, you might prefer having your images sold at macrostock sites rather than microstock.  Macrostock sites are much stricter with image quality and not just anybody can become a member. However, once you are in, you can sell your images at a much higher rate. Some people even choose to use the services of both microstock and macrostock sites. Just be wary about the sites that you decide to join because some have exclusivity quotes so read the terms and conditions carefully. 

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How to Do a Quality Check of Your Stock Photos

There are 3 basic questions you have to ask yourself when judging your own work:

Is my image technically sound?

As a photographer, it can be easy to feel subjective towards your images since you know how much effort it took you to get the shot. However, if you are into the stock photography business and will be using these images for stock, you will have to look at your creations with an honest and critical eye. These images will not just be for your viewing pleasure but will be used as a product that can garner cash. Buyers will be going over your images with the intent of buying rights to use them for whatever they need. They want it to be technically perfect, from the lighting to the composition. Images with obvious scratches or dust, over or underexposed areas, poor cropping or oversharpening, can quickly be passed on as buyers look for better quality images. In fact, most stock photo agencies have quality requirements that need to be passed for an image to be approved and uploaded in their site. These in-house reviewers will be quick to notice photographic weaknesses and can immediately reject your image before the buyer even has the chance to look at it. Be your own worst critic and upload only your best images. You might have some that can be redeemed with minor post processing, which is perfectly fine as long as the editing is flawless.

Does my photograph help promote or sell a product, concept or idea?

Aside from technical expertise, you must also show artistic expression. An image of a briefcase can be the most boring object but it can also be very appealing when creatively composed. Images that have substance, those that convey a strong message or idea, will have great chances of being used. Abstract ideas such as love, fun or stress can be presented visually in a photograph through the use of symbolism or perhaps by how the subject is composed. For instance, two people hugging can convey the emotion of love or intimacy (don’t forget to include keywords!). Backgrounds, props and secondary subjects can provide context and subtext which you can use to their full advantage.

Are there a lot or only a few images available in the stock photography site?

The market of stock photography is often oversaturated with certain themes. For example, there are millions of images of flowers and pets, to the point that some stock photo agencies hint that members should refrain from uploading them. Check out the most popular photos in the stock site and find out what makes them so special. Is it spectacular lighting or composition or an old cliché concept that has been made fresh? Stock sites usually have forums where they sometimes update members on what images buyers are currently searching for. Also, do some keyword searching and see if they pull up a lot or only a handful of relevant images. Another thing to consider is to have a specialty, a theme or technique that you can excel in so you can make a name for yourself in that particular niche. Even if there are hundreds or thousands of images with the same theme as yours, if you have a good reputation of providing excellent images, you will be one of the first that buyers will go and maybe even patronize in the future. 


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