If you’re shooting stock photography and earning money from it, the odds are exceedingly good that you’re not earning as much money from shooting stock photography as you’d like to be. In the last few years the stock photography and microstock game has become ridiculously competitive. It may seem like it will take you forever to build a respectable stock portfolio of just a few hundred shots. And, with many stock photography agencies now boasting total image libraries of tens of millions of available photos, your small port is absolutely lost in the mix.
What you need is a way to stand out from the crowd. There are a number of things you can do to increase your stock photography revenue, of course, but the most important is developing ways that make your stock portfolio different from all the other images that make up the ocean of stock images that an agency is providing.
First, you should understand that the vast majority of contributors to micro-stock agencies are simply proficient amateurs with decent cameras — and, that’s it. Their images, obviously, will be made up of what is able to be produced by proficient amateurs who simply own a decent camera. Thus, the vast majority of images on such sites will be these types of images. So, a powerful tool in how to increase stock photography earnings is building a sizable portfolio which is made up of images which are significantly different than these types of photos.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about: I happen to live in a very northern climate which regularly experiences some pretty severe winters. Well, guess what — areas of the world in which such conditions occur are not as highly populated as areas which enjoy regularly more pleasant weather. Lower populations means lower populations of photographers. Along with the lower number of photographers living in such areas, a great many of the ones who do, don’t particularly enjoy going out of doors in the depths of winter and freezing their butts off. The majority of photographers living in such climbs tend to stick almost exclusively to indoor photography during the winter months.
This means, of course, that photographs taken outdoors during the winter in such areas of the world are much less in number in the catalogs of most stock photography agencies than outdoor shots taken in areas with much more appealing climates. And that means, of course, less competition for any photos taken under such conditions. There’s just not nearly as many of those types of photos.
So, I push myself to regularly go out of doors during the winter and get photographs. Now, if a customer needing a stock photo comes along and is looking for a summer shot of a babbling creek, surrounded by lush, green foliage, their search might result in them being presented with a photo I took, and perhaps a few hundred, or even a few thousand such photos someone else took. What are the odds they’re going to pick my photo? However, when a customer comes along that’s searching for a stunning image of a frozen river surrounded by trees glistening in ice-cover, and a landscape buried under 6-foot snow drifts, they might be presented with my photo, plus perhaps a dozen or so photos from other photographers. The odds that they’ll pick my photo are much. much, much greater.
The fact is, there’s just not nearly as many photographers taking images of the things I’m taking images of. So, I’m much, much more likely to make a sale when someone is looking for that sort of thing.
This is what you need to do. Figure out how to minimize the competition for your photos. And, of course, this isn’t limited to circumstances you might find yourself in — such as they area you live in, or whatnot. No! There are actually ways in which you can actually arrange this.
As I said before, the vast majority of photographers shooting for micro-stock photography agencies are ‘fair-weather’ photographers. They’re glorified hobbyists with minimal equipment. So, any equipment you can purchase which such a photographer is likely not to have in their possession, yet will result in good photos that visually stand apart from photos taken with common equipment, will help in this regard.
For instance, many years ago I invested about $150.00 in a quality, variable-stop neutral density filter that could be set to reduce exposure between 1 and 8 stops of light. Matched with my cable-release, this allowed me to take long-timed daylight exposures and produce stunning images wherein clouds appear in the image with intense motion blur. If done right, the effect produced can result in an image with incredible visual impact. And, guess what! The vast majority of photographers shooting for micro-stock photography agencies haven’t made such an investment in that particular piece of gear. My images produced using the neutral density filter, therefore, are automatically set apart from most of the others in the micro-stock catalog.
So, if a customer comes along and searches for, say, some well-known landmark, they might be presented with 500 good images of that landmark. But, perhaps just a few, or maybe just one, will have this stunning and dramatic effect of motion-blurred clouds appearing to rush above the landmark. My photo, which contains such an effect, stands out from all the others they’re presented with. And, that increases the likelihood that the customer will pick my image.
Again, if a customer is searching for an image of, say, a water fall — any photographer with a camera and the ability to travel to where an attractive waterfall is located can get a good image of a waterfall. But, unless they own such a filter, they will not be able to get an image of a waterfall wherein the rushing water contains this motion blur effect and adds a dynamic element to the image. The contributors to microstock sites who do not have such a piece of equipment will far outnumber those that do. So, the customer will be presented with, say, 500 pictures of waterfalls that all pretty much look the same, and a couple of images of waterfalls that really stand-out from the rest due to the fact that they contain this interesting visual effect.
If you’ve been trying to figure out how to increase stock photography earnings, put some thought into how you can make your images stand out from the crowd. There is perhaps nothing you can do that will more drastically increase your stock photography sales. Try to think of what you can do that will allow you to create photographs that can’t be, or aren’t being, created by the majority of micro-stock photography contributors. Is there something fairly unique about the area in which you live? Do you, for some reason, have access to places or things most photographers are likely to not have access to? Do you have equipment, or can you obtain equipment for a reasonable monetary investment, which will allow you to produce photographs that are unable to be produced by people who don’t own such a piece of equipment?
You need to spend some time and thought on this. Ask yourself the above questions and brainstorm. Practically everybody has something about themselves that they can take advantage of to produce pictures that will be significantly rare when compared to what the vast majority of photographers are able to produce. You need to find everything about yourself that fits this, and exploit it.
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Good luck! And, happy earnings! 🙂