By David Mail
Got a digital camera? Now you can earn money selling your pictures on the Internet! If you have a good eye and if you are a creative person, you can generate very nice monthly income by selling your pictures on stock photography web sites. Personally, I am receiving checks and PayPal transfers for few hundreds bucks every month and you can do it too. At least, it pays you back for all that nice and expensive photographic gear you have purchased last year.
I truly love online stock photography Internet phenomenon, since it is the first in the world and probably the only business model which allows amateur photographers like you and me to earn some money from they lovely hobby. In fact, if you are a talented photographer and you shoot hundreds of pictures every month you can earn a very significant part of your living by shooting high quality creative pictures for stock photography agencies.
There are many stock photography sites that will be happy to sell your photos and share with you the received revenues. iStockPhoto, ShutterStock, Fotolia, BigStockPhoto and CanStockPhoto are just few stock sites to name. All stock sites allow you to register for free as their submitting photographer and start uploading your work to their banks. However, be aware that many sites will ask you to provide detailed personal information such as a scan of you picture ID or passport. Also, at many sites you will be requested to sign and fax back a signed copy of the site’s ‘submitter agreement’. These requirements are part of continuous effort of limiting the image fraud on the Internet and protecting both image buyers and image copyright owners from the fraudulent behavior.
In addition to the submitters authentication, many stock photo sites will ask you to pass a professional online test, which should verify that you have all the required photographic skills and that you understand rules of the game on stock photography market. Do not be afraid of that test. If you know the difference between shutter speed and the aperture and if you can explain what is DOF you will pass this test for sure. And the basic stock photography rules are quite simple:
1) Do not submit images that include any copyrighted material Avoid photographing company logos, trademarks, third-party images and brands.
2) Provide a model release for any recognizable person in your image Each site has its own standard model release form that you have to fill in and send along with each image containing a recognizable person. It could be a good idea to keep handly printed copies of model releases for all the sites where you submit your photos. When you shoot a person, do not forget signing her on one or more model releases! Note, that most sites will also ask you for the copy of model’s ID, the witness signature and a copy of witness picture ID. Keep all this in your mind when you prepare a stock shooting session
3) Editorial content Some stock photo agencies, e.g. ShutterStock has a separate section / category for editorial images. Different rules set apply for editorial content. Editorial content can be used only in news and therefore editorial images do not require model releases and can include copyrighted material. So, if you have shot a carnival in Brazil do not throw out all your pictures because you do not have model releases for all these people. You still can submit your images as editorial content at some stock photography sites. However, be aware that there are not too much buyers for this type of content and the submitters’ competition could be tight.
4) Use appropriate lighting and composition This is common sense, but I will mention it anyway. Your images compete for the buyers attention with images created by highly qualified talented professional photographers which shoot for years, own nice equipment and definitely know how and when use it. You must think creatively in terms of lighting and composition, otherwise your images will never sell.
For instance, if until now you relied on built-in camera flash as a proper source for indoor lighting it is a time to change your mind. Go to the stock sites and take a look how other photographers use light in their work. You will probably need to switch to some more professional sources of lighting for your indoor photography. Again – be creative and you will win the war for the buyers’ attention and buyers dollars!
5) Images format must be JPG at most sites, typically starting from 2 megapixels and with max file size of 8-10 MB
6) Properly prepare your images before uploading them to stock photo sites First of all it means digital editing. There are many software applications that can help you to edit your image, starting from the industry standard de-facto Adobe Photoshop tool, followed up by the newest and much cheaper than Photoshop Adobe Lightroom and ending up with Google’s Picassa, which is very limited in its editing capabilities, but is available free of charge. Do your best editing your pixels. In many cases some light extra-saturation will help.
However, making your image look gorgeous is still not enough to create a bestselling picture. Think about buyers. Buyers still have to find your image among all the similar pictures in the web image database provided by a stock agency. It means you have to describe your image using appropriative keywords, title and description. It is important to do it before uploading images to a stock photo site, otherwise you will need to add keywords at every stock site, thus multiplying image preparation time.
Fortunately, keywords data can be inserted directly into JPG file, so the image carries its own keywords. This image metadata modification protocol is called IPTC and is implemented by some graphical applications, e.g. Adobe Photoshop. Editing IPTC data and selection of proper descriptive keywords can take significant amount of time, especially if English is not your mother tongue or if you just much better in taking pictures than in describing them in words. Buyers will never find your image if it was loosely keyworded, but the proper keywording and upload to multiple sites can take a while! Additionally, if you wish to keep the control what image was uploaded to which site and when, you might be completely lost after uploading a few tens of images.
Fortunately, there is dedicated stock photography management tool which takes care of all the issues above. ProStockMaster provides significant aid for a stock photographer by streamlining stock photography workflow. The application sports semi-automated images keywording, IPTC data editing, EXIF reading and provides simultaneous images upload to multiple leading stock photography agencies. ProStockMaster is available for free download from the product web site: http://www.prostockmaster.com. The free version is limited to 5 image uploads daily which certainly could be enough for many beginning stock photo submitters, saving them tens of hours of routine image preparation and management work in front of their computers.
7) Prices and payments – what income you can expect Most stock photography agencies pay photographers for each download (a purchase) made by the image buyer. This is a micro-payment model and the prices you get paid start as low as $0.20. However, if you were successful to create a real bestselling image you can easy hit few hundreds downloads a month, so your earning arithmetic can be $0.2 x 300 = $60 monthly for a single image. Shooting 10 bestsellers monthly could generate you $600 monthly income – definitely not a bad return on a few hours investment.
The rule of the thumb says the more images you have online in each and every stock photography agency the more images you sell and the higher monthly income you get. Typically, stock agencies send you a check or a PayPal transfer at the end of every month if you have earned more than a certain amount of cash, typically $100, during that month. Your earnings will be collected by the site until they reach this minimal payment.
Well, that’s all folks! Just take your digital camera now and go for a shooting session. Oh, – wait!, wait a second. First, open your web browser and look what other people submit to stock photography agencies. Note the most popular images and agencies suggestions for stock content categories and keep these subjects in mind when you shoot. My personal advice? Avoid flowers close-ups, typical landscapes, city scenes and buildings. Try to materialize business terms and shoot pictures which represent them,e.g. ‘success’, ‘failure’, ‘partnership’. Be always creative in your work and your pictures will become online bestsellers. Good luck and happy shooting!
Useful URLs: Online stock agencies: www.shutterstock.com, www.istockphoto.com, www.bigstockphoto.com, www.canstockphoto.com, www.fotolia.com,
Free stock photography management tool: www.prostockmaster.com
Adobe image editing tools: www.adobe.com