Shooting Stock is incredibly frustrating

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Promit, Oct 6, 2011.

  1. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Real Name:
    Promit Roy
    I thought I'd try my hand at doing some stock photography. After all, I spent a lot of money on this equipment and it'd be nice if I could pull some revenue back. Pick a nice easy subject -- street signs in my case -- and upload some gorgeous shots. Take some care and should be an easy self-fueling hobby, right?

    Holy god.

    I found a moderately sized site with a low minimum payout and very fast turn-around on image review. 21 submitted, one accepted. Auuugh! Complaints about noise and CA that I can barely make out. Exposure complaints nearly across the board, either because the sky's blown out or because the sign's too damn dark. Some complaints that sharpness isn't quiiite perfect at 100% on a 12 MP image. (I assume. They always give vague reasons.) I figured there would be a learning curve, but these people are extremely unforgiving. Submitting an acceptable 100% (non-resized) image seems near impossible, with sharpness and CA constraints that simply exceed what the lenses are capable of. I'm going to try re-submissions with resizing waaay down, and I'm clearly going to have to spend a lot more time with histograms.

    The need for technical perfection here could get exhausting really, really fast...starting to wonder if maybe I'm out of my league.
  2. s0nus

    s0nus Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 13, 2010
    Interesting! That really sounds fierce. Can you maybe post some shots for us to take a look at?
  3. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    Real Name:
    There's soooooooooooo much stock around they can afford to be. But, I'd keep going. Once you get to the point where you're getting regular acceptances, imagine how awesome you'll be technically.

    You could try and PM soundimageplus (david). He makes his living from stock.

  4. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Real Name:
    If it were easy getting paid to take photographs everyone would do it (God, I know I would). That's why it's called WORK.
  5. DDBazooka

    DDBazooka Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 3, 2011
    Post process?
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I recently tried submitting a few images too. Most of them were rejected. Definitely frustrating!
  7. Art

    Art Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2011
    San Francisco, CA
    Hmm.. Sounds more like work than fun.
  8. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Lighting is key. Don't bother trying to submit stock with ambient light. Your skies won't be overblown and your subject too dark if you use proper lighting on the subject. Neither will you see CA, and your images will be a lot sharper if you're using strobe lighting.
    • Like Like x 2
  9. ksn

    ksn Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 6, 2011
    Ever look through stock images because you needed one? There are some craazy ones out there, like "half naked woman with pained expression ironing a polo shirt while baby sits in the background eating cheese crackers" or "man with guitar playing cards on the hood of a race car"
  10. KVG

    KVG Banned User

    May 10, 2011
    yyc(Calgary, AB)
    Real Name:
    Kelly Gibbons
    I thought about doing this for the heck of it, is it worth it?
  11. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2010
    There's no easy answer to the OP. Without seeing whats being rejected, I couldn't really comment on why that is so.

    As flash says, I make 90% of my living from this, and have been doing it for over 20 years, so here are a few tips that might make it easier if you're trying to get started.

    1)You have to spread yourself as wide as possible. Don't go with just one library, go with as many as you can. I have work with 16 currently.

    2)You need quantity AND quality. There's a rough guide that says that once you have a certain quantity online, you can expect to make an amount equal to $1 per image per year. However you need 1000's up for sale before this kicks in.

    3)Its a long term job. It can take years before you start to make any real money. People think its an easy option to make some money. Its not. It takes as much work and persistance to become successful, as it does to make a living from portraiture, weddings, advertisng, commercial etc.

    4)One rejection is nothing. My first library wanted to see 1000 "sellable" shots before they took me on. The first batch was turned down, so I had to shoot another 1000!

    5)Have a good look at whats out there. Check out all the sites, looking at what the competition for your kind of image is. Do you have better shots? If not why would anyone buy yours?

    6)Ignore the fact that somebody on the internet said your pictures are good, ignore the fact that you have taken competition winners. Stock is about what designers and picture editors want. In virtually all cases, your images are to serve the text, not vice-versa. Look in newspapers, magazines and on websites. How are pictures used? What kind of pictures are used? Many of the pictures you see are fairly ordinary, but most will be well composed and technically OK. My most sold image is of a bathroom!

    7)Be prepared to work really hard and long. Shooting images, editing them, captioning and keywording them takes a long time.

    8)Shoot ALL original images raw. The final product is going to be sold for download at jpg.8 usually, so shooting on jpg. originally means the image will degrade too much.

    9)View all images at 100% to check for CA, fringing, noise, artefacts. Make sure your levels are within printable limits. Most libraries require 5 to 250. i.e. no pure white, no pure black.

    10)Shoot everything you can at the lowest ISO possible, including interiors. If you don't own a tripod, GET ONE!

    11)Make sure your image is bright and well-exposed. Learn to get this right in-camera as it means less work later and your images will look better.

    12)If you shoot travel, landscape etc. never shoot in dull, overcast light. Nobody is going to buy pictures like that, unless you are shooting extreme weather. Blue skies sell pictures.

    13)If you shoot lifestyle, people etc. you will need model releases. You will also need to update these regularly as clothes, gadgets, cars, interior design etc. go out of fashion very quickly.

    14)You may get get pictures rejected simply because the library has too many of the same, they don't think it will sell or its technically poor. With the amount of images available, libraries can now be incredibly choosy about what the take. They expect top quality, both aesthetically and technically. If you can't give them that, there are lots of others who can.

    15)Stock photography is now global. You are competing with the whole world! Libraries tend to have all the pictures of cats, dogs, sunsets over lamposts, cute toddlers they are ever going to need. Modern online libraries have millions of images online. Alamy in the UK has 20M + for example.

    16)Does your image look good as a thumbnail? Because thats how people will view it first. What is going to make them click on it to see the larger version?

    17)With regard to the above, keep it simple. If you need to write a couple of paragraphs to explain whats going on in your picture, then you are in trouble.

    18)Stock photography is nothing to do with art.

    19)Did I say stock photography is nothing to do with art?

    20)With regard to 18 & 19, take as much trouble and care over photographing ordinary domestic objects or street furniture as you would over a glorious landscape or a beautiful model. If you do that you are the ball park.

    21)Don't be afraid of the obvious. Don't be afraid of simple. Just make sure your image is as close to technically perfect as you can make it.

    23)Yes size does matter. The more MP's you have the larger your image, the more potential it has to sell to the clients with the biggest budgets.

    24)Actually reading the libraries submission guidelines helps. I used to run my own library and people who thought that they were "different" and could ignore my requirements got rejected. To be honest the technical standard of the material I received was also pretty dire on the whole. "It'll do, its only for a library" seemed to be the attitude of many.

    25)Finally, following on from the above, send only your "best" work to a library. Also send what people like. I use flickr a lot. I post several images and see what gets the most hits and the most positive comments. These are often not my personal favourites.

    Still interested?

    There are advantages.

    1)You get to photograph what you want, when you want, in the way that you want.
    2)If what you happen to like photographing has a market, you can do very well.
    3)You have no client breathing down your neck and looking over your shoulder and giving you the benefit of their "artistic" advice.
    4)If you shoot "non decade specific" images your pictures can have a very long "shelf life" and be earning you money for years.
    5)You get to try your hand at all kinds of photography. Landscape is my love, but I've shot house interiors, industry, still life, performing arts, lifestyle, models, transport, animals, product shots and sport as well.

    The most important lesson in all of this is to look at photography in all its commercial manifestations. Can you shoot an image like you see in the adverts, the billboard, the magazine article, the brochure etc. that pass your eyes every day. Absorb what you see, think how its done, say to yourself "Can I do that?" Chances are what you are looking at is a "Stock" photograph.

    Its often been said that if Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray etc, submitted images to a picture library they would probably get turned down.

    Finally, I work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year doing this. I happen to love it and think that I have the best job in the world, but not everybody feels he same. If it just turns into another chore, then it may not be for you.

    The suns out now so I'm off to take some more pictures!!
    • Like Like x 40
  12. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Thanks, David, that is some of the best information I have seen anywhere on this topic. If you haven't published that as an article on your blog, I think you ought to!
  13. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2010
    When I ran my own library I had some bizarre requests. One was for a picture of the Queen (of England) launching a ship when the bottle wouldn't break. They asked for it to be model released as well!
    "Excuse me your majesty, could you just sign this........."

    My favourite however was for a wheelchair space on a French train with a man sitting in a wheelchair, naked, smoking a pipe!!

    "Sure no problem, would you like it portrait or landscape?..........."
    • Like Like x 4
  14. Bokeaji

    Bokeaji Gonzo's Dad O.*

    Aug 6, 2011
    Austin, TX
    I have insane trouble organizing my silly snaps. No way could I organize thousands of things that actually MUST be organized. Lol

    - Eliot
  15. alans

    alans Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 28, 2010
    I like bicycles as much as I like photography. Perhaps if I buy a pro bike I can make some money winning races to support my habit.

    No offense to the OP, it's just not that easy.

    Thanks David, for your information and insight.
  16. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Real Name:
    I occassionally look at my flickr account to see where people come to my images from. The people constantly doing a Google search for "hairy feet" disturbs me, but doesn't surprise me. but how often people search the phrase "underwater ferris wheel" is kind of mind-blowing. Several times a time sometimes. Am I missing something?
    • Like Like x 1
  17. DrLazer

    DrLazer Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 23, 2011
    Sheffield, UK
    @soundimageplus thankyou for your in depth and versed response! very helpful indeed. I have just started out with stock photography. In fact the truth is I have just started off with photography full stop (or period if your american).

    After going through the "becoming a contributor" process and then submitting a few images I got a reasonable success rate. I think this is probably because I am mainly a macro photographer and for me to make an image usually takes a whole day or so (sometimes more). Obviously this doesn't seem like too good of a plan - I need quality and quantity. The whole idea of stock is kind of exciting though, I have thought about spending a whole day shooting a theme just for stock. I think I should probably make that day happen.

    One thing that is really amusing is seeing your images being purchased from different countries around the world. I don't know what someone from Somalia would want with my picture of a butterflys wing. As the images sell I often wonder where they will end up.

    At the moment I am only using shutterstock as I heard that they were the "big boys" in stock. Do you think it's a good idea to use lots of stock sites then? Is there any you recommend. Here is my shutterstock gallery atm.

    Stock Photos | Shutterstock: Royalty-Free Subscription Stock Photography & Vector Art
  18. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2010
    The fact that you are very specialist will help. You are doing something that is not easy to do. Take the long view. Your images won't date so see them as an "investment" for the future.

    I would go with as many libraries as you can. For Microstock submit to:- Istockphoto, Dreamstime, Big Stock, Fotolia and 123RF. They are the big ones. I'd also try some specialist nature libraies and some of the general ones like Alamy.

    Nice shots though I'm a total wuss with insect close ups and I couldn't look at them for long!!!
  19. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 2, 2010
    Is it code for something people do in the privacy of their own homes? Your guess is as good as mine.
  20. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Luke... what worries me is the fact that people chance upon your images while searching out these keywords. :biggrin: