For most people – even good amateur photographers with good quality digital SLRs – making money by selling pictures to a stock photo service is a dream rather than a reality. Beginners often have their photos rejected simply because they don’t know the rules. Just as you would do in any other area of product development, research your market before rushing in. Know what sorts of pictures are in demand and then take those sorts of pictures. If you have talent, good equipment, and the willingness to research and learn, stock photography can become another revenue stream in your online business.
Here are 7 Tips to Help You Get Started:
- Think like the user, not the photographer. Many speakers turn to iStock Photos when they are putting together a new PowerPoint presentation. Often, they want a simple photographic metaphor for an idea. For instance, if you are searching for a picture to illustrate a talk about the power of social media, you don’t want the same old tired handshake or spider web. But you might be interested in a picture of a distressed, brick wall spray painted with a relevant slogan.
- Learn to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Not only will they improve your photos, they can be used to add text to photos, create montages or panoramas, or clean up backgrounds by removing things like overhead wires.
- Get model releases. When you submit a photo with people in it to a stock house, you will need a model release from every individual in the photo. “Every individual” really means every individual. Your picture of happy strangers frolicing in the surf in Hawaii will not be accepted unless you have the happy strangers’ permission to plaster their faces all over the world (with no compensation to them).
- Take commercial, rather than art, photos. Designers frequently need good, clean pictures of every day household and office items. You may not feel particularly inspired by a shot of a tape dispenser – until the payments start rolling in! Shoot from several different angles and submit the whole series to your stock house.
- Hide brand names and logos. Stock photos are royalty free – so there should be no ancillary rights to anything in the picture. If you take a picture of a pair of Nike sneakers – use Photoshop to hide the Swoosh. A Coke can can say “Cola,” but it cannot say “Coca Cola.”
- Create all white backgrounds. Designers want to be able to drop the picture into a layout without tweaking. If your background isn’t invisible, your photos won’t be purchased.
- Submit your work to many different stock photo resellers. Different companies have different audiences and specialties. You’ll often have a photo that is turned down by one company bought by a different company. Diversity will work in your favor.