Stock Photography - Who wants to know how to sell online? Learn the business of stock photography.
Stock photography is a huge industry, one that generates steady incomes for those photographers with the willingness to succeed. As with any worth while undertaking nothing comes easy and nothing comes for free. To succeed in this game you need to be able to; a) take saleable photographs, b) be organized enough to get them to the market. c) be patient and keep adding more images to your library In the past getting into Stock photography was a huge undertaking. You either had to set up your own mini Agency or sign on with one of the big agencies. If you set up your own agency you were required to do all the leg work of sorting, filing and marketing your images. If you signed on with a big agency you were required to have at least 1,000 images before they would even talk to you. With the advent of the Internet and the growth of high-speed broadband connections these barriers have been eliminated. Today anyone with a quality digital camera can enter the stock photography market place and make money selling their images online. There are literally hundreds of agencies online offering photographers a place to sell their images. In addition photographers have the opportunity to set up their own online mini agency or add a Stock Page to their portfolio site. The big agencies have also moved online, but their requirements for acceptance have also become more difficult. Getting your images in Gettys or Corbis is very difficult and for the most part the domain of well established professional photographers. However you chose to sell your images online, one thing is for sure you will have to adhere to the three basic principles of the successful stock photographer - Quality, Quality, Quality. Oh and lets not forget Quantity.
What photos will sell? The first step in selling your images on-line is understanding what images sell, and which sit and collect cyber dust. Truth be told there is very little restriction on what sells and what does not sell. The key here is to understand which type of images sell the most and in the case of Licensed images the most often. As you sell your images on line you will need to understand that just about any image can sell as long as it meets the technical requirements of the agency and you can find a buyer. A search for "Stock Photography" on Google returns 15,400,000 sites. The biggest agencies like Corbis and Getty are of course listed first. These agencies are still the domain of professional photographers with huge libraries, and will not entertain enquires from amateur photographers. They have huge libraries of images from professional shooters and even hire their own photographers to shoot stock on assignment for the agency, which the agency then owns. All the regular photos that you would think are really great and will sell have been done and are sitting in these agencies files. These are what are generally know as commercial stock photos and your chance of selling these is not so good. What you will be able to sell are EDITORIAL stock. Editorial stock does not sell for as high a price as Commercial Stock, but you will sell more images more often than when trying to sell Commercial Stock. The images you will be able to sell are the ones that no one else has or that no one else has access to such subject matter. What you need is a niche. Pictures of regular people doing regular things, shot in a professional and appealing manner are what you will be able to sell online. Photos that sell are the ones that tell a story or as stock photographers like to call them; photo illustrations. A photo illustration is a photo that has something going on in it. We have all heard the term "A picture is worth a thousand words" well when you hear this, think Photo Illustration. These are the stock photos that sell well.
Also is is important to enjoy your photography so go out and shoot things that interest you; your trip to the fair, grandma doing her needle point, dad cooking burgers on a backyard BBQ & your brother mowing the lawn. If you work in a factory or mill and can get permission from your managers or boss to take pictures, these type of images have great potential. Industry, commerce and business are areas of high value in Stock Photography. Always try to include a person doing something. A picture of a tractor in the field is good, but a picture of a tractor with the farmer sitting on it, is much better. (Image Farmer in the Field). If you insist on taking scenic pictures and expect to be able to sell them, if you include a person actively doing something, your chances of a sale are greatly increased. For instance, a shot of a beach sunset in great, but remember there are hundreds of just such images already in circulation, take the same shot and add a silhouette of a boy chasing a football and you have a much more saleable shot. Also when you are taking pictures try to imagine a theme or mood. By this we mean try imagine a feeling you want to convey with your photos. Some are happy shiny people holding hands, while others will be more somber or moody. A photo that has a clear mood or theme will sell well. You can use colour, shapes and texture to illustrate different moods and themes. Images that convey feelings have high resale value. Images that are stereotypical have less. By stereotypical we mean the stuff we have all seen a thousand times in a thousand magazines and other places. While you may think that the silhouette of lovers kissing against a backdrop of a gorgeous sunset is a good marketable picture, it has been done to death and if we searched any of the major stock libraries we would find many examples of this exact picture. What might be better would be to show the couple doing something a little less typical, maybe one taking the picture of the other???
Also remember the rules of composition. The law of thirds works well and so do tightly cropped images. The old rule of "keep it simple" applies. This is not a book about how to shoot good images, there are thousands of such references available, what we are teaching you here is how to sell them online. Just remember, the images that sell are the attractive appealing ones with good composition and good exposure. One thing to remember though is that as most of the agencies websites display the images on thumbnail pages, having images that are attractive as thumbnails increases your chance of a sale, this follows from the rules of compostition and cropping already discussed.
Selling images online is the next big thing, something that every keen hobbyist is looking to get into. The principles of photography apply, but you must temper them with some business sense, knowing which photos sell is the best start.
Sean David Baylis is a photographer living and working in Hong Kong. Stock Photography - Who wants to know how to sell online? Learn the business of stock photography.