Starting a Stock Photo Career

Starting a Stock Photo Career

I firmly believe that now is the most exciting time ever to be a photographer, and to be shooting stock.  There are more tools and more opportunities than ever before. The playing field has been leveled.  The demand for stock images, and consequently stock photography, is exploding.

Of course, there is more competition than ever before, a glut of photography in the market place, and tremendous downward pressure on prices.  Still, over all, I believe the opportunities outweigh the difficulties.  Let’s take a look at some ways to get a stock career going in these exciting times.

To succeed in stock photography think long term

There isn’t a professional photographer I know, who doesn’t look back at his early work and cringe at least a little bit.  I know that while there are images from early in my career that I am still proud of, there are definitely images that are embarrassing.  Even now there are at least four images in my Getty collection that I actually wish they would take down.  Oh well.  To actually be able to earn a living from stock is going to require a significant body of work.  That will take time to build up. While you’re building up your body of work there are other, at least in my opinion, important steps to take.  

Create a web presence

Get a web site up to showcase your work.  Optimize for the search engines.  There is no doubt in my mind that there people looking for stock photos will increasingly be looking for and finding stock pictures on the web sites of individuals as well as agencies.  I personally am preparing for that by migrating my images on to my site and providing links to the agencies that carry them.  If you want to, or need to, market and license your images yourself there is an increasing array of tools to help with that process.  It is getting easier and easier.

Create images that are needed

Study the market to find out where the holes are.  I am guessing that the market does not need a lot of businessmen on cell phones.  But there are plenty of images that the market does need.  Find those holes and fill them with images that you have passion about shooting. Study the images are used in magazines, on book covers, bus shelters and on the web. 

Search the web and search on the agencies to see where there is a need for images.  Put yourself in the shoes of someone looking for an image to advertise your business.  Just yesterday I put myself in the shoes of a business owner and searched to see what I could find.  I started out imagining myself as the owner of a dry cleaning business.  I came to the realization that, at least in my mind, there is a definite need for images in that business sector. 

It is amazing that with the unfathomable number of images out there, the number of “holes” is so encouraging!  Also, there is always a need for concept images such as “teamwork”, “success”, “standing out from the crowd” and others that are new and different.  You can’t go wrong with quality concept images.

Focus on Quality

Quantity is important, but quality is more important.  Quality content is increasingly vital.  In the early days of stock quality was not an issue.  It is now.  Recently, Yuri Arcurs, the world’s top micro stock shooter, who has also been shooting traditional stock for a year now, told me that he believes shooting successful micro stock is more difficult than shooting for traditional stock, that the standards are actually higher.  Whether that is true or not, the quality bar has been setting awfully high.  Consider it your job to raise that bar even higher.

Slow and steady wins the race

As you create your quality, relevant, images, submit them to agencies, post them on your own site, optimize that site, and stick to it.  Like the tortoise and the hare, one day you will wake up and realize that all the time and effort have been worth it.  You will be your own boss, can work from anywhere at what you love to do, and have an income stream that is only limited by your willingness to do what it takes.