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Author Topic: Starting out shooting stock with my Current gear... some tips? :)  (Read 14947 times)

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« on: March 01, 2011, 16:59 »
0
Hi!

I am a microstock Illustrator. I do my living for now as a Graphic designer, Website design and Video production.

I bought a year or so ago a Rebel XS (when the XSI just came out).

My first question would be, can I shoot stock with a Rebel XS? I know it's not the best out there, and the 10mb does have it's limitation.

I currently have 2 lens on it, which would be a Canon EFS 18-55mm, 0.8 ft and a EFS 55-250mm 3.6ft .

I still have some learning to do to understand the real value of each lens and their usability (portrait, landscape, close-ups, objects etc.).

I already have a good base in photography, done a lot of shooting, but shooting for stock is something in itself. So I was wondering what would be better:

1- Use my current gear, learn their "soft spots" and make out the best to learn and the move forward with better gear later on.

2- Buy new lenses for my XS (if the one I have are not optimal for what I want to do), make out the best to learn and the move forward with better gear.

3- Current equipment is crap, should buy something else. I am aiming at the 5D Mark II in the future, but in between I was thinking about the T2i if I cannot use my XS at all.

Thanks for your tips if you have any, I know a lot of you have more experience then me in this domain.


« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2011, 17:26 »
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Your current gear is fine although you are best to stick to photographing only in good conditions. Wider apertures may expose some of your len's limitations. You can always shrink your images down to 5MP (and still qualify for Large sales at IS) to reduce minor technical imperfections. If you struggle to be successful with your existing kit it is unlikely that more expensive gear will make much of a difference. It's a bit like golf in that respect __ if you have a hopelessly flawed swing then buying a $400 driver won't suddenly make it better.

« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2011, 18:03 »
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It's a bit like golf in that respect __ if you have a hopelessly flawed swing then buying a $400 driver won't suddenly make it better.

Haha I like your end phrase :). I knew that much, but I just wanted to know if I was playing with a flawed club.

I didn't submit anything yet for stock, I know my basics but want to push photography more so I get all the technicality required for stock. It's great news for me that my current gear can be good to start up. Will be much easier to learn with this, and once I get enough experience and get submission through I will then later on push on to better gear, but right now I think it would be useless as I would not be using it in it's full potential.

Thanks for you comment it's appreciated. I'll get my "hands dirty" now! :)

lisafx

« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2011, 18:38 »
0
I agree with Gostwyck, that your current gear is fine for starters.  Better to get out there and shoot, and learn.  As you shoot, submit, and learn from acceptances and rejections, you will get a better sense of what the limitations of your gear may be.  Then you will be in a better position to know what you should upgrade to.  

Something else you may want to consider is lighting.  If you plan to do any studio work, a couple of strobes are worth their weight in gold.  I shot stock for over a year using cheapo hotlights, but because they lacked the power of strobes, I had to use a tripod for every shot, which was quite limiting.  I couldn't believe the difference a $400 pair of strobes made in my life.  Saved literally HOURS on every shoot.  

As a designer, you have a big advantage from the start.  You know how to think like your customers and will be making images they want to buy :)

« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2011, 20:26 »
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I agree with Gostwyck, that your current gear is fine for starters.  Better to get out there and shoot, and learn.  As you shoot, submit, and learn from acceptances and rejections, you will get a better sense of what the limitations of your gear may be.  Then you will be in a better position to know what you should upgrade to.  

Something else you may want to consider is lighting.  If you plan to do any studio work, a couple of strobes are worth their weight in gold.  I shot stock for over a year using cheapo hotlights, but because they lacked the power of strobes, I had to use a tripod for every shot, which was quite limiting.  I couldn't believe the difference a $400 pair of strobes made in my life.  Saved literally HOURS on every shoot.  

As a designer, you have a big advantage from the start.  You know how to think like your customers and will be making images they want to buy :)

Thanks again, great comment.

For lighting I am currently studying my best options, doing some reading also, but I will take your advice there. As I am thinking to shoot some objects on white in studio lighting will be a must. And since it is something I will need for now and the future I guess investing in good lighting right now would be good.

Like you mention being a designer helps to know what sells and what is used, since I buy a lot of stock photography and illustrations for my clients and to save time during project creation, I can guess what others in my shoe are looking for.

I thought that even with good lighting I had to use a tripod to satisfy those reviewers :). It's a good thing to point out, I'll put my money in the right place for starter.

Thanks again Lisa!

« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2011, 22:39 »
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I'll add to the "stick with your current gear at first" chorus.

Depending on what you plan to shoot - studio or outside, still life or people - I'd modify the advice on what sort of lighting gear to get. If you look at Lisa's portfolio - lots of studio shots of groups of people or full length isolated shots - the strobes are a no brainer. If you shoot still life or people outdoors, you might consider reflectors or light panels and one or two off-camera hotshoe lights. Much more portable - have a look at the strobist blog for lots of good information on that approach to lighting. You can see some good overall lighting tutorials here and here. There's also a lot of how-to stuff on equipment use, like this one on light panels for a beach portrait.

When you consider all the things you have to learn about making good stock, I think you can do most of it with your current camera and a small amount of lighting gear. If you do well and like doing it, it'll then be pretty obvious to you what you need to do to upgrade your gear. And there's always more gear out there - check out the recent thread about Yuri Arcurs new studio - if you have 300K euros to spare :)

« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2011, 02:26 »
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Hate to disagree, but I think 10MP just isn't enough at the moment.

There are a few sites where you earn more for bigger file sizes, so on those sites you're missing out on higher prices with an older camera. If you're in any way serious about this, and have any success then the cost of the new camera is far less than the sales you'll lose. You have to decide - is this really a business that I'm going to be successful in, or am I kidding myself. If its a business, then you need the right tools - an old rebel can be made to fit, but its a false economy.

« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2011, 08:58 »
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Hate to disagree, but I think 10MP just isn't enough at the moment.

There are a few sites where you earn more for bigger file sizes, so on those sites you're missing out on higher prices with an older camera. If you're in any way serious about this, and have any success then the cost of the new camera is far less than the sales you'll lose. You have to decide - is this really a business that I'm going to be successful in, or am I kidding myself. If its a business, then you need the right tools - an old rebel can be made to fit, but its a false economy.

Hi! Yes that was part of the question. Site likes iStock do give more per image. I think I will take on both advices on the sites.

I think I will first start off with what I have, can be 2 months, or 6 months, to get the right knowledge I need to submit to stock sites such as Shutterstock, and when I feel comfortable enough with what I do and what is required, move on to more than 10mp camera. I like the fact that if you use a 18 or 22 mp camera you can still downsize it to get good photo technically right if you do small mistakes. But yes my aim is to make stock my living for the next year.

Right now I am making decent side money with my Illustration, but I like doing many things to keep my creativity stimulated (Illustration, Animation, Flash, 3D, Video). I am aiming at photography to start changing my line of work from graphic designer to selling stock full time. With a family and all, I don't feel comfortable right now leaving the good money my small advertising company generates for me for 300-400$ per month at stock. I am working to increase the stock income (and been succesful so far in the last 2 months by increasing the revenue substantially every month).

Quote
I'll add to the "stick with your current gear at first" chorus.

Depending on what you plan to shoot - studio or outside, still life or people - I'd modify the advice on what sort of lighting gear to get. If you look at Lisa's portfolio - lots of studio shots of groups of people or full length isolated shots - the strobes are a no brainer. If you shoot still life or people outdoors, you might consider reflectors or light panels and one or two off-camera hotshoe lights. Much more portable - have a look at the strobist blog for lots of good information on that approach to lighting. You can see some good overall lighting tutorials here and here. There's also a lot of how-to stuff on equipment use, like this one on light panels for a beach portrait.

Hmm... 300k EUR is definetly not within my reach right now... Nor will I have a clue as to what to do with a 300k studio ;). Thanks for the tuturials site they may come in handy!

Again thanks everyone for you advices and for helping me out!

ShadySue

« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2011, 11:08 »
0
Hate to disagree, but I think 10MP just isn't enough at the moment.

There are a few sites where you earn more for bigger file sizes, so on those sites you're missing out on higher prices with an older camera. If you're in any way serious about this, and have any success then the cost of the new camera is far less than the sales you'll lose. You have to decide - is this really a business that I'm going to be successful in, or am I kidding myself. If its a business, then you need the right tools - an old rebel can be made to fit, but its a false economy.

Hi! Yes that was part of the question. Site likes iStock do give more per image. I think I will take on both advices on the sites.


On the reverse side, I and many others report very few very large size sales.
Anecdotally, it's been said that buyers will choose a file which is available in a bigger size over one which is only available in a smaller size, even if they only want a Sm or XSm image, as they think the quality will be better. I couldn't possibly say what proportion of buyers think like that, and if your images were sufficiently 'unique' or at least 'different', that wouldn't be an issue. I have quite a lot of medium-only images because with wildlife, often either a 400mm lens isn't long enough, and/or I have to shoot on high ISO. I have no way of knowing whether they would have sold better had I been able to upload the same pics at XXXL. However, they wouldn't sell anything sitting on my HD.

I will say however, that I started with a 350D which was a base-level Rebel, I believe, and lots of my port came from that. Indeed lots came from scanned slides shot on much more primitive gear. But that was four years ago. For good reason or none, iStock's acceptance standards have risen, so that some old shots I took on the 350D at the same time (sometimes literally only a few minutes apart) that I've recently submitted for editorial are being rejected for artifacts, even when I size down to 2560x1920, sometimes even when I size down to medium. But yes, in "iStock light" you'll probably be OK. Guess if you're using ISO with lights in a studio, you'll be fine.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2011, 11:46 by ShadySue »

« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2011, 15:49 »
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But yes, in "iStock light" you'll probably be OK. Guess if you're using ISO with lights in a studio, you'll be fine.

Thanks! I don't plan on stick to the "rebel" in the long term but for the learning process of getting all the required technicality right I think it's a good starter.

Photo and video certainly does not have the same issues and requirements! :p

Thanks again everyone!

« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2011, 16:02 »
0
About a year after I upgraded to a 12MP camera, which qualified for XL at IS, I checked the number of sales at the XL size. It turned out that only about 2% of my downloads on those images were at the XL size although those sales contributed 4% of the total income from those images.

IMHO there's no way that additional sales of larger image sizes would justify the cost of upgrading the camera. However the ability to crop and/or downsize to minimise minor technical issues makes it definitely worthwhile. One or two 'saved' images that turn out to be best-sellers, but otherwise might not have been accepted, can pay for a new camera body on their own.

RacePhoto

« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2011, 16:42 »
0
But yes, in "iStock light" you'll probably be OK. Guess if you're using ISO with lights in a studio, you'll be fine.

Thanks! I don't plan on stick to the "rebel" in the long term but for the learning process of getting all the required technicality right I think it's a good starter.

Photo and video certainly does not have the same issues and requirements! :p

Thanks again everyone!

Crawl until you get stable, then get up and walk, maybe topple a few times, but you'll get your balance, and then if things are looking good and you want a new camera and better lens, RUN!

What most of the people who know best have said, is often missed. Lighting is more important for making a difference, no matter what level you are at.

I think a good lens will make an average camera better. Less problems with flaws and distortion, color problems, all kinds of things, and lenses last longer than your next 3-4 cameras. But if someone is starting, you have some nice tools, you should learn how to use them and work with lighting next.

If you get that $500 driver you'll feel more confident as you slice one off into the trees? :D But it won't lower your scores. Good lighting will make your pictures better.

Also get a basic photo book and learn your way around the terminology and what effect the speed, aperture and ISO have on pictures, as variables.

0.8 f is not fotolia, I don't know what the 3.6ft meant? The 18-55 EF-S is f/3.5 and the 55-250 EF-S is f/4 starter kit lenses which some day you'll want to replace, but for now you need to get the basics and see how you like it. There's an advantage to being an artist and illustrator and knowing the market. You should be fine and move up fast.

microstockphoto.co.uk

« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2011, 17:10 »
0
0.8 f is not fotolia

Funny, there must be some kind of automatic replacement in place. Try writing F T (without space).
« Last Edit: March 02, 2011, 17:13 by microstockphoto.co.uk »

« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2011, 18:27 »
0
some good pointers here.

I also started with a canon digital rebel (way back -- I think it was the first digital rebel version). 

I would have to say the two biggest things in terms of equipment would your lighting and your glass (lenses).   When I went from the Rebel to the 20d I noticed difference in quality of the images (slightly better sensor), but when I acquired better lenses, ditching the "kit lens" and getting high-rated lenses I noticed a definite quality improvement.  Maybe the kit lenses are getting better these days, but I would highly recommend making sure you have good glass. Check out dpreview.com or other online places for detailed reviews and you can always rent good lenses if money is an issue or if you want to "try before you buy"  (I use borrowlenses.com or prophotorental.com but there are others). 

Also, when I switched to the fullframe 5D there was a very noticeable improvement in the technical quality of my images. (that's what I'm using now - it's not the Mark II version -- saving up for that one still).

Lighting.  If you're going to do indoor shots you need to have some good lights. You can get some great lights from Paul C BUff (www.alienbees.com) - I would recommend getting at least a b800.  You can also do quite a bit with a few flashes - I often use two Canon 580EX flashes for fill-light outdoors and even for smaller subjects/objects indoors/studio. 

Also already mentioned -- check out some photography books.  there are some great books on stock photography as well as working with models/people. I have a bunch of photography books on everything from composition, lighting, models, landscapes, monochrome, art, etc.. pretty much every subject related to photography. "never stop learning" is my motto! 

« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2011, 19:21 »
0
About a year after I upgraded to a 12MP camera, which qualified for XL at IS, I checked the number of sales at the XL size. It turned out that only about 2% of my downloads on those images were at the XL size although those sales contributed 4% of the total income from those images.

IMHO there's no way that additional sales of larger image sizes would justify the cost of upgrading the camera. However the ability to crop and/or downsize to minimise minor technical issues makes it definitely worthwhile. One or two 'saved' images that turn out to be best-sellers, but otherwise might not have been accepted, can pay for a new camera body on their own.

My experience is different - I'm finding that those images that are available at XL size get at least 10% of their sales at that size. For files that are available at XXXL sizes, the percentage of XL or above is even higher. In hindsight one thing I regret is not getting a larger MP camera much sooner. File sizes aren't that big a deal if your independent, but if you ever switch to being exclusive it becomes extremely important. 

If you're treating microstock as a business, then equipment isn't the place to start saving money.

Put it this way - an 18MP camera costs about $600. If this investment doesn't pay off over the course of 12-18 months, then there's zero chance of actually making a living out of stock as is the OP's intention.   

« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2011, 20:33 »
0
Wow you guys here are really helpful, I'm taking all your tips and will be going forward with this. Will start with the lighting as this is where I lack the most experience, I do know the effects of ISO and shutterspeed (this is the same for video camera), but I am still struggling a bit with the aperture, which I know is the opening left in your lens to let the light through, but I don't quite grasp yet how it affects the depth of field and/or the overall quality of the photo, nor how to change the apperture...

In hindsight one thing I regret is not getting a larger MP camera much sooner. File sizes aren't that big a deal if your independent, but if you ever switch to being exclusive it becomes extremely important. 

If you're treating microstock as a business, then equipment isn't the place to start saving money.

Put it this way - an 18MP camera costs about $600. If this investment doesn't pay off over the course of 12-18 months, then there's zero chance of actually making a living out of stock as is the OP's intention.   


For the equipment thing I understand. Someone bright once said to me: We are too poor to buy bad equipment!, always liked that saying :p.

But I was just wondering if instead of going halfway to 18mp I should wait a bit longer and make the leap to a professionnal body. With my current earnings it would only take 2 months of stock earnings to pay for this, which might actually be worth it :p. I have a lot of "food for thoughts" here :)

Quote
Funny, there must be some kind of automatic replacement in place. Try writing F T (without space).


LoL did not notice this hehe! I wrote F T , no I didn't buy any Fotolia lens :p.

Quote
Posted by: jamirae
Insert Quote
some good pointers here.

I also started with a canon digital rebel (way back -- I think it was the first digital rebel version).

I would have to say the two biggest things in terms of equipment would your lighting and your glass (lenses).   When I went from the Rebel to the 20d I noticed difference in quality of the images (slightly better sensor), but when I acquired better lenses, ditching the "kit lens" and getting high-rated lenses I noticed a definite quality improvement.  Maybe the kit lenses are getting better these days, but I would highly recommend making sure you have good glass. Check out dpreview.com or other online places for detailed reviews and you can always rent good lenses if money is an issue or if you want to "try before you buy"  (I use borrowlenses.com or prophotorental.com but there are others).

Also, when I switched to the fullframe 5D there was a very noticeable improvement in the technical quality of my images. (that's what I'm using now - it's not the Mark II version -- saving up for that one still).

Lighting.  If you're going to do indoor shots you need to have some good lights. You can get some great lights from Paul C BUff (www.alienbees.com) - I would recommend getting at least a b800.  You can also do quite a bit with a few flashes - I often use two Canon 580EX flashes for fill-light outdoors and even for smaller subjects/objects indoors/studio.

Also already mentioned -- check out some photography books.  there are some great books on stock photography as well as working with models/people. I have a bunch of photography books on everything from composition, lighting, models, landscapes, monochrome, art, etc.. pretty much every subject related to photography. "never stop learning" is my motto! 


Yes this is my starter kit lens as I didn't know enough about lenses to feel confident buying 1k $ ones :). But I do see the limitations my lens have in less lighting, which is annoying. I hate taking pictures with the "body" Flash of the camera as it's the best way to screw up a photo, but doing some reading I found there are external Flash and lighting to help with that.

I bought a few book, one about creating your lighting for indoor, and a few about stock photography, but I really need to get in the technicallity of it all :p Will check dpreview.com, and more so I will start shooting with a different eye ;p. Most shooting (photo) contracts I had was for clients which I was to use the picture for their website and some small size print, so I always thought my pictures were great... that's until I try to submit a few at Shutterstock. :)

Thanks everyone for sharing your experience with me, it will "speed up" my learning process by giving me good cues from experience photographers!


 

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