MicrostockGroup Sponsors

Author Topic: With fear & trepidation ... hello  (Read 3118 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

« on: September 09, 2010, 14:16 »
I've been lurking for a little while, as I would hate to be the newbie who doesn't bother reading up and figuring things out for herself.  I've read enough to know that, rightly so, the last thing everybody wants is yet another Jane-come-lately horning in on what used to be a good thing, thinking she's going to upload pics of grandma's dentures or her dog's paw and start raking in the $$.  That's not me, I don't think -- at least I don't have any delusions about this being "easy money".  On the contrary, it sounds like darned hard work.  I almost didn't bother registering, but I realized that the more I read, the more questions were beginning to crop up, so ... here I am.

Oddly enough, the reasons for my interest in microstock have less to do with money and more to do with purpose and finding that it sounds like a good fit for me.  I didn't just get a camera last year, I think I got my first DSLR (a D70) about 6 or so years ago (whenever it first came out), and since then have had a variety of Nikons.  I also had a portrait photography business for a while that I never formally "quit", but rather let languish because my main business got too busy.  While I have always loved photography, and loved photographing people, I quickly found that I liked to do what I like to do, not necessarily what other people liked.  I found myself wanting to shoot people for my own aesthetic reasons, rather than what the client might want.  Not good for a portrait photographer!  LOL  I still enjoy the occasional shoot for friends, etc., but I allowed it to be relegated back into a hobby and haven't updated my portrait website in a ridiculously long time, so it's a bit dated now.

Anyway, I've always been drawn to shooting things that other people might not find typical -- I like textures, rusty gates, weird puddles, a cluster of rowboats, whatever -- and found myself shooting that kind of stuff in between the typical family snapshots, etc.  I was well aware of "stock photography" (didn't know it was called microstock until just recently) and had bought several images over the years from iStock, etc. for various things -- blogs, invitations, etc.  Why it never occurred to me that there were photographers on the other side of that transaction, I'll never know.  When I finally put two and two together, it really clicked for me.  It seems to include everything I LIKE about photography -- concepts, unique shooting styles and subjects, no client demands (other than keeping marketability in mind) -- and excludes everything I DON'T like about certain jobs/businesses -- dealing with irritating people, 9-5 hours, etc.  I readily admit that I have ADHD and although I rather like the way my mind works, it hasn't always been ideally suited for your typical job.  I can hyperfocus on certain things for periods of time, then I need to allow myself a "refresh period" where I do something else for a day or two ... or three.  Seems like microstock allows flexibility, creativity, encourages competition, demands your best work (which I admittedly have a lot to work on), and on top of that, pays you accordingly and passively (or residually, I should say), something I find quite interesting.

I realize I'm finding out about this at the tail end of what seems to have been an exciting ride (sure wish I'd paid attention in 2005 instead of just photographing toddlers!), but I'm happy to have discovered it at all.  I do promise I'll try to keep dumb newbie questions to a minimum.  I'm quite blown away by the quality of so many of your portfolios and it really makes me want to focus on the technical side of photography.  It will be hard for me because with portraits, it's more about a look or emotion and not always about being tack sharp at 200%.  I'm confident that I'll be learning a lot to improve my photography skills.

I'll end by asking one newbie question.  I am trying to research the heck out of the type of photos wanted/needed/definitely NOT wanted, and I can see that's going to be a tough thing to figure out.  I keep hearing that what is wanted is natural, out-of-camera images, and yet the most interesting, cutting edge and popular photos seem to be heavily Photoshopped -- I see montages, HDR, filters, etc.  I, for one, absolutely LOVE that stuff and am a fair PS user, but I'm confused as to whether to submit that sort of thing or not, how much artistic license do you dare take?  Perhaps those are the types of images you can add to your port once you've established yourself with more technically pure images?

Thanks, and I'm happy (if a little nervous) to be here.



« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2010, 14:33 »
Welcome Lisa!

No need to be scared - even if someone 'bites' it says more about them than it does about you.  Also, some of those who sound a bit fierce are actually being humorous and are very sincere.  You'll work out the difference, no doubt!  :)

Some of the agencies specifically state what they don't want amongst their FAQs and introductory blurbs, so you could take a look through those.  

I hear you on what they say they want vs what seems to sell.  The two don't always seem to fit - and each agency is a little different in terms of what they do and don't accept.  You'll only find out through trial and error... and then, just when you think you have an agency sussed, they'll move the goalposts.  Nothing to do but keep at it, and keep testing the waters.   It can be frustrating, but if you love creating great images, I'm sure you'll love this business :)

ADHD?  Yes, I think I might have something like that too...  very hard to get a steady rhythm going... I'm either flat out working, or flat on my back (LOL)

Good luck in this great adventure - with all it's peaks and troughs :)


  • Think before you speak
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2010, 14:52 »
You can look at the websites and see their "most downloaded" shots, but you also have to take into account the length of time those most popular shots have been there. As many search engines on these sites do, they will pull up the most popular images and rather than dig through the pile, the buyers will continue to download them just because. Things do change and what was popular last year may not be this year. The key is to get a niche, that category that is not well covered by all the millions on top of it. That is difficult as well. A lot of buyers don't want those "plastic looking images" anymore. They want more realistic shots. You must remember you must have model releases and property releases. Anything that is copyrighted will have to be cloned out if you don't have property releases. Even the design on the models clothes. Just because an image is popular, unless you have one that can better it, there is really no reason to upload a shot based on that. Chances are everyone else has already tried to master it and it would be buried in the bottom and never see the light of day. You need to look at the areas that are not well covered to get an idea what would be the best subject to shoot.
Good luck

« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2010, 15:13 »
Thanks for the replies and welcome!  LOL, I think I have this image of everyone saying "Oh geez, here comes another one!" every time a newbie pops in! :)  I'd be lying if I said I didn't care at all about the money, but quite frankly, if I was able to generate enough to spring for a new lens now and then I'd be pretty happy.

I'm still trying to navigate the different ways each site operates, how to sort and search, etc.  I probably shouldn't have used the word popular to describe the types of images I'm interested in.  I definitely can see that "popular" doesn't necessarily mean "popular right now", especially when you see that file was uploaded in 2003.  I've also noted that there is not necessarily a correlation between "highly rated" and number of downloads; I'd imagine that other photographers and appreciators of art are responsible for the ratings of interesting images, but that doesn't necessarily translate into what actually gets downloaded.  I guess my confusion comes in when I see a really cool looking image that is very obviously heavily edited to make colors pop, or an artsy filter or treatment applied, and I think "Hey, I thought they didn't want that!"  Then I get hopeful that perhaps things are changing and these types of images are being more sought after these days.

I'm glad to hear that the plastic look may have peaked.  I can see the need for such images, but it seems as though they have enough of them.  I'm definitely interested in conceptual type images, and a little more freedom from the isolated, white-background images.  Those will always be in demand, but they're really not my forte and others can do them much better than I.

I have not really begun applying to the agencies yet because I know I'm not ready.  I did submit something to Fotolia, but stupidly did so on a bit of a lark (just to jump off the cliff); they are sitting in the que and I'll frankly not be surprised if they are rejected because I don't think I did enough homework.  I'll know better next time.

In the meantime I'll be soaking up as much info as I can.  ADHD is extremely helpful for research!  :)


  • Think before you speak
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2010, 16:21 »
You also must realize that what sales at one site won't even get the lite of day at another. Different sites have their own type of buyers. What one site may consider a "snap shot" and rejects it on those grounds, another site approves and you can sell a ton of them. Again it all depends on the site and their reviewers. I personally drew my port out of Fotolia because the rejects were always my big sellers at other sites and what they accepted were many times rejected at the others. I had hardly any sales there and when they decided to give all the contributors a "pay cut" I got out. You gotta take it with a grain of salt. As time goes on you learn this. Microstock standards are high and getting higher every day. It's really a lot harder to get into these sites than it use to be.

« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2010, 16:25 »
Thanks for doing your research ;) .

« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2010, 16:34 »
Portraits expressing emotion sell surprisingly well. You just have to entertain/drive your model (ADHD and making funny faces helps) and click at the right moment. Zombies and graveyard diggers don't sell.  ;)

The technical challenges for stock are DOF and tack sharp eyes. I wouldn't go under F8.0, contrary to "artistic" portraiture. To get it tack sharp, set your cam all on manual and just one focus point which you put on the closest eye, and use a monopod always. The video of Yuri Arcurs (I lost the link) on YT about the "freeze" moment helped me a lot. A big inspiration for natural and attracting expressions is Kurhan.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2010, 16:43 by FD-regular »


« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2010, 16:47 »
Welcome aboard, from one Lisa to another :)

Sounds like you have a more realistic set of expectations and a higher skill set than most microstock newbies, so you are already ahead of the game.  Your reasons for getting into stock are exactly the same ones that drew me to it 5+ years ago.

To answer your question, lots of folks will tell you to see what's the most popular and shoot that.  I give the opposite advice.  Don't bother shooting what's on the most popular list because everyone else is already shooting the same exact things and many of them have the experience to do it much better.

I think you are on the right track looking around in your daily life for inspiration.  What are your hobbies, or your day job?   Do you love to cook gourmet meals?  Dress them up to look as appetizing as possible and photograph them!  Do you have kids?  Photograph them being their adorable selves.  Do you work in an insurance office?  Photograph business concepts unique to your industry. 

Whatever you interests and areas of expertise in life are, chances are you can photograph them better than most of the big image producers who might just dabble in that area and move on.  This is how you find your niches. 

Hope that helps :)

« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2010, 20:37 »
Sean ... you're welcome!  :D

FD -- good to know about the portrait potential.  I really do enjoy doing portraits and think I could probably do okay with those, only I have quite a dearth of possible subjects right now.  My two kids are willing victims, and while I know that I could ask any number of friends to pose for some photos, the new world of "this photo could feasibly show up anywhere" is a bit much to ask of even my best friends.  I do, however, have a good friend and neighbor who actually happens to BE a model (impossibly attractive, but in a wonderfully wholesome way); I wonder what her feelings would be on the subject.  I intend to find out!  When I feel more sure of myself, I may look into hiring a model or two.

Lisa -- great to meet another Lisa!  Thank you for your encouragement, it means a lot.  I will definitely take your advice to look around my daily life for inspiration.  My main business involves jewelry, so I have a ton of jewelry related items around.  I've never tried food photography, but I sure enjoy looking at it.  And I'm extremely comfortable with portrait work, so I'll wrestle my kids and hubby into a few images, I'm sure.  I know any landscape/nature stuff is totally saturated, but we go to Maine every year (gorgeous scenery there) and I live in NJ where, depending on which direction you step, you can be in the mountains, at the shore, or in NYC, so I'm hoping to find some inspiration all around me.

I'm relieved at the notion of NOT doing what other people are doing.  I'm getting to know my strengths and weaknesses, and quite honestly, my weakness is definitely stark, studio photography.  It did intimidate me a bit to see so many highly stylized, studio-lit images.  I have a couple of Alien Bees and reflectors, but I rarely used them because I've always preferred natural/available light.  I know I'll have to perfect my lighting skills, but I'd prefer to go my own way and hopefully hit on something that feels more innate to me.

The one thing I've promised myself is that I won't go all crazy buying things I think I "need".  I'm fortunate enough to have decent cameras and adequate lenses for now (two 50mm 1.4 and 1.8, 85mm, a Macro, and a couple of zooms), a couple of tripods, and scant lighting (if I MUST).  I bought a couple of books and told myself that's IT.  For now!  Someday I'd like a good telephoto, but that can wait.

Now I just need to shoot with the intention of shooting for stock.  I have lots of "almost there" images dating way back that could have been perfect ... if ONLY I'd paid better attention to the image quality.  I'm sure the sharpness suffers greatly.  But I'm starting to get a feel for the next steps to take.

Again, thanks!

« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2010, 00:34 »
My two kids are willing victims, and while I know that I could ask any number of friends to pose for some photos, the new world of "this photo could feasibly show up anywhere" is a bit much to ask of even my best friends.  I do, however, have a good friend and neighbor who actually happens to BE a model (impossibly attractive, but in a wonderfully wholesome way); I wonder what her feelings would be on the subject.
Kids are a great subject, especially if they are your own. You can please your occasional models by making a deal, and that's what I do. They want glamor, and just good portraits - I want stock. So we do both. Everybody happy. For the type of models, you can read my article here (third paragraph), especially about the guy/girl nextdoor. This info was largely stolen from a forum post here of RT (Richard).
Don't miss this mandatory video of Arcurs:

« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2010, 00:37 »
@Handust (Lisa),

Jewelry is notoriously difficult to shoot well.
If you can master that, you have found yourself a niche.



Mega Bundle of 5,900+ Professional Lightroom Presets

Microstock Poll Results