Stock photography isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the cheesy cutouts and posed images. Those who purchase stock photography now want authentic, real-life images for their advertising – at least to make it look like they are authentic, real-life companies, selling authentic, real-life products.
I delved into the world of stock photography a couple of years ago, even purchasing a fancy Nikon d750 to help reduce the grain in my images so there would be more chance they would be accepted by the stock agencies. I knew from research I wouldn’t make a ton of money submitting my images to agencies that then sell them to advertisers, bloggers, or other content managers, but I hoped to make a little extra to add to our household needs.
Building up a portfolio for stock photography can take a very long time. I knew this, but this past year I’ve been more than a little discouraged with the industry and have learned stock may be a way to earn a small side income, but not necessarily a career. Unless you already have the cash to travel the world or are single with no children, stock photography is an extremely difficult “job” to make money at.
Still, I plug away at it, submitting photos here and there because it’s not like they’re going to make any money sitting on my hard drive or even hanging on my walls. And even if the money isn’t a lot, it’s something and every little bit counts in this day and age. Last year I was featured on Alamy.com as a featured artist and hoped that would boost my sales. It didn’t, but the honor was a nice one to have, at least.
If you are a photographer who is considering stock photography, some advice I would give is to not expect to make a great deal of money, even if you are accepted by a “high end” stock agency like I was. At least not at first. When I first signed up with one high-end agency, I was promised a starting price of $150 for each image sold, if not higher, but once I was accepted and began submitting images, that amount suddenly decreased until one of my last sales with them was 83 cents for one image. On the other end of the spectrum I also sold one for $120, so, in other words, I’ve discovered the amount you could make with stock varies greatly.
With many agencies you need at least 500 images to start making sales and usually having more than 1,000 is even better. Most agencies allow you to submit whatever images you want but then they must pass “quality control” to be added to your final portfolio. The standards of some agencies are higher than others. For example, Alamy allows almost anything to be submitted as long as it isn’t graphic, nudes, out of focus, or severely grainy. Their collection is aimed at anyone and everyone, much like Shutterstock, which I believe is based in the US. For an agency like Cavan Images, your images will be accepted only if they fit their particular style, which is more artsy-fartsy, as I call it. They say their agency is for more high end clients but, again, this is the agency that once sold one of my photos for 83 cents and another for 67 cents so …. don’t always take an agency at their word.
To pass quality control for most agencies the images don’t have to be artistically amazing, but they should be bright and without grain or blur. Each stock agency has their own rules about what the photos need to pass quality control and you can usually find that listed on the site before you submit.
As for what sells in stock photography: the answer is almost anything, yet sometimes nothing. With some agencies, you can upload whatever you want because you never know what will sell. I’ve seen portfolios with photos of newspapers and trash cans and hands holding cellphones and for some reason those photos sell, mainly because some client, somewhere, needed the shot for some purpose. Some of the photos that have sold for me are not my favorites or technically perfect. Still, they brought me more income than they would have sitting in a hard drive, so I won’t complain. Right now the thrust of stock photography is “authentic imagery”, which can mean different things for different clients but normally means everyday people doing every day things.
The bottom line is that stock photography is not, for most people, a way to get rich fast, but if you keep plugging away and submitting images, you can at least earn a bit of a side income.
You can see some of my stock photography work at the links below:
Here is one of my top sellers on Lightstock, a Christian stock agency:
It’s been downloaded 64 times so far and you might think that means I made a lot of money from it’s sale, but sadly the total is about $240 in five years. Lightstock is not one of the agencies that compensates photographers at a high rate, but I support them for their message, more than their revenue capabilities.
To see more of my photography you can visit my photography site here or see my work on my Instagram account.
5 tips for holiday photos with kids
I’m sure many parents are planning to attend holiday events this year and taking photographs of their children is almost always part of the festivities. Here are 5 tips for getting the best out of those holiday photos and most of them are the same for any other planned special moments where children will be involved.
1) Fill their bellies and get ’em their naps! Make sure your children are well fed and well rested before attempting to ask them pose and smile for a photograph. Low blood sugar and drowsiness is a perfect storm for tantrums, crying fits and uncooperative subjects. The same is actually true for adults. 😉
2) No need for the “smile for the camera!” chant. Don’t actually ask your child to smile. It’s not always necessary to pose your subject or even have them look at the camera to get a good photograph. Sometimes capturing your child in the moment, enthralled or excited about their surroundings is enough to make the moment and the memory magical.
3) Don’t use flash . Not only can a flash be distracting but it can also create unnatural images or allow only portions of the scene to be illuminated. If you’re not a professional photographer and can’t figure out how to take a good photo without the flash in a low lit scene, look for an auto setting on your camera that can help such as the the aperture setting which will allow you to set your aperture wide open, letting more light into the camera. If you can adjust ISO on your camera then definitely boost that up as well. Some smart phone cameras allow you to turn the flash off and will automatically compensate for the lower light.
4) Get low. Get down to the same level as your child so you can see what they’re seeing. This tip is true anytime you are photographing children but can especially be helpful at the holidays when the delight in a child’s eyes are what the moment is about.
5) You got to move it! Try different angles/distances. Yes, it can be important to get down on your child’s level but you don’t have to stay there. Sometimes changing your perspective can help give an entirely different feel to an image, whether by conveying a feeling of smallness or magnitude or simply bringing you closer to the action or the moment.
Most importantly and more important than anything is remember to have fun and not become so focused on visually documenting the moment that you forget to live in the moment. Remember to set aside perfection and planning and embrace the spontaneous for the sake of securing memories.
Tuesday tips for mom: Avoid saying ‘Look at the camera’
Every other Tuesday I will be offering practical photography tips for moms who don’t consider themselves a photographer but still want to visually record the everyday lives of their children. These are merely tips or suggestions, not rules to follow. You should record your photographic memories for you in your own way and hopefully these suggestions will help give you ideas on how to do that.
For more photography tips see my What to Capture series. Other articles in the Tuesday Photography Tips for moms can be found in the Tips link at the top of the page or by clicking HERE.
If you are hoping to grab realistic, authentic images of your children, one tip I have is to avoid always asking them to look at the camera.
I very rarely ask my children to look at the camera when I am photographing them. I prefer any image I take of a child to be as natural as possible, capturing their real personality. From my experience, children who are asked to look at a camera become self conscious or goofy, which sometimes is the enemy of authenticity.
Think about all the thoughts that race through your mind when someone suggests you look at a camera. Do you find your smiles and reaction forced? That reaction can be the same for children, though they might not think as much about what their hair looks like or how fat they look in their jeans. Instead, children think about putting on a show or being as silly as possible. Silly photographs and expressions are fun for a few photographs, but they won’t always show your child’s true personality.
You will actually find in most cases that a child will look at you even without you asking and that’s when you click the shutter.
Always be ready for the perfect photograph and perfect moment when you’re taking time to try to capture photographs of your children.
Photographing them as they are engaged in an activity they enjoy, or interacting with someone they love, can create more authentic images of your children and also keep them more relaxed. Their expressions when they do look at you will be less forced and more natural.
Some ideas for activities to help keep your child relaxed and capture authentic images, maybe even a few looking at the camera, include:
Lisa R. Howeler is a wife and mom living in a small town located in northern Pennsylvania, less than a mile from the New York State border. She is a photographer, writer, chocolate lover, and one of those Jesus freaks your mama warned you about. Find her online at http://www.lisahoweler.com; www.instagram.com/lisahoweler; and Facebook, www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.
What to Capture: Tips for photographing baby showers
This is part of my weekly post, What to Capture, where I give you ideas what photographs you will want to capture at an event or family gathering to be sure you document the day for your memories.
To see previous posts you can see the link to the left or you can click HERE.
Your family member or friend is pregnant and you’re attending the shower. While the shower may not be as monumental as the birth, it’s still an exciting event the mother-to-be will love to have images of in the future.
We’ve all seen the photos from a similar event and usually the images are of the mama opening gifts and that’s about all. While photos of opening the gifts can mean smiles and laughs of the day documented to look back on, don’t forget the other important photographic opportunities.
The mother-to-be may say she doesn’t want her photo taken because she feels fat. Be sensitive to mama’s feelings, but try your best to gently to remind her how much she will treasure the images after the baby is born and in the years to come. Remembering how friends and family came together to celebrate the arrival of a new baby, whether the first or otherwise, is more important than feeling fat.
If you choose to hire a photographer for the day, don’t be afraid to politely provide a list of images you would like captured from the day. If a friend is helping you, they will also appreciate some guidance on moments you would like to remember from the day.
The following list are suggestions for what to capture. These are suggestions, but you should follow your instinct on what you believe should be visually recorded from the day.
Mama with friends or family
Family and friends are attending the shower to celebrate the new life and the mama is going to want to remember that her guests felt she was special enough for them to take time out of their day to attend her shower and celebrate with her. Photographs of the mama with her guests, either individually or together as a group will create a nice visual memento of the day. You can accomplish these photos through candid interactions between mom and her guests or by asking them to take a moment and look at the camera. Either way, capturing each guest in the photos, in some way will be appreciated by your mom.
Mama with both grandmothers, aunts
Along the same lines of photographing the guests is the need to photograph mom with the grandmothers of the child and with any aunts who are in attendance. Traditionally, at least in the United States, baby showers are attended only by women, but if the grandfathers or uncles of the baby, or other special male members of the family, are in attendance then it’s important to capture them with mommy as well.
Mama as she opens gifts
I don’t think mom will want photographs of every single gift being opened but a few images of the gift opening moments will be a good addition to the days’ collection of images. Photographs of the gifts themselves are less important than capturing mom’s reactions as she opens the gift. If a gift is especially special, either because of what it is or who it is from, be sure to capture some details of the packaging and of mom with the gift.
Mom with her friends playing shower games
If your baby shower features some fun shower games, be sure to photograph the moments of laughter that are sure to result from the guests interacting with each other. If you haven’t caught on, the theme of the day is “interactions” and “capturing them”.
Mom with daddy
If daddy attends the event, even to pick up some of the gifts at the end, a nice touch to the day would be to capture the expectant parents together. Daddies are important too, but often get left out of the baby shower phase, and in fact, a lot of the planning leading up to the baby’s birth. Remind Dad he’s as important as mom in the life of his child by including him in the celebration, even if it is only a photograph to say “he was there.”
Mom by herself
Keep in mind that for some women, being pregnant makes them feel self conscious. Hopefully it makes them feel beautiful because pregnancy can be one of the most special and amazing periods of time in a woman’s life. But if mom is sensitive to her appearance this day, be gentle and understand she may not want to pose for any photographs, especially if it means standing by herself. If mom is willing, good backdrops to a photo with her include the gifts or even a tree outside, if the baby shower is inside. If mom is uninterested in posing, capture her during the shower, instead of asking her to pose, which can often be uncomfortable, pregnant or not. Candid images are often the way to go when your attending an event, but of course I’d say this because natural and “in the moment” are my favorite photographs to take.
If you take the photographs yourself don’t forget to put the camera down part of the time and enjoy yourself, living in the moments of the event without looking through the viewfinder. And don’t overthink the photographs too much and cause unnecessary anxiety for a day that is meant to be fun and memorable.
What to Capture checklist, baby shower edition
Don’t forget to print your images in some way, whether with actual prints you can place in a book, or in a photo album you can design online. Some suggestions for where to print include Shutterfly and Mpix. I make my memory books on Blurb, but Shutterfly also offers this service. Additionally, you can make books directly from your phone with aps such as Chatbook and Artifact Uprising.
Interested in other posts in the What to Capture series? Find more posts HERE.