Photography Tuesday: The dirty, no good, rotten truth about selling stock photography

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:

Alamy

Cavan

Lightstock

Here is one of my top sellers on Lightstock, a Christian stock agency:

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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.

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January was a month of blah or simply: ‘Here is my February 10 on 10’

Cold, clouds and more cold and clouds. That was what our January in Pennsylvania was all about and that meant we spent most of it inside, wishing it was sunny and warm and we were outside. We did break out of the house a couple of times, bundled up, to try our best to be lovers of all things cold. We usually lasted about twenty minutes each excursion before we were back inside, huddled under blankets, sipping tea, reading books and watching our new addiction, the Canadian sitcom “Corner Gas”, which we found on Amazon. During the week-long artic freeze we didn’t leave the house at all, other than my husband who had to go to work, which luckily isn’t too far from our house.

Our cabin fever was so bad I was a little concerned my daughter might never change out of the footed pajamas her grandparents gave her for Christmas.

Our cold adventures included playing outside (20 minutes at a time), attending science classes for the local homeschooling group (learning about trees), a trip to Ithaca, NY, (cold, so not much exploring, I’m afraid) and a hike with my dad to his pond to see if it was frozen enough for us to walk on it (spoiler alert: it wasn’t).

How about you? What did you do in January and so far in February? Let me know in the comments or link to your post where you shared.

If you want to see the rest of the blogs in this 10 on 10 blog circle, find the link at the conclusion of this post.

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DSC_3068Follow our circle around by clicking over to Anna Hurley’s blog.

Ordinary Moments in Ordinary Days Oct. 15 to Oct. 28

I have done a horrible job at keeping up with my posts for my Ordinary Moments in Ordinary Days project for October, which is almost finished (can’t even believe how fast the month has gone!) so I am going to do my best to catch up here. My idea, at first, was to take one photo each day but that didn’t really work out like I’d hoped and in my goal to let go of unrealistic expectations for myself I decided to simply feature images from whatever days I did shoot something. 

Oct. 15, 2017 | Here is Little Miss practicing being a baby dragon for Halloween. As I’m writing this we haven’t hit Halloween yet, so we’ll see if she actually wears it for trick-or-treating.

Oct. 17, 2017 | Showing off her style and breaking in her winter boots.

Oct. 19, 2017 | This isn’t what I meant by “can you pose in that beautiful light for me?” but this is a popular scene from our evenings.

Oct.20, 2017 | It was like Pixel, our cat, (yes, Pixel) posed for me by this poster of the ninth Doctor.

Oct. 21, 2017 | Nerf war preparations. They shot me. A lot. It hurt.

Oct. 23, 2017 | This looks a lot more violent than it is. It’s a bb gun and he’s aiming at cans.

Sometimes we are fake

Sometimes I feel like such a fake.

I write blog posts about trusting things will work out and having faith and enjoying every moment and there are days – seriously – where I just don’t feel it.

Like right now I am writing this on a computer that randomly pauses and freezes and only works if it is plugged in because the charger port or battery or something is broken and there is no money in the budget to replace it.

And it isn’t from a lack of praying  for the funds to replace it, or believing God provides all our needs. The changes in our situation simply don’t come, for whatever reason. 

I say none of this in an effort to illicit pity because computer issues and financial woes are something many deal with and quite frankly it is nothing compared to people running for their lives or not having food to eat or clean water to drink.  

I write this to do my best to be authentic because honestly I’m tired of the lack of it on social media and in the world today.

How many times will we put on a good face and smile and kick out 10 Bible verses a day to show how positive and faithful we are all while we are dying inside and questioning God and wondering why we thought we heard Him clearly tell us to take one path but then He never blessed it? Or we are questioning why a family member is suffering physically or why a young child suffered for so many years and then died in his mother’s arms.

Here we sit with empty bank accounts and broken dreams and smashed-to-smithereens budgets we attempted but fell apart from unexpected expenses. Here we sit with empty and aching hearts and minds jumbled with a thousand thoughts.

And here we sit with a thousand questions of why we can’t seem to make this thing called life work and how we got here, moving money from this account to that account, and trying to stay sane and happy like everyone else while feeling guilty about being depressed about things that seem so trivial compared to the trials of others.

 

It’s hard to be positive sometimes and to share struggles and then tie it up in the end in a neat little bow, like a sitcom or a Hallmark movie.

Sometimes there are no good endings, or at least not yet.

Sometimes we just sit in the midst of the struggle and we can’t fake it anymore.

We can’t say ‘God’s got this’ when there are days we simply don’t know or trust He does.

Do doubts make us any less of a Christian?

There are thoughts in my mind that tell me they do.

But there are other thoughts that tell me no, because many in the Bible doubted and didn’t trust and learned to live life the hard way. They were real and honest and never hid their doubts. David is one of those people who come to mind when I think of the doubters, the struggling ones, the ones who paused and had the audacity to ask God just what he thought He was doing.

Scrolling through Facebook there are quick little memes from well known pastors or authors or speakers and they are meant to be encouraging but one Wednesday morning I just sat there like a loon and I yelled at my phone “I know! I get it! And that’s what I’m trying to do but nothing is happening! I prayed and I asked God and I’m trying to stay calm and I even got a prayer journal and I watched that movie about a prayer closet and I’ll make one if I have to but NOTHING IS HAPPENING!!! I’m tired of jumping through hoops.”

My toddler, who sleeps in our room because our house is too small to make her a room of her own, woke up and looked at me and said “Well….that was just crazy…”

And it was crazy.

A crazy moment of saying “Thanks for all the cute little posts with cute little phrases but sometimes it just gets old to see these reminders over and over and over and over but feel like it’s all lip service.”

I can say something over and over and until I’m blue in the face and I can believe it, but guess what? Sometimes even that doesn’t work and sometimes even that doesn’t launch us over the road block we have hit in our lives.

I listened to a blogger talk about her struggles recently  and when she got to the part where she said “I mean for like three months we like really like struggled with our finances and like it was like hard” my head almost exploded.

Then she said “And so we like prayed and I like got up every morning and like over night we were making three figure salaries every week and it was like amazing.”

Again. My head. Ow.

Because – like – I have been on my knees about several looming life issues for YEARS not three months and I still am wandering like a lost sheep in the wilderness.

So why does California girl get her miracle “like over night” and mine hasn’t even come in 800 some nights?

I don’t know.

Yep, that’s right.

I don’t have an answer for you or for me.

Not yet anyhow.

And maybe never.

I don’t know why God chooses some to struggle for years and others to find relief in hours. I don’t know why some of us struggle with health, some with finances, some with marriage, some with loss after loss, some with self-esteem and some don’t.

Right now, right here, I am supposed to say “all I know is God is good.”

But sometimes?

I don’t feel like God is good.

And right there I bet a few people decided I should have my Christian card taken away.

But sometimes I feel like He is very far away and like good people die too early and that if He is God then why has He let this world go on with so much pain in it for so long?

I mean, seriously, don’t you ever feel that way?

Yet even as I feel that way I see my daughter and my son, children I never thought I’d have, and I remember moments in my life where I prayed and in minutes a prayer was answered.

 I remind myself that no, I don’t have all the answers, and yes, I may often feel frustrated and lost and doubt, but even when I’m ready to say it’s all pointless, like I am today, I feel something inside me urging me not to miss out on the joy of life, even with the sadness of it seems to be pushing me down.

So, I keep listening to the sermon podcasts, even when I yell at them THAT I AM TRYING BUT APPARENTLY I’M JUST NOT DOING IT RIGHT!

And I keep reading the encouraging blog posts even when I want to say “Whatever. I bet your life isn’t really that good and you probably have doubts too but you’re afraid of being marched out of the Positive Christian Mom Blogger Club.”

And I keep looking at the memes and reading the devotionals and listening to the positive songs.

Because what is the alternative?

Filling my mind with more darkness, more negativity, more hopelessness?

Seeing only the bad of life?

Seeing only failure?

Seeing only mistakes?

Seeing only sadness?

It’s not an alternative I’m willing to grab ahold of.

The negatives, the sadness and the feeling of hopelessness will be there.

But the joy, the smiles, the light peeking through the clouds will also be there and I will try my best to focus on those bright spots as well.

Do I promise I will showcase only the light times and speak as if it is like a walk along the beach at sunset? No. Because to do so is dishonest, it’s an illusion, it’s not what life really is.

Life is not all cotton candy and rainbows and sunlight.

For anyone.

No matter what they show on Facebook, instagram or to your face.

Life is not all those good things all the time but there is joy and I hope it doesn’t sound like I don’t want that joy celebrated because I do, I very much do.

But if some of your moments aren’t joyful know you’re not alone. 

What made me smile this week

What made me smile this week is a weekly post inspired by Shane Burcaw of Laughing At My Nightmare. Shane has muscular dystrophy and operates an amazing non profit that raises money to help people with disabilities purchase much needed equipment to make life easier. Check out the original and best version of this weekly feature on Shane’s blog. ….

What made me smile this week:

Sunday: My son and dad played baseball in my parents’ side yard and dad built barriers to keep the ball from rolling down the long hill in front of their house. I hit a couple balls off my son, my daughter practiced her swing, and my dad laughed while he tried to get my son out a couple of times. Dad has been battling Lyme and it has wiped him out during many of our Sunday afternoons. Seeing him be able to run and laugh made me smile.

Monday: My daughter decided she had to carry four or five stuffed animals with her to my son’s karate class. I thought she was going to leave them in the van, but instead she insisted she carry them all into the building and then set up the chairs in the  play area in a circle for some kind of stuffed animal group session. “It’s OK,” she told one of the little stuffed puppies. “You’re safe inside the circle.” When I told my brother this he asked what I’ve been letting her watch. My answer was “just cartoons.” Apparently I need to keep a closer eye on the cartoons she and my son watch. Later in the day she also burst my bubble by telling me stuffed animals are “just toys” and don’t have feelings. It made me cry. But then it made me smile.

Tuesday:  I don’t remember much making me smile this day, other than I drank lemon balm tea.

Wednesday: I found an old sketchbook from five years ago. It reminded me of when I used to sketch to relax and not care if the sketches were perfect. The simple movements of creating was enough to help me forget my troubles. It made me smile.

 

Thursday: My son didn’t have school the next day so we stayed up late and didn’t even care. Late nights and no schedules make me smile.

Friday: I learned more about the power of prayer through a movie called War Room. And I started a prayer journal. The movie made me cry. The journal made me smile.

Saturday: I took some photos of the neighbor’s sweet family and enjoyed watching them interact and laugh and enjoy each other. It made me smile.

What made you smile this week?