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Make Money Selling Stock Photos

easy tips on selling micro stock photography

Stock Photography Community

Tip #8: Another Take on Submissions

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Here are two ideas on earning high commissions with multiple submissions. The key is to use "exclusivity" to your advantage. Exclusivity earns you more money per sale but limits your audience for that image to one agency. So here are two techniques that can give you a little more mileage out of your submissions and possibly a few more dollars per image.

1. Submit a group of images to your top agency as "exclusive" submissions. After receiving your accept or rejection emails for the images, take your rejections and re-submit them to your second agency as "exclusive". If you make sure your images are top-notch, you should have no problem getting everything accepted as exclusive using this method.

2. Photograph several versions of every image. This way you can submit different images from the same theme to each agency and submit both as "exclusive", offering the ability to earn higher commissions. Make sure the images are different enough to be unique so you don't break the rules pertaining to "exclusivity". Just changing the aperture or shudder speed doesn't cut it - they need to be shot from different angles, introducing different elements, close-up vs. full length or panoramic, shot with different lenses, etc. As I enjoy photographing trucks, I always do a variety of views, angles and perspectives every time I have the opportunity to be around a shiny, chrome diesel.

Drawing from my own experience, I definitely make money faster with exclusive images listed with just one agency than having the same image on two different agencies, listed at a lower commission scale. I'm sure there are many microstock photographers out there who would argue with this, opting for a broader audience. You need to experiment with various submission techniques for yourself to see what works best.

Above is an example of different versions on the same theme. Same truck, same photo session - two different photos, each having lots of potential for sales. They're both available at Dreamstime.

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posted by La Roach, 9:37 PM AddThis Social Bookmark Button AddThis Feed Button

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Tip #7: How Many Agencies Are Right For You?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Should you select one agency or several to represent your images? The answer is really up to you and how much time you have to spend uploading work.

If you stick with just one agency, you only need to upload once. Plus if the agency offers an exclusivity option for each image, you'll make more money with each download. Exclusivity means that you promise to upload that specific image only to one agency and no other. (See chart on Dreamstime: http://www.dreamstime.com/sellimages). Some agencies also offer the photographer more money if they sign-on as an exclusive photographer for that agency, meaning you upload images ONLY to that one agency and no other. So you can have an exclusive image, as well as be an exclusive photographer. Dreamstime offers this type of tier structure. So by picking just one agency you save time and have the opportunity to make extra money per photo.

But here's the downside - not all buyers shop around to different agencies looking for just the right image. Most buyers have one or two favorite agencies they like to work with and they never look any further. So if your photos are listed with only one agency, you may be missing those buyers who shop with a different agency and the opportunity to sell to a wider audience.

Here's my take on it: do what's best for you. I did all of the work to get into two different agencies, only to find that I sell well at one and not so well on the other. And because some of my images are listed on both agency directories, I loose the ability to make a larger commission by using the "exclusive option".

The mailbox photo above is a good example. At Dreamstime it's a consistent seller, but at my other agency it has yet to sell even once! If I had uploaded just to Dreamstime and opted for exclusivity, I would have been making a higher commission each time the image sells.

The other factor is time. I have a full-time job (as most microstock photographers do) and not much extra time for photography. Rather than spending all my evenings and weekends uploading images to various agencies, I have come to the conclusion that working with one agency and having more time to enjoy my photography is best for me. If I did microstock full-time, I would most likely choose to upload to 4 or 5 agencies.

Consider your own situation and whether you have the time and ambition to deal with multiple agencies. If you decide to stick to one agency, you can always add another in the future when you're ready to branch out.

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posted by La Roach, 5:39 PM AddThis Social Bookmark Button AddThis Feed Button

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Our Blog Mug!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Like the photo I use in my banner? Now you can have your own version on a mug from the "Make Money Selling Stock Photos" blog. With the title "Take Another Path" it's a great way to express your creative direction in life whenever you have your morning cup of Joe. (Or in my case - Jasmine green tea.)

The image is based on a dream I once had where I was standing on a platform suspended in the air - and somehow I knew that I was a part of this crazy, dramatic world in my own special way.

So stop by the new online store and pick-up your very own mug. It's just $12.99 - what a bargain! Worth every penny for the daily dose of smiles you'll get whenever you use our "Take Another Path" mug.

Click here to purchase!


posted by La Roach, 8:47 PM AddThis Social Bookmark Button AddThis Feed Button

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Tip #6: Creative Keywords 101

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How do you come up with good keywords to describe your photos? No doubt about it, writing keywords is a tedious chore. But it's an essential skill for selling microstock photos. The best way to do it is to come up with a method. There's no need to reinvent the wheel everytime you have to write a list of keywords. Develop a winning formula, then stick with it. This makes the task go quickly and smoothly each time.

I want to share my own technique with you. Once you get the hang of it, you'll think "Dude, this is easy!"

7 Steps to Easier Keywords:

Step 1: Create a Word document or spread sheet file where you will document and save your keyword research. This will save you TONS of time in the future. Begin by listing the title or general topic of your photo, such as "wildflower" or "semi truck".

Step 2: Look at your photo and begin to free associate. Any words that come to mind, type them. Really push your brain by using descriptive words to explain physical attributes, emotions, seasons, colors, abstract concepts - anything that comes to mind while looking at your photo. Separate each word with a comma.

Step 3: Next, go to your favorite stock agency and do a general search for the main theme of your photo. Take a look at the photos that come up and select one that has been purchased several times. Most likely, this is a fairly successful image. Scan the keywords used for this photo. If they look good, copy and paste them into your photo description. Do this two or three times.

Step 4: Go to Wikipedia and look up your photo theme. Scan the definition and see if you come up with a few more ideas for your keyword description.

Step 5: Edit your keywords for duplicates or words that are not directly associated with your image.

Step 6: Choose a short title for your photo using 3 or 4 of the keywords.

Step 7: Save your keyword research under the general theme.

That's it! You probably think that's an incredibly long process. But it only takes me about 5 minutes once I get on a roll. And the best part - I only need to do it once for that theme and it's done. I happen to photograph a lot of big trucks - but I use virtually the same description (changing just the color or make of the truck) each time I submit a new truck photo. The one above is called Long Haul Truck and I just submitted it at Dreamstime.

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posted by La Roach, 9:27 PM AddThis Social Bookmark Button AddThis Feed Button

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Tip #5: The Key is in the Keywords

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

With thousands (and even millions!) of photos in an agency's directory, you may be asking yourself, "How in the world will anyone ever find my pics?"

The answer to this question is crucial to your success. Here's the trick - it's in the keywords you use to describe your photograph. Let me say it again - the key to your success in selling stock photos online lies in the ability of others to find your images when you use the right keywords to depict your submissions. Why are words so important? Shouldn't images speak for themselves?

Of course you need to start with great photos, but the entire dynamic of search is based on words - not images. It works just like a search in Google. If you use a string of four very specific words to describe what you are searching for, you have a much better chance of finding what you want rather than typing in a one-word general description. Here's an example: rather than search through millions of entries for "dog", you type in "brown cocker spaniel puppy". You have not only narrowed your search by whole lot, you have a much higher chance of getting exactly what you are looking for.

Search works the same way when using a microstock agency. Before I started selling my photos online, I often purchased photos for use in my business. So I experienced first-hand just how hard it can be to find the right photos using keywords.

Here's the problem - many photographers find it a chore to research keywords, so they settle for filling in the minimum number of keywords required, using the first descriptive terms that come to them. Another problem is not thinking outside the box. You'd be surprised at how unimaginative a photographer can be when he or she needs to use words rather than images to get across a concept.

Here's my 3-point strategy for keywords descriptions:
1. Use as many keywords as you possibly can think of to describe each submission.
2. Try to use the maximum allowance for keywords offered by the microstock agency for each image.
3. Get creative, crazy and conceptual with your keyword choices.

Above is one of my best selling truck photos. Yes, I love to photograph big trucks (more on this topic in a future post). Anyway... here's an example of the keywords I came up with for this photograph:

Title - White Long Haul Truck
Keywords: Color, horizontal, Freightliner, semi, diesel, truck, long, haul, big, on-road, isolated, big, cab, cargo, chrome, delivery, carrier, drive, freight, handling, heavy, industrial, labor, load, move, mover, operator, pack, package, pallet, receiving, shipping, shipment, transfer, transport, transportation, vehicle, rig, trucking, white, flat, bed

That's 42 keywords to describe a big truck! Not bad.

Stay turn for my next blog post and I'll tell you my secret for generating keyword descriptions. Why not subscribe to my RSS feed by clicking the button at the bottom of this post. Then you'll automatically get every new post as soon as I write it.

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posted by La Roach, 9:31 PM AddThis Social Bookmark Button AddThis Feed Button

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Tip #4: Sorry, Your Photo is Rejected

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Rejection! Nobody wants to receive a "no thanks" email from their stock agency. But it happens to everyone. And it's quite common during the first submission process.

The best thing to do is view rejection as a learning experience. Many times the person critiquing your submission will offer suggestions on how to improve your photograph in the rejection email. Depending on the agency, you may get a standard, "stock" reply. Other agencies actually respond with a personal note.

Your first submission is an opportunity to grasp the style, quality and details that an agency is looking for when they accept photography. And always remember - the process is totally subjective! There's a real person looking at your pics, trying to make a decision based on the agency's pre-set standards AND on their own personal judgement whether or not the image is sellable. Unless your photo breaks a basic rule (like no model release for a recognizable face) and is automatically tossed, it's really up to the person judging your image if it makes it through to the directory.

An example of how subjective the submission process really is can be seen by submitting the same photo to two different agencies. (You can do this if you don't sign exclusive rights over to one agency). The concept image seen above, called "Three Bulbs and a Fluorescent." It was submitted to both of my stock agencies. It was accepted by Dreamstime and rejected by BigStockPhoto. So far, it has been a steady seller on Dreamstime.

Rejection is all part of the process. Don't get discouraged. And don't let it become an ego thing - you can always learn something new and exciting from another person's perspective.

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posted by La Roach, 8:39 PM AddThis Social Bookmark Button AddThis Feed Button

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Tip #3: Selecting Photos for the Submission Process

Monday, September 3, 2007

Each agency will have it's own set of criteria when it comes to the submission process. Some may ask for five images, others a few more. Read the submission process carefully to see what they are looking for. The agency wants to see your best work. They should be representative of what you can do with a camera. The images should also be high resolution and as sharp as possible.

Keep in mind that a microstock agency is looking for sellable images - photographs that are illustrative, tell a story, or clearly express an emotion. Concept photos are in high demand. They are usually created around an idea or concept, and may or may not be a composite, collage or include special effects. I have included one of my concept images above entitled "A World Thirsting" that you can view at Dreamstime. This image is a composite of two photos, digitally collaged to illustrate the concept of global warming and a lack of clean drinking water.

People photos are also very sellable - but make sure you have a signed model release for any recognizable faces in the photo.

Also keep in mind that any objects visible in your photos having "branding" such as logos, product names or insignias can not be submitted. An easy way to get around this is to digitally remove any "brand" information. If you are unable to do this, it's better not to submit the photo.

To get started you might want to try simple, uncomplicated photos with strong visual appeal. But stay away from subject matter that could be considered "snapshots" such as sunsets and flowers. Agencies get tons of these things, and unless they are truly unusual or spectacular - they won't be accepted.

Another good way to find out what an agency likes is to browse through their directory. Pick a topic that you already have photos of and do a search on the agency website. You'll see what others have submitted and can gauge the quality of your work against theirs. Also, you'll see an estimate of how many photos are already accepted under this category. If a category or topic has thousands of images already indexed in an agency's directory, there's less likelihood of having images accepted that use this topic. But if you find a category with few images, you can capitalized on this by aggressively pursuing this topic.

Once I was looking for photos of underground mining equipment to use on a client's website. I found virtually nothing listed under several agency directories. I thought, "Wow, what an opportunity for someone who has access to a working mine and permission to take photos."

For more understanding of how a submission process works, take a look at Dreamstime's guidelines: http://www.dreamstime.com/sellimages.

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posted by La Roach, 1:49 PM AddThis Social Bookmark Button AddThis Feed Button

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