As a blogger and entrepreneur I use stock photography a lot. I admire the photographers who capture these images for us to use.
Brian Meeks is a fellow networker on Linkedin.com. He and I belong to several groups and have chatted back and forth a lot. I enjoy his writing and admire his photography, so I asked him to share some tips about becoming a stock photographer for my blog.
Brian Meeks On Stock Photography
It is not unusual for my blog pieces to consist of strings of silliness, bound together in a tight wrapping of the absurd, to create a tidy package of blog drivel. Today I hope to break out of my pattern of compulsive rambler and provide something that may be helpful. Each day I like to include images and on occasion I have talked about my experiences in taking ‘Stock Photos’, and how it has helped me to improve my skills. This post is one that has been bouncing around in my addled brain for some time. I hope it is interesting and helpful.
One of the fastest growing and most exciting areas of photography is the royalty free market. A royalty free stock photo is one that can be purchased, granting the buyer a limited one time use of the image. The photographer retains the copyright and though they don’t earn much per image, but they are able to sell it over and over again. Sounds easy right?
The truth of the matter is that the photos submitted to stock sites are put through a rigorous review process. The image must be technically sound. It isn’t good enough to have a beautiful picture. This article is about how one joins a stock site, some tips to help one get accepted, and why it is such fun.
I like to start with the fun stuff. I like fun, and cookies. Working on building an online stock portfolio improves one’s technical skills. I think most people enjoy improving at their craft, I know that I do. The next best part is the external validation. I was filling up my car with gas two summers ago and there was a hose lying on the ground. It had the tiniest pin hole in it. Water was spraying out and it looked interesting. I took my camera out and got two pictures. The fun came when I had my first sale of ‘Leaking Hose’. I made 25 cents, and one would have thought I had won the lottery. I was giddy. Now two years later, I still feel good every time it sells, and it has sold, numerous times.
Ok, so on to the tips.
1) The larger the photo the better. Prices increase with the size of the image, at most sites. Some people will want really large images, and those that have only the minimum size allowed will be left out.
2) Don’t upsize your image. The inspectors are very clever and they will reject it immediately. Most people aren’t even aware of how easy it is to take a small image and expand it in Photoshop. The problem is that when you do this, the computer is helping to fill in the gaps. It may not be apparent to you that the images have changed, or that it now has little imperfections, but it does. These imperfections will make the image useless to most publishers, and that is why you should never make your 1600 x 1200 image 2400 x 1800.
3) Learn and understand the sites rule with regard to copyright. If the image has a person who is identifiable, or a child of any sort, you will need a model release. The model releases can be downloaded from the site. If there are any copyrighted images within your shot, they must be edited out. This could be a logo on a pair of jeans, a sign above a restaurant way off in the background, or even building that is famous. The Eiffel Tower can be photographed during the day, but all the night photos, with the lights on are copyright protected. Any of Frank Gehry’s buildings are off limits. Don’t even think about using the Opera House in Sydney. And lastly, most all makes of car and all cruise ships, if they are the main subject, are not allowed by most places.
In the hotel photo, which has sold very well, I created my own art in Photoshop CS 3 and replaced the art on the wall in the room. It may seem that was being overly cautious, but the people who review photos will likely have rejected the image, had I not taken this step.
4) Learn to use Photoshop CS 2, 3, 4 or 5, or something similar. Stock photography is about creating images that are saleable, not about capturing ‘truth’ as one would do in journalism. On average I spend between 30 minutes and 3 hours working on a single image.
5) Shoot in Raw! This is worth repeating. Shoot in Raw! Raw gives one the most flexibility with regards to adjusting the white balance and getting the highest quality images possible. If you haven’t opened your manual in a while, give it a go, and look up raw. This setting takes a ton of memory for each shot, but it also captures the most information too. This means that if you look at the photo and decide it is overexposed, you can correct it. There are literally hundreds of adjustments one can make, because they shot in raw. Obviously it is best to get your settings correct when you take the picture, but sometimes, a picture is better with setting you wouldn’t have thought of, and by having the image in raw, you gain flexibility. The best part about raw is the ability to correct white balance. White balance is the adjusting for artificial light, or evening light, or morning light, so that the images appears the way your eye saw it. The point is this, shoot in raw, you will thank me later.
6) Learn to shoot images isolated on white. This gives your customers a good deal of flexibility; they can use the image in combination with their own designs.
Lastly where do you find the stock sites? A few of my favorites are www.istockphoto.com, www.shutterstock.com, and www.fotolia.com.
Stock photography is a bit different from artistic photography. Check out the forums on the sites and find discussion about the types of images that are selling well. Flowers may be beautiful, but there are lots of people with pictures of tulips, a leaky hose may sell better.
Brian Meeks has been a stock photographer since Jan 2008. He can be found as Ecocandle on www.istockphoto.com and others. His blog, http://extremelyaverage.com, updated daily, focuses on his journey into the world of woodworking and most days he includes photos. His writing style is, some would say, an acquired taste, as he often leans towards the silly and obscure. His second blog, which isn’t updated daily is at http://socialmingler.blogspot.com/ and deals with issues that people face when beginning to dip their virtual toes into social media platforms like twitter. He is chronicling the teaching of a student and his sister to use social media.