If there is one thing I have learned with selling stock photos and photos on print on demand stores it is there is no accounting for taste. In the past I have captured shots that took a lot of planning, a lot of set up time and waiting for the ‘perfect’ moment to press the shutter button that were not appreciated on the stock sites, which was a kick in the guts. Spending time on images to create something you have had in mind for a while and then having it shunned is not nice.
On the other hand I have submitted images to stock sites that are little more than point and shoot (okay I selected the aperture or the shutter speed to get the photo) but that was about all that have sold exceptionally well. In fact, my best selling photo of all time is one of these images, and this really bites. My top selling image “Beach huts” is not that great and there are so many technical flaws I am amazed people buy it. The thing is, the general public seem to be lapping it up whereas fellow photographers who have taken the time to see the photo and critique it have ripped it apart, and quite rightly so.
Because of the “there’s no accounting for taste” aspect whenever I go out to shoot stock I take the most versatile equipment I have, which consists of my Canon 6d full frame camera and Canon 28mm – 300mm f3.5 – 5.6L IS zoom lens.
This combination, whilst big, bulky and heavy, is very versatile and allows me to shoot a variety of subjects. With this set up I can capture wide angle landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes (although I can’t capture ultra-wide angle), I can capture close up shots by standing a little way back and zooming right in nice and tight although I can’t capture macro shots) and I can capture images at the popular focal lengths of 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 100mm, 200mm and 300mm.
Many photographers criticize the image quality of the Canon 28mm – 300mm f3.5-5.6L IS lens and I don’t think this is fair. Okay, it may not be the sharpest lens out there, and it may suffer from distortion and fringing at the extremes but these are easily rectified using photo editing software. For the range of focal lengths and the different types of subjects you can capture using his lens, i.e. its versatility, you can’t beat it.
In my opinion the image quality is superb and more than good enough for stock photos, and paid commercial shoots too. Photographers are overly critical about sharpness, noise, distortion and fringing and being able to “pixel peep” on the computer doesn’t help. Real customers in the real world, i.e. where it matters, don’t critically analyse photos. They are not bothered if the outer parts of the frame are a little soft, they don’t care if there is the odd hotspot here and there, and they don’t care if there is a little noise. Heck, most of my paying customers don’t even know what noise is let alone how it affects a photo.
I have had a fair amount of critique from other online photographers, which I do not appreciate. I don’t put my photos out there to be critically analysed and ripped apart to point out technical flaws. Photographers seem to be a bitchy, back stabbing bunch out to point score and put each other down – this is the part of photography I don’t like. Personally, I don’t care what other photographers think of my images, after all we all have our own style and way of doing things and photography is very subjective anyway. All I care about is what the customer thinks, after all that is where the money comes from. Photographers don’t buy other photographers photos do they?
Back to the point…… The Canon 28mm – 300mm f3.5 – 5.6L IS lens is a great piece of glass, and whilst it is expensive it is worth every penny. When I bought my Canon 28-300 I remember handing over the credit card, punching in the PIN thinking “what am I doing here?” but I now know it was a great purchase and I have now sold enough stock prints to justify the cost of the lens, and some.
When I go out shooting stock I take photos of things that aren’t my type of thing. Some people say that shooting subjects that are of no interest and don’t strike a chord leads to a sub-standard photo.
Okay I don’t enjoy taking photos of subjects I have no interest in, and I am inclined to spend less time setting up the shot, checking composition etc. etc. but then we already know that when it comes to stock photos quality isn’t that important. As long as the exposure is more or less there, the lighting is more or less there, the subject is in focus and the overall composition is pleasing to the eye that’s all that matters. There is no point wasting time agonizing over getting everything right.
I find shooting stock a “run and gun” style of photography and take a lot of photos in a comparatively short amount of time, and this requires a lot of memory cards. I find the key to shooting stock is to keep snapping away and never delete images until you have had the chance to review them on the computer, unless there is something that is obviously not right (such as obvious over/under exposure, missed subject etc.) as images that look terrible on the camera’s LCD screen often look great (and are usable for stock too) on a big screen. The other thing I find with shooting stock is that images I don’t think will work often do, and once again are commercial photos that sell.
When taking stock photos I have learned that it isn’t always quality that sells so what’s the point in spending ages setting up to bag one or two shots when you can go out with a scatter gun approach and take loads? This approach may seem like I don’t care about my stock images, and I suppose in a way I don’t. Stock photography is all about the stacking high and selling cheap, and that is how I approach it.
When it comes to commissions, weddings, portrait shoots and other specific paid work it’s a different ball game and my attitude is totally the opposite. In these situations I spend the time doing my research, I use the best photography kit I have, I take the time to set everything up and I make sure every image is the best I can do.
Because of the way I work and the fact I don’t want my high paying customers knowing, and potentially judging my skills and ability, the type of stock photos I shoot I run my photography under two names. One for the high paying, high profile and high skilled photography shoots and the other for the cheap and dirty stock photos.
Want to earn a bit of money through stock photography?
If you want to earn some money with your photos on a stock site or two the following articles may be of interest:-
“Stock photography tips” is an article that, as I am sure you have already guessed, is full of tips, tricks and advice on how to capture commercial stock photos.
“Earning money as a product photographer” In my experience product photos sell very well on stock sites, so whilst this article may seem a bit off the mark, it is one that may prove very useful to you.
“The basics of flash photography” This is another article that, on the face of it, appears unrelated to making money selling stock photos but given lighting is an important factor some flash advice and tips is something you may find useful.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.