As you all know, I'm kind of camera obsessed. I take my camera with me almost everywhere I go and I take pictures of absolutely everything. When my own camera was out for repair at the beginning of the year, I borrowed a camera from school. Coincidentally, my first name even rhymes with camera.
So what happens with all the photos I take? Well, for over a year I've been posting them to my not-so-secret photoblog. And I have also tried to sell them at street fairs, but the cost of printing and matting them along with whatever fees there are for the space at the fair means that it's difficult to do more than break even. (I never actually calculated this, but I suspect that at least half of what I made came from pitying bloggers who stopped by our booth.)
But mostly, the photos I've taken just sit on my hard drive. Oh wait, not really. :) My hard drive was fried long ago. (Remember that?) So actually the photos sit on CDs and DVDs in a little case on my desk.
It would be nice to earn a little money from my addiction, if only to fuel (and fund) it further.
I had been thinking about getting into stock photography at some point, but for a long time I didn't feel like I had enough knowledge about photography (and in particular, about digital photography). On top of it, you need LOTS of photos to submit to an agency and apparently they're supposed to be good or something. Looking back through my old photos, even I can see that they're not really that good. Photos I took a year ago are blown out, or they're noisy, or they have JPG artifacts because I didn't yet know about shooting in RAW. And they're definitely not stock oriented. (Trust me, stock agencies do not need another amateurish macro shot of a flower with a bee on it.) Plus, whenever I use the macro function on my camera, I only get 5 MP photos, which are too small by most stock agency standards.
But then I learned about microstock agencies, which generally sell smaller size photos from much more amateur photographers. Of course, they sell these photos at MUCH MUCH lower prices than traditional stock agencies. And when I say much lower, I mean, practically free. Major stock companies may sell a photo for $400, while a smaller stock company may sell a photo for $150, and the microstock companies sell photos for $1. Yes, one measley little dollar. And of that dollar, the photographer only makes between $.20 and $.50 depending on the agency.
Sounds horrible, doesn't it? When I first heard about these agencies, I thought they were as evil as evil goes. Paying photographers pennies while stealing business from the larger stock companies.
As you can probably tell given the length of this post, I've had a change of heart. I talked with my friend ViSuaLLyMiNDeD about her experience with these microstock agencies. She didn't convince me that it was the best way to make money. In fact, a while ago she wrote that she'd only made about $240 with 300 photos in her portfolios across five difference agencies.
But I thought that microstock might not be a bad way to learn about stock photography, see what sells, put my old photos to use, and possibly make a little money along the way. Also, you only need to submit 3 to 20 photos, depending on the agency, not 300 photos.
And so I have started submitting photos to these microstock agencies. I just pulled out my CDs of photos, started with the oldest ones, and pulled the first 20 that I thought were decent. I didn't want to put any more effort into it than that, since the experiment was to see whether my old photos were good enough to sell, not whether I could produce good photos right now. And in fact, since I'm pretty busy right now, I'm not going to spend much time shooting anything new. I'm going to see how far I can get with my old photos.
Well, so far I've gotten accepted to 3 out of 4 agencies (I'm still waiting to hear from the fourth). Two agencies have accepted 85-90% of the images I've sent them, giving me 9 photos at one agency and 22 photos at the other. In the two days they've been up on the site, nothing has sold yet. Another agency accepted only 30% of the photos I sent them, leaving me only 6 photos showing on their site, but one photo has already sold twice in the past two days, netting me, yep, one dollar. (It's this photo that Anonymous Coworker has hanging in his dining room.)
The reasons for the rejections vary from "Image is not RF stock oriented or its sales potential is too low at this stage" (I totally agreed with them) to "Poor framing, cropping, composition or snapshot" (I suppose it's a matter of personal opinion). Only one photo was actually rejected from one agency because of quality on the grounds of "distorted pixels, image was interpolated, poorly scanned, upsampled or JPG was not saved at the highest quality" and I wonder if they were actually looking at the photo I sent them because it was not scanned, upsampled, or saved at a lower quality. In fact, the martini glass photo was upsampled (because I was playing around with upsampling and I forgot to send them the original version), but they accepted it and it's sold twice. So who knows. The photo they rejected was a picture of a gravestone, and maybe they thought it was too obvious to point out to me that no one wants to buy pictures about death. :)
Anyway, I guess I could make more money if I put a little more effort into this, by shooting new and better photos that are actually targeted to be stock photos. But we'll see. Right now I really don't have the time, and I just wanted to get this set up and see how it goes. If I magically become rich overnight, I'll certainly let you all know. But I'm not spending the money just yet.