We all know stock photography is a great way to make money from our images but over the years the returns from our efforts have slowly but surely eroded away. It used to be possible to make a living shooting purely stock photography but now for most photographers, that just isnít possible.
However, that doesnít mean photographers should stop shooting stock. There is still money to be made, probably not to the levels of old but certainly to provide some income. We do though want not just income, we want profit. We want to make as much money as we can with as small a cost as possible. This is what being in business is all about, profit. If we put this is into photography terms, we donít want to spend more money making an image to sell than we are likely to make from it. Of course shooting stock is a great risk anyway because thereíre no guarantee anyone will ever buy the images we shoot so spending huge amounts of money is probably too big a risk for most photographers.
Knowing this, the photographer has to think about how they can find subjects that cost little to shoot and still have the potential to sell. This is the real skill of the profitable stock photographer in todayís image market; creativity on a budget. It helps to be interested in what we take but if the purpose of the shoot is to make money then the photographer has to forgo some of that interest and put their creativity in to making images that publishers, editors and book-cover designers will find interesting. This is one of the secrets of stock, to shoot what these creatives want to buy.
We donít need to go to far-flung places to shoot exotic imagery. We can of course, but these trips cost lots of money so returning a profit on that trip means a lot of sales to make. If you're lucky enough to live near to one of these photogenic destinations then use that opportunity to capture stock-worthy imagery at low cost. However for those who don't have this advantage, the creative photographer can make their biggest profits by shooting close to home and if possible shooting with things they can find close to home too. Spend peanuts on props and travel to maximise profits. Find things that are readily available and use these to create something interesting, with mood, something that has a message. Stock is way past the phase of shooting simple images that sell. There are countless examples of these now. The secret to stock success is creativity and finding new ways to express Ďstocky conceptsí without spending lots of money on production costs. Watching the book cover market is a great way to get inspiration, see how they are using imagery and where they use simple shots, see how these could inspire your own work with as small a cost as possible. Here's some inspiration, a collection of book covers I'm always adding to on Pinterest
The image you see alongside this month's post, the Converse with laces in a heart-shape is a perfect example of a stock image that I took at home. These were my daughter's. She had dropped in for a visit and after seeing these on the floor I knew that the laces would look good arranged in the heart shape with the trainers. Heart shapes are very evocative and a popular stock seller. It is though now quite tricky to find new ways to represent this symbol. I hoped that this Converse, which are a symbol of youth, age, freedom, sport, etc would work well with the heart shaped laces. This image has now sold, albeit for only a few dollars but the point is this was a grabbed shot that cost me nothing to shoot.
If you'd like to read more about earning an income from stock photography, you can find all of our articles here.
All images © Peter Hatter
Article Date - January 2018
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