Feb 25, 2016
I remember how I was just starting to work with stock photography sites. It was in 2008. Back then I was employed in the position of a PR manager in one of Novosibirsk companies. Economic recession in our country happened that year and we were not paid for our work anymore. I lasted three months without any payment, and then decided to leave the occupied post.
At that time, and before that, I would have never thought that I would become a designer, photographer or someone like similar. Previously I worked as a sales manager, a real estate agent, a loader, a builder and a labourer, packed shopping bags in a supermarket, sold books. Nothing to do with photography and design. However, after leaving work I realized that it won't be easy to find a new place that would fit my expectations. Then I started thinking what I wanted to do. I found the answer rather quickly. At the time I knew one photographer, who also was a programmer and knew how to design websites a little. It was from him that I learned about stock photography sites and decided to try.
At home I had the usual point-and-shoot camera, with which I began my photographic journey. I registered on stock sites and began taking pictures. Most of the shots were flowers and cookies that I photographed on a window, using the plastic window sill as the background, sunlight and a regular mirror as lighting. At the same time I began watching online Photoshop tutorials, and also started to practice designing. Of course, photography could not immediately start bringing me tangible income, given that I had not dealt with it before.
That is why I started searching for programmers to start making websites. However, this is another story. Let's fast forward to a point a little further in my photo career.
After the first attempts of photographing cookies, cats, flowers and objects found in all the corners of my apartment, as well as passing the test on Shutterstock from the third or fourth time, it was time to move on. With the help of my father I got my first SLR camera - a Nikon D80, and a couple of simple standard lenses like 18-55. After a short period of time I had the first photoshoot with people. The funny thing is that I immediately got pretty good money for the first time. I don't remember the exact amount though.
At first I was shooting different girls and groups of people for super little money and these same photos were uploaded to stock sites. I used a kind of a trick – if you are willing to sign the model release, you get a 50% discount for a photoshoot. So, I had an income guaranteed and there was also a prospect of getting some money in the future. Theoretically for an unlimited period of time.
In the first couple of years, until 2010, I achieved a very modest income. It was something around 200-400 dollars a month - only from Shutterstock, because I was too lazy to work with the others due to the fact that uploading is quite a time-consuming process, especially if you are uploading a lot, and it gives very little money. In a quantitative equivalent the sales were about 400-700 per month maximum, despite the fact that my portfolio consisted of about eight thousand works or even more. I didn't care about the quality of content, preferring quantity.
Everything changed dramatically after almost accidentally, but not accidentally, and not intentionally (I was passing, but did not pass) I decided to take part in the international conference on stock photo sites Stock In Russia, which was organized by the guys from Pressfoto - the best Russian stock site. It was there that I saw the prospect of working with stock agencies and met some great professionals of this industry. The next few months I was preparing for some energetic stock site action. So, my opinion on the stock sites, as well as the vision of my future changed because I saw how successful people from the industry can be. How cool their shots are and how positive they are.
So, in the beginning of 2011 I was lucky to form a team of wonderful people. It was a few of us, and we were shooting photos and retouching. We started uploading our photos to many stock photo sites. And although the photo quality improved, it still remained at a not particularly high level. We were shooting for 5, 10 and even 15 hours a day. One shooting after another - up to 5 shootings per day. Some models came in the morning, then later came other models and so on. We were working like machines.
Little by little our professional level grew. By the fall of 2011, after 6-7 months after the start of this team work, we reached a level of $1000 per month with Shutterstock and another 500-600 bucks from other stock agencies. Something like that. It was a point that we were all waiting for. In fact, it was a "sink or swim" point. After this point we reached self-financing, which meant that the team could stay afloat. And it was a huge relief. It was possible to reach the level of $1000 in six months due to two things - a stable number of images starting with 500 photos a month and constant improvement of image quality.
Up to this point I was under a huge psychological and financial pressure, because we invested our own money, earned from other projects, a lot of time and effort, and it was unknown whether we would be able to recoup investments and to reach the level when we don't just spend, but also earn. And earn good money.
However, in six months of active work we were able to become self-supporting and receive an income of more than 1000 dollars a month. Of course, it was pennies compared to other businesses like Web Studio and to what happened next. However, this is the first significant milestone for any stock undertaking and that's the reason I decided to share this story with you.
If you are just starting out on the stock market. If you have been there for quite a while but cannot overcome a certain barrier, then you need to understand that everything has causes, which are also necessary for development. And here are the main things that would cause your earnings on stock sites to grow:
- Regular uploads at least once a week
- Increasing number of uploads
- Increasing image quality. This applies to light, color, models, ideas, retouching, sharpness, clothing, props and so on
- Variety of shootings
- Following global trends and events
I wish you all success in work and private affairs!