What would you do if all your life, nothing felt right? If you dabbled in one job or another for decades until –BAM!– finally, you found the one thing that felt right? You’d keep doing it, that’s what! That’s how Paula Ohreen felt when she found stock photography. She’s been going at it for about a year, and she’s off to a great start. As a nice side-benefit, it’s also provided her with lots of great photos of her kids. Read on for Paula’s story, and her best tips for breaking into stock and organizing yourself in Lightroom. — Bonnie Bonnie Caton Creator, Breakfast Stock Club Breakfast Stock Club Reader of the Month Interview with Paula Ohreen Bonnie: What’s your background, and what attracted you to stock photography? Paula: I’ve changed direction quite a few times over the last 25 years. I’ve worked as a bi-lingual secretary for the OECD in Paris, in IT, supporting and training staff, and as an accountant and business analyst. So many things attracted me to stock photography, including not being accountable to anyone but myself… making goals that I aspire to and not having someone else’s goals forced on me… no office politics… no month-end deadlines… dictating who I work with, when I work and how much I work… and being able to earn a living from anywhere in the world. Bonnie: How long have you been submitting photos as stock? Paula: Since the middle of March 2012. Bonnie: That’s recent! How is it going so far? Paula: I actually haven’t made a significant amount of money, yet. I’ve spent far more on on-line courses, university classes and equipment than the roughly US$140 I’ve earned from stock photo sales. But I’m choosing to look at it as “investment capital” and expect to make a nice return on the investment in the future. The decision to start in stock also led me to decide to take a certificate in Visual Design with a specialization in photography at the University here and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I finished my last class in June and I’m waiting for my certificate to show up in the mail. Bonnie: Did you run into any obstacles when you first got started selling your photos as stock? Paula: The biggest hurdle was just submitting for the first time, but I bought the “30-Day Stock Success Program” and once I went through that, submitting was less daunting. The day I was accepted at iStock I did a dance around the office. They all thought I’d lost my mind. Bonnie: That’s awesome! Since then, how has shooting for stock influenced your photography? Paula: Starting in stock photography with zero prior experience has, I believe, forced me to become quite a proficient photographer in a very short space of time. Bonnie: What’s your biggest overall achievement in stock, and why? Paula: While learning, shooting and submitting, I’ve finally found a path that I really want to follow and am thoroughly passionate about. I’ve never felt that about any other career path that I’ve previously followed and ultimately abandoned. Through all my secretarial, IT and accounting studies I knew that I didn’t want to be a secretary, IT guy, or accountant. Through stock I’ve managed to achieve a singular focus that I’ve never had before. So my biggest achievement is that I finally know what I want to be when I grow up: A photographer. The next most memorable achievement would be the day an iStock reviewer gave one of my photos a 5/5 initial rating. The fact that it was this photo of my daughter was even more wonderful: Bonnie: What’s your favorite thing about shooting photos for stock? Paula: It may sound silly, but it might actually be that I have all these fantastic photos of my kids that I would not have had otherwise. Bonnie: What is your ultimate goal with stock? Paula: I moved from Ireland to Canada 15 years ago and a lot has happened in that time. With aging parents still living in Ireland and two young kids of my own I need much more freedom than I currently have. I want the flexibility this “job” offers so I can pick up and go home to Ireland at a moment’s notice. My ultimate goal is to make this a full-time job while replacing and exceeding my current salary. Bonnie: Any tips for folks who are just starting out? Paula: Don’t waste time on photos you know in your heart are not in perfect focus. You’ll only be disappointed when they’re rejected. Be fairly brutal when deciding which photos to submit. Also, I color-code my photos in Lightroom. For example: Green = Process for Stock – doesn’t need any Photoshop work. Purple = Process for Stock – needs work in Photoshop. Yellow = Family – not stock-quality, but family photos that I’ll definitely keep. Red = Otherwise Useful – not up to scratch for stock but could be used as a reference photo that I might Illustrate in Adobe Illustrator. Green with a star = Done – Has been processed and submitted to stock. Keep learning and reading up on your chosen field. Look at the sites that you submit to each day and see what’s selling, to get a good idea of where to focus your efforts. That said, still shoot what you love to shoot as I think it keeps the passion alive. Bonnie: Thanks, Paula!