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In 2010 Delta Airlines reported 733 million dollars in checked bag revenue. That’s $20 for the first bag you check, and $35 for the second — from every passenger traveling with more than a carry-on suitcase. Did Delta know they were going to make this much from checked bag fees? Probably. They are, after all, the largest airline in the world. But sometimes it’s hard for people like you and me to imagine how $20 here and $35 there adds up to such a big number. And that’s exactly how microstock photography works — one photo sells for $.40 to $1.00 here and $3.00 there and pretty soon your royalties add up to a sum large enough to pay the cable bill, then the electric bill, then the mortgage and eventually enough to cover your travels or replace your income altogether. Ryan Lane, a photographer at, said, “At the start of my third year selling stock photography I was able to quit my day job and live entirely from my earnings through iStockphoto. I hadn’t even dreamed of that as a possibility, and I continue to be filled with gratitude for a ‘job’ that allows me so much creative freedom, fun, and incredibly fair profit.” Ryan joined us just briefly in Portland, OR last month at our Ultimate Stock Photography event to help attendees review their photos and determine whether or not they could get them accepted into an online microstock agency. Scroll down to see some of the pictures that sell best in Ryan’s portfolio along with his advice for getting started. Note: The nerd in his photos is him!! FROM PRESCHOOL TEACHER TO MICROSTOCK PHOTOGRAPHER An interview with stock photographer Ryan Lane in Portland, OR BONNIE: Hi, Ryan. Today, you’re an inspector at which means you’re in charge of deciding which photos get accepted and which get rejected. But if you back up a few years, can you tell us what you did before you got into stock photography? RYAN: I was working at a preschool, having just finished my B.A. in Music & Biblical Studies. With a long history of graphic art and a love of all things creative, I was excited when some close friends explained to me that I could potentially make some spare cash by creating and selling pictures on iStockphoto. At that time I had minimal experience with a digital SLR camera, but with a friend’s help I quickly became familiar with digital photography and photo editing. BONNIE: Do you support yourself with stock photography full-time? And if so, was that the goal from the beginning? RYAN: At the start of my third year selling stock photography I was able to quit my day job and live entirely from my earnings through iStockphoto. I hadn’t even dreamed of that as a possibility, and I continue to be filled with gratitude for a “job” that allows me so much creative freedom, fun, and incredibly fair profit. BONNIE: Your images make your job look like fun. Here are a few of them: Would you say that stock photography is still fun for you or has it become a “job”? RYAN: This is the funnest job I’ve ever had. I don’t work, I play. I am free to create and express, and I earn my income from doing so. Awesome!!! BONNIE: Is that you modeling as a nerd in your photos? RYAN: I’m a bit of a natural at that character. So, yes. Ha-ha. BONNIE: How do you come up with concepts like a gorilla in a business suit eating a banana in the break room, a nerd watching a scary movie and throwing his popcorn, or a heavy metal bachelor washing dishes? Is it something that you research, or is it more a product of your own creativity? RYAN: I was reading about Gary Larson (creator of “The Far Side”) and his creative process; he would drink a cup of coffee and just get all these random ideas popping into his head that would become the basis for his zany comics. I guess I feel the same way, although I don’t need coffee to make it happen. Mind you, I’m a sucker for a good cup o’ joe… but basically I just get these random ideas that pop into my head, and then figure out how to make them a photographic reality. My family didn’t have a TV growing up and I read books like a machine; consequently, I’ve always had a hyperactive imagination, and now I have an amazing outlet for it! BONNIE: Do you have any tips for hobbyists who are just getting started in stock photography now? RYAN: Yes. First, don’t just go look at what’s selling and then try to recreate that. Sure, there is some wisdom in being aware of what is being sought after, but photography is and always will be an art form. While stock photography is a form of art that makes money, I really believe you can tell the difference between good art that is profitable and “art” that is made with profit as the beginning and driving force. In the world of stock there really is a delicate balance of being intentional with producing something saleable, while at the same time letting the creative mind have a leading voice in what is being made. And second, be patient. Take your time. Don’t rush your image prep before uploading. Look at your images at 100% and make sure you’re not missing any flaws in the image. Don’t expect instant results, either. Good things take a bit of time. And, of course, have fun! [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

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