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So far this week, we’ve looked at how much you can make by selling your photos as stock, and how much just one good stock photo can bring in on its own. Ripping open an envelope to find your very first stock photo paycheck is a thrill, to be sure. But it’s not all about the money. It’s got to be about the fun, too. After all, if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, you’ll run out of steam… and, eventually, out of those easy profits, too. Professional photographer Shelly Perry says it all stems from finding your photo niche among the things that excite you. Read more of Shelly’s tips on finding success — and happiness — in stock photo sales, below… –Lori Lori Allen Director, Great Escape Publishing SHOOT WHAT YOU LOVE AND MAKE A LIVING       Interview with stock photographer Shelly Perry BONNIE: Shelly, how and when did you get started in stock photography? SHELLY: In 2005, I needed a stock photo for a design job I was working on. What I found in traditional stock was too expensive (about $600). I then happened upon iStock, signed up, and got the image I needed for under $10. Once I started buying images there, I couldn’t help watching the numbers of some contributors and realized that this model was actually making people more money than traditional stock, based on quantity of downloads rather than the dollar amount per sale. At that point, I began to contribute my own photos. BONNIE: How long did it take to start making money from it? SHELLY: My first sale was something like 20 cents, but by the end of 2005, I had made about $1,500 from a few hundred photos. That’s certainly not enough to live on, but it grew steadily from there. By 2009, I started making more from stock photography than I ever had in my career in social work. BONNIE: How has contributing to stock affected your life? SHELLY: It’s affected my life on a number of levels — the most important being that I am able to make a living doing what I love to do. I love stock for the fact that I can shoot what I want when I want without having deadlines or someone dictating what they need. In this sense, I find it liberating to be the photographer I want to be. BONNIE: Do you truly believe that someone can start right now, as an amateur, and eventually make a living at this? SHELLY: I do. I think the curve is steeper than it was a few years ago, which means it’s harder for folks to get a foot in the door and getting accepted is more stringent than it used to be. But the doors are still open — you just need to be persistent. BONNIE: What do I need to be successful at this? SHELLY: You need to have the desire and the tenacity to not get discouraged. Learn from rejections and work at improving as you go. Stock is also a bit of a numbers game. Generally, the larger a portfolio, the more success you’ll have. But a large portfolio of mediocre shots will not do as well as a small portfolio of exquisite photos tailored specifically for stock. The people who are able to do that seem to do quite well even without large portfolios. BONNIE: I’ve gotten a lot of reader comments that go something like, “My interests in photography were X, until I heard that people shots are big in the stock industry.” Do you think we should all focus on people photos to do well? What if my interests are flower photos? SHELLY: People photos do well, that’s no secret. But there are a number of photographers who do other subjects like food, animals, landscapes, architecture, nature, travel, and so on… and they do very well. In fact, they do better than the majority who are focusing on people. Reason being that if you have a niche that you’re passionate about, you’ll actually have much less competition. The key with shooting your passion is to do it very well. Produce something fresh and new so buyers looking for these subjects (and they do look for these) will find a “go-to person” who specializes in a niche area. BONNIE: So, how do we find that niche? SHELLY: It’s important for you to know what’s inspiring to you. What do you love about photography, what do you love to shoot, and why? I personally don’t believe in forcing a subject on someone and saying this is what your photography needs to be about. If you go by that, you won’t be excited about it, and you’ll lose interest rather quickly. Instead, I believe you should shoot what thrills you and do it the very best way that you possibly can. BONNIE: Thanks, Shelly! [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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