Get started with stock photography

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Last week we looked at my top three picks for stock photography agencies that make it easy to get started selling your photos right away. (If you missed that issue, you can catch up here.)

Now it’s time for the second step in our Getting Started series: Gathering your first photos to submit!

Ideally, you should be able to do this in about an hour. Find a time on your calendar this week where you can fit in 60 minutes, and schedule it. OR… look for a few 20-minute slots and split it up among them.

Let’s start with 10 images for your first batch.

Odds are you probably already have 10 (or more) shots sitting on a hard drive somewhere that would make great stock photos.

Here’s what to do:

STEP 1: Take a little time to look through your image library and pick out the ones you think might work for stock. You’re looking for photos that someone would want to use for a design or advertising project. Pick out any that catch your eye — we’ll narrow it down in a sec.

STEP 2: Ok, so now that you have a bunch of images to choose from, let’s hone in on the first 10 you want to submit. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is the image in sharp focus? Zoom in to 100% to check.
  • Is the subject obvious? It should be very clear to the viewer what your main subject is.
  • Is your composition free of clutter? Look at the edges of each photo to be sure nothing distracting is sneaking in.

The answer should be YES to all of these questions. This is where you have to be really honest with yourself. You may absolutely love a photo, but if it isn’t sharp, it’s not going to work for stock.

STEP 3: Time to think like a photo buyer. Most stock photos end up advertising a product or service, so you want to envision what your photo could potentially be used for. Here’s some things to keep in mind as you’re picking out your 10 shots.

  • Copy space – or a blank place in the photo where a designer could place text – is extremely useful for designers.
  • Images with people tend to sell the best in stock. (Remember that you need a model release if your photo contains a person.)
  • Images that convey a concept or emotion are highly sought after.

Here are a few examples:

Stock photo of food on a table with room for copy space
The photographer left plenty of room for text (copy space), making this a very useful stock photo.

Stock photo of three children playing in the snow
Photo buyers are always looking for images of people doing things.

Stock photo of happy family splashing in a creek
This image does a great job of conveying the concepts of fun, family, and togetherness- themes that always do well in stock libraries.

 A little more advice:

  • It might be tempting to pick out your 10 absolute all-time favorite images to submit for stock. However, it might actually be best to choose 10 photos that you’re not particularly emotionally attached to for this initial round. Rejections are common, especially while you’re first learning, and it’s a lot easier to swallow a rejection when it isn’t an image that’s near and dear to you.
  • As you’re sorting and deciding, don’t overthink it. Trust your gut instinct and go with it. This should only take about an hour.

Alright, hold onto these 10 shots and next week we’ll look at exactly how to upload and submit to your stock agencies!

See you next week!

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