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You could say Shelly Perry was a reluctant photographer. While she loved the idea of photography as a hobby, she had no idea how to make a living at it. She also resisted the idea of stock photography, thinking there was no way she could make any real money at it. Today, all that has changed. If you, too, are a little scared or reluctant to get started, read her advice below… HOW I “REINVENTED” MYSELF   by Shelly Perry in Portland, Oregon When I left my job in social services, I had no idea what I was going to do next. All I knew was that I was not doing that anymore. Trying to “re-invent” myself without a clear direction was a little daunting, frustrating, and at times, downright scary. I had a chance encounter with a friend who was pursuing his passion as an artist. That’s when it struck me … it was time for photography to come front and center in my life. This was a huge turning point for me. I had always loved photography and even worked in a few photo labs in my young work history. I was always afraid of ruining photography, though, by making it my job. I wasn’t sure how it would happen or what direction it would take. But now I was determined to make it with photography. I started out building a traditional photography business. I hired a guy who helped me with business development, random shoots, and building a client base. I joined local art shows and gallery exhibitions, anything I could do to get my name out in the local market. I had read a lot over the years about stock photography, but it appeared to be a lot of work for little return, so I didn’t give it much thought as a viable option. I just kept plugging away on a local business model. While working on a design campaign for a local musician, I once again thought about stock photography. See, I needed a photo for the design that I didn’t have, and without hope of shooting it myself, I went looking for stock. I found the “traditional” stock houses with the traditional high price tag, which put that option right out of the running for my design needs. While trying to solve this dilemma, I came across an ad for a company called iStockphoto. As I would discover, this was a “microstock” site that licensed royalty-free images for very small fees. Sure enough, they had several shots that would work for my needs at a fraction of the cost. I signed up and bought what I needed. I was happy and so was my client. I thought that was the end of it. I had found a great resource for photos I did not personally have but needed for designs (which I was doing for clients in conjunction with my photography). Little did I know at the time that it was another huge turning point. You see, when I signed up to buy photos at iStock I saw something about joining as a photographer. My curiosity was piqued, but at those low fees I was pretty sure the only one making any money was the company. I found a few contributors whose work I liked and started to watch and do some math. After watching a few months, and looking at and digging deeper into the site, I realized that this was indeed a viable option to generate a nice stream of income. I jumped in — and I’m glad I did! I’d like to say the rest is history, but that doesn’t give it justice. My first royalty was something like 15 cents, and it took a while to generate my first paycheck. Month after month, as my portfolio grew so did the downloads and the paychecks. Another thing that happened was my entire business model eventually shifted.   While I continued to do some client work, and still do, it’s stock that pays my bills month after month. If I’ve learned anything in all this, it’s that sometimes you have no idea what’s around the next corner of your journey. But if you keep going, keep pursuing your passion, opportunities and doors you never imagined can open up before you. [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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