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Freelance travel photographer and writer Theresa St. John makes a nice side income in stock “You can make a nice little side income from stock photography.”

I’d read those words in a few different photography magazines and had mulled over the idea of selling premium photos at rock bottom prices during conversations with friends.

Was it worth it? I weighed up the pros and cons carefully. In the end, what I saw as the pros of delving into stock photography won me over—and it wasn’t long before I was champing at the bit, anxious to try it out myself.

Photography had been an interest of mine from the time I was a little girl following my dad around the yard. 

I’d watch him hunt for bugs he could take pictures of, fascinated with his passion for composition and technical knowhow.

I, on the other hand, photographed things like pretty flowers and puppies. My love for photography took on a life of its own over time and followed me into adulthood.

I’d even made some decent money along the way, taking landscape, portrait, boudoir, and wedding photos for my growing list of clients.

But, stock photography? Really?

Well, that seemed like a different animal altogether. I would have to step outside of my comfort zone to capture stock-worthy pictures, and they’d most likely be images I wasn’t used to taking at all.

In 2013, I attended Great Escape Publishing’s Ultimate Money-Making Photography Workshop in Miami. I wanted to learn more about making money with photography—and stock in particular. That three-day workshop was amazing, and I went right to work when I was home again.  

I decided to focus on architecture, editorial, food, detail, antique cars, and conceptual photography. 

And the funniest thing happened… From the get-go, I found myself falling in love with photography all over again.

Stock photography made me think about the craft in a way that seemed brand new. Instead of capturing pictures I loved, I was thinking about what a buyer would find compelling.

And, not only did I find myself taking images from every angle I could think of, most were of things I’d never considered interesting enough to photograph before.

I practiced every day, homing in on one or two specific subjects. I worked hard, training myself to think about a business, or maybe a blogger, and what they might be looking for.

Over time, the process of finding good stock ideas became easier. And I got better as a photographer. I’d drive home at the end of a shoot, buckle down, and edit my best images. I’d submit them to my favorite stock sites, making sure to use pertinent keywords, so people could easily find them.

I also shared them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.   

I never imagined, in my wildest dreams, that I’d enjoy the composition of architectural photos, never mind that I would sell them to buyers willing to pay a pretty penny. But, I did. Several have ended up on the cover of print and online magazines. 

But what’s been really astonishing is how stock photography has led to other photography work. Surprisingly, a local real estate agent stumbled across some shots I’d taken inside and around the grounds of The King and Prince—a luxury resort on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

I had posted some images on Facebook, marveling at the beauty and craftsmanship of the elite property. The agent reached out to me immediately. She needed a photographer who could take great photos of homes and businesses she was listing. Would I be interested in the job?

By then, I loved taking pictures of architecture and jumped at the chance to work with her. We agreed on a price for each assignment, good for six months. When the half-year mark hit, we reviewed my work and signed a new contract that tripled the price for the next two years. Say what?

Stock photography has allowed me to hone my skills, think about my images in new ways, and make a paycheck each month. I pay bills, put some money away, and plan fun trips with friends.

It’s also opened literal doors for me. Now, I’m often invited into buildings to take images of splendid craftsmanship or unique venues. And it’s been fun learning the history behind each of them. I can sell these pictures later as editorial, stock or fine art.

“You can make a nice little side income from stock photography.”

I smile at those words now.

You sure can.

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