When you live in the Pacific Northwest, any November day without rain in the forecast means you need to be outside. It was one of these rare dry and calm days when I was lucky enough to be at the Oregon coast with my wife and her parents.
Hiking is a passion of both my wife and I, and we were eager to share the beauty of a remote and scenic section of the coastline with my in-laws who hail from the prairies of Saskatchewan.
Before long we were lacing up our shoes and dodging the massive mud pits in the trail as best as we could. The path eventually broke out of the trees and reached a broad overlook where the grandeur of the Pacific suddenly comes into view. The late afternoon light and sublime sky provided a dramatic backdrop to the rugged coastline below.
I knew instantly the scene was perfect.
I spent a few minutes looking for the best angle to capture the shot, and then I asked my hiking companions to walk through the scene right where I needed them.
We tried a few different angles, and then got back to absorbing the beauty of the moment. As we raced back towards the car before darkness fell, I knew in the back of my mind that I had something special on my camera’s memory card.
After I arrived back home, I narrowed my images down to the three best and uploaded them to my stock photo agency, iStock. In the four years since, these images have produced a whopping $4,748 in royalties! Not too bad for 15 minutes of fieldwork and a couple hours of post-processing!
When I first started shooting stock nine years ago, my aim was to make enough money to upgrade my gear. I achieved that after my first year, and since then selling stock photos has helped put me through graduate school and save for part of a down payment on my first house. All while I held other jobs (which I love) and pursued hobbies with every spare moment I could find.
My goals of photography have always been to integrate it into my passions in life. I love taking pictures, but I also love being outside camping, hiking, and exploring new places off the beaten track. Shooting stock photography fits in perfectly with this lifestyle, and I’ve found a way to make my adventures profitable.
I personally know full-time stock photographers as well as photographers who use stock to supplement their income like I do. The great thing about it is you can put as much or as little effort into it as you have time and energy for.
The overall market for stock photos is massive, and there is demand for a wide array of images. I focus on outdoor recreation because that is interesting to me, but many other subjects can be profitable. The key to generating money isn’t as much how good of a technical photographer you are, but instead learning to recognize or create moments that are highly saleable, as I did on the bluff above the Pacific.
The rewards of stock photography go beyond paychecks as well. Fast-forward four years (and two little kids) later; my family was headed back to the coast with our good friends. Along the way, my eye caught a billboard on the side of the road advertising an outdoor store—it was one of my pictures from our hike!