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Bonnie here, again. One of the things I like to do when I’m playing with my photo skills is turn myself into a twin.

It’s weird. I know.

There are so many great reasons to get into stock photography today...

Probably comes from 38 years as an only child. But psychoanalysis aside, it’s one of my favorite art projects and a big reason I’m attracted to photography—because I can be whoever I want to be and photograph whoever I want to photograph (my imaginary twin included).

I like selling photos as stock for lots of reasons but what you might not know is that our past writing about stock photography has taken lots of turns.

In the old days, 15+ years ago, stock photography meant you signed a contract with a stock company agreeing to submit 1,000 to 3,000 images per month to them for approval. They picked maybe 100-300 of the best that they agreed to represent, and they printed them in a giant catalog which mailed to companies looking to buy stock images.

Maybe you bought some at some point in your career. You had to sift through catalogs as big as the old Sears Christmas catalogs, circling images. Then, you’d call a number on the back of the catalog and order the images over the phone, paying $300 to $500 for each. They’d arrive on a CD weeks later.

Then, along came “microstock” and everything changed. 

Gone went the contracts requiring 1,000-3,000 images from each photographer and in came the ability for everyday folks like us to try our hand at creating stock photography one to two images at a time.

Instead of paying $300 to use an image, now the price was $1, opening up the market to people like high-school students looking to illustrate book reports and mom and pop shops looking to advertise online. And the stock photographers who got in early made a pretty penny from the rush of sales.

To give you an idea—the traditional stock photographers who shot for the big stock photography houses used to average $1 per image in their portfolio per year. The new microstock photographers started earning $1 per image in their portfolio PER MONTH. 

So, a portfolio of 3,000 images meant $3,000 x 12 = $36,000 in passive income a year. You can see why the microstock world exploded and photographers flooded into it like ants on honey. It was such a big deal that some photographers bought entire studios and filled them with stock props to shoot images for stock full-time.

But fast forward to today and you’ll see the landscape has changed quite a bit since then.

Simple photos of props on white backgrounds have stopped selling, and authentic photos of people doing real things have sprung up in their place.

To get into stock, you need:

A good camera (5 years old or newer)…
A computer with an internet connection…
10 good photos to start with…
The willingness to learn from rejections (they do happen to everyone)…
An afternoon to get started.

And here’s what it buys you:

A passive income—stock photography is one of the only places where you can sell your images without meeting buyers face-to-face and without doing any marketing on your own.

A cheerleader—the greatest motivator ever is when someone spends their hard-earned cash on an image you created. It feels amazing, and you just can’t get it any other way.

A teaching tool—agencies only take images they think will sell. And if they don’t want a photo that you send in, they’ll tell you why. This is such a great way to learn and improve as you build your portfolio.

When microstock started to fall in income potential, we debated whether to talk about it, anymore. The days of $1 per image per month are gone, and it’s almost leveled out to what it was in the old stock photography days, with many of our members averaging $2.25 per image per year, up to $5 per image per year—with the top photographers earning significantly more.

But here’s what happened when we stopped talking about it as a viable means to sell your pictures…
Our success stories stopped, too. Which proves an even bigger point about stock photography—it’s there for income to be sure. But don’t overestimate the power of income and underestimate the power of motivation and constant improvement. Because once we took away the one market that consistently bought our members photos… and consistently told them they were good enough… and consistently gave them something to shoot and aim for… they stopped learning, improving, and shooting for other things, too.

So, try stock photography today for all these reasons…

It gives you practice shooting anything you like, from faking a twin to your daily breakfast…
It gives you feedback on your work and a big pat on the back when you get it right…
It improves your skill and gives you a starting ground to leap from…
And it’s income—an average of $2-$5 per image per year that comes in while you’re out doing other things and shooting for higher paying clients…

You’ve no excuse to give it a try. If you need some help, we’ve a supportive community of stock photographers standing by.

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