In stock photography, photobuyers don’t buy pictures that I like to shoot. They buy pictures that they need! When I finally realized this, I finally began to learn how this segment of the photography industry functions. Once I began learning how the industry works, I focused on the areas needed to be successful.
Stock Photography Must #1
Specialize: Make the distinction between shooting pictures to be shooting pictures and shooting pictures for stock. The stock photography market is very, very large. It continues to grow each year due to the advances in technology. In addition to rapidly growing, the industry is going through a great deal of change. For some veterans, it is the death of the industry. Many other veterans are successfully embracing the change.
For amateurs and photographers entering the stock photography niche, the change means very little to them. After all, they have no stock photography experience to compare to.
Like the internet, success is attained in a fast growing market by specializing: focusing on a niche. Most entry-level stock photographers photograph everything that they see – flowers, sunsets, insects, people, buildings, etc. Focusing requires research. Your research will make it clear to you that photographs of everything don’t sell well in stock.
When I began in stock, I had over five-thousand images. I used criteria from Rohn Engh’s books, “Sell and Re-Sell Your Photos” and “Sellphotos.com” to assist me determine the photography niche that would be my most profitable. Rohn refers to the process as “Defining Your Market Strength Areas.” After I read how to apply the process, I found what niche (s) offered me the most profit potential for my efforts in stock photography and within my specified photography niche(s).
It helped me to disregard my emotional attachment to my (self-proclaimed) ‘greatest’ work and to focus on what matters – what photobuyers are buying! Stock photobuyers buy what they need – not what we think is ‘great.’ I now focus my stock photography work on the photography niches that I have researched and ensured that fits into my world (schedule, likes, dislikes, hobbies, passions, local, etc.). I still shoot all types of photos. However, I specifically spend scheduled time shooting photos for my stock photography niche.
Stock Photography Must #2
Research: Researching the photo markets was the next step in targeting my best stock photography niche opportunities – “who is buying?” and “what are they paying?” and “how do I contact them.”
The camera that I was shooting with was a Sony dsc-F717 which, at the time, was perfect for my needs. Eventually, however, I graduated to a camera with interchangeable lens. While they produce very good images, Sony pro-consumer cameras are limiting, in my opinion. Great images – limited lens options. In the stock photography world, high resolution images (10M and up) are preferred by the majority of photobuyers. Sony is getting there, but, other brands, such as Canon, offer more flexible systems. And Canon brand is currently one of the industry leaders used by a large majority of stock photographers (many have other brands that they shoot with, but, almost all have at least one Canon camera in their collection).
Still, even with the limited resolution of the Sony (8M and less, unless in the [slow] raw format), I was able to identify specific stock photography niches such as non-profit organizations, magazine publishers, web designers and industry associations. Lower resolution images have a market and generate revenue. However, you must do the research to find them. And, above all, keep shooting and showing your work! Photobuyers are looking for pictures that make statements not ‘artsy.’
After using the process of “Defining Your Market Strength Areas,” as outlined in Rohn Engh’s book, I found how to honestly assess my photographic strengths/weaknesses, how to identify and develop my stock photography niche and how to shoot pictures specifically for the stock photobuyers seeking the niche that I am best at – and fits my style (life, passion, expertise, interests, etc.).
Don’t let the term ‘research’ overwhelm you. With the presence of the internet, all that you need is a good search tool. There are many that are very good. My favorite and the only search tool that I use is Search It! It is the most comprehensive search tool that I have ever seen, used or heard of ( trust me, I am an information junkie). Search It! does every search that you can imagine. You can research photography markets, photobuyers, photography forums, and anything else that you can research. Really – anything!
I don’t want to pretend that getting started was easy. But, it wasn’t that hard. In fact, I made it more difficult for myself because I either didn’t have access to the information contained in this site or I didn’t stick to the basics (Must Haves). Of course, at that time, I didn’t know. Take advantage of the information and resources contained in this website.
One of your first steps in being successful with stock photography is to research, find and focus on your specialty. That’s where your success lies.