- You get an idea of what imagery is already available and has performed well.
- You can find inspiration in what other people have already uploaded.
- You can identify areas that aren't well represented and focus your attention on those.
- Many sites let you refine search results. As shown above, iStock lets you see the most popular results for your search. By evaluating these images, you can pick up on subject matter, theme, composition, colors, and other features that are common to the most popular images.
- Stock sites often provide you with related search terms. As shown above, the original search for "landscapes" is related to "nature," "mountain landscapes," and "beach." Looking at these related searches can give you ideas for additional images. They can also help you determine what keywords to use.
- Look at images in the niche you want to work with and examine their keywords. The keywords for your images must be relevant to the subject, but looking at what keywords other people have used for similar images can help you hit on important key searches.
Photo by af_istocker via iStock
It's no secret that a lot of photographers have been out of work in 2020. Many are still out of work or working in a reduced capacity.
But as bleak as things are, there is always hope that tomorrow brings new opportunities. Besides, there are things you can actively do right now, today, to supplement your income and try to make up for some of the lost cash flow due to the pandemic.
One of those things is stock photography.
Photo by NguyenDucQuang via iStock
I know that stock photography doesn't pay what it used to. But that doesn't mean that it's not still a good means of earning passive income. You just need to know how to go about it in the right way, that way you maximize the exposure of your images on stock sites while maximizing the number of downloads.
Over the next couple of months, we'll be doing a weekly article that explores things you can do to improve your sales of stock photography.
Today's installment covers the initial stage of planning and research.
So, let's get to it!
Editor's Tip: Ready to take your stock photography to the next level? You need to learn to see creatively first. Learn how to create photos that stand out from the crowd by developing your creative eye. Check out our most popular course, the 30-Day Creative Eye Challenge to get started!
Stock Photography Success Tip #1: Find Your Niche
Photo by DieterMeyrl via iStock
At some point, you'll likely want to expand your horizons and upload photos that fit into multiple niches. But when you're just starting out, it's advisable to focus on one niche, learn the ropes of stock photography, and then expand into other areas.
It's better to be master of one than a Jack of all trades and master of none.
So, if your passion is landscape photography, focus on that as the subject for your stock photos for the time being.
Photo by Gregory_DUBUS via iStock
Then, once you feel comfortable in your ability to generate income with stock landscape images, expand your reach into other niches. Perhaps you move into architecture photography next.
Even so, I'd recommend that you keep your stock images in a few domains - perhaps three or four - rather than trying to supply images for six or eight different niches. I know for me, the more I try to do, the less awesome my work is. If you're the same way, you'll be better served focusing on higher-quality images for fewer niches.
Stock Photography Success Tip #2: Use the Tools Stock Sites Provide You
Part of your research should be to discover what stock photo sites can do to help you improve your images.
The first thing you can do is simply search stock sites for specific key terms to see what images are already in that category.
Above, you can see the first page of results I got when I search iStockPhoto for "beautiful landscape."
But you can filter these results to view the best images, as shown below.
By investigating what other people have already done, you accomplish a few tasks:
Looking at the best images on a stock site can also clue you into the types of keywords you should use for your image.
Keywording is crucially important, and it's necessary that you take the time to do it right.
After all, you can have the most gorgeous images, but if people can't find them because you've not done a good job of keywording, then all the work you put into taking the image will be for naught.
Other tools you can make use of on stock sites include:
Bonus Tip: Get a Good Monitor
I use two monitors in my home office - a ViewSonic VP3881 (bottom) and a ViewSonic VP3481.
To make the most of your stock photography pursuits, you need the right gear to take and edit photos. And one of the most important pieces of your setup is your computer monitor.
You need something that offers you impeccable color accuracy that way your photos are truly representative of your creative vision. For me, the ViewSonic VP3881 is the best in the business when it comes to color. And while we're at it, this monitor presents images in beautiful detail.
I love the curved ultra-widescreen display because it immerses me in my images and allows me to really focus on editing my photos in a way that's eye-catching and impactful. That's just what you want when you're creating stock images!
Stock Photography Success Tip #3: Meet the Demand
Photo by wideonet via iStock
As important as it is to find your niche and become an expert at it, there's also something to be said for meeting current demand.
For example, with the July 4th holiday coming up in the United States, there is an increased demand for photos of fireworks. Combining images of fireworks and landscapes could be your "in" to making more money from an increased number of image downloads.
Photo by gorodenkoff via iStock
Sometimes, you might need to venture out of your comfort zone to meet demand, too.
With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021, there will be an increased demand for images of athletics. This gives you time to develop your skills as a sports photographer and capitalize on the demand for athletic imagery in the coming months.
By another token, sometimes you have to focus on the subjects that you can easily photograph.
With many of us under quarantine again, it's difficult, if not impossible, to photograph some subjects.
So, if you love to photograph landscapes, you might use this time to instead work on your food photography skills. After all, food is right there in your kitchen, and you have your camera, so why not give it a go?
Again, using the tools that stock sites have to filter images, search keywords, sort by most popular, and so on, will greatly aid you in the research phase and inform you as to what direction you should go with the images you create and upload.
Stock Photography Success Tip #4: Plan a Series
Photo by sanjeri via iStock
We use stock images on this site all the time, and I can tell you from personal experience that there have been times that the initial image I wanted to use from a stock photographer was replaced by another one in a series of images.
By offering a series of related images, you can expand the footprint of your image collection and increase the potential of more image downloads.
Photo by sanjeri via iStock
What's more, sometimes people will want to use multiple images from your collection, so rather than getting one image download, you might get three or four.
So, plan your shoots accordingly. Take images from the front, back, and sides. Move closer and further away. Give people options, and you'll find that those options lead to more image downloads.
Editor's Tip: Our 30-Day Creative Eye Challenge is one of our most popular courses, and for good reason. Taking better photos is all about learning to see creatively and harness that creativity to create compelling shots. This course will supercharge your ability to take your best shot. Learn more about how you can learn to see more creatively.
Stock Photography Success Tip #5: Work on Your Creative Eye
Photo by anyaberkut via iStock
Part of setting yourself up for success in stock photography is learning how to take more creative and engaging pictures. To do that, you need to work on your creative eye.
By seeing things that other people don't see and by learning new ways of composing images, you can position yourself to create images that are more impactful and that stand out from the crowd.
Of course, simply taking a lot of photos will help you develop your creative eye - the more you shoot, the more capable you become behind the lens.
Photo by m-gucci via iStock
But for many photographers - myself included - sometimes it's hard to find the motivation to practice a lot. For others (again, myself included), having some kind of structure or direction really helps focus your attention and zero in on improving your creative skills.
Whether you commit yourself to a photography project, participate in our 30-Day Creative Eye Challenge, read an e-book or two, watch YouTube tutorials, or something in between, there are many avenues you can pursue that will lead to your ability to take better images.
The hard part is simply getting started! But once you're in a routine of learning each and every day, it becomes second nature.
If you can do that, and if you can follow the other stock photography success tips I've outlined here, you'll be well on your way to making the most of what stock photography has to offer.
Recommended Stock Photography Sites
There are more stock photo sites out there than ever before, but some are definitely better than others.
Below is a list of the four sites we recommend. This was going to be a list of five sites, but we removed Shutterstock in light of their recent policy changes that negatively impact photographers.
Visit iStockphoto to learn about their guidelines for joining their community.
Read our full iStockPhoto review.
Head over to Dreamstime to see how much you can make in royalties from your stock photos.
Read our review of Dreamstime.
Getty Images is one of the largest storehouses of stock images in the world.
Have a look at our Getty Images review to see if it's the right stock photo site for you.
123rf is known as one of the top choices for stock photographers.
Read our 123rf review to learn the ins and outs of this popular stock photo site.
When deciding what stock photo sites to work with, bear in mind that it is advantageous to use multiple sites. Not only does it expand your footprint, but money in stock photography is often made by focusing on the volume of imagery you have available.
Be sure to stay tuned for future weekly installments in this series so you have all the resources you need to take your best shot!