Curious about what goes into shooting stock photography as a business? Learn what pro photographers have to say about building a successful career and staying creative.
Shooting stock photography can be an easy way to start earning more income through your creative work as a photographer. Whether you choose to have your focus be to shoot stock photography solely, or are simply looking for a bit of income on the side, stock photography is a great way to test different areas of your photography passions and fine-tune your skills as a photographer.
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Image by I_Am_Zews
We were curious. Why do photographers start shooting stock photography? And what brings them to Shutterstock? We asked three photographers on Shutterstock why they got started shooting stock photography, and the advice they have to share with other photographers who want to start shooting stock photography. Plus, the advice they’d give themselves if they were to do it all over again.
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In this article, we ask three photographers how they got started shooting stock photography. These are their words.
Kertu Saarits | Kertu | United Arab Emirates
Milan Gucci | AstroStar | Yugoslavia
Nzewi Confidence | I_Am_Zews | Nigeria
How did you get started shooting stock photography?
Kertu: I’ve had a passion for photography for as long as I can remember. But it took me many many years of practice before I finally invested in proper gear that would allow me to take photos that I wanted to take.
Having visited sixty-eight countries, I have built a large portfolio of unique and beautiful photos. Sharing them on my website was no longer enough. I had kept track of different articles about shooting stock photography, and picked the brain of some of my friends who were already active in the field. It came to a moment when I took the plunge and applied to Shutterstock.
Image by Kertu
[sstk-pullquote align=”full”]“My stock photography journey was a learning curve and took time to grow on me. But today I am happier than ever to share my work and see it used across the world.”[/sstk-pullquote]
Milan of AstroStar: A friend of a friend introduced me to shooting stock photography. A veteran of stock for about twelve years, within a few days they guided me through a tutorial on how to start a stock portfolio. I understood instantly what to do, and in a few months I had a small gallery that started growing in a moderate way.
Nzewi of I_Am_Zeus: I’m a photographer in a very small town in Nigeria, and the income isn’t great. I really just started out my photography career, so the passion was peaked, and I was eager to try out anything.
Image by I_Am_Zews
After googling how to make money from photography, I found out about stock photography. I felt that I should give it a shot. Shutterstock was one of the best sites recommended, so I signed up. I uploaded some photos, and waited to see what happened.
[sstk-pullquote align=”full”]“My first sale made me very happy, I was just glad my photo was downloaded somewhere. That was good enough for me.”[/sstk-pullquote]
If you were to start all over again, what advice would you give yourself?
Kertu: If I were to start all over again, I would push myself to invest more time in quality keywording. As a newcomer, I did not really understand how to make my work easily locatable to the customers, while now after searching for stock images for my own use, I can better appreciate the idea behind simple and descriptive keywords.
Image by Kertu
A lot of people looking for photos don’t speak English as their first language, so easy keywording is the key. A misspelled keyword is a wasted keyword, so now I spend some extra time to double check my grammar.
Milan of AstroStar: Invest in equipment but don’t buy too much if you don’t know how to use it. First, learn how to use your camera in M-mode with your eyes shut. If you don’t know your work tool, it’s like driving a car with no license and without knowing traffic regulations.
[sstk-pullquote align=”full”]“Never give up and accept advice from smarter and more experienced people than you.”[/sstk-pullquote]
Image by AstroStar
Nzewi of I_Am_Zeus: When I started, I didn’t take it seriously at all. I just uploaded random photos I would take that I liked. A very few amount of photos. Then I decided to actually shoot for stock, and I started receiving plenty of downloads. That’s when I realized that I should put more effort into shooting stock photography.
Sometimes, I wonder how far I would have come if I actually went full throttle from the start. So that’s what I would tell myself; take it seriously, shoot a lot of pictures, and get uploading.
Do you have any other advice for photographers looking to get started in stock?
Tip #1: Build a portfolio of good quality images
Meeting the image quality standards is a basic requirement and will greatly reduce disappointments in the submission process. At the same time, the more interesting and usable these images are, the better chances there are of making a sale. Understanding what is popular on the market can easily be done by following magazines and social media.
Image by Kertu
Tip #2: Invest time in keywording
Simple, descriptive, and correctly spelled is the best way to go. If nobody can find these beautiful images you create, nobody will be able to buy them.
Tip #3: Don’t give up
The submission process takes time to get used to, making a sale takes time, and building up a revenue stream takes time. It’s important to understand that shooting stock photography is an investment of time. What a photographer will get out of it is very much dependent on what that photographer is willing to invest in it.
Milan of AstroStar
Image by AstroStar
Tip #1: Think of a good idea
You have to have an idea prepared for getting good results. You have to think about it, and imagine it before you press the button on a camera or computer. Just follow the 5 Ws and 1 H: Why, Who, Where, What, When, and How.
Tip #2: Be prepared to make sacrifices
Be prepared to make sacrifices in your life because freelancing is not as simple as people imagine it. If you want this to be your day job, never leave your tasks for tomorrow.
Nzewi of I_Am_Zeus
Image by I_Am_Zeus
Tip #1: Don’t focus on the money
I see a lot of articles on how the money from shooting stock photography is very little. However, I’m happy to see my pictures being downloaded from cities all over the world. I didn’t really think about the money. I just kept going. Then payday came, and the money was useful. And the money I earn keeps growing! It’s almost better than what I make from my studio in the little town I live in.
Tip #2: Enjoy the exposure
I started seeing photos I uploaded being used in ads from prominent companies, and it was really fun and fulfilling for me. These people may not have done business with me, or found my work if it was not for stock. So I was glad (even though people felt I bagged a lot of money for the ads). But it’s a fun experience seeing my photos used.
Tip #3: On keywording
The most annoying and boring part of shooting stock photography is keywording. I used to search online for ways to make it easier. People talked about programs that’ll help, but it still felt like too much hassle. So what I do is type out all the keywords I would use pertaining a group of pictures I just shot for stock, separating by comments. That way when I am uploading, I copy the whole thing to an image, then paste it into the field for entering keywords. Afterwards, I can just remove the ones that are not useful to individual images, and add words specific to that image if there’s room.
We hope these tips on shooting stock photography from professional photographers on Shutterstock help you when you’re deciding whether or not stock is a good fit for you. To learn more before joining our network, click here. We can’t wait to see what you submit to stock.
Top Image by Kertu
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