Reader Keith Howie has loved photography ever since he was a kid. But it wasn’t until recently that he’s started making money from his hobby.
From getting his first photo and article published in a magazine to how he got his images accepted into an online stock photo agency, read on to see how Keith earned his first $200 and counting…
INTERVIEW WITH J. KEITH HOWIE
By Christina Merchant in Washington, D.C.
CHRISTINA: Hi Keith. Can you tell us about how you first became interested in photography?
KEITH: I’ve been creating images since I was a kid and received a Brownie Hawkeye camera for my birthday. I loved the idea of permanently freezing a moment of beauty in time and, all these years later, I still feel the same way about my images.
CHRISTINA: You recently found out International Living is publishing one of your photos. Can you tell me about that?
KEITH: I’m very pleased that International Living decided to select one of my images for its October 2011 Window on the World spot. I’m a long-time subscriber of IL and have completed Great Escape Publishing’s Turn Your Pictures into Cash program, as well as Great Escape Publishing’s Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program.
Those programs taught me to look for the contributor guidelines on the magazine’s website. I contacted the specified editor and asked if there was a way that I could contribute to the magazine. They asked me to submit a few images. None of my samples were of interest to them but they did request more.
This time, I submitted a photo share link with lots of images from a recent trip to China. That’s where they picked one up. I was asked to provide a 450-word description to be published with it. The image was from the Rishengchang Draft Bank museum in Pingyao, China and was of a simulated bank teller working, as he would have, many years ago in the time of the bank’s operation. They paid $150 for the photo and write-up.
CHRISTINA: Is this your first time being published? What was your reaction when you heard IL wanted to publish your photo?
KEITH: I was very pleased that IL selected one of my images for publication. I also had a full-page image published, back in June 1987, in the now defunct Canadian Airlines in-flight magazine. This was also an image from an earlier China trip.
CHRISTINA: Stock photography is also something you mentioned you’ve been doing. What made you want to start selling your photos as stock? Can you tell me a little bit about the kind of photos you like to shoot, and what’s been selling best for you?
KEITH: I learned about stock photography from the Turn Your Pictures into Cash program and decided to see if any of my images would sell this way. But I got lots of rejections.
Rather than trying to fit my material to the stock agency, I was trying to see if my images were of interest on a stock agency. I ended up with 131 unique images posted on six different stock agencies (not all the same images on each site). I have sold 66 images in total since 2009 and have not added any new material since the initial 131. My most frequent seller is an Alaskan shot of warehouses built out over the ocean in Ketchikan. It has sold seven times.
You can see the photo here:
It’s interesting to me that I have one site, Dreamstime, where I have sold 38 images, two sites where I have sold 11 and12 images (BigStockPhoto and CanStockPhoto), and the rest only one or two images each.
For me, I deduct, that the kind of people who want my style of image, shop mostly at Dreamstime.
One thing microstock agencies will do for you is help you improve the quality of your photography. Each submitted image is reviewed and either selected or rejected. You normally get a generalized explanation if an image is rejected so you know what to do to improve it. My 66 images have netted me a grand $52.35! Having said that, there is a certain satisfaction in finding you have sold yet another image.
CHRISTINA: Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to get started selling their photos?
KEITH: I guess I would have to say “volume” is the key word. If you only take 10 shots, you are likely to have very few really good shots when you start. If you take a hundred, you will have lots more. Over time, you will get more and more great shots from less and less volume, but it’s hard to get there without starting with lots of shots.
People used to laugh at me when I shot 45 rolls of 36 exposure film on a two-week vacation, but I got lots of really good images. Today, it’s much easier with digital cameras, and you won’t have to float a new mortgage to pay for developing film.
CHRISTINA: Thanks Keith. Keep up the good work!
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]