Take a look at this photo:
This is a photo of a friend of mine who’s also a professional actress. I’ve listed this picture on Shutterstock, 123rf, and Depositphotos—the three micro-stock agencies I like the most and have had the best success with.
The picture sells well on all three sites. On Shutterstock alone, it has sold 92 times.
This one from the same shoot has sold 60 times.
And, I have several other good sellers from this single shoot. For me, selling headshots on stock sites is something that ties into my interests. I’m addicted to stock and I like to shoot people, so naturally my top sellers are generally model-released family, friends or models.
But, I’ve found a way to make more money—effectively doubling my pay—when I’m out taking headshots…
As I mentioned, the friend photographed above is an actress. As actors constantly need new headshots, I offer them $100 off their session in exchange for a model release. It works out for both of us. I make money on the headshots, and I can, at no cost, take the gamble to see what an image will earn me on stock. For me, that’s a lot of fun.
There’s no real formula to creating your next big seller on stock sites, but as you add more and more stock photos, you start to get clues about what will sell.
Pictures with emotion sell quite well. And, for some time, the focus for stock agencies has been on authenticity—creating images with a natural, real-life feel (rather than those perfect, contrived scenes)..
Doing it this way means I can test a model before I use them in paid work. This is the same model in another photo:
I listed this picture on Image Brief, a high-end stock agency. Seeing that her headshots sell I knew already that she has a sellable look, so I paid her for this shoot as a model.
This picture has been licensed twice, earning me $1,200. It has emotion and an air of authenticity.
I’m continuing to add headshots to my stock portfolio in the hopes of recreating multiple sales. So far so good!
This headshot has now sold 147 times on Shutterstock…
…and this one, 100 times:
If you’re already a portrait shooter and you want to submit more to stock, then this is a great way to break in and make more money. Have fun shooting and submitting!
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