Last week we asked one of your fellow readers to tell us where she’s selling her photos and which websites are bringing in the most money. You’ll find her answers below…
Director, Great Escape Publishing
STOCK PHOTOGRAPHER REVEALS: How to Play the Field to Your Best Advantage —
An interview with stock photographer Kathy Burns-Millyard
NOTE: If you missed last year’s interview with Kathy, you’ll find it here.
This year, a few things have changed.
Here’s what Kathy has to say now about selling her photos as stock to online websites like iStockphoto.com and Shutterstock.com…
TRWTT: Kathy, last year, you were selling images on three different stock sites: Shutterstock, Fotolia, and BigStock. Are you still selling photos on these websites? Have you added any other agencies?
KATHY: Early this year I realized I could increase my photography income by making my pictures available to more customers and markets.
I always submit to Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Fotolia, and BigStock. When I have the time and energy, I also add photos to iStockphoto. And I have a few hundred images on 123RF and StockXpert.
TRWTT: You mentioned in 2006 that Shutterstock was your favorite. Is that still true today?
KATHY: In some ways, yes, but Dreamstime is a strong contender for me this year, and it’s becoming my preferred site.
The reason why is a little complicated…
Theoretically, if you double the amount of photos you have for sale at an agency, then you should be able to expect to earn higher income. It’s not quite that cut and dry, but it is reasonable to expect noticeable increases in income in return for noticeable increases in your portfolio size.
This year, that has not been the case for me at Shutterstock. And according to others, I’m not the only one.
While I still like Shutterstock, Dreamstime is becoming my new favorite for a few reasons:
1. They heavily cross-promote photos all over their site. If someone is looking at a dog picture, they also see similar photos from across the site and the photographer’s portfolio. I have over 10 years of experience building and promoting websites, and cross-promoting and linking play a major role in getting more targeted traffic and buyers to an offer.
2. They have a complex ranking system, favoring quality photographers. So if 90% of the photos you submit to Dreamstime are accepted, then your photos will be shown in search results before those of other photographers who only get accepted 80% of the time. For me, this is a huge incentive to only submit my best pictures.
3. I earn much more per photo at Dreamstime than I do at Shutterstock. At Shutterstock, it’s easy to get a steady supply of downloads from the start, so you see money coming in almost immediately. But over time, when you figure out the average income per photo sold, Dreamstime will pull in more. My total monthly earnings are about even between the two sites, despite the fact that I have fewer photos at Dreamstime than I do at Shutterstock, and I sell less there, too.
TRWTT: What kinds of photo subjects sell best for you these days?
My best sellers tend to be photos of food, tableware/dishes (like these two examples, below), and concept shots.
I really enjoy doing food photography and I’ve become quite good at it in the last year or so.
Several of my editorial shots do well, too. I have a high school football editorial series from back in 2006 that still sells quite well on both Shutterstock and Dreamstime, as does a Marine bootcamp graduation set I did last year.
TRWTT: Now that you’ve been at it for a few years, what advice would you give to someone who’s starting out?
KATHY: I could probably write a book on this question, but here are some quick tips:
** Be prepared to be persistent and patient. Even if you CAN get 1,000 pictures accepted overnight (which is next to impossible for most beginners), it is not likely going to earn you a full-time living from day one.
** Learn what makes a great stock photo. Most beginners don’t realize there is a big difference between “stock” photos and photos that are just pretty or artsy. Stock photos need to convey an idea, or help sell a product or service. They’re often very clean and uncluttered… in some cases they may seem minimalistic or even boring.
** Stock photos are like copywriting… they need to sell the dream or illusion. Most high-selling stock photos depict the “ideal” scene, or perfection instead of reality… and this can be quite frustrating for beginners to accept and adapt to. The best example I know of this is teenagers. In the real world, teenagers have acne. In stock photos, teenagers have flawless porcelain skin.
** Rejection is not personal. In fact, rejection can be one of the most valuable tools you have right from the start. You can’t learn and improve if you don’t fail. And the same applies if you are rejected and refuse to learn and improve from that.
I’m 100% addicted to photography, and if I go too long without shooting photos I become impossible to live with! I love the challenge and the constant opportunity for personal and professional growth, but it definitely takes a lot of confidence and determination to succeed.
TRWTT: Thanks, Kathy, and good luck!
[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.]