I don’t supposed any of us (OK, maybe Jeff) grew up wanting to be stock photographers. Like proctology or driving a cab, stock photography is more likely something we fall into once we realise that our great ambitions will remain unfulfilled. We’re not going to play Carnegie Hall, or write the great American novel, so let’s photograph two businessmen shaking hands or an attractive young woman eating salad. Apparently, it’s a way of making money.
It’s a few years since a friend introduced me to stock photography in general, and Alamy in particular. He showed me the potfolio of a friend of his, who had amassed - gulp - a portfolio of 20,000 pix. Twenty thousand images! That would take a lifetime, wouldn’t it? Well, here I am, with my Alamy folio having hit 20,000 this week. So what have I learned about stock photography in the time it took to build up this online collection?
It took me quite a while even to understand the concept of stock photography: that the pix are bought to illustrate other people’s ideas (or even just to break up a column of text). A lot of my pretty landscapes failed to sell. Dramatic light? No one’s interested. I don’t upload them any more.
I remember seeing a stock pic featuring a ‘For Sale’ sign almost obliterated by ivy, which said everything that needed to be said about the stagnant housing market. This was a wake-up call for me. I don’t search for keywords - or tags - any more; I try to visualise the tags as I’m visualising the pic (and if tags don’t spring to mind, I don’t take the shot).
I try to have my own quality threshhold, apart from QC. I’m rather dispirited by the number of photographers who are able to pass QC, yet seem unable to take a decent pic. The “anything sells” mantra sounds like an excuse to me (though I have sold some unlikely pix over the years!).
Anyone who says “everything’s already been photographed” should consider doing something else with their time. There are plenty of people on Alamy who are making more money per image than I do, but there are also a hell of a lot of people who earn less. It’s been an interesting learning curve… with plenty more yet to learn. I still try to shoot pix which interest me; I don’t think I’d be very happy if I shot to some kind of stock formula.
OK, apart from ‘trade secrets’, what have you learned about stock photography?