John Morrison

What have we learned about stock?

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

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?

Edited by John Morrison
  • Like 1
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
Just now, John Morrison said:

Duplicated, oof...

 

Edited by John Morrison

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1) That everything and anything can and does sell.  

 

2) Having a large and diverse collection is very much a plus.....unless you are like Wim, who has a high quality and tightly edited collection.

     I don’t have the skill or discipline that Wim has.

 

3) That the internet, crowd sourcing and digital cameras in nearly everyone’s hands, have helped reduce the once healthy stock pricing.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That when I shoot, I already think about keywords. 

Sad, I know. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Congrats on the 20000 images. That is quite an achievement. :)  What have I learned? Photography is just one more thing that I suck at and that it can be quite tedious work for not a lot of reward.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That things have gotten both better (many more sales opportunities) and worse (lower prices, saturated markets,etc.) at the same time.

 

That if I still had a day job, I certainly wouldn't quit. B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, John Morrison said:

that the pix are bought to illustrate other people’s ideas

 

I recall a conversation recently with a photographer - the wedding and portrait breed -  I met who did not shoot stock and commented that stock was just about awful images that lacked any creativity and he was surprised anyone would want them - he clearly did not understand that stock was

 

John, the quote above is the best description of stock I have seen in a long time. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

That an image you have no idea why you took can sell.

H2HPNX.jpg

Edited by spacecadet
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Sultanpepa said:

Congrats on the 20000 images. That is quite an achievement. :)  What have I learned? Photography is just one more thing that I suck at and that it can be quite tedious work for not a lot of reward.

 

Yup, I would go along with that :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have learnt that some of the best stock comes in little cubes made by Oxo! :ph34r::P:D

  • Upvote 3
  • Downvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have learnt that procrastination is not a good earner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I have learnt.................................what have I learnt?

 

Allan

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/12/2018 at 15:23, John Morrison said:

A lot of my pretty landscapes failed to sell. Dramatic light? No one’s interested

When I first started to submit in 2006 I uploaded my alpine hiking and climbing scenes. I checked back a week later to see how many had sold, confident that Alamy's servers were going to blow a fuse trying to keep up with the demand. The naiveté of a beginner. Six months later, with nothing whatsoever sold, I started to rethink my path to fame and fortune. I looked at what other people on the forum had in their portfolios, and saw that a lot of them were walk-about shots with nothing special about the lighting. I started taking pictures as I walked about and my first sale was a very ordinary photo of an stained glass window (for $417 - those were the days). With that my eyes were opened and I started to see the world more stock-ishly. What have I learnt about stock?

 

That its way harder than I ever imagined.

That I am not very good at it.

That I like it anyway.

That you absolutely never can tell what will sell. Every now and then I vow to go through my 16k images and prune. As soon as I identify some images that are so rotten they have to go, one of them sells.  Not for much, just enough to make me postpone the pruning.

That the Aston Martin will have to wait.

That a good photographer needs a niche and that I haven't got one.

 

Well done on getting to 20k images, I know how much effort it takes. We have a family trip to Disney this summer, a mountain biking trip to Vermont as well as a no kids week in Toronto so I am hoping to get some good shooting done this summer. My aim is for my 20k by the end of next year.

 

Colin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Colin Woods said:

nothing special about the lighting.

 

Yes, those pix with dark, threatening skies, though fun to take, have limited potential as stock. These days, I try to stick to blue skies, or 'broken cloud', and not too many overcast skies. Lighting has to be appropriate, I think, rather than dramatic; for buildings, say, that's a matter of shooting , ideally, when the light is striking the front facade at an angle that will accentuate colour, texture and architectural details... rather than spending time in PP 'opening up' the shadows. A well-lit subject still 'reads' OK, even as a thumbnail, which increases the chances of getting a pic zoomed... then licensed...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now