You’ve signed up with one or more stock photography sites. You’ve taken a slew of photos and they’re sitting there on your computer, waiting to go out and make you some money! Woohoo for money making ideas that let you continue doing what you enjoy most! Before you send your babies out in the world though, ask yourself these 6 questions –
Got the Instructions?
First, and most importantly, read and follow the instructions provided by your stock photography site. Each company has its own requirements and procedures. If you do not follow them, chances are your submissions will be rejected immediately, so it is a good idea to get real familiar with those instructions.
Got the Right Topics?
Ideally, you researched popular photo subjects, or targeted a particular niche, before you went out shooting. But just in case, or if you’re trying to get that old photograph on your hard disk to make you some money, make sure you’re sending images clients are interested in buying. Check each agency’s “bestseller” list, or examine each site to see if any subject areas are lacking.
Certain kinds of photos will stand a high chance of being rejected. For example, your vacation pictures. A photograph of your husband holding up the catch of the day, while great for the fireplace mantle, is probably not going to have wide appeal as a stock photo unless it is very well composed with perfect light conditions and has some intrinsic value (eg, illustrates a concept). The same goes for most birthday, holiday, and wedding photos.You best bets are generic subjects which can be used for many purposes, and images a client can use to illustrate a concept. For example, if you must use your travel photographs, focus on the ones that can highlight a concept such as “leisure,” or “relax.” People shots, clear photos of travel landmarks, sunrise/sunset shots, and simple photos of food and other everyday items on a white background are generally more popular than others.
Got a Model Release?
One of the first tidbits of information you learn in stock photography is that photos of people sell better than nature scenes. To upload those pictures for sale, however, you must have a signed model release for everyone in the photo. Check with your agency’s policy. Some might require releases only for “easily recognizable” people; others have become stricter and require them for every situation in which a person might be identifiable. Other circumstances which require a model release include:
- Photos of “sensitive” subjects, such as partial or complete nudity.
- Photos of professional or semi-professional performers and athletes.
- Photos in which you hired or requested people to model for you.
- Photos in which you can see the model’s face.
- Photos in which the model can be identified through tattoos or other distinguishing characteristics.
- Photos in which the context would allow the person to be identified.
When in doubt, get a release. Your agency should have downloadable files of examples that meet their criteria; don’t just make one up yourself. Always carry several copies with you, even if you’re not planning to take photos that day; you never know what opportunities may arise. Upload the release with your photo as directed by your company, and keep the copy safe in a filing system.
Got a Trademark?
Hope not! Because, if you do, you’ll need to get rid of it! Your photos should not depict any registered trademark, even buried in the background. For example, that image of an empty street with single dandelion drifting away in a gentle breeze but has a billboard touting MacDonald’s latest dollar menu offerings in the background will in all probabilities get shot down – irrespective of how effectively you portray the concept of “lonely” or “free”.
Stock agencies “blow up” every photo, searching for the smallest hint of a label, logo, sign, etc., because they do not want to be accused of trademark or copyright infringement. And, while removing identifiable trademarks–either through planning your shots to avoid them, or editing them out afterwards– may be a pain, doing so makes your image more marketable. After all, people are not going to buy a photo which prominently features their competition, or a brand they dislike.
One of the main reasons an image is rejected is “noise.” Photographic noise refers to the “graininess” of an image, or vari-colored pixels you can see when the image is magnified–and sometimes even when it isn’t. You can correct small amounts of noise with editing software; however, too much, or too enthusiastic, editing creates “artifacts,” in which your attempts to erase noise are clearly visible. Your photo will be rejected for either.
It’s in the company’s best interest to sell only crisp, clear images which can be used both online and in print. If you’re just starting out, you may only be able to afford a relatively low-end camera which produces some noise; however, it’s in your best interest to upgrade as soon as you can. The ideal choice is a DSLR, with high resolution and low noise. Remember, if you can’t afford new, used and well cared-for is a good option (affordable is key because these are money making ideas that we discuss on this site, not money losing ideas :).)
Don’t make keyword selection an afterthought; they are far too important to be taken lightly. It is the all-powerful keywords that allow your buyers to find you! Be specific; doing so will keep your photos from being buried among thousands of unrelated images. Be observant. Ask yourself what searchable elements you can use for keywords: colors, expressions, seasons, attitudes, actions, emotions, locations, etc. Be creative. Imagine what concepts your photo could illustrate: loyalty, happiness, contentment, humility? Is it ideal for business, education, health, government, or another occupational use? Mine every conceivable resource for good keywords. Search your thesaurus, poll your friends, use “most popular” lists, and even use your competition. Every few weeks, change a few keywords. This will help you capture new buyers.
If you’ve followed these steps, your photo should be ready to upload. However, they’re not a guarantee it will be accepted or, if it is accepted, that it will be a money maker. Selection teams are very critical, and you have lots of competition. It’s not uncommon for nearly half of a photographer’s submissions to be rejected–even when she’s experienced. So don’t be discouraged. Continue to learn, develop your skills, and keep submitting. Bigstockphoto.com where I get most of the images for this site boasts to have over 4 million images in their database. That means 4 million acceptance notes were sent out to hopeful photographers just like you, many of who must be making some money from it, right? (Why would anyone bother to submit all those photographs otherwise?) With time, education, and perseverance, you’ll be able to turn your money making ideas into real cash too.