Stock photography may look like an easy way to make money: you simply take some shots, download them to the chosen stock photography platform and then wait for clients to buy them. And although stock photography covers a wide range of photography styles and topics allowing you to upload almost any visual content to your portfolio, it is a business that requires a special attitude and has its own rules to follow.
In this article, we compiled a list of the most common mistakes that novice stock photographers might make while managing their portfolios. Avoid them to make it in the business of stock photography.
What to avoid in the business of stock photography
#1 Overlook image archives
Your photo archives are a gold mine! Even if you don’t see a lot of commercial potential in them, old photos are a wonderful way to appeal to a wider audience.
You don’t need to put in extra effort to sell these photos. Just upload them to Depositphotos and don’t forget to add keywords and titles to them. You have nothing to lose: in the best case, you will increase your income, in the worst case, you will find out which images are liked by Depositphotos users and which are not. This will help you plan future shoots.
#2 Underestimate keywording
Customers won’t be able to see your authentic and high-quality photos if you haven’t tagged them with relevant keywords. Yes, Depositphotos uses several image categorization options, and the categorization by color and object in your images is automated. However, entering a keyword is the starting point of the client journey, which means it depends on you whether the client sees your image in the search results page.
Use only those keywords that really describe your image, as well as reflect its genre, idea, and mood and inform others about the place where the photo was taken. Use at least 20 keywords for each image.
Find amazing keywording tips here: ‘The Elephant in the Room: Keywording Images for Stocks’ and ’Keyword and Search Hacks for Better Stock Photography’).
#3 Ignore seasonal demand
It’s creative agencies, medium and small businesses, as well as bloggers and editorial offices that form the majority of photo stocks clientele. As a photographer, you may not even be aware of what their communication calendar looks like. However, you don’t need to see right through your customers to assume that they will be downloading bright thematic images on the eve of the holidays.
A seasonal surge in demand can bring you additional sales of images and the only rule here is that you have to fill your portfolio with seasonal visual content in advance (at least two weeks or better a month). The good news is that in a year you will be able to make money from the same images again.
And here you can find ‘10 Stock Photography Themes You Can’t Go Wrong With’. Use this list to create an evergreen base of images for your portfolio.
#4 Wait for better photography gear
Not sure if a basic semi-professional digital camera is enough for a professional photographer to take cool shots? Take a look at the Time magazine covers with photos taken on iPhones (5, 6, 6S Plus, and 7) in 2017.
We are not encouraging you to ignore the latest tech. The higher the category of your camera and lens, the wider your opportunities as a photographer and retoucher. However, you can start with any camera, including an amateur digital one. Moreover, the simpler your camera, the more intensively you develop professionally as you focus on your skills as opposed to your gear.
A basic stock photography kit consists of a camera and lens, a memory card, a light source, and… your idea! However, if your choice is to start with the best possible equipment and to spend time editing your image for it to become just perfect, here are two great articles on stock photography budget planning — ‘How Much Does It Cost to Make Stock Photography?’ and ‘How to Choose the Right Camera Gear’.
#5 No workflow optimization
Your chances of making a profit from selling your images on Depositphotos and other stock platforms increase with every new photo. The more images you have in your portfolio, the more chances you have for extra sales.
More photos usually mean that you spend more time shooting, editing photos, and keywording them. If you find a way to optimize your stock photography production, you can produce more images in a shorter time frame. Here are some ways to optimize your work:
— Сareful photoshoot planning (read this article to get ready for your next photoshooting — ‘A Step-by-Step Guide to Organizing a Stock Photoshoot’)
— Getting model releases in advance
— Photo editing automation (read ‘Photo Editing Tips for Stock Photography Platforms’)
— Following the rules of stock photography to avoid a lot of editing (removing logos, people in the background, and objects that cannot be shown on stock photos)
#6 Rely on personal taste only
Among the ten pictures taken during a photo session, your client decides to use the one that you liked the least. Sounds familiar to you? Stock photography buyers may also like a type of photo editing, framing option, and frame composition you find insignificant. And you can benefit from these insights!
Shoot a scene from many angles, upload one image with different edits and cropping to your portfolio and wait. Over time, you will be able to say if your tastes match the tastes of your customers and create the content that is more likely to be bought.
See 5 practical tips for stock photographers on how to create trending content.
#7 Do not go public
The nice thing about stock photography is that you can combine the sale of stock photos with active publicity. This approach will allow you to increase traffic to your portfolio page or individual image pages.
Yes, Depositphotos sells your stock images on your behalf, and also promotes themed image categories, top portfolios, and authentic images that push the boundaries of the photography industry. But extra effort on your part will help double the effect. Here are some ideas for how you can increase the reach of your portfolio and individual photos:
— Add a link to your portfolio to your social accounts, and to your personal website
— Post your photo to social media with a link to the download page, your portfolio, and name
— Advertise your portfolio on social media
— Collaboration with blogs and magazines as an author or visual content partner (you need to include not only your name but also a link to your portfolio)
— Do not publish images on the network without a copyright mark, indicating your name and the site where they can buy your images
Read ‘10 Quick Tips on Marketing for Photographers’ to achieve even better results.
#8 Following trends without mastering your own style
Keeping track of trends, observing demand changes, and trying to learn from top stock photographers are tricks that pay off brilliantly. And stock photography is a business that requires adaptability and an entrepreneurial outlook.
However, if you blindly follow trends and copy the style of trending photographers, you risk losing your individuality. In other words, your photos will no longer be recognizable.
Why is a stock photographer’s authentic style so important? A recognizable style is a powerful marketing tool. If your clients love your style and find it holistic, they’ll come back to your portfolio over and over again, and share a link to it with others. Moreover, authenticity is one of the top trends in stock photography in 2020 (go to the ‘Stock Photography Then and Now’ project page to explore more insights).
And one more thing: brands and organizations that use stock images strive for holistic visual communication too. That’s why it is convenient for them to use photographs of the same author.
#9 Fail to understand clients
A stock photographer usually has two goals: sell more stock photos and express their ideas through photography. Their customers also have specific goals. In general terms, they tend to make communication with their audience better.
Once you understand what is the strength of your photographs from a client’s point of view, you’ll be able to better distribute your time and production resources. In this article (‘Working with Stock Photography 101: Understanding Your Clients’) we invite you to do a small target audience research:
— Identify the industry in which your photos are useful.
— Make a list of potential cases in which your clients can download your photos, as well as mediums they use to share the final results.
— Learn about critical image requirements from your clients.
— Discover tools for monitoring trends in the area you serve with your portfolio.
With the answers to all of these questions at hand, you will anticipate your customer’s needs and be a great source of content for them.
Stock photography is a business and it requires an entrepreneurial approach. To successfully sell stock photos, you need to find the target audience for your portfolio, and then learn more about their needs and criteria for choosing visuals. Your portfolio also needs to be artistically holistic in order to hook your audience on its style.
Create authentic shots with whatever photo equipment you have and upload images with different cropping and color correction to your portfolio. Give your clients versatility. And mind the main rule of how to sell stock photos on Depositphotos: be attentive to your keywording as it is your tags that help users discover your photos!
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