In the previous article I started to give an overview of what stock photography was and what all was involved. In this article and moving forward I will be explaining more about key areas and about how I got involved with stock photography and what has and has not worked with me.

To start off this article, I’ll give a little background on myself. I’ve been shooting for about seven years now on an advanced amateur slash semi-professional level and for fun since I was 13 or so. Camera’s and photography have always intrigued me, but I won’t bore you with an actual bio, you can read it on my personal site if you’d like (which still needs updating). Around 2002 is when I was first introduced to stock photography, ironically through a design friend of mine who told me about it. He would submit his own photos to the site to sell in order to earn credits to download others photos for design projects, essentially getting photos for free. The site was and at the time, an image cost a quarter to download, the submitting photographer made five cents every time it was downloaded. I was not thrilled at the idea of only making a nickel for each time an image was downloaded, but I did have a new digital camera that met the minimum requirements of the site and figured I’d give it a shot. I also scanned several of my other photos on a flatbed scanner and upload them. At the time, iStockphoto had about 11,000 total files on it.

Before I knew what hit me, I was captivated with selling photographs and had earned nearly $15 in less then two weeks, which is a lot of nickels! What I also realized was how much time I was now investing, which is what I will focus this article on.

Part I of this series asked the question, Do you have the time to invest, perhaps as much as 4 hours per week? It doesn’t sound like much, but depending how you break it up, it could affect your daily routine a bit. What you need time for is


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  • Shooting
  • Editing
  • Organizing
  • Uploading
  • Key wording
  • Researching other’s files
  • Researching what sells best

Shooting is the obvious one, but it doesn’t have to be. Most people today are on their second or even third digital camera and probably have thousands of photographs on their hard drives or burned to CD, so start going through them. It can often be very rewarding to go through old photographs from vacations or family gatherings and realize that you can indeed make money from them. Before you go out and start shooting, dig through what you already have.

can take as much or as little time as you need for it. By this I mean, shoot a good photograph to start with and you’ll have less editing to do. Nearly every image that comes out of a digital camera can use some tweaking to the color and density. As previously mentioned, there are several programs that can be used, some expensive, some free. The industry standard for photographic image editing and the one I use is Photoshop CS2, but most digital cameras come with some form of basic photo editing and there is a great piece of freeware called Gimp that will run on Windows and Macs. Look to crop your photos to remove unwanted items and get familiar with the other tools that are in your software, you will want to remove minor blemishes in skin and be sure to remove any copyrighted or trademarked logo. This is a bit more advanced, but there are places on the internet where you can get help and suggestions on this, like

Organizing digital photographs can be a bit strenuous to say the least. We are all shooting way more than we ever did with film and running out of places to put them. I have been in the habit of using directories inside Windows to keep them organized. I keep one folder called Photos, inside that I’ll create another folder named for the date the images were taken, a brief description of what they are and the location. Inside there goes all of those images. There are pieces of software that can help with this; I’ve yet to find one that I really like. iPhoto for Mac isn’t bad, but it doesn’t do everything I want and I don’t run a Mac.

Uploading the photos to a stock agency can be more time consuming than you’ll think. An average 6mp jpg file from a digital camera will be around 2mb in size. Even on a high speed internet connections expect that to take up to a minute. If you are doing several dozen at a time, it could take an hour or more just to upload them. There is nothing really you can do here, you are at the mercy of your internet connection. If you work from a laptop and don’t have the fastest connection at home, try going to a public Wi-Fi location.

Key wording is how customers will find your images. This does take time and must be done to every single image one by one. You’ll need to think about how you’d find the image if you were a designer looking for it and explore all possibilities, this is a case where more is better, but quality does count.

Researching other’s files for ideas, keywords and success is a great key in stock photography. Be prepared to sit down for at least 15 minutes a week and go through others files. I’ve done this in the past if I get stuck trying to come up with clever keywords for an image and found it incredibly helpful.

Researching what sells best is also very important, no need in trying to upload something that isn’t doing well. Most sites will list their top 100 lists of downloaded files, iStockphoto has a Most Popular Photos & Photographs list where they show the highest rated files (by members) and most downloads. This can be not only inspiration but a great source to see what is hot at the moment.

In addition to those highlights, try to get in the habit of taking your camera with you, anything could happen. You could find yourself at the office working and it’s a really slow day, see if you can talk a coworker into letting you snap a few photographs of them. Work / corporate photographs sell really well to start with and you can probably have some fun with it as well. If it works out, you may be able to make it a regular thing. Same goes with travel, dinner out with friends, etc. You never know when you’ll find yourself in a place to take some great photographs.

For me, the payoff turned out to be better than I could have ever imagined. I routinely will make more money per hour invested towards stock photography than I do at my regular job. The flip side is I’ve made nothing for hours invested because I didn’t do the proper prep work in preparing a file (it got rejected) or didn’t keyword it well enough and no one ever found it.

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