Finding your Niche
Since I started contributing to Dreamstime almost five years ago, I have learned a few things about RF Stock. 1. The internet has made it more convenient for buyers to connect with photographers, but it has also made RF stock more competitive. 2. Shooting for stock is much different than shooting for art. There is less creative license for the images in RF stock because of their intended use, so things that can be used to create a mood or a focus are more strictly controlled, like white balance, exposure, and lighting setups. When I shoot a wedding, I may want to use an ISO of 400 and incorporate that graininess into the 'feel' of the image, whereas there are very limited uses for grainy images in stock and therefore, most of the time, images will be considered unusable for stock.
I started dumping all sorts of images onto this site in hopes that they wouldn't get lost among better images. That got me a few sales when this site only had hundreds of thousands of images online but now that there are millions of images, I have begun to think about how to get my images noticed. What makes MY images pop up when a potential buyer plugs in his or her search criteria?
Sure, it's important to have great quality images, but the staff at DT does a great job of taking care of that. Your not going to get past the reviewers with sub-standard images, but once they have looked at the image for quality (focus, wb, exposure, contrast, color), they begin to look at what makes that image unique...with millions of images to choose from, they may not always catch the 8,000th image of the same thing that you just submitted. It will go online and you won't make any money on that image. It just sits there collecting binary dust. Do yourself a favor and check the library first. Go into the forums and see what there is a need for and be patient. Keep your eyes open for an opportunity to shoot something that only you have a unique ability to capture, either because of your vocation (we all seem to have day jobs), location, or people you know.
It may seem worthwhile to get a bunch of images online, and it does come with a bit of gratification to know that the reviewers are satisfied with your work, but getting downloads of those images is really where the gratification comes in and when you can see that image being downloaded time and time again.
Photo credits: Jason Schulz.