Milestone: $20,000 Total Earnings, Lesson Learned: Ego vs Confidence - Dreamstime
I've recently reached two milestone with Dreamstime: Fives years as a contributor and $20,000 total earnings. I was first published 40 years ago and thus started my career in freelance art, but I never really enjoyed any real income until I branched into online microstock. I've had a lot of fun and many unique experiences over the years, but it's nice to have learned a few things along the way to where it generates a secondary income.
One thing I've recently learned is the conflict between "Confidence" and "Ego." The past few months have seen a fair number of discussions and posts in the forums where contributors are, shall we say, full of themselves. Being able to create great images, being able to get past the Reviewers, and especially being able to grab a few sales in a land full of top-notch professionals, it's easy to feel good about your photography.
However, many still struggle with a level of sales to where it makes the effort of being here worth the time. I've said it before and many others have said it, but it all boils down to one thing when it comes to getting sales: The QUALITY of your portfolio. If you're not getting sales, it's because Buyers are purchasing images from someone else. There have been unending discussions with all possible excuses as to why sales are lacking and/or below average, but excuses only feed the ego.
The ego does not let you see the truth when it comes to your photography. Bad images are bad images. Poorly executed concepts are poorly executed concepts.
I have images that start selling immediately once they are uploaded, and they continue to sell at a steady rate. I have many images that have earned $25 in their first six months of being online. With a portfolio of 1600 images, if I earned $25 per image in six months, that would be a total of $40,000. It's obvious I can be CONFIDENT with some of the work I have been doing, but I cannot let my ego fool me into thinking I am doing well.
$20,000 in five years may sound fantastic, but it falls way short of what the real potential could be. The truth is I have a long way to go as a photographer.
The epiphany for this blog came in the past few weeks. I am currently enrolled at a local art college and am taking a continuing education photography class. The classes are on Saturdays over a six week period.
Some of the students are mere kids, just out of high school. They lack real world experience but their photography skills are top notch. Here I am, a seasoned veteran, and I was getting my butt kicked by true amateurs.
My ego was crushed.
As I thought about it, I realized I have been focused on what I do well. The danger with that is you create a false sense of confidence. The ego takes over and tells you what a great photographer you are. Then you take a photography class with an emphasis outside of your comfort zone, and you fall flat. The fact is, all of us need to expand on their photography skills. If you want to become a better photographer, then you need to explore new genres and topics for which you have little or no experience.
I would encourage everyone to try new and different things with their photography. Even if you're an experienced photographer, there are still new things for you to learn and master. Recognize the difference between confidence and ego. Confidence is knowing what to do and how to do it well. Ego is when is when you fail to honestly critique yourself and recognize your weaknesses.
As I write this blog, I have one more class before I complete the course I am currently enrolled with. I had emailed some images to my instructor and received very positive feedback. I may have failed at the start of the course, but I took a step back, changed gears, and learned from my earlier failures.
Instead of making excuses, I addressed the issues. The best part is, the process has opened up new areas of photography for me to explore. That is a great feeling for your confidence.
I know many of you dream of earning $20,000 in earnings but you can't get there by feeding your ego. The industry is changing and changing fast so you have to do what it takes to keep up if you want to stay in microstock. The major agencies are lowering prices which means less money for the photographer. Dreamstime is currently accepting virtually any image that meets minimal technical rules and that translates into a bloated inventory. Great for Dreamstime, they make money on every sale, but it's horrible for the contributor as your portfolio gets lost in the numbers.
Still, as I browse through the database, I discover many small portfolios with stunning numbers for sales. Talent and hard work is the key to survival in the microstock world as the agencies continue their race to the bottom with pricing and quality. There is a fine line between ego and confidence. You have to be confident in your photography skills but you can't let the ego make you blind to the truth.
Kids with no experience were creating better images and concepts than me. I didn't get to where I am in photography without having some understanding of the craft but I still have much to learn.
If you want to increase your confidence in photography, here are some suggestions. First of all, I strongly urge you to take classes for photography and photo editing software. Seek out a photography club where you can critique and be critiqued. Experiment with concepts you normally wouldn't do. Browse and study the database. It's all part of becoming a PROFESSIONAL photographer, even if it's something you only do on the side.
Good luck, and happy earnings!
Photo credits: Wisconsinart.
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