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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May 27, 2014


Great advice, thank you!

April 21, 2014


Very good advice thank you! When I first uploaded images and was rejected at a 80% rate , I got mad and quit uploading. I've changed my approach and try to learn from the rejection info. Usually sure enough they are right. Not always but it helps to keep the ego in check and try to learn and get better..

April 21, 2014


Great Article Food for thought

April 10, 2014


Wise words, thanks for sharing your experiences!

April 10, 2014


ThanKs for sharing your experience

March 31, 2014


I went to a club first 10 years ago and they have lots of Ego !
Their stuff is mostly art................ microstock tests you..... if people buy you know your work is good.
I agree that 22 million images dilutes our portfolio and therefore earnings.............. but learning to make images that sell is the best lesson of all. David.

March 30, 2014


Congratulations, you have inspired many of us to work even harder.

March 28, 2014


Thank you for again sharing your insights, and congrats on the great milestone. I hope your ego didn't stop you from going out and celebrating!! I might add that for those who can't afford the time or money for classes, there are many free or inexpensive courses and webinars online that can be taken whenever and whereever.

March 28, 2014


A well deserved congratulations! I hope you don't mind if I share this blog post with my Facebook friends.

March 27, 2014


Your milestone is a testament to the quality of your images. Congrats! Thanks for sharing that article, it is very well written and more than informative! Cheers to another $20,000!

March 27, 2014


So true.

March 26, 2014


I guess you can never be "ready" with Photography, there is always something to learn. :)

March 25, 2014



March 25, 2014


Great blog - I always enjoy reading your articles. Thanks for all the advice.

March 25, 2014


Congratulations! :) Good milestone...

March 24, 2014


Congratulations! And thank you for sharing a great article. One must never stop learning and broadening their horizons.

March 24, 2014


Wow, amazing great milestone... Thanks for sharing your experience...

March 24, 2014


great blog as usual! I love to watch your portfolio. here's to the next 20k

March 24, 2014


Congratulations on your impressive sales and this very helpful reminder!

March 24, 2014


Great Post. I think it's also easy to fall prey to the general mass 'loving' every photo you post (IE, on Social sites). Even if they are not stock photos but just artistic, everyone seems to always love everything and you don't get the true critique to put your own ego in check. Its easy to fall into a false sense of your true work. I hope I never stop learning about photography even if it's just something small that you decided to try differently today. All artists grow over time. :)

March 24, 2014


Thank you for your experience, great result, congratulations!

March 24, 2014


Great blog! My ego says that the richest man is the one who knows how to be content with what has and thoughtful words are rooted in deep silence ;) Thank you, MASTER! And BIG congratulations from me!

March 24, 2014


Very cool. Congratulations! Going back to school is awesome, you'll always learn something that you didn't pick up the first time around. One thing about those kids, and this era of photography in general (as my husband reminds me of regularly), is that it is a lot easier to get started nowadays. You have the instant feedback of seeing your image immediately. It's easier to learn and correct errors, when you don't have to wait a few days to have your photos developed. ;)

March 24, 2014


Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

March 24, 2014


Wonderful!Must congratulations!!!

March 24, 2014


Thank you for this great insight...when people ask why am I not getting sales a lot of responses are; upload, upload. As you noted some small ports are getting great sales due to the quality of their images.

March 24, 2014


your blog is a "must read" for me :) thanks. One useful click from me.

March 24, 2014


Congratulations-well deserved. A great blog and great attitude.

March 24, 2014


First of all Congratulations to you on the huge amount that you've earned so far and secondly we really admire your writing skills!! This blog is one of your finest!! Thank you!! :))

March 24, 2014


Great advice. There is always something to learn, even from unexperienced people.

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