A Numbers Game – What Does It Really Mean?
Uploading lots of images
If you are new to stock photography business, you have probably heard that stock photography is “a numbers game”. And numbers – that means lots of images, right? So, you set a goal to upload 20 or 50 or 100 images per month, or maybe per day, and start to upload everything you can to finally have some sales.You create a beautiful table top setting, which looks really cool. You find just the right lighting for the scene, which brings out the nice texture of your cake and reveals nice colors, setting exactly the mood you like. And then you start taking pictures. You select different angles, rotate your camera for landscape and portrait view. You get nice shots, nearly a hundred of them, select the best 25 captures, and hit upload.
Or you see a beautiful sunset, such an amazing play of flaming colors on the darkening sky, and you just click and click your camera, because the scene is so beautiful you can’t take your eyes off it. And then you get home, and you just can’t select the most beautiful photos out of your images because they are all so wonderful. And you decide to upload all of them, so designers can themselves make their selections.
Is this approach really such a good idea?
Quality not quantity
Stock photography is a numbers game – that’s true. The more images you have online the more exposure you have, and the more chances you have that designers will notice your images. But is it only a question of quantity? Let’s hear what one designer says. “Speaking from the designer’s point of view, I do not care about the quantity of files in someone’s portfolio. It's just a matter of quality, not quantity! A large portfolio does not automatically mean that the large portfolio contains just high quality files. Often the best files are in the smaller portfolios. The reason, I think, is that high quality photographers are often more selective and they do not just upload every shot they have on their hard drive just counting on a possible sale in the future. They want to set up a portfolio that represents their work.”
Disadvantages of similarity
Designers are looking for quality. And they might decide that maybe you are not a high quality photographer when you have pages and pages of similar poses or beach views in your portfolio. They decide quickly by browsing a couple of pages of your portfolio to see whether you have images according to their taste, what your favorite subjects are, and whether they will like your style. Portfolios with too many similar images might be boring to browse. One photographer said that if you have a portfolio with one hundred images depicting ten settings of similar photos, you can conclude that you have a portfolio of ten images. You have only ten different subjects or concepts in your portfolio and it doesn’t give you better chances in the numbers game.
Series can be of quality as well
A good variety of quality images on a photographer’s latest uploads page makes a huge impact. Does that mean you should never have shot the series in the first place? Not necessarily. “I can't tell you how many times I've found a great image BUT”, explains another designer, “if only she were looking the other way, or if only the angle was slightly lowered, or if only he had his hand up above his head rather than shoulder height. In other words, variation on a theme can be very helpful to a buyer.”
Stock photography is a numbers game
To have high quality series in your portfolio, you need to upload images that are a little different. Actually it’s better to think about variety while you are shooting. Changing a camera angle a little, or stepping right or left a little, doesn’t help much. What can you do? Add different props to your setting, shoot from a totally different angle, don’t just circle around the setting, but bow down, or raise your camera high above to get different shots, have your models pose differently, change lighting, change background. It all helps to have more creative selection. While postprocessing, use different editing methods to get different moods, or crop your images differently. After uploading, use titles, descriptions, and keywords that are a little bit (or even totally) different, but still relevant, in order to make your images appear on different search results. Now you are in a real numbers game.
All example photos in this blog are of photographers who have made great selection from their images and have managed to balance repetitions with creativity.