One Year on Dreamstime
Tomorrow will be my one year anniversary on Dreamstime so I decided my first blog would be a review of the last year along with some of my lessons learned and observations.
First off the Numbers:
342 images online
126 images sold
I certainly wanted to have more images online and made a BIG push this month to reach 365. Unfortunately I let my internal quality check slip and 26 in a row were declined - costing me almost 2% in AR! More on some of those refusals later.
As for sales, I of course wanted more! I figured every image would sell at least 10 times and I would be having a hard time dealing with my riches :) But I did hit two goals - 100 sales and $100 in sales.
A bit of analysis on the numbers:
My first images sold was this one of a bottle of Guinness
It was also the first product image I took, my first editorial image and one of the first image I shot specifically for use as stock.
- How I shot it - I placed the bottle on a box with black cloth. Behind it I put a flash, no diffuser, triggered optically. I used the on camera flash to light the front and trigger the rear flash. In Lightroom I made the background black.
My best selling image is this one:
I uploaded it almost in desperation during the early days when I was running 70% refusal. Just goes to show that you never know what will sell!!
- How I shot it - I pressed the lens up against he glass and shot. On camera flash provided extra light. Some cropping.
My most viewed image is the companion to my first sold:
Another funny - White has sold better than black but the companion image to my most sold (fish) has not sold even one time!
- How I shot it - Light table and a lot of strobes!
I managed to get 5 images to Level 2, but only the fish have sold since reaching there:
Of all the numbers, the one I am most happy with is 76 - My 126 sales are spread over 76 images. That means 22% of my portfolio has sold and tells me I have uploaded a lot of sellable image and not just one or two "rainmakers." 40% of sales come from "second sales" and 60% from first sales. You can see the diversity of my portfolio in my best selling images - not one connection between any them. Short term lots of sales of a single image are better but in the long run I want to be able to sell every image in my portfolio. You cant get a second sale until you get the first!
Last bit of numbers:
BME for sales - Nov 10
BME for $$ - Feb 11 (also BME for RPD!)
I have had sales every month since I have had images online for sale. Pretty happy about that. Slow and steady is better than nothing!
Shoot what you know and love: At least initially, I would not try shooting FOR stock if the subject is new to you. Most of my early images that I shot to submit were of fruits and vegetables - something I had been shooting for fun for a long time. Even now the majority of my images are things I was going to shoot anyway. I just shot them with an eye on creating a stock image.
ISO 100 is your friend: Most of my early refusals were for noise. I fixed them with Nik Dfine 2.0 but a better solution is to not have noise in the first place. With my Pentax K200 and Dfine I can shoot at max of ISO 400 but for the most part I try to stay under ISO 200. Newer cameras can push higher ISO but the best solution is still lots of light and ISO 100.
Be a brutal editor: In my drive to 365 I lowered my internal standards and submitted some questionable images. They all got refused. If its not 100% sharp, think twice. The subject better be pretty special to make up for lack of sharpness. Its better to reshoot than to crank up the sharpness. Check you lighting and colors. Black = 0,0,0 and White = 255,255,255. in lightroom I use the auto tone button as an internal check. I rarely use the exact setting but I think hard if I am WAY off from what it says.
Take chances: 12 of my refusals this month were part of a new "project." I decided I wanted to try shooting textures. The first one got accepted very quickly so I shot more. Next two did fine too. I shot a bunch more and added variations. OOPS! Went to far and they all got rejected. But I learned. I have examples of right and wrong. I have the room in my AR to try things. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
READ YOUR REJECTIONS!!! There is a TON of information in the rejection notice from support. Read it!!! its FREE ADVICE!!! I have resubmitted and sold images that I fixed based on what support told me. And if you dont understand, ask! I was completely confused why this image was rejected:
The rejection notice was for copyright and I assumed it was for the patch. I wrote a detailed appeal to support about patches being in the public domain. I got a very nice reply that said something to the effect of "um, no, we understand the patch. Its the brand name on the bolt on the top of his helmet." Boy did I feel stupid!!! But I fixed it and have since sold it. The BEST thing about Dreamstime is support. Listen, ask, listen more.
Make Collections: I have 9 collection - 7 public. The vast majority of my sales come from images in a collection. I dont know if that is because I put my best images in collections or because collections sell image but I dont really care. In total my collections have almost as many views as my images have. Every time someone looks at an image in my collections that isnt mine, there is a chance they will see one that is mine.
Participate in the Community: Next to support, what makes Dreamstime great is the community. Participate!! get on the boards. Talk to others. Look at their portfolios. Ask questions!!!
Be Exclusive At least initially. I submit to other agencies but my focus is Dreamstime. It didnt start that way but it didnt take long. Dreamstime has the best support, best payments and one of the easiest submission systems. But the key is support. Had I started as an exclusive until I learned the ropes, I would have a) made more money and b) had less frustration. I didn't not fully understand how hard stock photography can be. Shooting is the easy part. Choosing the images, prepping them, and keywording them is much harder than I thought. I have a good workflow now but initially it was overwhelming. had I been exclusive to Dreamstime, I could have learned ONE system and then adjusted rather than trying to learn 3 at once. I dont think exclusivity is the answer long term, but I would say it is the better way for the first year/500 images.
All in all I have really enjoyed my first year on Dreamstime. I am a MUCH better photographer because of it. I tell everyone I know that it is the best photography course available and it is free. Reviews don't know you, like you, love you or care about your feelings. They give a brutally honest assessment of the technical qualities of your image. People pay money for that kind of feedback and here you get it free. And of course there is nothing like the thrill of seeing the $$$s go up. It is very rewarding to know that someone liked my images enough to pay money for them. Maybe not a lot, but they choose mine.
I wish you all a GREAT year shooting and selling!!!
Photo credits: Robert Sholl.