Starting an actual photography business - I never saw this coming!

When I got my first 2MP point & shoot digital camera from an IT friend of mine several years back, I had no idea where it would lead. Other than a trip to Idaho in 1995, I probably hadn't shot 2 rolls of film in the 10 years before I got that first digital camera. As a poor college student, I didn't have the time or money to devote to learning the ways of film.

That all changed with that first little Olympus camera. It was small enough that I could carry it any where. I found that I liked being able to document the people, places and events that I encountered. Slowly but surely, I would accidentally take an above average picture, and people would say some nice things about them. Here are a couple of my earliest shots:


I had no idea why some of my photos worked better than others, but it did make me want to shoot more and more. I started becoming the unofficial photographer/documentarian for classes, companies and events I was involved with.

After my honeymoon cruise (my first cruise!), I knew I wanted a better camera before our next trip. So I upgraded to an Olympus 4MP digicam.

While equipment IS just the tool of the photographer who uses it, equipment CAN allow your creativity to be expressed more...effectively. This fall foliage photo is the very first image I ever sold on DT, and it was taken with that little 4 MP camera. I started slowly on DT, having a lot more photos rejected than accepted at first. Slowly I began to get an idea of what would work, and what wouldn't, at least in terms of submissions. As far as taking successful photos, it was still a lot of guess work.

This photo of Ocho Rios is my best seller - 29 downloads so far - was shot on my second cruise.

In addition to being my most popular download, it is also the one that I've received the most requests for a higher resolution/additional format version. It was about the time I took this photo (April 2006) that I decided to start learning more about photography.

Books and magazines are the way I chose to learn how to improve my photographs. I still have yet to attend a class or seminar. Instead, I subscribed to several major photography magazines - Shutterbug, Popular Photography, Outdoor Photographer. I also started purchasing books. That was a little more difficult at first because so many of them spent a lot or most of their time focusing on the photoshop side of digital photography, which I wasn't that interested in. One VERY valuable book that was sent to me as a surprise by a friend who also likes photography was Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

Once I started to learn about composition, exposure, color and light, I was able to quickly understand why the best photos I had taken "worked" better than the rest. My percentage of successful shots began to increase and my artistic view began to broaden.

One interesting thing is that came from this self education was an article in one of those photo magazine that discussed the new and growing field of microstock photography. I tried to get onto a couple of the sites mentioned in that first article I read, but my work was rejected. The second article I read on microstock mentioned Dreamstime as a new, up and coming site, so I decided to try again. A little less than two years ago I bought my first DSLR (Canon Rebel XTi). Yet again, a new tool helped take my photos to another, more polished level. The rest, as they (who are THEY anyways?) say is history.

I seem to have three areas that have been most effective for me in terms of stock photo sales - landscapes, travel, and sport photography. In fact, my real success on DT has come from the addition of editorial use of images. This has allowed me to carve out a very specific niche here on DT - NASCAR photos.

At one point, I had roughly 90%+ of all the NASCAR related photographs on DT, even after the 3,000,000 image had been posted. In any given month they probably account for 75-90% of my sales.

The area I'm most lacking in is people/portrait photography. I decided to try and tackle that issue and bought a three light studio kit, various accessories, and some new books:) Over the course of the spring and summer I've been practicing by shooting friends and family, including a couple of weddings. One thing has led to another, and my wife and I have decided to actually file the paperwork and start our own photography business! We have used Smugmug for our photo posting for the last several years, and found it to be the best option for the money to get a new, professional site up and running.

My wife has been busy working on the html coding for the various functions on the site, while I've been focusing on gallery design and uploading content. All of this activity has lead to several inquiries for actual paying business! While it's still just rolling down the runway (we don't have any studio space, and we're still figuring out our pricing model), it's exciting as we continue to pick up speed and hopefully get off the ground soon!

Not having felt like I was a creative person in terms of I can't draw, paint, sing, dance (well , at least), or play an instrument, photography has allowed me to discover a creative side I didn't know I had. The opportunity to either express myself, or discover and capture the expressiveness of the people and places I encounter, never ceases to amaze me.

I still feel a sense of wonder and awe when I get to see a series of photos open up and realize that they captured exactly what I hoped to, or even more. Dreamstime has allowed me not only a creative outlet, but offered me an opportunity to help pay for my passion, and perhaps one day, if I'm lucky, quit my day job! Good luck, and keep shooting - you never know when you might capture the memory or moment of a lifetime!

Photo credits: Lawrence Weslowski Jr.

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September 09, 2008


well good luck to you too!!! i'm loving thid new adventure so far! it feels so good to step out of the ordinary and do something that i have wanted to do for a long time!! You're portfolio is fab so i'm sure you'll do very well!!

September 08, 2008


Great blog - really interesting and congratulations on your successes. By the way I also think that Bryan Peterson's book is really good.

September 08, 2008


I love those waterfalls....

*ps.. read one of my blogs:

September 07, 2008


Wow, thanks for sharing your story, it is very inspiring as are your photos.

September 07, 2008


That is great and I wish you the best as you move forward! (From one smugmug to Let us know how it goes and what you learn along the way!

September 07, 2008


Thanks Iris! USually I just post a line or two to other people's posts, but for some reason I got in the mood to write today. If I can ask, how do you create all your cool images? That's ceratinly a talent I'll never master...

September 07, 2008


Thanks for sharing your story. Wonderful shots!!!

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