Three Years With DreamsTime and Three Milestones
I joined DT in February 2009 and after three years and I have recently achieved three milestones in my stock career.
Milestone One: 3,000 sales! I think the key from this accomplishment has come from trying different ideas and concepts. From business concepts to cooking in the kitchen, I have tried to build a diverse portfolio. Truth be told, I would rather be out in the field and sitting in the dark, waiting for the sun to rise. I enjoy photographing the landscape but if you study the database, that's a tough way to make progress in the world of stock.
There are many exceptional landscapes images and many of them look the same for the most part. If there were a limited number of these types of images I'm sure they would sell well but that is not the case; there is just too much competition. That doesn't stop me from uploading new landscapes but when it comes to stock, you have to change gears from what you may normally like to do.
You also have to overcome the limitations that come with being an amateur stocker. You don't have studio space, you don't have high end equipment (including lights), and you have virtually no access to models. I've had many failed shoots because I tried to emulate images you see in the database and learned the hard way the reality of what it takes to be at the same level as the pros.
In the end, I've found there are no limits to your imagination. I may not have the means to crank out the high end stuff but if you look at the portfolios of the big boys, they tend to do the same images over and over. They make money by producing quantity but in the end they miss doing a lot of concepts because they essentially shoot only what they know. They may be making good money but I suspect they fall way short of their potential because they get in a rut and fail to think outside the box. This leaves many subjects and ideas wide open for the rest of us. Avoiding doing what everyone else is doing and finding your niche, to me, is the best way to make it in stock as an amateur.
Milestone Two: Reached $6,000 in overall earnings. This is really a function of Milestone One but it is still a measure of progress. It would be easy for me to say "If I can do it, you can do it" but as I gain more experience and watch the progress of others, I am finding it's really not that simple.
When you compare my stats to others I seem to be doing pretty good but there are other amateurs who are light years ahead of me in terms of numbers. There are smaller portfolios online for less time with more sales. They "Get Stock" and are off and running.
To "Get Stock" and UNDERSTAND THE BUSINESS, it seems that is something you just can't teach. You get it or you don't. But it is something you CAN learn.
In my case, I've been doing freelance art for 30 years. I've worked with editors and have been published in various ways. It's a tough business. I've also taken painting classes and photography classes over the years. I belong to a photography club and learn from the experience of others in regards to both fine art and commercial photography.
Training and experience may not come easy and it takes longer for some compared to others, but The School Of Hard Knocks does have its advantages when you go through it.
Let me put it this way. There are photographers out there who buy a nice camera, take a lot of mediocre pictures, and somehow seem to have family and friends who say what a great photographer they are. Their ego inflates, the head can't fit through doorways, and they think they're on their way. What they never do is have critiques from their peers.
Having a portfolio review from people with credentials can be very humbling. But it makes you a better photographer.
Milestone Three: I just had my first Sell-The-Rights sale! Logging into your account to see the balance having jumped several hundred dollars is a very nice way to start the day. I wish I could show it to you but a Sell-Rights image is removed from the database since it's no longer available for sale. But it had many elements of a successful stock image: It was unique, grabbed the eye, and it communicated a specific concept.
So, after three years, it appears the work is really starting to pay off. Fundamentally, that's all it is: Work. Learning, growing, and understanding the business.
I'm sure there are many paths to take but in looking back some of the things that have helped me to get to where I am are as follows: (1) Taking photography classes (2) Taking art classes (3) An active member of a robust photography club (4) Pursuing fine art photography
So, yeah, maybe if someone like me can do this, so can YOU. The part they always leave out in that phrase is the perspiration that goes along with it. Do the WORK and you'll get there.
I also still have a long way to go for what I would like to achieve so there is much work yet to be done. And there are more milestones to reach; after three years I have yet to earn an "Editor's Choice." :-)
Photo credits: Harris Shiffman.