Instead of Uploading the Obvious, You Should Upload the OBVIOUS
We all know the story; you have a camera, take lots of pictures, and then you discover the world of Microstock. "You mean I can make MONEY doing this?" you say to yourself. "Sign me up!"
And thus your career began. You searched the database, looked at other portfolios, and realized that yes, you can do this too! You start to upload fancy buildings from downtown, flowers in your garden, and the salad you had for lunch. You diligently upload, become all giddy after your first sale, and you are on your way!
Then come the long days of waiting between sales. Three days. A week. 10 days. Ding! A subscription sale! Someone wanted your picture! Then it's another three days, a week, 10 days until the next sale. This time it's a credit sale! But it's for 58 cents.
OK, sure, I can sell pictures, but when you begin to calculate how long it will take to reach that magic $100 threshold, the excitement of the wonderful world of Microstock is suddenly not so wonderful.
But you don't give up because as you study the database you find portfolios with a bazillion sales and a portfolio size comparable to yours, that is if you keep uploading at the same rate you've been uploading in comparison to how long that Contributor signed up. So you go out again, find more interesting buildings, landscapes, and salads, yet the sales just don't seem to match other portfolios.
Well, of course! You don't have models! You just don't have the same resources as the high end professional photographers! You study the database some more and it becomes a kick in the teeth when you find portfolios from other amateur Contributors with no models who still have many sales.
You go out again and shoot buildings with HDR techniques, you shoot them at sundown so the red sky reflects in the windows, and you shoot your salad with a colorful napkin and fancy drink to make it stand out from other salad images. You learn how to use your software and you submit pictures of isolated tomatoes. That's what Buyers want! Of course! Objects that are isolated! You run to the supermarket and buy all kinds of tomatoes, bananas, apples, and a kiwi, shoot them, isolate them, and... after all that, it still won't be until you're 93 years old to reach that $100.
If you haven't figured it out by now, we are talking about the Contributor who shoots the obvious. The database is saturated with fruit and veggie images, generic buildings and landscapes, and PRETTY SMILING GIRL portraits. Everyone is copying what everyone else is doing because they look at what others are doing and it's OH SO EASY to shoot... the obvious!
If you're standing in front of the Statue of Liberty and have your camera with you, you'd be foolish NOT to take and picture and even MORE foolish if you didn't submit that image to DreamsTime. There is nothing wrong with shooting the obvious because those images will grab a few sales here and there. However, if you ONLY shoot the obvious, let's hope you have big plans of what to do with that $100 when you turn 93.
The problem for amateurs is they don't have a studio or the resources to hire beautiful models and create nightclub scenes, happy senior couples, kids in school, and all those other types of images that would allow you to quit your day job if you could ever reach that level. You need about $8,000 worth of lighting to pull off images like that and that's after you buy a camera and lens.
What's an amateur stocker to do? Well, that's easy... stop focusing on the obvious and start shooting the OBVIOUS!
There are everyday things going on around us all the time. OBVIOUS things that tend to be overlooked. For example, here is an image of my girlfriend's leg. She had a bad reaction from laser hair removal, her legs were burned after a recent treatment. Not a good thing nor a pleasant experience but it happened. Yet the OBVIOUS thing to do was to photograph the leg and submit it to DreamsTime. Four sales already and it hasn't been online very long.
I know what you're saying... people aren't exactly getting burned from laser hair removal treatments all the time, but I would counter what other little events have you have witnessed or experienced lately that you failed to capture for stock?
Here's another image, I was at an art college and in art college they work with all kinds of media. A table top was covered with paint and scratches. I thought it was an interesting texture so I photographed several images of the surface and stitched them together. It was one of those "What the heck, let's see what happens" images. Right away it had a sale. It's only had one sale, but... it was a $30 extended license sale.
The OBVIOUS was sitting right there in front of me! The OBVIOUS is all around us, images and concepts that are unique, and that's a key to getting more sales in Microstock: UNIQUE. Laser hair removal gone bad images are rare. But it's because they're hard to get yet it was the OBVIOUS thing to do when it happened. Experimenting with abstract photography and other ideas is the OBVIOUS thing to do instead of doing the obvious.
You're not getting the sales you see others getting? Is your portfolio full of the obvious? You still should shoot your salad before you eat it because it's the obvious thing to do. But when you drip salad dressing on your shirt, did you shoot the OBVIOUS? What are the UNIQUE, OBVIOUS things going on around you that you fail to shoot because you're too busy shooting the obvious and not the OBVIOUS?
Photo credits: Wisconsinart.