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.

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Interesting and enjoyable read. Thank you!


Nice ideas, gives me something to think about


Great post. Thanks for interesting blog :D


like the article


Just like I am kicked on my ass and slapped on my face twice. The first part is me, focusing on obvious,. Thanks for enlighten me.


Great advice, needed this boost of "what to do"! Going to give it a try. Thank you so very much.


Well I find here some true thinking, but there is not everything so obvious as you write. Almost three moth and 4 sales of your image of leg is not much. Of course, why not. But that is not the big money and I don't think you'll have 100 sales a year with this pick. And 100 sales a year is normal in some stocks of good works. For example travel photography. Alexandre This man sells his pics pretty well because of the objects. everyone needs a good material. The same interesting buildings as you write about armatures photographers. It could be done properly and could be sell really well if it's not a usual snap shot.

I think it's important to have well build portfolio if we talking about the sales. Not 500 and not 1000 - tree thousands is a minimum I think in this place - DT.

So mates, upload the best quality images as you can. Upload more and more. Think about it much and do it more than think and you'll get your revenue, I wish you to get.


Very Nice Post!!!..Thanks for sharing


slap in the face - Love it!! :) thanks for this! :-)


Thank you for taking the time to write this post. In so obvious that I was not seeing reality. I was adjusting my illustrations for DT. Instead of showing my unique and original style, as you say. Thanks again.


obviously the blog. Are we having salad tonight :-)


Mindyf12, did you read my comment to the very end? :) My point was the blog does not account for all the complexity of choosing between and shooting "obvious" and "OBVIOUS". Yes, it is a well-written tongue-in-cheek article, but I doubt that everyone who now praises it for opening their eyes will succeed following the given advise. Moreover, the author knows about it, otherwise it would be dangerous for him to point out this OBVIOUS stuff (recall his frequent saying about being "the biggest moron if you discovered and revealed how the search-engine works" - not exact quote but captures the essence). If I am wrong, in a month or two DT should be full of OBVIOUS, but it won't. :)))


Good point :)


Obviously !


Some very nice thoughts and pointers. Thanks!


Great Blog! It is very true. The world happens around us and we need to capture those rare moments. Very good, thanks.


You sure write some interesting blog articles, Wisconsonart. My stance is that if I like it, I shoot it, obvious or not. It works for me, sometimes better than others. :)


Nice blog.


This a great blog, and very very true. Thanks for sharing your writing skills are amazing.


Wow!! That really is SO true.... I've been feeling so low lately looking at all the professional work and thinking there was really no chance for my amateur submissions. Thank you for opening my eyes to new possibilities.... All the best for your future "obvious" shots :)


Thanks for sharing!

You have the gift to write!

By the way, here is my only salad photo, with more than 500 views and 5 sales:

 Hungry Tortoise 


Thank you for reminding me of the OBVIOUS. My photo acceptance is so low that it makes me almost throw away the camera and just do illustrations. Bur it reminds me on how I really wantand love to shoot OBVIOUS everyday things and keep trying to improve photos to get them aproved.


I think I am still in that first phase, the "salad" phase (come to think of it though, I don't think I have photographed THAT many salads) :-) Great blog, love your writing.


Yes, the thing about OBVIOUS images is that they happen to others and then they need to go buy a photo of it because they forgot to shoot it :). Lucky us !


The OBVIOUS is that your blogs are unique :)


Right on. Not all sales are of the most beautiful places in the world. Plenty are used to illustrate slices of every day life. What I've learned this winter is that I don't need to get in the cars and drive around looking for calendar images - I can find plenty of subjects right in front of my nose.


Haha! Nice post! :) And good advice also!


Great blog LOL....wonder if i'll still be alive at 93 to collect my $100 :)


Yep, funny and "hypnotizing" as usual, but maybe not that helpful because what worked for you may not work for others. For ex., I would not shoot a burned leg or that interesting texture because I would doubt 1) its need, 2) if it would be accepted by reviewers. OK, you managed to get it through and got 4 sales for it now, how can you be sure of more sales? Also, from my experience, it is very difficult to predict in advance what will be rejected and for what reason (I am not talking about obvious cases, rather your OBVIOS ones). Sometimes a very simple candid shot without much of post-processing is accepted and sells afterwards, sometimes a perfectly done hours-work (which was supposed to overcome the competition by the quality) is rejected, or if accepted does not sell much. Add to all these, the fact that an old and well-sold port will always attract more attention from the buyers and pics from it will sell better at all other odds equal (imho). So, it's all doubtful and unpredictable, and the only thing you can advise actually is _to_experiment_ with both subjects for shooting and acceptance/rejections, and _being_patient_ when your acceptance ratio drops down as a result. I think that's a great component of the driving force for people to shoot what you call obvious: because it is more or less safe in terms of acceptance and some level of sales too. I tell this from my own experience.


Nicely written, thumbs up :) I guess it's all learning curve ... if you keep uploading, you keep learning and one day you finally run out of the salads .... :)

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