What I learned selling stock images online
I've been selling stock images online for about a year and a half now. I started out as a complete novice and have grown to the point that I consider myself somewhat of a pro. But I'm always learning and improving!
The learning curve in selling stock online is steep and success is directly related to effort. The cycle of uploading, getting images accepted or rejected, and selling images is an important feedback loop that allows one to learn at his own rate and is based on the level of effort made at each step. The more one shoots, edits, uploads, sells - the more one learns the craft of photography and how to produce work that sells.
For me, skill improvement has been one of the best results of my participation in selling images through stock agencies. Microstock has some of the highest technical demands of any image market. To be successful, it's necessary to bring one's photography skills up to par, including capturing the image as well as post-processing with tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.
I also learned about the value of images from selling stock online. For someone who was not experienced in the world of professional photography, I never would have imagined that someone's images could be worth so much to image buyers. I have a photographer friend who likes to enroll in a lot of photography classes, take photography-oriented trips, and go to photo club meetings -- but her photographs just sit inside her hard drive and never get seen. I prefer putting my images out into the world and, better yet, getting real unbiased feedback from professional people willing to spend money to use my images. I retain all rights to my images and basically loan the use of the images via online stock agencies. This is real feedback that the images have value, unlike what you might get from showing your photos to your grandmother.
The other thing I've learned about selling stock images is the incredible demand for imagery. I've learned to create a diverse portfolio of images from basic isolated objects that will be used as part of more complex creations, to full-blown, ready-to-go landscapes and concepts. Even with millions of stock images already in the online stock agencies' catalogs, there are always new subjects, new angles and new concepts needed. It's a fun challenge to try to satisfy this demand. Sometimes a contributor produces images that don't find much demand, but then every once in a while you upload an image that gets purchased within hours and you have to conclude that by golly, you nailed that one!
There is a huge demand for stock imagery. Buyers are willing to pay for it and in addition to compensation, the contributor reaps the great benefit of skill improvement. Not a bad deal.
Photo credits: Peanutroaster.