I'm a semi-retired Web designer now living in rural New York State. My decision to get into stock photography came about as a result of my experiences as a Web designer, and the difficulties I often had finding images that suited my needs. Now that I have more time on my hands, I decided to start shooting those kinds of pictures myself.
I also was hoping to be able to share some photos of things that I simply find interesting for reasons that I'll call "artistic," although I may be flattering myself in doing so; as well as things like old architecture, transportation-related images, macro shots of commonplace objects that reveal interesting details, and so forth.
I should mention that this is actually my second foray into stock photography. The first time around, I was discouraged by editors who simply didn't think the photos were salable. I had no problem with technical criticism of the shots, but it rubbed me the wrong way when shots were refused because the editors didn't think anyone would want them when I knew that as a designer, I would have gladly purchased the pictures because of how they could be interpreted beyond the obvious subject matter.
Indeed, it's now clear to me that part of the reason I had a hard time finding images as a designer was because the kind of images I was looking for tend not to be what stock companies think are salable. I suppose that's because I've always had a tendency to use pictures that symbolically represented what I was trying to say, rather than actually depicted it. This goes against the grain of the "in your face" style favored by advertisers and marketers nowadays.
For example, I remember the images I selected for a site I built for a local computer repair and tech support company many years ago. I used a picture of some railroad tracks branching off the main line to illustrate networking, a cracked egg to illustrate computer repairs, a burglar trying to sneak into a home to illustrate computer viruses, a broken-down car to illustrate computer disposal and recycling, a nugget of gold in a gold miner's pan to illustrate data recovery, and so forth.
In fact, although the site was for a computer-related business, I don't believe there was a picture of a single computer on the whole site. Why? Because I wanted it to be different from the zillions of other computer repair companies' sites. I wanted the images to be visually interesting and a little bit playful, so they would engage the visitors.
Pictures of hard drives, RAM, binary sequences, and so forth are a dime a dozen, probably because stock companies believe they're salable, so stock photographers tend to take a lot of those pictures. But to my way of thinking, a picture of a hard drive on a data-recovery page doesn't engage the visitor. It's too "in-your-face." It's what the visitor expects to see. A gold miner's pan isn't what they expect to see, so it engages them for that few moments that it takes for them to make the connection.
There were also times that I came across pictures that I bought simply because I thought they were visually interesting, even though I had no particular use for them in mind when I bought them. But I liked them and I believed that I probably could use them for some future project, so I bought them and kept them on file.
But when I tried submitting pictures of the kind that I sought as a designer to stock agencies, they were consistently turned down for content and composition reasons. In other words, the companies didn't think they were salable.
So now I'm going to try again. And you know what? I'm going to do pretty much the same things I did last time. Why? Firstly, because I'm semi-retired now and only work two or three hours a day, so I have plenty of time to look for things that interest me and photograph them. Secondly, because I really don't need the money, so I have the luxury of be able to shoot what I think is interesting.
Maybe it won't be profitable, but I hope it will be fun. I've spent half a century chasing the almighty dollar (or pound, euro, ruble, and so forth, if you prefer). Now's my time to have a little fun in my life and to chase a few dreams.
To those who are still reading this long post, thank you. I hope to have some fun here on the board, as well.
Photography is very subjective, and everybody tends to be even more subjective regarding their own images.
But most of the times, when a reviewer thinks a picture is not salable, the picture is not salable. Maybe everything can be sold in the end, you never know, but we're trying to offer our buyers the pictures they expect to find. And, of course, we don't rely on our personal feeling when we approve or refuse an image. We have some statistics and internal studies, we know the (generally accepted) rules for a successful stock image, we have the legal knowledge so we know what we're allowed to sell, and so on.
We don't pretend to know it all, but we know what to do in order to please MOST of our buyers and MOST of our contributors. Dreamstime has almost 5 million users, so there will always be somebody to think different than us.
Having said these, here's some inside tips: in the begining, don't upload large batches. Go with 5-10 pictures, see how it works and try to adapt.
The refusal reasons are a good way of learning, it's the same with life, you learn from your mistakes.
A good thing to do is reading a lot on the forum (even the older threads), so you can learn from others people's mistakes too.
If you feel that a certain concept would not be easily understood by an editor, try to explain it briefly in the "Comment for editor" field, during your submission (don't explain it in the Description field). But try to remember that the reviewers are also photographers, designers, graphicians and web designers, just like the rest of the users here. If the reviewer doesn't get the concept, the chances are high that the other users won't get the concept either.
Of course, everything can be improved. We are very receptive to well explained and well argumented suggestions. If you have some, please let us hear them. We only ask our users to be receptive to our suggestions too :)
Thanks for the reply and advice, Dudau. It's much appreciated.
I have another hour or two of Web work to do today, after which I plan to return to a site I was at last week -- but this time around with a better camera and a better understanding of what I did wrong last week -- to re-shoot a couple of shots that were rejected for technical (rather than composition) reasons. There also are a few shots that that I just think could be done better.
I'm no stranger to business, and I know that you have to sell what people want; so I don't blame the reviewers for rejecting what they don't think is salable. I also know that I'm a bit of an oddball as both a designer and a photographer, so my tastes may not exactly be representative of the majority. Nonetheless, I do believe that there's room in the market for what I have to offer, once I get better command of the technical aspects of digital photography. That's where I'm weakest.
As an aside, I used to do my own darkroom work (color and B&W) back in the 1970's and 1980's, purely as a hobby. I must say, my transition to digital has not been as easy as I thought it would be. What the technology offers us does come with many technical considerations that simply didn't exist in the film world.
I have to admit that I was more than a bit arrogant in thinking that the transition to digital would be easy. What I plan to concentrate on immediately is getting a better understanding and command of the technical aspects of digital photography, which is where I'm weakest.
Composition, as you pointed out, is subjective. Technical command of the basic process of creating an image, not so much.
Hello and welcome Richard. I really enjoyed reading your post, it is very interesting to share your experience of a buyer. It will remind me to "think outside the box" a bit more and improve my sales potentials. Good luck with your next submissions.
IS, Cannon 70-200, Canon 100-400 IS. Giotto tripod....
Hi and welcome to DT Geekonthewing. Your story about your experience in buying pictures is very interesting. I find it funny and worthy your project to make the kind of photography that you like or you think that a certain sector of buyers may need. There is nothing more beautiful in life than to devote yourself fully to what you like. Good luck and welcome. Regards from spain.
I have pulled the pictures I had that were awaiting review because based on feedback from the rejected photos, it was clear to me that the remaining ones wouldn't satisfy Dreamstime's needs, either.
This doesn't mean I'm leaving. But I've opened a paid account on another service for pictures that I happen to like, but which may not be broadly marketable. I will only submit to Dreamstime those images that I believe are more suitable to this company's purposes. I don't want to waste anyone's time reviewing pictures that I alone happen to think are good, but which may not have commercial potential.
As I said earlier, I really don't need to earn money from my photography. But I do understand that sites like Dreamstime need to concentrate on those images that, in their experience, have the best chance of selling.
On the other hand, I also think that reviewers tend to be a bit myopic in their assessments, sometimes underestimating the marketable potential of images that don't have any obvious commercial potential, but which may be considered by designers to symbolize what they want to say in suggestive rather than explicit ways.
My solution is simple: I'll submit images of more obvious commercial potential here; and pay to host elsewhere the ones that I simply like, but which less obviously meet DT's needs.
The other option I considered was simply to build my own stock photo site, but I'm not one to re-invent the wheel.
So in summary, I'm not gone; but honestly, considering the types of things that I like to photograph, I suspect that my contributions here will be less frequent and very selective.
In the meantime, I also will test my own notion, at my own expense, that some of the shots which this and other stock companies have consistently rejected may in fact have value to designers whose artistic and expressive leanings are closer to my own.
If I'm wrong, I will lose no sleep over it. I've lived long enough to have accumulated abundant instances of having been wrong. Life goes on.
Thanks for all the feedback. I'll be submitting more stuff when I have something more marketable to offer.
I keep waiting to see some of your images on line. I'm sure you will get it. I work for some stocks more and it is very usual to have images rejected for non potentialcommercial value, bad composition, or other things; and those images are selling lot of licenses in other pages. But it is really usual in this business, so I do not work exclusive for one, ans so I have all my images on line: Some of them here some of them there... I hate to work for nothing. Excuse me for my english, but sure you understand me. Regards.
I do understand your English. No apologies necessary.
I also think what you said is correct. Different houses tend to host different sorts of images, based on their own ideas and experiences. I also think designers tend to gravitate to those sources that host the kinds of images that they happen to like, so there's really no "best" or "worst" place to host images.
It's really more of a matter of trying to determine which images are best for which house.
Welcome and very good luck Richard, I am very much in your situation, as regards being retired and converting from film to digital. I have only been on DT for about eight months now, and have had a few sales to date. I have also had quite a few rejections too, but have learnt from these, its not personal. Also I have learned a lot of valuable information from the forums over the months, which have helped with submissions.
Metz flash, 170-500 Sigma zoom. I still use a variety of 35mm Nikon f...