Starting a Stock Photo Collection
Creating a stock photography collection to generate revenue requires organisation and hard work, but the rewards can be considerable if you take a long term view. In this section I will look at the steps required to get started.
The principles that apply to running any business are applicable in managing your stock photography collections. Our Business courses cover what you need to know to get started and I recommend you go through them as a part of your preparation.
It is vital that you are are producing images at globally accepted digital imaging standards. Make sure you have this covered by taking our Digital Imaging courses before you go further.
As you begin to build your stock photography collection you will find that workflow is very important in managing the collection. We have a whole course on workflow to make sure you have a good systematic process in place.
Selecting from your existing archive of images
You may be asking, 'How can I afford to shoot for stock if I can’t be sure of sales?' The best place to start is with your existing archive of images and the situations you find yourself in daily. Make an initial selection of 50-100 images to get started.
Bearing in mind the kind of images that sell as stock go through all the images you have already taken that you have copyright for:
- Exclude images of a file size less than 24MB
- Look for images of high quality only
- Look for images that are not obviously dated unless they are of wider historical value
- Look for images that depict the place that you live - the people, cities, buildings, agriculture, education...etc.
- Select only 2 or 3 of the best images from each relevant shoot
- If you have connected to a particular agency look at their technical requirements when selecting
Taking photos around you
Next go out to places easily accessible to you, your local neighbourhood, a rural community or a city. Look for situations that are typical of life in your world: people going through their daily lives, preparing and eating meals, making a living, taking transport, celebrating. Look for people who are unique to your part of the world, for example, those wearing clothing specific to your locality, or people doing characteristic things.
Take a book of model releases with you and wherever possible, get the names of the people you photograph and ask them to sign a release. If you can, shoot early morning or evening to get the best light, but keep these things in mind during the day, when you have some off-time or traveling from one place to another.
Choose the best images from your shoots and add to your stock photo collection.
Captioning and keywording
For images to sell as stock they must be findable in an online database, which means that you need to 'tag' or caption them with the kind of words that someone looking for such an image would use. The information you assign to an image when you 'tag' it is called metadata. Again you should check the requirements of any agency you want to submit to before beginning. But in general, more information is better than less. Put in a full location, caption and keyword description to ensure that your images can be found. Ensure you have put in your name as the author and copyright owner.
Ready to start
You should have decided whether you are going to have your own website for this collection and if you are going to try to find an agency or agent to represent you. You should have put together 50-100 images that are good quality and captioned.
You are ready to begin. Remember that stock photography is for the long term, be consistent in adding to your collection regularly and building your reach directly through your site or via agencies. In our experience you are only starting to make decent regular monthly income when you have around 3,000 quality images online. So don't give up if it seems sales are slow at first, keep building. The rewards will be there.