Thursday, May 7, 2009

Getting Started in Stock Photography

I got this idea in my head that it could be fun to try my hand at microstock photography. It'd give me a bit of a creative outlet, get me shooting more pictures, and improve my photography knowledge and skills. Plus it sounded pretty easy!

So I signed up on iStockphoto, and sent in three old photos I kinda liked.


"At this time we regret to inform you that we did not feel the overall composition of your photography or subject matter is at the minimum level of standard for iStockphoto. Please take some time to review training materials, resources and articles provided through iStockphoto."

In other words, "Nice try, but you suck. Try harder."

Not to be discouraged, I read a LOT, took a ton more pictures, and tried again.


Same message. I decided I needed more gear, better stuff. Plus I kept reading and trying to learn as much as I could. The articles they link you to in iStockphoto are actually pretty good, and they do give you a pretty good idea of what they want.. So, I set up a little studio, and got some shots of the kids that I totally love. (I know, I'm not an objective opinion here, but they were pretty good shots.)


"These images are very similar in subject matter or style. We would like to see a demonstrated range of diversity and variety in subject matter, so if you have anything else you can show us we would love to see it."

This one was a bit confusing. No indication whatsoever whether they liked any/all/none of the photos, only that as a set, they weren't diverse enough. Would have been nice to hear something like, "we liked this one, hated that one", or perhaps a tiny bit of direction.... Ah well, time to think about the next submission!

The only problem is, every time you get dinged the "time-out" appears to double. So it's up to two weeks now... I needed another plan. Perhaps another microstock agency? I looked around, and found There, they approve or reject as you submit, but there's no waiting period after a rejection. And there's no "approval" or "audition" phase. This provided me an opportunity to shorten my learning cycle, and see some more immediate progress (hopefully).

So I picked out a few of the newer pictures I thought were pretty good, and loaded them up in threes, waiting for feedback before sending in the next 3.


"We regret to inform you that photo was not accepted. Your photograph did not reach our desired level of aesthetic quality." x 6


"We regret to inform you that photo was not accepted. Photographs submitted to Fotolia are available for sale and must meet high technical standards. Your image did not meet our technical qualifications." x 3

Another week of more practice, more reading, podcasts, blogs, and then I made a new set of 3 pictures. No, I didn't take them, I made them. (See, I really have been reading and listing to podcasts, honest.)


"Congratulations! Fotolia has approved and selected your photo . The image is now available for sale." x 3

I really wanted to do a little happy dance. I knew when I sent in my first photos to iStock that they weren't good enough, but the point was to get good enough. I'm not there yet, but this first acceptance really felt good! Now on to making more, and better! But first, here are the three that finally made the grade:

The process so far was a LOT of work, but I have seen tremendous progress in my ability to compose a picture and then expose it properly. I bought 2 SB-600's and I'm learning better lighting. (Started by taking them off the camera, of course.) Most importantly, I'm having a ton of fun, and shooting hundreds of pictures (deleting most, but hey...) every single day.

Here's my favorite (so far) from today:

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