Stock Photography Dos and Don’ts Part I.

Posted: December 24, 2011 in Tips

I. Tips for Beginners

Many new submitters get discouraged at their initial rejections when they submit their first batch of 10. This is usually because they do not fully understand what makes a good stock image – it is not a reflection on their skills as a competent photographer.

With that in mind, this handy list of dos and don’ts can help you get up to speed and start earning more money!

Do keep a wish list. What would you love to shoot? What steps can you take to make this happen?

Don’t “take sides.” You’re selling an idea or concept, not a personal statement. While partisan viewpoints have their place (in editorial photos, for example), your image will be more marketable for a variety of uses if you focus on how the potential image would be used. Plan ahead!

Do shoot as often as you can. Not everything will be suitable for stock, but the practice will make you a better photographer.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself. It’s a big world out there and your viewpoint is unique – capture everything you can, if for nothing else than to hone your photography skills. This will also allow you to introduce yourself to subjects you may have not realized you enjoy.

Do take photos that stand on their own. Although many submitters like to upload series of photos, this often can dilute your portfolio, and by extension, sales.

Don’t make one photo dependent upon another to complete a point, nor should you upload similar photos of the same model making similar expressions and gestures.

Do experiment with different lighting conditions and camera settings.

Don’t submit overly artistic or experimental photos as stock photography. Save those for framed artwork, galleries, and exhibitions.

Do keep yourself up-to-date with the photography industry, the latest gadgets and technological advancements. Read photography magazines and websites to increase your knowledge.

Don’t remain idle. Bring your camera with you everywhere and be ready for anything. Treat your camera like it’s your sidekick.

Do study the work of other photographers, study what sells, and have an understanding of the industry, but…

Don’t copy the work of others. Tap your creative energies, approach your craft with reckless abandon, and it will show in your work.

Do submit your best work with regularity to Shutterstock – you will make money and your photography skills will evolve.

Don’t be discouraged by rejections. Understand why they occurred and learn from them.

II. Improving the Submission Process

Do keyword thoroughly. Always think relevancy, clarity, and simplicity – as we often tell submitters, it’s your keywords that lead to sales, so choose them wisely.

Don’t add irrelevant keywords. This only leads to frustrated buyers and, likely, a lost sale.

Do play to your strengths. If nature photography is something you naturally gravitate towards, keep at it!

Don’t limit yourself. If there’s something you really want to try, find a way to make it happen. Whether it’s taking a trip to somewhere you’ve never been, enrolling in a photography class, or experimenting with different equipment, the only thing stopping you from honing your skills is you.

Do back up your files. Technical glitches, computer crashes, and other mishaps can happen when we least expect them.

Don’t assume that because many photographers today have switched to digital, you don’t need to properly edit and store your images. Remember, nothing is more important than archivingyour images. The best scenario would be to archive locally and then archive the images to a remote location in case of a catastrophic event such as a fire, etc…

Do plan your shoots. Think about how your photo will be used – to sell or promote a product or idea.

Don’t forget to pack your essentials when you set out – extra lenses, a tripod, and lots of model releases.

Do participate in the Forum, especially the Critique section. Show your work that you have questions about, and help others by commenting on theirs.

Don’t be a troll. Be an active participant – it’s a great way to network with like-minded, talented individuals.

As with the forums, do spend time navigating the entire submit site (and the main site for that matter). The more familiar you are with Shutterstock, the quicker and more hassle-free your workflow will become.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you ever have questions or concerns. We’re here to help!

Originally published October 2009 and November 2009

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