Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Stock Photo Image Glut And Making A Living

A tidal wave of pictures in a sea of imagery illustrates a glut of stock photos on the Internet.
A tidal wave of photos are flooding into the stock photo market and the Internet.

Huge Increases In Stock Photographs
Jim Pickerell reports that in a little over a year the number of images available on stock sites has increased by over 41% (see his full article here:  There are now more than 375,000 individuals, world-wide, who are creating and contributing stock photos. Of course, this doesn’t count the number of images being added on flickr, and other non-commercial photo sharing sites.

Making A Living At Stock Photography
One would think that with those mind-numbing numbers that it would be pretty much impossible to make a living at stock photography anymore. Certainly Jim believes that.  Yet, when I take a quick look around, the majority of the stock shooters that I know personally are surviving (though not all are exactly thriving). There are also cases of individuals who are thriving and who have broken in recently and are doing well. While I am too lazy to go back and find out who those individuals are so that I can share them with you, they do exist. I do know that in the case of a photographer who contributes through me, his income has consistently grown over the last several years…and that continues. I am holding my own, up some months, down others, but overall still doing well…and that is without creating tons of new images.

Three Years Of Uploading And Six Thousand Images
As long as we are talking large numbers of images, I have kind of reached a milestone as well. Today I uploaded my six-thousandth image onto my website. Phew! Three years of uploading! I only have about a thousand left to do…not counting images I create from here forward (and the images my associate photographers create).

A Thousand Unique Visitors A Day
I don’t believe that one has to create thousands of images to do well in stock. You have to create images that sell well and figure out how to get them seen. My own efforts to get additional eyeballs on my images (and the images of my associate shooters) is both encouraging and discouraging. After three years I am getting roughly a thousand unique visitors a day to my site. Far below the number I thought I would have by now. But on the positive side, I am making sales because of that traffic as well as earning a bit of adwords income, some income and print sales through

Website Work, SEO And Creating New Images
On the down side, the amount of work I have put into the web site, and SEO, would have earned far more income for me, at this point, had I put that effort into creating new images.  I am not exaggerating here either!  I would say, conservatively, I and my webmaster (my twin brother), have put in an average of three-hours a day, six days a week, for three years now.   Arrgh! And yet I still believe that long-term, I will be glad I did this.

Make Images And Get Them Distributed
Stock photography, at least as a contributor, is really a very simple business. Make images, get them distributed. Of course, you can go the Yuri Arcurs route and conquer the world, but you have to have a lot more motivation than I do! My stock efforts are more of a plodding nature, just working at a steady pace creating images that I enjoy. My expenses are incredibly low. I have no employees, a moderate studio (that I actually don’t even need, but do enjoy) and only shoot about once a month. I do have the advantage of having been creating stock photos for over twenty years which provides me with an ongoing income stream that would be hard to duplicate if I started all over again now…and affords me the pleasure of working at a pace that doesn’t stress me.

The Secret Of Success
Getting back to those numbers, yeah, there are a lot of images out there and if you think too much about that you might give up before you get going. And yet, there are success stories. People are making it work, and doing so in a wide variety of ways. The secret of success, if there is one, is in finding a way that really works for you, a way that you enjoy enough to forget how much hard work you are doing!