Making the rounds today through various forums, is this nugget of an editorial piece from ABC’s Good Morning America show:  Make Money in May- Selling Stock Photos .  Apparently, by snapping random things about your office, as detailed in the piece, you can make thousands of dollars to put your kids through school.

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Advisory to anyone who has viewed this piece and has stars in their eyes:  it is not as easy as turning your logo’d coffee cup away from your point and shoot camera.

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Please note, I am a top contributor to the mentioned site, iStockphoto.com .  So, I know what I am talking about, when I say to take this editorial news piece with a few grains of salt.

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You are not going to make $10,000 from an image of your grandparents from yesterday’s BBQ in the next month.  Both of the images detailed in the piece were uploaded in 2006, and since then there are many photographers uploading people shots – the kind of thing that was a bit scarce in the “microstock” world just a few years ago.  What is “microstock”?  See here .  These are both fine images with a variety of uses, however, their popularity (and sales) has (have) built over time.  So, while there is a chance your capture might prove popular, the chances it is going to explode in popularity (sales) is relatively low.

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In addition, one successful image does not the mortgage pay.  Top contributors know it takes a wide variety of subject matter to attract buyers to a portfolio, and this happens over time, with lots of hard work, and (these days) expensive equipment.  Sorry, but that’s how it is.  A Canon Powershot is not going to allow you to create images that pay the bills, or buy the coffee.  However, you don’t necessarily have to deal with people (models) – there are plenty of successful conceptual contributors as well.

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To be honest, we contributors get a little miffed when articles and reports like this show up.  It engenders visions of easy money in people, who then flood the forums with questions that should be answered by their own research, if they were really serious about getting started.  It takes a lot of hard work and effort, as well as a good amount of time, to build a successful portfolio.  You need to understand composition, lighting, technique, model releases, property releases, and more.   You need to be able to think like a designer.  “What could this image be used for?”  “Is there space for copy?”  “Is this just a snapshot of my foot by a brick wall?”

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This is not the path to riches that a :45 second news story would have you believe.  I just want to throw that out to you, so you aren’t surprised when things don’t happen the way you expect after you photograph a rubber band, glasses and coffee cup on your desk.  Feel free to read my back posts in this blog.  Hidden amongst the tips for buyers, are lots of tips for contributors, if you take the time to understand what I’ve written.  We welcome newcomers who have taken the time to do some research, have experimented and are willing to learn and take critique.  Just don’t expect the world by the end of the summer.

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9 Responses to Note to ABC GMA Fans

  1. Tom Sparks says:

    Thanks for your article. I started contributing in January. I take my craft pretty seriously. It has been a huge learning curve. I still have a struggle envisioning the kind of shoots that will work well for stock buyers. I’m coming along, but it ain’t easy.

  2. Willie B. Thomas says:

    You mean I’m not going to make $10,000 with all the great shots I have sitting on my hard drive? All my friends and family members think my photos are great. My mom even uses one as her screen saver!

    I just think you’re posting this so I don’t join and show you what really good photos look like.

    BTW, I just got a bootleg copy of Photoshop do you know of any good site that teach how to use it?

    Thanks, P&S man..

  3. Jack Howard says:

    I have just posted an article and podcast with iStockphoto contributor Rich Legg for our TechTock podcast series: http://ow.ly/9tl4

    Rich and I have a frank and honest discussion about the conceptions and perceptions of microstock photography, and microstock photographers.

    This is a very polarizing issue, and I think many photographers will find our conversation enlightening.

  4. […] Note to ABC GMA Fans […]

  5. […] Sean Locke has post in response to an article on GMA about stock photography […]

  6. Love the article. It’s not as easy as it looks …

  7. Sean;
    Kudos to you! You said it just like it is for us stock photographers. You need to dedicate years and, besides camera expenses as in my case, plenty of budgeting for travel expenses to build a valuable stock library. I’ve found that specializing in a specific genre, such as American Indian lifestyles and culture, there is much more value in a picture collection for stock agencies (even the 2 big ones).
    Thanks for your realistic take on the news blurb.
    Angel

  8. Jhon says:

    Very nice article you have. Thanks then for the good information you’ve posted. I really am also interested in stock photography and I’ve already have many on my site.

  9. […] another portfolio update last week, but I’ve been very busy processing files, taking time out to rant a bit about Good Morning America.  Anyways, let me point out some new collections of royalty free stock imagery I’ve been […]

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