How to Travel and Make a Living at Stock Photography

Folks are getting really creative with their photos in the Bring Home the Bacon Breakfast Stock Challenge. I love it. And I hope you’re having as much fun shooting as I am looking through them. Check out all the submissions here.

Jani’s out this week on a small emergency (she’s ok, she just needs a little unplanned knee surgery), so I’ll send you her processing tips on the photos you submitted next week.

In the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to another successful iStock photographer…

I met Andrea Gingerich in Paris after our Stock Photo Expedition there last May. She shared glowing stories about traveling the world, moving from city to city as she pleases, taking photos as she goes and uploading them to iStock. She heads to Paris one month… Spain the next… and in a few more, she’ll be off to India. Her home base is wherever she wants it to be.

That’s her life. And she loves her job.

Like many successful stock photographers we hear from, Andrea doesn’t have any formal training. Her background is in ecology. But she’s creative, she’s driven, and she loves taking photos.

Is that the recipe for success in the stock world? Read on to see what she thinks…

Interview with iStock Photographer Andrea Gingerich

Bonnie: Andrea, what was your job before you got into stock photography?

Andrea: I was working as an ecologist with a focus on natural resources conservation. Photography was a hobby at the time and I mostly shot film.

Bonnie: How did you get started in stock?

Andrea: A friend of mine said "Hey, there's this new stock photography website that's starting. They're looking for contributors. Maybe you should try it out. After all, what else will you do with the photos that sitting on your hard drive collecting dust?" So I joined iStockphoto. That was over eight years ago!

Andrea GingerichBonnie: You have such a diverse portfolio -- from people to plants to travel photos to household items. How do you decide what to shoot? Do you look specifically for subjects that will work for stock?

Andrea: I started out trying to shoot traditional stock photos, but over the years, I just began shooting whatever my heart desires. I feel like I have complete freedom in my photography, which makes me very happy.

I really enjoy taking macro photos of plants because it allows me to connect with my background in ecology. I also have a big fascination with urban/rural decay and abandoned places because I like the stories they tell.

Bonnie: What do you think someone needs to be able to support him/herself with stock?

Andrea: I shoot with a pro digital SLR camera. You don't need to have the fanciest camera on the market, but you do need gear that can produce crisp, clean images. Having a digital SLR is a good place to start because it allows you to have flexibility and control of your images while also producing images that have quality useful to designers.

Bonnie: Now that you’re an inspector at iStock, do you see rookie mistakes that you wish people knew about so they would fix them right away instead of submitting blindly?

Andrea: We've all made mistakes as a new contributor. New contributors often become frustrated and upset because they continue to receive rejections, but I find that the mistakes and rejections are what helped me learn the most. Becoming very precise and picky with my own photos has really helped me to produce better quality images overall since becoming a photographer. Common mistakes on iStock are poor lighting, pixel discoloration (noise), and compression artifacts. We also sometimes see images with copyrighted or trademarked elements that haven't been removed.

Bonnie: You have the advantage of having started when iStock was still relatively new. Do you think people who are starting out now and who don’t have any formal training can still make it in stock? What will they need to do to get there?

Andrea: When iStock was new, there were fewer contributors than there are now and technology wasn't as advanced as it is today. Since then, the standards in stock photography have been raised across the board -- not just at iStock. And everyone wants a piece of the pie. You need to have the ability to set yourself apart from the rest. Create photography that is going to stand out.

It is not necessary to have formal photography training. You need to think outside of the box and step away from any kind of photography standards you've known in the past. I never had any formal photography training other than a Black and White photo class where we learned to develop photos. However, it is essential to have a good knowledge of your camera and its capabilities while also being able to produce a high quality image with great composition. Become picky about your photos.

Bonnie: Thanks, Andrea!

Have a great weekend!

-- Bonnie

Bonnie Caton
Great Escape Publishing
Breakfast Stock Club

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]