Week of Money, Issue #3: A Guaranteed No

Have you ever noticed that when you’re doing something you love, it never feels like work?

That’s one of the best parts of leading a photographer’s life. If you truly love what you’re photographing, it will be obvious and evident in the quality of your photos. And I can bet that taking these photos won’t feel at all like “work” either.

In today’s article below, professional photographer Shelly Perry talks about her experience photographing the things she loves… and how you can get started following in her footsteps, and earning an extra income.

Scroll down for specifics…


Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

[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.]

Interview with Shelly Perry: A Guaranteed No
September 25, 2010

LORI: Shelly, I feel like there are two really good pieces of advice I’ve heard you dish out at our live photography workshops. One is photograph what you love and the money will follow. The second is focus on what’s saleable and you won’t waste time uploading images that have no value. What if what we love to shoot isn’t what’s saleable?

SHELLY: First, let me say that I think there’s always a way to make photos of what you love saleable. For me and probably most stock photographers, photos of people are saleable. I know several stock photographers, however, who don’t photograph people. Andrea, whom you’ll meet in Delray Beach at this year’s big stock photography event, studied plants and biology in college.  Her portfolio includes a lot of plants. Holger Mette focuses on travel. Most of his photos don’t include people. I’ve seen portfolios dedicated to pets, real estate, food, you name it.

I think it’s important that people enjoy what they are doing -- that’s why no matter what the subject is I always encourage people to shoot what they love. If it’s not a top seller or if it’s a subject that is less desirable to buyers, I still say go for it, and challenge yourself to get really, really good at it, so that you excel. By shooting subjects you are passionate about you stay motivated and find ways to shoot them that make your shots more unique and interesting and therefore saleable. It also helps your photography to improve.

LORI: Why do you think your portfolio is so successful? I’ve seen photographers online with three times the photos in their portfolios and half as many downloads.

SHELLY: I really wish I knew the exact recipe for a successful portfolio. There are many factors, I think.

I try to shoot what I love and what inspires me. I try to shoot “authentic,” meaning I feel I am at my best when I am shooting real life, rather than staged shots. I think the photos in my portfolio (especially the people shots) are more genuine than a lot of stock photography, which has its pluses and minuses when it comes to stock sales. But one of the best things for me about stock is that I can shoot what I want and since buyers are not always looking for a typical stock shot, that works to my advantage.

Shooting what you love helps with authenticity, too. If you’re really invested in the subject matter, that’ll come through in your photography.

LORI: Why do you think the attendees at our live events are so successful? Do you think it’s the motivation or is it just that it’s so much easier to learn photography in a live setting?

SHELLY: It’s probably both. But really I think it’s the personal feedback and the attention to problems you get at a live event -- that, and there is a huge motivation factor when you’re with a set of like-minded folks all working together to learn and improve. I know when I was starting out with stock this was one of my biggest aides: I went to a live event and met other people at varying levels of skill and knowledge, and learning and sharing side by side was very motivational. I think the trial and error approach definitely works.

For the most part that’s how I did it. But certainly, with live events like the ones AWAI provides, you’re cutting your learning curve in half. By hearing from people who have gone before and already experienced the trial and error approach, you can skip some of the errors and go right to what works. It took me two and a half years of trying to figure out how to make photography work as a moneymaker before I found microstock and started to see the kinds of results Kevin Lohka (whom you interviewed earlier this week) saw in just a few short weeks.

LORI: What would you say to anyone on the fence about joining us in Delray Beach?

SHELLY: I’d say something along the lines of one of my new mottos… which is this: “If you don’t ask the question then you’re guaranteed the answer is no.” So in this case if you’re not sure the workshop in Delray Beach can help you improve your photography and assist you on your journey to become a stock photographer or improve as a stock photographer and therefore don’t go -- then you’re guaranteed the outcome. I find one of the hardest things for people to do sometimes is to give themselves the opportunity to fulfill their dreams… if you’re ready, take the plunge and see what happens; you certainly won’t be a worse photographer when you leave, and chances are you will be better and know much more about what you need to do to be a successful stock photographer.

[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.]