Why I Like Microstock Agencies for Beginners

I developed an interest in stock photography when I attended The Ultimate Photography Workshop five years ago in San Francisco. I was about to go on a trip around the world and I wanted to write about it and capture it in photos, but I knew very little about photography.

Our instructor, professional stock photographer Shelly Perry, showed the photos that she was selling as stock. They were so beautiful. I could tell she had a passion for photography. And I was enchanted to think that the everyday person could take photos of whatever they wanted and sell them as stock.

Still, I lacked confidence. I wasn’t sure I could do it. After all, Shelly’s photos were so good. Confused liberal arts graduate that I was, I turned my attention to writing, instead.

After my travels, I got lucky and landed a job as a staff writer here in the Great Escape Publishing.  Every single week, I interviewed and worked with our experts on articles and programs that our readers could use to break into these online stock agencies.

I attended workshops where I got to meet stock photographers who started as regular people with everyday jobs, and changed their lives to make a living with stock.

Two years ago I finally told myself, “You know you can do this.” I started uploading photos and, just like that, I was on my way.

Today, my photos sell in five different online stock photo agencies. There was nothing to be afraid of all along. Plus, it’s a lot of fun! Here’s what I like most:

1) Online stock agencies are open to anyone with good photos. I majored in French in college, which helps when we go to Paris for a workshop or Quebec to visit with iStock superstar Lise Gagne, but doesn’t do much for a photo portfolio. Stock agencies don’t care. They want good, saleable photos. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. If you can give them those photos, they’ll sell. And mine do!

2) It’s fast gratification. At first, stock is slow going because you’re figuring out what the agencies want and don’t want. There’s some rejection involved. But when you push past that and keep going, you start seeing sales. You can check back each day and watch your sales grow. With some sites, like Shutterstock.com, you upload a photo and the next day -- boom -- you have sales. Once you sell one or two, you really start to feel like, well, a photographer. It’s official! You have arrived.

3) It’s constant learning. Again, you will get rejections. You will be absolutely in love with a particular photo, and no agencies will want it. Each time I get a rejection, I strive to get better. Shooting for stock has improved my photos immensely. When I look through the viewfinder on my camera, I feel that I actually see more. And ideas for concepts and themes are swimming through my head all the time. Photography is one of those things where you can improve very quickly... and you’ll notice when you do. That is very gratifying.

I mentioned that sometimes stock agencies don’t want photos that you love. Well, sometimes you’ll take a photo you think is just OK, and it’ll become your best-seller. Here’s my best-selling image:

But there are other kinds of photos in my portfolio, too...

Travel photos:

Photos from my backyard or a window light set-up in my kitchen:

Photos of my friends:

I like stock photography most because it can be whatever I want it to be. And because, while I’m still experimenting and looking for my “niche” in photography, I can sell photos as I learn and progress.

As an aside, my interest in stock photography led me to create the Breakfast Stock Club, where aspiring stock photographers get together to talk about what’s selling now, motivate each other to shoot, share their photo niches, read interviews from pro stock photographers, and more. If you’d like to join us, it’s a weekly newsletter and it’s free to sign up.

[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.]