Why It’s Never Too Late to Start a Successful Photo Career

Yesterday, I told you about keeping up with current photo and design themes to make more money in stock photography.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to someone who changed careers at 40… focused on stock photography… and now makes a full-time living at it.

Scroll down to find out how she did it…

-- Lori

Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

By Bonnie Caton in Arlington, Virginia

BONNIE: Hi Jani. Today, you’re a full-time professional photographer with over 50,000 photo sales on iStockphoto.com. Could you tell us a little about how you got started?

JANI: Growing up, I always wanted to be an artist. I studied art for two years in college. But at some point, I got the idea in my head that I couldn’t make a decent living at it. So I switched gears and graduated college with a business degree.

I did a lot of things in business from working for different companies to being a self-employed entrepreneur. I even started a real estate brokerage in Kansas City and grew it to 25 agents.

Then, in 2003, I turned 40. I was raising two kids and working 80-100 hours a week. I realized that I was spending too much time working and wanted to find a way to spend more time with them and enjoy life more. So I sold the business and started dabbling in other things.

One day, when I was buying stock photos to use in marketing for my own businesses, I saw that the stock site was looking for contributors. I had just been to Scotland with my son for a soccer tournament and enjoyed taking loads of photos there. So I submitted a few photos to the stock site.

When they accepted me, I began to think, “Maybe I could make a living out of this.” So I turned head-on into photography, and stock was just sort of the “path of least resistance” for me. But it wasn’t until 2007, after meeting Shelly Perry, that I got really serious about it.

Shelly told me her story. And then she said something like, “If you are an artist, and you don't practice it and let it come out, it can make you physically sick.” I felt like this was happening to me. I knew deep down that I wanted to be an artist. It was my passion.

BONNIE: So how have your images been selling in stock photography since you began?

JANI: Well, let’s put it this way:

In 2005, I sold 162 images all year.
In 2006, I sold 703 images.
In 2007, mostly from September through December when I really put myself into it, I sold 6,000.
And then, in 2008, I sold over 40,000 images.

BONNIE: Wow, that’s quite a jump! What did you start doing that made the difference?

JANI: Well, I really decided to put all my energy into stock photography. That’s really all it took. Once I committed and let everything else go that I wasn't happy with, I started to see success.

Here are a few examples of the kinds of things I photograph now…

Jani Bryson Photography

BONNIE: How did you get into photographing kids?

JANI: I didn't choose it. I just kind of fell into it. Who knew this is where I’d be today? In mid-2007, a friend and I started taking pictures of our kids. Then it grew to our kids and their friends. The ones that sell best have positive themes, and illustrate positive change in the world, which feels good.

Then my friend thought maybe we could incorporate some kids from the community who don’t get much time in the limelight. Now kids call me to participate. It’s great and lots of fun.

BONNIE: How did that work out, photographing a new group of kids?

JANI: We really had a lot of success, and started seeing images of the kids all over -- in magazines, newspapers, ads, TV, even local church bulletins.

The kids saw themselves in a full-page anti-child abuse ad in Entertainment Weekly. The librarian at the kids’ school saw it, and showed it at school. The kids were thrilled to have their photo in a magazine alongside photos of Harry Potter… and they felt happy that their smiling faces were being used to illustrate something important.

BONNIE: Do you make enough to live off of your stock photography?

JANI: Yes. I do this full-time. I made the same amount of money in 2008 as I did in my best years in real estate.

BONNIE: What would you suggest to someone who wants to get started doing stock photography?

JANI: I’d say, first, decide what it is you want to do. You have to really know what, exactly, it is. Then, you have to imagine yourself doing it. Next, you have to figure out what steps you have to take to get there. Start with little steps. And every single day, you take another small step.

I’d also say, “Dress for success.” What I mean by that is, you’re going to have to market yourself as a photographer. Everyone you meet has the potential to help you in your business… and they have to perceive you as what you want to be. So make yourself look and act like a photographer. Say you’re a photographer, and mean it.

[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.]