Microstock Photographer

Success Story:
Donna Coleman

Interview by Jennie Van Meter

Part 3:
Stock Photos 101: Donna’s Insights to Creating and Selling Photos Online

What do you spend your time doing each week?

As an iStockphoto exclusive photographer, I can load up to 75 photos per week. The most I’ve done in a week so far is about 40. If I can load 3-4 photos per day, I consider that a good day.

I shoot photos about twice a week.

I spend a good amount of time each day checking the iStockphoto site to see what other photographers are doing, what’s new, who’s selling what — basically doing market-type research.

I also have an iStockphoto iPhone app that gives me instant updates on my stock account. I spend more time than I should checking my status!

Any advice for getting good stock photos?

1. Go generic. Stay away from logos, really unique or trademarked designs, and other branding-type images. Consider that you’re selling to a worldwide market. You want your images to apply to anywhere in the world, and you want them to hold up over time. You’ll also reduce your acceptance rate if you’re using someone else’s trademarked art in your photos.

2. Do not copy anyone else’s photos, but do stay in touch with what other photographers are doing. It helps inspire your photography, keeps you thinking, and helps you see what’s selling.

3. For holiday-oriented photos, you need to work on a 4-6 month lead time to get the maximum sales potential.

4. Think of niches you might be able to create or capture. There are stock photographers capitalizing on portraits of the subject/s making really funny faces. There’s one photographer who does crazy shots, like featuring a man in a business suit on the beach. If you or a friend or family member are able to give an off-beat hook or look to your photos, this could be a successful angle.

What are your most popular photos? Do you see a pattern to what’s successful?

I haven’t been able to determine a distinct pattern to what sells well with my photos, or to other photographers’ photos, either.

My daughter features in my photos quite a bit, and she sells well. I’ve been sensing that more ethnic looks may be good sellers right now.

I tried a series of Christmas still life shots last year that sold well. I’m going to try branching out with that concept to other holidays and see how it does.

When do your photos sell?

Mid-week seems to be the best for sales. Fridays and through the weekend get quiet. And, then, on Sunday, things pick-up again, because in some parts of the world, it’s Monday.

Where have your photos shown up?

One was used on a Canon newsletter, which was a happy surprise! A couple photos also showed up in a billboard in Baton Rouge, New Orleans. The designer tipped me off, and an iStocker who lived nearby took a photo of it for me. I also found one of my photos in Garden Fresh Corp’s e-newsletter for their San Diego restaurant Souplantation.

The iStock community is supportive in helping find and take pictures of photos in use. I find fellow photographers’ work all over San Diego, too.Still, there are photos of mine out there that I’ll never know about.

Who are the iStock photographers who inspire you and what are they doing?

Sean Locke has good models, features people doing interesting things, uses great props, has a good studio and equipment. I find his photos all over San Diego.

Noriko Cooperof Skillet has created an efficient trade system that allows her to find and pre-screen new models. She seems to be specializing in ethnic portraits that sell well.

Noriko has organized a couple of istock get togethers that I have attended that have been incredibly educational and have provided wonderful content.She is very smart about what types of images will sell and is very successful — check out her portfolio. I have learned a lot from her.

Next: Websites

Let’s look at another way to sell photos, with your own website.

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