The Internet has given amateur photographers the perfect platform to turn a hobby into a lucrative business prospect. Everything and anything is marketed these days and, think about it, how can you sell a product or an idea without exciting visuals?
Yes, the rules of commerce have been rewritten and designers and advertising agencies no longer need to hire a photographer to take the pictures they need. They simply log into a photography website that sells digital images and pay the photographer a commission for every image they use. No wonder new photography websites are mushrooming all the time.
But it takes more than just a digital camera and lots of enthusiasm to turn a hobby into a saleable skill. If you want your digital pictures to sell, there are a few things you must keep in mind. Secret number one: it’s not about clicking snapshots that you like, it’s about taking stock shots that are marketable.
Stock shots are pictures that can be licensed and used by graphic designers, advertising and marketing professionals, web designers and art directors for use in their work. The end product could be a magazine, website, brochure or flyer or even a toothpaste box!
You need to build a portfolio of digital images that are artistic and that centre around popular yet generic themes such as nature pictures, tourist attractions and action poses. The wider the scope for use, the greater the chance that your pictures will be snapped up!
So who exactly are your potential buyers? One, you could set up your own website and upload a well-organized portfolio of images you intend to sell. Adding to it and refreshing it is a must. Also, make sure you showcase your best pictures on the home page.
Tagging the correct keywords to each picture is also important so that when potential buyers use the search option, they easily find images they’re looking for. Creating your own website means selling your pictures directly over the Internet.
Alternatively, you could sell your pictures to professional online stock agencies or profit-sharing sites. These agencies pay a commission for every picture they sell. Since stock agencies have regular clients, it might be a good idea to start out this way.
You also need to edit your pictures to remove digital noise. Every digital image can be fine tuned for color, brightness, contrast, density, sharpness, detail and other parameters. You might want to also crop your images or resize them to enhance or shift focus and eliminate unwanted elements in the background.
Make sure your pictures are high-resolution images, crisp and crystal clear, vibrant and attractive. All you need is a good photo editing software and you’re on your way.
Once you’ve edited and proofed your digital images, you need to either upload them into a neatly organized online portfolio or shortlist a handful of online stock agencies you think will be interested in showcasing your work. And it’s not only the size of the payout that you need to consider. Select agencies that need the kind of subjects you like to focus on.
Also, invest some time researching and monitoring the hits you get and look for patterns in the sales. There could be a particular subject that sells more than others in your portfolio. Discover what your strengths are and build on them.
Once you develop a rhythm and sell a few images, the sense of satisfaction is incomparable. Now you might want to think of investing in equipment that would make your work a little more professional.
Nothing fancy, really. Perhaps a better camera and lenses, a tripod and studio lights will do. Here’s a tip: a digital Single Lens Reflex camera is perhaps the best kind for amateurs looking to turn pro.
But it’s rarely smooth sailing because the leaning curve is never straight. So don’t be afraid of rejection. There’s nothing personal about business. The marketplace can be fickle and a lot depends on what’s saleable; the rest is luck.
You could also join an online photography community or one or more picture-related blogs. Networking is the key to the success of any business just as is learning from the experience of others.
Connecting with other photographers gives you access to invaluable information on how to shoot, what to shoot, techniques and feedback. And, of course, there are books and DVDs you could read.
No, no one said it would be easy but it also isn’t as difficult as it may sound when it’s all spelled out. The best thing to do is to simply jump right in. Soon you could be clicking your way to the bank!