It was my first year of selling stock, and although I think I still have a lot to learn, at least it gave me the ideas what to learn ;).
I guess my first and most important lesson was to distinguish between what I can “get in” for my online portfolio versus what is going to be a selling. Well, maybe it was second- after discovering Yuri Arcurs keywording tool and getting from barely 5 to easily above 20 keywords for an image. With it, for the next year I am planning to be more picky in what I choose to submit and maybe start thinking more about creating more thematic portfolio.
I think the business was quite successful nevertheless, even if the earnings look more like pocket money then even part time salary. I decided to take a diversity approach, and instead of going exclusive with an agency, I was adding more along the way. I started at first with just iStock, BigStock and Shutterstock, and added Fotolia and Dreamstime along the way.
Dreamstime was the most recent addition, and I managed to build the portfolio of over 100 images in just a few weeks, using the previous experience. The first sale fallowed rather quickly (less then two months). On the other end of the spectrum, BigStock was the easiest to get in and where the most of my images get accepted, but I am yet to see a single sale with over 200 images portfolio. iStock and Fotolia are slow to have sales, but generate a steady income. I think I would like to get more salable stuff into those agencies, they tend to get more money for a single download. I have an idea with iStock, but I cannot figure out what sales on Fotolia, at all. Shutterstock has been the most successful agency for me and my style of images. But with over 150 downloads in 185 image portfolio, the average income per image is the lowest. It might not be all the effect of lowest royalties, as it can also be a result of downloads of lower resolution images. In this measure, iStock gives me most money for a download, followed by Dreamstime (half of what iStock gives), Fotolia and Shutterstock.
Another thing I learned are different standards on image acceptance between agencies. As I recently read in an interview between John Lund and Lee Torrens, they claimed that microstock requires isolating white background to be pure 255, not any less. It is certainly true for BigStock, I found the other agencies not that picky, but because I am preparing images same way to submit everywhere at the same time, I am taking time to do it right. And I was already writing about the pure white struggles here .
Further, although I am submitting the same set of images to each agency, my portfolios do not look the same. It also translates into sales, I do not see a single image being best seller in all four agencies. The extreme example would be my flower photographs on isolating, white and black background, which were selling great in Shutterstock whole summer, but were not accepted at all in Dreamstime. But it looks like my food and objects on isolating white are what finds buyers easiest everywhere. It is where I think my niche is. This is the type of photographs I enjoy shooting and they sell reasonably in all agencies. They are not finished images, but rather a building blocks for designers to create their finished compositions. I will see if sticking to this model will work for next year.
Meantime, Happy New Year, everybody!