Becoming a Shutterstock contributor might not be something many bloggers think of when it comes to monetizing their blog or social media accounts. But, if you're already taking those beautiful photos to share with your readers and followers, why not consider the option of selling some of your pictures through online stock photo agencies, such as Shutterstock and actually get PAID for it?
Personally, I've never even thought about this as an option, mainly because I didn't really know how I would get started or if anyone would actually buy my pictures. So when I found out that one of my Instagram students, Anastasia, is a professional photographer and Shutterstock contributor, I jumped at the chance to ask her a few questions! ;) Read on to find out more...
Tell me a little bit about yourself! How did you get started working with them? Did you have a portfolio or a website already?
My name is Anastasia, I’m 43 and I live in Moscow, Russia. After graduation I decided I wanted a career in IT and I did that for several years. After many years of office work, I realized that I had spent my life living the wrong way. A simple story - I got tired of my everyday office routine, of working for a big company, and commuting from home and back, and many more things… You know, one has that period in life, when one longs for greater challenges.
It was in 2008, when I got interested in photography and applied as a stock contributor. First, it was a hobby, of course. I learnt photography myself at home. Mostly I took pictures of isolated objects. Nothing serious, just for fun, but my photos were selling well! In this industry one doesn’t have to deal with clients directly, all you need to do is upload your work to a stock website and there you get a profile including your portfolio.
How long have you been working with Shutterstock?
8 years, so far. Shutterstock was my fourth or fifth microstock agency. I trained with other sites, like Fotolia and Dreamstime, that didn’t require any exam, but after a few months, I passed the test and became a Shutterstock contributor.
That’s amazing! So, is this your main source of income now or more of a side income?
I started full time working as a photographer in 2009, when I quit my office job. Now it’s my only source of income, but I’m looking for new channels to exploit my talents, like blogging.
And how much do you get paid per picture? What income can one expect from working with Shutterstock when you’re just starting out?
There are different licenses that stock agencies use for selling photos. They differ greatly and give various options for how to use your photos. The most popular license on Shutterstock is a subscription and it gives a contributor $0.25-0.38 per picture downloaded. Only few buyers obtain extended licenses and then you can get $1.20 - $150 per download. You can sell the same picture an unlimited number of times. The question of an average income is very tricky, that depends on the genre and quality of your photographs, of course, it depends on your portfolio size. I know that nowadays newcomers have to wait 6 months for their first $100 salary, then it gets more lively, but it’s very important to upload regularly. There are numerous agencies in the market, and you can use all of them if you have time and patience. Or choose your favorite agencies.
Most of your pictures are travel pictures - do you generally recommend people to specialize in one area or is it a good idea to have a broader range of images?
I think it’s a good idea to try something new every now and then. If you are happy with your current portfolio you can leave everything as it is. I know food photographers who’ve been taking their mouth-watering pictures for years and they are popular and happy in their field. As for me, I started off photographing isolated objects, then I travelled a lot with my husband and friends and I got a heap of new travel pictures. ‘I can sell them too’ I thought. But selling photos isn’t just about photography, you have to do many other things, like post processing and keywording. It takes loads of time! More than photography itself, actually! Now I think I should put aside my portion of travel pictures and try something different, I have already got one interesting idea. So, my brief answer is: take whatever pictures you like, if that gives you money and you enjoy it!
Do you do anything to market your pictures or how can you increase your visibility within Shutterstock?
That’s the point! I think the market changes very much now. Two years ago you could send your pictures to Shutterstock and relax. Today, a lot of newcomers from all over the world are equipped with good cameras. If you are not a TOP seller you should market your pictures. I started a new project of my portfolio promoting in social nets last November. I run new accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. It’s a real new world for me, you know, to promote oneself!
What role does Instagram play? Do you think it’s a good starting point to build your portfolio? Or do you think it’s the other way around and Instagram can help you to increase sales?
I hope to find new customers and new partners, of course. I have had my business account for just 1 month and I’ve already got an invitation for an interview! I really appreciated your knowledge sharing and your interest in my work, Carla! As a beginner in social marketing, I need good advice and friends very much!
Absolutely my pleasure! So happy I was able to help you get started! Final question, what’s the one thing you recommend to a newbie who is applying to work with stock agencies?
First of all, take your time and think what kind of pictures you can take. Do you like working with people, models, and families to photograph them? Or maybe you are a foodie and all you need is a good studio, or you’d better walk along your city in any weather having your camera. Or you are a sport reporter, or you adore the Earth from above - it’s a very popular trend now, by the way! After that go and check tons of pictures on Shutterstock, Istock, Stocksy, Offset, Creativemarket, think who buys such pictures, who the customer is.
If you think it’s your cup of tea, write to me at email@example.com. I have time to help and I'll choose up to 5 beginners, for free. I know how many questions newbies usually have, I have answers.
Wow, that’s an incredibly generous offer, thank you so much!! It’s been so, so interesting to learn more about Shutterstock and your work, thank you so much for sharing all this information and knowledge!
I really hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did, I'd love to hear your comments below, and definitely let me know if you start working with Anastasia on your Shutterstock portfolio!
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