TLDR; I recommend any photographer, videographer, and illustrator at least consider entering the microstock industry. It’s a long-term investment of your time that pays back forever, as long as you pay attention to the game. Here’s where you can sign up with Shutterstock, currently my largest source of microstock income.
A decent amount of hard work has led to a new source of automatic monthly income for the first time in my life. I get paid every month for various photos from various licensing sites, suddenly enough to pay my cell phone bill and a whole tank of gas! Not bad… But I can clearly see that spending more time on this endeavor has a slow and steady reward. The monthly reward essentially pays back forever, barring any unforeseen stock photography apocalypse. So far, so good. If I upload ten times as many pictures, will I make ten times the monthly income? Yes and no. It depends on timing and all kinds of unpredictable variables. But I’m getting rewarded for finding out along the way, so that’s a good sign.
Without the possibility of income, most of my photos would waste away on my hard drive, never to be publicly visible, because I thought they were too boring or generic. Wrong! Boring and generic are the key to stock photography and video. To describe it better, unspecific sells. If an image or clip applies to a lot of situations, then a lot of people might need to use it. One recent example is a photo I took of a dog sitting inside a car on a sunny day.
The word on the street is that there’s a dramatically larger demand for stock photos than the supply. I find it hard to believe when I see how many photos are published on stock photo sites every day. How many millions?
If this sounds like a good idea — and it should — here’s that Shutterstock link again.
For more details on how to successfully begin selling your work, I recommend reading this Shutterstock Keynote (PDF).
I also recommend this great article about quality versus quantity in stock photography: Are You A Quality Microstocker or a Quantity Microstocker?
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