Selling downloads of your photographs and drawings seems to be a niche that everyone has heard of. But ask around and you’ll find that none of your friends are doing it. So how could this be when this business model is so widely known and profitable? The answer is the same one behind the fact that none of your friends have wind turbines or solar panels on their property. Things aren’t bad enough globally to force everyone into having foresight and common sense. However, there are some people who have taken the initiative and are making a king’s ransom just by uploading regular, every day pictures… a car tire, a sink, a plunger and the list goes on. Successful people in this untapped field have studied what sells and upload their own images in the right categories.
It’s surprising that a good portion of the people that upload onto commercial photo stock sites are from former soviet block countries. They seem to have learned from their own poverty that chopping a tree down with a kitchen knife will eventually get them somewhere. Their models look great and the themes of their work are very appealing but the quality of their equipment is substandard. This means when publishers use their images alongside NATO country images, hours must be spent trying to fix things like exposure, gamma levels, brightness and saturation. That’s where you come in. People living in developed countries can outdo a lot of the competition just by having a good camera!
The four main sites that you need to be concerned about are iStockphoto.com, Dreamstime.com, 123rf.com and Shutterstock.com. You may want to try GettyImages.com if your work is geared towards journalists. There is another alternative for people selling images of sentimental value which is Etsy.com. It’s been around for a while but only recently has it been making headlines for being very profitable for artists and photographers making folksy and simple products. Just coming up with a clever and inspirational sentence can reap big profits if you typeset it correctly and take a screen shot of it. Do you think this is an exaggeration? You would be surprised at the simple things that sell on Etsy just because they evoke emotion.
Let’s look at two practical iStockPhoto.com examples which I’m sure will open people’s eyes. They both were created by an artist that goes by the handle “cisale”. The first was uploaded 5 years ago and sells for about $16. Can you believe that this simple drawing was downloaded over 60 times?
What do you think is so special about this drawing that would warrant so much passive income? Well, one small reason is that it is classified as “vector art”. Vector art can be expanded 100 times its original size and not lose any color tone. It’s always simple and this satisfies another rule for commercial success; simple is good and complexity is your enemy. There is a bigger reason why this and most of the other images in cisale’s portfolio have sold so well. A large percentage of the buyers need this kind of art so they buy it. That simple. If you look at other portfolios you will see more elegant and impressive images but they don’t get anywhere near the amount of downloads that cisale’s images get. Another reason that makes the image above really popular is that a buyer can put a personal message in the box. If you can make your art be customizable for messages, you will have found another profitable niche.
Woah! And here we see a simple image of a sun that cisale has done well with. In only 2 years it has gotten over 100 downloads bringing in over $400. It seems like this artist has mastered the art of creating in order to fill the commercial demand. Now we are uncovering a rule that needs to be embraced whether you’re an artist, manufacturer, interior decorator or whatever. Before you do anything, find out what sells and then tweak your focus to put out products that are marketable. This means that you as an artist have to scour the photo stock sites and take inventory of every profitable niche. Don’t be like 90% of the full time artists out there who spend their whole lives making artwork and can’t feed their families. They stick to their own unsuccessful strategy and keep on expecting good results which is the true definition of insanity.
Taking pictures of the mundane
A while ago I took part in creating an app that required a battery of tests. The 3 slides above show how essential photo stock was for the success of our team. We didn’t have the time or equipment to snap the photos myself so I just went to 123rf.com and found what I needed. Notice how mundane the pictures are. The photographers who took them had a special understanding that you need to have if you want to make passive income this way. Before even taking the pictures, they visualized their potential clientele and took a couple minutes out of their schedules to snap some generic photos.
If you look at the photos themselves they both have something in common (other than the railroad settings). You can easily see that they could have been taken at the spur of the moment. They’re just not the kind of photos that you plan to take. This fact brings us to another passive income strategy that you should be implementing. Wherever you go, take a camera. If you had nothing going for you other than a camera, a pack of cigarettes and a full tank of gas, you would actually have something going for you. So use this wisdom and start creating your online picture portfolio. Make your goal 2000 pictures. This seems like the number that the established photographers have in their portfolios and for good reason. Passive income from all of the photo stock sites out there can pay for models and more involved sets. Once they have the funding they can approach photography the way they’ve always wanted to, from the heart.