When did you discover microstock?
For some years I have been a member of an online community for photographers, models and makeup artists. One of the prominent members was a microstock shooter. At the time – a few years ago – that was quite new and it caused much discussion with the other photographers. Most professionals felt offering your work for these low prices was not done – and killing their business – and they were also very negative about amateurs selling photos. I followed these discussions with great interest. Last year I decided to become a stock shooter and then microstock was one of my serious options.
Were you working as a photographer before this?
A couple of years ago I felt that my career in management consultancy was very successful but also making my life too one-dimensional. I wanted more time for my passion – photography. I decided to switch to management development (as a part-timer) and started working serious on my beauty photography portfolio.
In this period I also did some assignment work. But my commercial activities had no focus and a clear goal. Last year I decided to become a stock shooter. Of course I could have made other decisions but I felt stock was the best way forward for me.
What camera do you shoot with?
Canon 1Ds MKIII. I shoot most of my work with 85mm and 100mm macro lens. I had a Leica and also a Hasselblad but when going digital – and shooting models most of the time – Canon was the best choice for me. Stock agencies want big files – and high quality – that’s why I chose for the 1Ds.
I notice that a lot of your microstock work covers the topic of beauty, is this your favourite area to shoot?
When I started working on my portfolio fashion and beauty was my thing. Gradually I really got in love with beauty photography. And I also found that working with large teams – often necessary for fashion – was not my thing. I have been a manager for more than 20 years and I don’t want that anymore. Why beauty – I guess I have a fascination with aesthetics, purity and how you can enhance beauty with makeup. I even did a professional makeup training myself haha.
In this first year of being active as a stock shooter I learned a lot about the business of stock and I now understand beauty is only a small piece of the business. The moodboard creative team helped me very much in making decisions and now I shoot beauty AND lifestyle, indoors and outdoors (I used to be a studio rat).
How many shoots do you try to accomplish a month for microstock?
I decided to go for macro and microstock. Building my macrostock collection has my first priority. But because of the production value required for royalty free and certainly rights-managed stock it needs quite some pre-production investment. I am very very happy that I can work with the moodboard creative team on my macro work. The time remaining is available for work on my micro collection.
In my view lifestyle is not a microstock topic, that’s why I restrict my microstock shoots to beauty only. My analysis shows that beauty is a very good microstock subject, timeless beauties but also fashion beauty and glamour beauty. Nowadays magazines have very little budget for editorial beauty images and also beauty related websites have a big need for beauty images.
I try to do two or three microstock shoots a month. Beauty work requires serious retouching – that restricts the number of shoots. I am still working on the “how to” get microstock a good business for me. It can only be successful when shooting with low productions costs and high sales volume. So you have to shoot images many many clients want to buy. But also microstock is highly competitive and only really good beauty work is salable. So how to create distinctive beauty work with low production cost and high sales volume …
I notice you have your own blog which I’ve enjoyed reading. Do you find this a good way to make contact with other photographers and have you found the blogging experience beneficial to your work?
In the stock business there is much talk about the so called web 2.0 world – meaning that blogging, being active at social media like Facebook and Twitter is a prerequisite to “build your brand” in the stock business of today.
My blog is primarily meant to generate traffic to all sites where my images are presented, including the sites of stock agencies. Next to this my blog has a function to people I work (or like to work with) as models and makeup artists. I hope to attract and inform especially models with my blog – and having a good blog helps in building a professional image. Last but not least I want to share my experiences in building a stock photography business with other photographers
What are your personal and professional objectives with your photography?
Passion for photography is the motor for my professional photography work. I try to build a commercial sound stock business fuelled by this passion. My objective is to obtain a considerable percentage of my income out of my stock business. However I am not prepared to shoot for money only, I want to be proud of my work and it is has to give energy. My stock business should bring me a sound business and creative satisfaction at the same time – it has to be both. Next to stock I want to do assigment work – probably portraiture – and some freelance consultancy in my old trade.
About the author
Deb Henderson is an Art Director with photo library moodboard in London. Having studied film and photography at university she went on to pursue a career working with images and has previously worked at Getty Images as a Picture Researcher. Deb has worked on moodboard’s blog the factory since October 2008 featuring interviews and showcasing the work of artists and photographers from all over the world.
Moodboard is a UK based stock photography company that delivers simple search, clear price pointing and optimum quality images. It was launched by Mike Watson (who was CEO of the award winning royalty free agency Digital Vision which sold to Getty for $165m) and a number of other ex-Digital Vision senior personnel