After doing stock photography for a few years I reached lately (yet another) plateau. Adding new photos to portfolio doesn’t improve sales. This isn’t an unusual situation; but in addition to that I am not satisfied with my past pace of growth. I believe I now learned enough to seriously take my stock photography to the next level.
There are few quite obvious (to me) areas that I need to address:
1) I need to take more pictures specially for stock.
So far most of pictures taken by my camera aren’t made specially for stock. At the same time O noticed that pictures taken specially for stock take less time to post-process; and session organized specially for stock generates many more usable photos. Thus the conclusion is simple:
2) Don’t spend time processing non-stock photos for stock.
Post-processing (selecting good photos from the shoot; RAW processing; editing in photoshop, keywording) takes several times more time than shooting. One of the main reasons I didn’t organize too many shoots specially for stock was too big back-log of unprocessed photos. The previous point will address that to a big extend. Further reduction of post-processing time can be achieved with another simple step:
3) Be more selective processing photos for stock. Don’t waste time trying to improve imperfect pictures.
Still, processing pictures takes a lot of time and it is still much longer than shoot even if I select pictures more carefully. So the next focus point is to reduce post-processing time. So, my next step is:
4) Outsource part of post-processing.
This one is being tested right now. I decided to try to outsource retouching work to India. Retouching is a routine procedure that takes a significant portion of my time now but isn’t very expensive when done by somebody else. I will keep other, more creative parts of post-processing for myself.
This is now in test mode – I found a company to do the work (via a recommendation), tried a few pictures with them, agreed on price and send them the very first batch. I hope it will work.
As a possible next step I consider outsourcing keywording but that is yet to be decided.
So to summarize all of the above: I need to take more pictures, be more selective which ones to process and need to reduce post-processing time. Yet another step to improve my stock photography is:
5) Take better photos.
Technically my photos are already good – vast majority of my pictures are accepted by agencies without problems. However I need to take better stock photos. There are two parts in that task:
5.1) One is relatively simple and is to improve various small elements such as model’s smile, clean background etc.
5.2) The other is much more difficult – to analyse what subjects sell well and make sellable photos. The word “analyse” here is related to both evaluation of the market bestsellers and evaluation of my own portfolio and my own bestsellers.
I plan to work seriously on item 5.2 later, after the previous items will be successfully implemented and will become a normal routine.
My plan for the remaining months this year is to implement items 1 to 5.1 and to produce at least 100 good photos monthly. If it will work well I will need to increase the number next year and to start seriously working on item 5.2.