I had been working as a professional photographer for a decade when the big event occurred. Taking pictures of people was how I got my start in photography. My career started out with shooting weddings, senior pictures and model portfolios. I had always wanted the freedom to shoot pictures that I wanted to without having to make someone else happy by shooting for one of the big stock agencies. However, the price of entry into that business was out of my league so I never got the opportunity. In order to be considered by the agencies in those days it was fairly standard to submit a thousand slides. Copying slides was expensive so a photographer was looking at a two to four thousand dollar outlay just to be considered.
The Digital Era
But then came the sea change, the quality of digital imagery was finally approaching or even exceeding that of film photography. Canon came out with it’s first true professional digital camera in the year 2002, the EOS-1D. It was my goal to enter the digital realm as soon as a true professional camera was developed. Well the 1D was the one, it was the camera that was going to give me the new start. My first idea was shooting race day photography. I always enjoyed the race pictures that were mailed out after the marathons and wondered if it would be possible to try that business for myself.
Race photography companies were quick to adopt the new medium and I submitted some test images to get on with one of those agencies. Unfortunately it wasn’t very long before everyone had their own digital cameras and no longer needed to pay a company for copies. They had plenty of images of their own to share on social media.
Micro Stock Agencies
Stock agencies were also quick to see the value of digital technology. I received my July issue of Professional Photographer from the Professional Photographers of America club and one particular article attracted my interest. It was an article on a new phenomenon, micro stock. The article was about iStockPhoto, a new company that was taking on the big stock agencies with vastly cheaper images for commercial use. I submitted my 10 images for consideration and waited breathlessly for the verdict. Good news, my images had been accepted by iStockPhoto and my dream of being a stock photographer was now a possibility.
My Very First Stock Image Sold
One day I was out in the back yard playing with my dogs when I spotted a dandelion going to seed. Hmmm, I thought, I wonder if that would make a good stock image? I went back in the house and brought out my camera with my consumer grade 75-300 lens and a tripod. I stretched the tripod legs out wide to get the lowest angle possible and took the shot. Incidentally, this is the shot that convinced me to invest in pro grade glass as well. Well anyway, I didn’t know if anyone would actually pay for an image I shot for use in a commercial project so the upload didn’t create much excitement in my life.
I checked my images a few times a day just the same, with no results for a few weeks. But one day I looked and there was a thumbnail under the sales column! It was the image of the dandelion. For some company it was the perfect image for their project. That one sale changed my life, it taught me that my images might be worth something to someone and from then on I made sure to upload the maximum number of images per week that the contract allowed.
Now I have over 7000 images on that one site alone, not to mention thousands more at Alamy and Adobe and my own website on Pixels.com. Well that’s it for my Friday afternoon tidbit. Hope you enjoyed this little bit of history!
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Professional Photographers of America (PPA)
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