Elegant Weeds

Experimenting with Stock Photo Sites

At the beginning of this year I set an intention for myself to find additional ways for my photography to support itself financially. Currently I sell prints when I have exhibits, or at craft or farmer’s markets. This last year has not been very good for that, so I have been exploring options to sell online, in addition to my website.

In fairness, the cost of having photography in my life isn’t staggering. I succumb to the appeal of a new piece of equipment once or twice a year, and I do pay for Lightroom and Photoshop subscriptions, and my website has an annual fee. It’s not a ton, but it does add up, so I thought it would be interesting to see if I could make it “cost neutral”.

I determined that cost would amortize out to $1000.00 per month. That amount would also contribute to a destination photography workshop once a year. I set to work exploring ways to make money with photography. I’m very fortunate to be part of the arts community here in New Westminster, so that provides a platform for print sales, greeting cards, and calendars that can be sold at artisan markets, exhibits, etc. There is a cost and a bit of a gamble to that format of selling, as I have to print/mat/frame items beforehand and then hope they sell. It can be a big investment upfront, and the outcome may well be that my spare room will become home to a collection of printed and prepared images that haven’t sold. For this reason I decided to also explore digital sales, specifically stock photo sites.

I started by watching several videos on Youtube about selling on stock photo sites, as well as people’s experiences with, and rankings of, several of the most popular ones. From there I went and browsed about 10 stock photo sites before settling on four to try out: www.eyeem.com

www.twenty20.com

www.dreamstime.com

www.fineartamerica.com

My initial walk though of each of the sites alerted me to the fact that my style of photography wasn’t exactly in line with the photos that were being featured as “best sellers”. The featured photos were predominantly of young, good looking people engaged in “lifestyle” activities. There was a common look and feel to many of the photos. Nonetheless, I forged ahead with the plan to upload images I already had and see how it went.

Getting started was no small task. I had about 100 images that I thought would be appropriate to upload to each of the sites to get started. With five sites, that means 500 uploads, titles, descriptions, and tags to work through. Each of the sites has its own requirements for titles, descriptions and tags, so this is not a copy and paste exercise, it’s a bit tedious.

One tip I discovered to ease the workload is to upload to Eyeem first, as it autogenerates recommended tags, and they are pretty relevant as a rule. That gives me ideas for how to tag that particular image on the other sites, where I have to generate my own tags. Here is a quick overview of each of the sites:

Eyeem- https://www.eyeem.com/u/kathyharms – this site is easiest to upload to, as it recommends tags for the image for you. It is also the site that has the easiest process for obtaining model releases if you have an identifiable person in the image. Once you upload the image, the algorithms identify there is a person, and invites you to obtain a release form that person either by email or Facebook messenger. The user experience for the model is pretty straightforward as well. The one glitch I have noted is when there are more than 2 people in the image, the model release process is not so slick. As each model signs the release, it seems to invalidate released signed by the others. This has happened both times I tried to obtain releases from multiple people in an image. The bonus for this site that made me optimistic starting out, was that it selects some images to share out to partner sites, increasing your exposure and ideally leading to more sales. So far, I have not realized this benefit.

Images uploaded: 126

Images accepted for sale: 100

Images shared to partner sites: 40

Images sold: 0 (well darn!)

Twenty20 - https://www.twenty20.com/kharms/photos - This site requires the least amount of information when you upload your image. It needs a title, an optional caption, and only 5-10 tags. Based on this, I was curious how anyone would ever find anything on this site. I have been pleasantly surprised to find this site has sold the most of my images. The puzzling part of this site is the way they establish the price for each image. It seems like a complex calculation of how many overall images the buyer buys in a period, who they buy from, and how many images the seller has, etc. It’s complicated and it takes about a month from the time you are notified of a sale to the time you are alerted to how much you made on the sale, but you can read more about it here: https://help.twenty20.com/hc/en-us/articles/204196643-When-do-I-earn-from-my-sales-

Images uploaded: 100

Images accepted for sale: 100

Images sold: 7

Earnings: $2.00 (4 images are still going through the “calculation” process) Forbes top 100, here I come!

Dreamstime - https://www.dreamstime.com/kharms1388_info - Dreamstime has a more basic upload process, and uploading multiple images at once is easier. There is a longer approval process though, and you don’t title and tag your images until they have been approved. The interface is more function than fashion, but it doesn’t seem like you need to enter contests, “like” other people’s uploads etc. to get your images noticed. You just upload, title and tag, and leave it.

Images uploaded: 202

Images accepted for sale: 202

Images sold: 3

Earnings: $4.15

Fine Art America - https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/kathy-harms - This site is a little different in that it isn’t a stock photo site, it sells your image as a print, or printed on various gift items like home accessories, puzzles, mugs, etc. Noting that this is exactly the function my personal website serves, I was curious if a site like Fine Art America would get my images in front of more eyes than my own website currently does. So far, but the analytics, Fine Art America certainly does get more views on my images than my own website does, but since January I have made 13 sales from my own website and 0 sales on Fine Art America. Uploading is easy on Fine Art America, and you can join groups to help get your images featured and seen. I think I will persist with this through 2021 and see how it plays out.

Images uploaded: 119

Images accepted for sale: 119

Images sold: 0

In summary, I have not hit on the formula for sales yet, but it’s been interesting exploring these options. I think I may spend a bit of time entering the various challenges, and other community engagement activities that are recommended in the various sites to get more exposure. I’ll persist with the experiment through 2021 and see what happens with it.