Selling stock photos online with Alamy – $250k and counting…
“Thanks Alamy, you’ve just paid for my house.” – As photographer feedback goes, it doesn’t really get better than that.
After selling $250k worth of stock photography online with Alamy recently, these were the words of freelance photographer Keith Morris.
A natural editorial shooter, it’s not surprising to hear that Keith has a razor sharp eye for creating stock photos that sell. We caught up with him to ask about his approach to selling stock photos and what his thoughts are on hitting the landmark figure.
Congratulations on hitting $250k Keith! Other photographers keep asking what your secret is, but is there one?
“A lot of hard work! But really it isn’t that difficult…just put in the hours, and keep your eyes and ears open for every opportunity that comes your way. Keep on looking and seeing and learning….and try to expand the range and style of work you have to offer. I’m fortunate in that I have a background as a newspaper and magazine photographer, so I’ve worked with picture editors for decades. It’s given me a much sharper eye for what sort of work is likely to be used in print.”
When you started with Alamy in 2006 did you give yourself a sales figure to aim for?
“My initial aim was to sell one picture a month. I got to that point after about 6 months. Then the target was one a week, then one a day…I got to one a week after about a year, and one a day on average maybe a year or so later. At the moment I’m selling around 80 images a month and my aim is to have zero ‘blank’ days in any month! I’m getting close…usually I only have one or two days with no sales (but I’ve probably jinxed myself now!)”
What is your approach to shooting for Alamy? Do you travel far and wide?
“I don’t travel anywhere! I’ve not been abroad since 1987; I’ve only been outside Wales a handful of times in the last decade; I seldom leave the county of Ceredigion and most of my time is spent in Aberystwyth unless I have a paid-for assignment from a client.
I walk and cycle just about everywhere I go most days. I work as a freelance news and PR photographer so when I do get commissioned to do a job for anyone I make sure to piggy-back as much stock work as possible so that my marginal costs of production are just about zero. It’s crucially important to keep the production costs as low as possible to make sure that you can still make a clear net profit on image licences.
If you know what to look for there are images to be made anywhere and everywhere. I licenced a photo to the Times Higher Education Supplement the other week that was made literally outside my front door. If I can make this work for me in Aberystwyth, which is a small town of 15,000 people, then really anyone in or near a big city has much much more potential material than I have.”
What advice would you give to other editorial photographers?
“Listen to the news, read the papers, keep an eye on developing stories and issues – try to think ahead. Make clean clear concise images that actually tell the story. I see a lot of ‘news’ pictures that are really badly created and don’t succinctly bring all the elements together. Use social media like Facebook and Twitter to create a network of people who will be your eyes and ears for news and stories in your area – but you have to be active and make sure to add new content frequently so people keep reading and seeing your work. My networks are hugely important in getting me access to people and places and activities that I can make successful stock images of.
Oh, and always – always – have a camera with you. Be alert because social documentary reportage type situations are happening all around you all the time, and they won’t wait for you to nip home to get your camera. I never, ever, leave the house without at least my X100 in my pocket. I got a front page in the Guardian last year with a pic made on this camera.
And finally, develop a nose for a news story – Live News has been a really big part of my work over the last couple of years. But you have to be sharp…and more importantly, quick! Get in, get the pix, get out and get the shots away within minutes or really you’re dead in the water.”
What makes a saleable image?
“Good question! In my experience it’s images that have a clear message, that are easy to read, not over-cluttered, and which have an immediacy about them. Think about what the ‘issues’ are and make images that really illustrate them well. If I had a better answer then I’d be selling far more than I do!”
And finally, you have over 27,000 images on Alamy but if you had to pick a favourite, which would it be?
“That’s an impossible question! There’s so much variety in that collection…and I tend not to look backwards but try to look forwards – so in a sense my favourite photo will be the one that I make tomorrow, or next week, or next month. It’s that thought (as well as the money) that keeps me going.”
If you’re not yet an Alamy contributor but have been inspired by Keith’s work and would like to give it a go, all the info you need is right here. If you already contribute to Alamy but are interested in submitting live news then you’ll want to give this a read.