Monday, 29 January 2007

Make Money With Photography – Sell Your Photos

Yes, if you have talent as a photographer you can make some money - even without being a pro. However, you will not get rich quickly. I do this as a hobby only (next to a full-time job) and was able to make the money for an entry-level DSLR + a nice lens within a year. If you are good, a photoshop wiz, a talented designer, artist or painter - or all of that - you can make much more! It’s fun too!

Before you apply at any microstock agency, please read their forums regarding the application procedure/ requirements. I did not and I got banned for 3 months at Shutterstock. The agency where I make the most money now. And no, they do not tell you anything about getting banned upfront. Better invest a few hours and check out how it works.

Microstock only exists for a few years now. The combination of easy to use digital equipment, affordable prices and the internet made this business model possible. In simple words it works like this:
  • Take a photo
  • Provide a good description and accurate keywords for it
  • Upload it to microstock agency
  • Get it approved by their reviewers (takes about a week)
  • Get a commissions every time a buyer (designer, advertising agency, individual, ..) downloads your photo

Of cause it’s not that simple. Each of these steps has it’s requirements. Photos with people require a model release (=permission for commercial use). Do not upload every snapshot or holiday photo you have, they will get rejected. Check out the “most popular lists” and think about what potential buyers could need.

Please also know that microstock is highly controversial. The agencies pay pennies (cents) to the photographer for each download. But the volume adds up. However, many professional photographers don’t like the fact that their work sells for “almost nothing”. There is an opinion out there that microstock de-values photographic work and is destroying the industry and quality work. Decide for yourself. It has been discussed with passion and all arguments have been exchanged. Just search the popular photography forums for “microstock” (eg at the forum).

Below are the most popular microstock places. In brackets my personal % of earnings
  • Shutterstock (40%)
  • Istock (20%)
  • Dreamstime (20%)
  • Fotolia (10%)
  • BigStock (10%)

I also joined StockXpert recently. They have the most easy upload process!

I have between 300 and 500 photos on each page. You are allowed to submit the same photo to every agency … as long as you do not sign up for an exclusivity agreement.

You will not see much earnings before you reach +100 images online. Build up your portfolio continuously and so will the returns. A general rule of thumb is 2-5 US$ per photo per year (when submitting to multiple sites), depending on subject and quality.

Once you got started, you will have to optimise your workflow. Otherwise uploading and keywording will drive you mad … and steal all your time.

  • Upload via FTP. All sites (except iStock) have FTP upload. You can use a freeware program like SmartFTP Client to upload a batch of photos to multiple sites simultaneously! Just let the upload run over night and your done
  • Use an IPTC editor to keyword your photos. The keywords get stored in the photo file. And the microstock site will read the keywords automatically from your file. That means you need to keyword your photos only once. You can use freeware programs like Exifer or Pixvue. Also Microsoft recently released a similar tool for windows. I use Exifer and that works ok for me.

Microsoft Photo Info Tool:

Recommended Links On Selling Photos Via Microstock

Pls find below my referral link. Pls use them if you want to join any of the microstock agencies as a photo seller or buyer. You do not loose anything and I will get a small bonus. Thanks!

View My Portfolio

Royalty Free Images

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Crop Digital Photos In Photoshop To Print Proportions

The popular print sizes for photos have different aspect ratios. The aspect ratio is defined by the proportion of the longer length side of the photo to the shorter. I.e. width to hight in landscape format. Aspect ratios of popular print sizes:

Print Size - Aspect Ratio

6x4 - 3:2 (1.5)

- 7:5 (1.4)
- 4:3 (1.3)
- 5:4 (1.25)
- 3:2 (1.5)
- 3:2 (1.5)

Digital cameras produce photos with a 4:3 or 3:2 ratio. E.g. Canon A710ID has a resolution of 3072x2304 pixel (= 4:3 = 1.33) and the Canon 20D has 3504x2336 (= 3:2 = 1.50). If you choose a print size with the same aspect ratio as your camera’s resolution, the entire photo will be printed. If you choose a print size not matching your camera’s resolution, a part of the photo will cropped off.

Better crop your photos yourself before getti
ng prints. That way you can decide yourself which part of the photo you will loose. Select the Crop Tool in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements and enter the width and hight of your print size in the options bar:

Now make the selection in your photo. You will notice that the proportion is constant in relation to the values you have entered. Select the part of the photo you want to print (by moving the selected area) and double-click within the selected area. The photo will be cropped accordingly.


  • Save the cropped photo under a new name, e.g. name_4x3 (File Menu -> Save As command)
  • Do not enter a number in the resolution field of the options bar when entering the print size proportions on the crop tool. That way the image will not be re-sampled during the crop, i.e. the resolution (dots per inch) will not change

Friday, 12 January 2007

Create A Shallow Depth Of Field (DoF) Or Blurred Background In Your Photo

A shallow Depth Of Field describes that only objects within a certain distance (range) are in-focus and appear sharp in the photo. Objects more far away (or closer) will be out-of-focus/ blurred. This effect can be used to emphasise an in-focus (sharp) foreground object or person against a blurred background. Or to create an “artistic” image that draws the attention of the viewer to a certain sharp (in focus) part of the photo. The technique is often used in portrait and macro (eg flowers) photography.

The Depth Of Field is defined as range (in cm or meter) that will be recorded sharp. How shallow (long, wide, deep, large) the depth of field is, depends on

  • Aperture Setting
  • Focal Length
  • Distance to Subject

The rules are
  • The wider your lens opens when taking the photo (=lower f-stop number = larger aperture) the smaller the depth of field will be
  • With greater focal length the depth of field will become smaller
  • With greater subject distance the depth of field will become lager

Of cause there is an exact science behind it and you can calculate the distances based on focal length and aperture. However, I recommend to just try it out and develop a feel for it. But here is the calculator:

Switch the camera to “Av mode” to manual control the aperture (f-stop) on your camera. Take the same scene with the lowest and the highest f-stop number to see the difference. Remember that you will need objects with a different distance to the camera. This will not work when shooting a wall or any flat object ;-) Also “zoom-in” (=long focal length) to increase the effect.

Example below: Look at the label of the middle and last wine bottle. The left wine bottle is approx. 1.5m away from the camera and each bottle – from left to right – about 15cm from each other.

200mm, f5.6

200mm, f11

200mm, f32

Also this effect is harder to achieve with point-and-shoot cameras (= P&S = small compact digitals) due to the technology used. The smaller sensor size compared to SLR cameras creates larger Depth Of Field. Therefore use the maximum optical zoom when trying this out.

The distance between foreground and background is essential. If you want to take a portrait with a blurred background, have a significant distance between the person and the background.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Wide-Angle Zoom Lens Selection For Canon 20D – Tamron 11-18mm

I recently bought a super wide-angle zoom lens for my 20D for photos like this. It’s really wide! More samples at the end of the post.

It was not an easy task/ decision:

Crop Body (Digital Rebel/400D, 30D) owners struggled to find super wide-angle lenses, because a 17-40mm lens becomes a 27-64mm (=effective focal length) on a Canon crop body due to the smaller sensor size compared to a full frame sensor camera like the 5D. That’s handy for telephoto (as 200mm becomes 320mm) but not good for wide-angle lenses originally designed for 35mm (full frame) cameras.

The lens manufacturers addressed the issue by designing lenses especially for crop bodies. These lenses are smaller and have less weight than their full frame counterparts. On the other hand, these can be only used on crop bodies, not on full frame cameras.

After scanning the market I short-listed 2 lenses

  • Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM
  • Tamron SP 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 Di-II LD Aspherical (IF)

Here is the justification

  • I like to travel light. The Tokina (12-24) and Sigma (10-20) products are out of the list for that
  • I do not care (too much) that these lenses do not work on a full frame sensor camera. If I upgrade later, the lens stays with my 20D … on sale or as a backup

It is a pretty tough choice between the two

  • The Canon gets great reviews, the Tamron gets good reviews
  • The focal range of the Canon is much larger
  • The Canon lens is faster (aperture-wise)
  • The Tamron costs 530 US$ (including a lens hood) and the Canon costs 675 US$ (no hood). An original Canon hood will set you back an other 40 US$

I finally bought the Tamron, because

  • The price difference matters for me. If money would not matter, well, I get the Canon
  • I guess that the difference in focal length won’t be relevant for my main applications of this lens. Landscapes and architecture. One review that made the comparison suggested that. But you never know until you try ...
  • Also the lens speed does not really matter for my applications. The majority of times I am between f8 and f16
  • Due to the shorter focal length and slower speed, the Tamron is even smaller and lighter … marginally

Image quality of the Tamron 11-18mm

  • Colours are great, sharpness is good
  • Barrel distortion and chromatic aberrations are noticeable in the corners of the image (see 100% crop sample below)

I really would love to have the Canon - at least for a few days or so - to compare the image quality. Unfortunately I don’t ;-)

Here is an “extreme sample” with 100% crop, no Photoshop manipulation.Purple fringing along the left side white column is clearly visible. It is not that drastic in all photos, but happens quite regular.

More Samples:

In case you consider buying a wide-angle lens for a crop body camera, I recommend reading the following links: