I’ve recently returned from a fantastic week wanderlusting the Algarve (Portugal) and then onto Seville (Spain). Happy to outline some of the trip’s highlights, including two new strategies I deployed which should result in creating higher-value content.
Lessons from my Iberian Adventure
The 2018 Iberian adventures was a monster-trip where I captured a whopping 2300 images and 100 clips over two-weeks (followed by three weeks of post-processing and uploading). This time around, in comparison, I captured fewer pictures (300) but proportionally many more clips (50), primarily using the gimbal.
Avoiding another “failure”
Overall, the Iberian Adventure, from a stock point of view, was a flop. Only a handful of stills sell regularly (such as the three below) and so far only three clips have sold, around the $20-25 range each. Disappointing.
No way I can recoup all the costs of the trip with my earnings (so far)…so this means that I needed to be more ingenious this time ’round by adopting new strategies! But first, what I think I do generally do well.
Capturing low-investment shots where the scene presents itself
What I feel I do well and will keep doing is patiently waiting for the action to unfold before my very eyes, as opposed to actively seeking the action. For instance, as soon as I arrive at a new scene, I do the following:
“Don’t immediately start shooting. Take the whole scene in first. Look at the light or lack of. Look for interesting characters. Look for useful concepts that are trending. Then start thinking about creating a story, but first in your head…“ – Brutally Honest Guy
Working backwards…in your mind…
I tend to work backwards. Firstly, I imagine the reasonable scene and secondly I would try to re-create it in reality. More often than not, whenever I undertake this conscious exercise, the captured-reality generally match with the idea in my mind.
For instance, in the shot below, there’s a lot going on…in fact, it’s a story that’s unfolding! Accordingly, I framed the shot purposely to capture Seville Cathedral’s Giralda Tower in the background, the turret of the Real Alcazar on the right, the building on the left is acting as a natural frame and most importantly the horse-drawn carriage coming towards me in the centre. I wanted to a low perspective so got on my knees and shot looking up (using an ultra wide angle lens – more on this later). Here’s the result:
Round the corner, at a later occasion, I spotted an Asian woman with a red dress in front of the Real Alcazar entrance. Probably unique and if you look closely the man is licking an ice cream – yummy lol
The following at Ponta de Piedade in Lagos, Algarve also presented a scene in front of me to to capture. Almost like a gift from the Gods at a Godly location!
Note: The three above were relatively easy to capture the whole scene using my ultra-wide angle 10-20mm lens (which I highly recommend).
Same old subs zzzz, no more!
The above are fine and should sell but unlikely to earn huge amounts over and above an average of $10 per image per year. To really earn the big bucks, I had to change my strategy altogether and start shooting travel lifestyle. Oh and avoid uploading to Robert Harding since their latest disastrous earnings report (discussed in link).
Fortunately, within my group was a beautiful young woman who was simply a pleasure to work alongside! Thank you, Victoria! 😉
Now, finally onto two change of strategies I deployed on this trip:
Change of Strategy 1: Create More Travel Lifestyle Concepts
I recall I interviewed Mirko, Founder of the Microstock Academy course, where he boasts to earn between $5/6k a month by submitting lifestyle stock photos on just over 2,300 images.
Instead of doing the same old and expecting different results (the definition of insanity), I actively tried to capture content that Mirko suggests, especially using my gimbal to create profitable clips.
If you’re traveling in good company as well, I would suggest to use that person as your model in your shots!
Woman on a Wanderlust Mission
Enough talk, time to show! Here’s a short compilation of POV (point of view) clips I captured of the friendly and beautiful model:
More advanced gimbal techniques
The POV gimbal-follow is pretty basic, as well as the panning.
After watching some YouTube tutorials, I started experimenting with different techniques, including shooting from a very low perspective while following. Tricky but I think I managed to pull it off after a few false-starts.
Another technique that I’m improving is the tilt up or down. Here’s an example of one I did a good job executing (in this case tilt-up). Well done, Victoria, as she looked up to admire the Giralda Tower of Seville Cathedral at a great time:
Tips on working with models
Working with models is all about communication and feedback. Here’s a pic of me showing the model the result of the clip and providing constructive feedback to improve for the next take.
Note: Even with a model-release, there is no guarantee that some travel lifestyle clips can be accepted as commercial since it’s extremely difficult for the surrounding scene to be free of people and/or signs. I uploaded all these as unreleased editorials anyway. Ideally, you’ll want “clean” commercial shots.
Change of Strategy 2: Focus on Creating Book Covers
Arcangel love my work and I love them as well since prices can be fantastic when they do eventually sell. On this latest trip, I was on a mission to capture and upload more book cover concepts, taking advantage that I was in good company.
I’m not sure whether Arcangel are letting their standards slip and are accepting more content (I presume not). I choose to take the the high road and I’m confident that I’m producing higher-quality content as they seem to be accepting much more of my content! In fact, on this trip, 17 shots out of a total of 40 submitted! Probably a new record.
Here’s some examples of recently accepted book covers on a slideshow, enjoy!
For a detailed tutorial on getting started in fine art book covers, click here.
What’s next on the Brutally Honest Stock blog?
September 2019 Earnings Report published soon
What’s next? Well, in just over a week I’ll publish my Sept 2019 earnings report. As usual, it’s bittersweet…a small preview is that I’ll probably reach a BME on SS (>$500+) while reaching a WME (worst month ever) at turdy iStock/Canva. Stay tuned!
Move to Spain!
I love Spain so much that I’m likely moving there soon…Madrid in particular, exciting times ahead. Will provide more details soon. New place to shoot is always welcome! Oleeeeeee!
Would appreciate if you could help me out!
Throughout my blog, as you can appreciate, I’ve given quite a bit of my time to help you make sense of this complicated stock industry and focus on making money. I’ve also given away earnings info on some of my best-sellers which will directly lead to those images reducing their value (how much is impossible to say).
If you feel that the information below and at other posts is useful I kindly ask you to donate as much as you feel is reasonable by clicking on the following link below:
You can also support me by purchasing one of my images as a wall-hanger, including this one I captured in Seville:
Alex’s Fine Art Prints!
I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted six years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.
I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography
“Don’t immediately start shooting. Take the whole scene in first. Look at the light or lack of. Look for interesting characters.”
>>> Great advice, but hard to follow, lol. I usually feel like a child in a candy store after a period of starvation and shoot everything. And then I go through the images and leave the best.
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As long as it’s both wide enough and with enough sunflares! TM: Elijah Style
This also happens to me. I’ve started shooting with a film camera and had to be selective about my photos. Now that one can take hundreds or thousands of pictures for free, I feel that they’ve become kind of worthless. Of course it would be nice to compose carefully and all that, but who can resist making a lot of shots of a certain scene and choosing the best of them later? Like that Leica digital camera that has been build just with a viewfinder and without the back screen , I wonder if Leica sold many of them…
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Hi Alex, thanks for this very nice post, with so many interesting tips about how to broaden the scope in Photography.
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Great post, as always, but I would like to know how do you handle the GDPR issue in Europe, since there is a thin red line between the street photography that can be done and the one that cannot be done.
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It’s not something that I worry about. Agencies offer guidance on this issue. If you have an image that you feel is borderline problematic, best to upload it as Rights-Managed exclusive on an agency such as Alamy