The posting is up for my upcoming Stock Photography talk at the Ann Arbor District Library!
Getting Started in Stock Photography
Wednesday October 16, 2019: 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room
Description: Have you ever wondered if you could make money from your photography? Are you ready for a new challenge, or just want to experience the thrill of seeing your photograph in national publications? Local photographer Susan Montgomery will explain what stock photography is, share her journey with photography, and walk you through the steps to help you get started in stock photography using examples from her own work. Susan Montgomery is a stock, nature and travel photographer. Susan has ten years of experience in stock photography and has had an article on stock photography published by Digital Photography School. You can see her stock photos at http://www.shutterstock.com/g/smontgom and many other stock photo sites. Check out her blog about stock photography at SusanMontgomeryPhotos.com! https://aadl.org/node/396049
I listed the draft of what my talk will include here.
The Ann Arbor District Library accepted my proposal to give a presentation on “Getting started in stock photography” ! It’ll be on Wednesday October 16, 7:30 – 9 pm in the downtown library. So excited to share what I have learned with others… :) The current outline is below. I’d appreciate any questions you might ask at such a presentation or anything obvious you see missing so I can make sure I’m covering all the bases. Submit them and any other suggestions in the comments section, thanks!
What is stock photography? With visual examples
Editorial vs. non-editorial
Royalty-free vs. Rights managed
Examples e.g. Shutterstock, Alamy, Dreamstime
DLSR camera (or really good smartphone)
Access to editing software – Photoshop, Lightroom
Requirements for good stock photography – would show examples, walk-through
Perfect focus at full size (100%)
Cleaned up photo
No logos or copyrights if not editorial
Credentials if needed for events
Title, caption, keywords, categories
Model and property releases
But first have to be accepted by a stock photo website – requirements
Use Shutterstock as example
Exclusive or non-exclusive?
Branding – optional
“Doing business as” license
Protecting your own photographs
Event and travel photography suggestions
Suggestions to get started
Determine your goal
Become a better photographer (Shutter speed, apertures, ISO)
I am happy to announce that I have created a SmugMug gallery! I did a lot of research and a SmugMug gallery together with this blog seemed like the best solution for me. In this entry I am sharing what I did to help others who might be considering starting one.
I intend to use my SmugMug gallery to:
Showcase my photos to friends and photo editors that I might contact in the future so they can see samples.
Make event photos available for download for groups. These will mostly be photos of events that I am making available for free to the event organizers.
Maybe even sell a photo or two…
Selecting a Format
I looked for a “clean” format, chose one named Dina, and adapted it just a bit to have a “White Duotone” background to have a slightly different color in the menu portion on the left. It was very easy to add sections to the menu:
Uploading photos was very easy, and I could place them in “galleries” that can be organized into “folders:”
I just uploaded them from my laptop, but you also have the option to upload from other sources, e.g. Lightroom. Arranging folders and galleries was very intuitive. I have reorganized the galleries and folders easily, e.g. I had a “photojournalism” folder for “events,” then decided to move “events” to the top layer, nothing to it, just scoot galleries around like you would folders on your computer.
Displaying the photos within a gallery
There are many ways to display the photos. I went with Collage Landscape, but there are many other ways, and it would be trivial to change that if I were to change my mind, either for individual galleries or globally. You can also determine whether to include a slideshow, and many other features:
Help features very useful
SmugMug has a very helpful support center that walks you through the whole process, a search for help lands you on very relevant and useful articles:
Photo security options
SmugMug gives you many options to secure your photos. After much research I decided to take three steps:
Set a small image size for the displayed image, so if someone downloads an image it’s not of great quality, not suitable for framing, etc. I might decide to go even smaller in the future, we’ll see
Add a watermark to the photos – SmugMug makes this trivially easy, you can save a watermark image, or create on within SmugMug, which I did, then when you create a gallery you can tell it to add a watermark to all photos in the “Photo Protection” section. So the watermark shows up on the screen and downloaded photos, but not in ordered ones.
I realize none of these are totally foolproof, they can take a screenshot, etc. but I’ve done what I can, I’ll leave it at that.
Selecting a subscription
I also had to decide which subscription to get. The current options are:
As a professional photographer the plan is to have some sales, so I went with the Portfolio option. I originally selected the Pro option, then I realized that was overdoing it for my purposes so I changed it to Portfolio and they updated it right away and gave me a credit, didn’t have to wait until renewal time, which I very much appreciated.
As for prices for sales, I decided to just go with the SmugMug presets, we’ll see how it goes.
If you have any other questions about setting up a SmugMug website let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them. In the meantime, if you decide to proceed yourself, you can get 20% off your first year subscription if you use this link , or the one at the top of the page, to get started. Full disclosure, I also get 20% off your subscription price toward my next update, thanks!
Best wishes on YOUR photography (and SmugMug!) adventures!
June 4th, 2019 was the fifth anniversary of this blog, how time flies! I haven’t mastered the art of finding the bandwidth to post during the school year, but glad to still be making progress in my photography at least. With over 11,000 hits I seem to be reaching some people who I hope are getting useful suggestions on becoming better photographers and on the stock photography business. I plan to catch up on some Shooting Stock Photos entries this week, so if anyone has any questions they’d like me to address happy to take suggestions for blog entries.
In the meantime, best wishes on YOUR photography adventures,
In the spirit of “can’t hurt to give it a shot,” I submitted my story to Shutterstock Presents, cross your fingers that they decide to feature me… Here’s what I submitted:
My professional photography career started when my kids insisted I get a “real” camera before a 2004 trip to the Grand Canyon. Since then I have enjoyed a growing photography career, learning through workshops and online courses, and sharing what I am learning with others. I focus on nature, travel, and editorial stock photography.
I would be an interesting photographer to feature because not only do I use stock photography to support growth in my area and for social justice, I also educate others to give photography, specifically stock photography, a shot. I share my story and giving aspiring photographers step by step recommendations on how to get started through my blog at SusanMontgomeryPhotos.com . I am also unique in that in my day job during the school year I am a Chemical Engineering faculty member, a lecturer at the University of Michigan. Through sharing my photography story I aim to encourage others who might not think of themselves as “artists” to explore that side of their lives.
So I attended the reception, and you can imagine I was walking around looking at the art and thinking “wow, the others are really artists, I don’t know if I belong here…” and then I noticed that there was a red dot on the description of my photo. I took a deep breath and walked over to the organizers to see if the red dot meant what I thought it meant, and lo and behold, my framed photo had sold! Not only that, but a woman in front of it was asking for contact information for the artist because she also wanted to buy it… Tee hee, I enjoyed telling her that I was the artist. She asked me if I could remove the “John” and “Maggie” names and substitute the names of her friends who loved Paris so she could give it to them as a wedding present, and indeed I was able to, with the magic of Photoshop:
So two sales, yey! I was really feeling like an artist then…
You can see the photo in the video of the exhibit, it’s behind the juror’s head when he is discussing the Exhibition.
Was happy that the University’s Blueprint magazine accepted three of my photos this year, and I had a lovely time at their Celebrate Creativity Art Show earlier this week. I realized then when I came to post it that I never posted the 2018 acceptances, so I’ll list them both here.
In 2018 I submitted some photos from our trip to the Canadian Rockies and others, and the three Canadian Rockies submissions got accepted:
You can see them in print in pages 50, 51, and 61 in their book here.
This year I submitted three photos from our trip to Machu Picchu for the 2019 edition, and they got accepted, yey. They were kind enough to make prints of the photos for the art show, as I just didn’t have/find the bandwidth to manage printing and framing them…
I’ll add links when the online issue is out. I’m so appreciative that the Blueprint student group makes the time to allow community members to share their art…
Getting an early start on New Year’s resolution to enter more photography competitions to test myself further. I entered these three photos from our Machu Picchu trip to the Sony World Photography Awards :
Best wishes to you in YOUR 2019 photography adventures,
P.S. Update, just submitted the shots to National Geographic’s YourShot , we’ll see if they like it there…
So I decided to explore the use of Instagram, with a goal to publicize my more editorial photos and make connections with other like-minded photographers, so I started an Instagram account and posted some of the editorial photos I’m most proud of. Check it out at https://www.instagram.com/susanmontgomeryphotos/.
This made me think some more about what my mission is as a photographer. My current version is “I am a stock, travel and editorial photographer, with a goal to use my photography for social justice and to spotlight the best of Michigan and places I visit.” Needs work, but making progress.
I’m curious how others use Instagram… Any suggestions?
In the meantime, best wishes on your photography adventures,
Update – Now I’m at “I’m a stock, travel and editorial photographer with a passion for social justice, the state of Michigan, and new places.”
As I’m posting the milestone article on having 2,000 photos on Shutterstock I noticed there is another milestone to mention, SusanMontgomeryPhotos.com has passed 10,000 hits! Reviewing other such milestones:
August 15, 2014, 1,000 hits, so 5 years after I started, or avg 200 hits a year.
August 24, 2015, 5,000 hits, so an average over 6 years of 833 hits per year – quick rise due to publication of an article I wrote for Digital Photography School.
So with 10,000 hits by July 19, 2018, the average over 9 years is 1,100 hits a year, hey, on the upswing! I’d like to think some of those readers got some tips that improved their stock photography, or were encouraged to continue on the path… Very satisfying.
I noticed an entry in my journal on July 19, 2009: “69 photos on Shutterstock!” What a coincidence because today I noticed that, with the photos I submitted from the Chelsea Sounds and Sights on Thursday Nights event I photographed last week, I just passed 2,000 photos at Shutterstock. I’m thinking of what I thought of those who had that many photos, good to reflect that I have indeed come a long way…
Some of my favorites Chelsea Sounds and Sights photos are:
As for the photos that are on Shutterstock, these are some of the best sellers of all time:
I’d had my eye on the UM diag flagpole for a long time, so one weekend when I knew the sky was the perfect shade of blue I spent hours and took literally hundreds of photos of the flag to get a cool one of the flag flapping yet also showing most of the 50 stars, and it totally paid off:
(As a side note, a similar photo with the flag at half mast I took another day is ranked 7th)
3. For this one I again hung out on the UM diag forever and captured this squirrel on the sidewalk, then removed the sidewalk on Photoshop to isolate the squirrel – the “shadow” is portion of the sidewalk I didn’t remove:
You can see other photos of my squirrel phase here.
4. A “silver lining” situation. I walked too long with the wrong sandal, leading to his “perfect” blister, which has appeared on many toe blister treatment websites:
8. I waited around for the boat to get to just the right position to balance the Muskegon lighthouse:
15 and moving fast: A few years ago I decided my photos were good enough that I could use them to provide the world with positive photos of Detroit and other Michigan cities, including this one of the Spirit of Detroit:
For my current set of Detroit photos on Shutterstock click here.
Altogether I’m very proud of how far I have come, little by little, step by step, as I mentioned in my recent article about photographing a roller derby bout.
Had a great time taking photos at the Ypsilanti Fourth of July parade Wednesday, shooting photos both for stock photo sites and to share with the community. Some things I’m happy I did:
I got there half an hour before the parade started, tested out some shots, noticed things I wanted to include (such as the water tower) or avoid (flags with photos of Eastern Michigan University students that were on many lamp posts), checked my camera settings…
Took lots of photos! I love this parade because everyone is so friendly and happy to get their picture taken:
There’s also lots of space on this block so shots have cleaner backgrounds than in a busy shopping block (though there weren’t as many people in the audience as past years, everyone was protecting themselves in the shade), so you get nice contrasts in the shots without super busy backgrounds:
I could get close to the action to get some cool shots, such as this one of some of the original Rosie the Riveters, who are working to preserve the history of Willow Run airport where they built all those bombers during WWII:
I could also help promote organizations such as the library bookmobile, the local thrift shop, and the local National Society of Black Engineers Jr. chapter:
I posted my best photos of each group on my Susan Montgomery Photos Facebook page to make them accessible to parade participants and spent much of the afternoon contacting them through their websites or Facebook pages so they could access the photos for free, as a courtesy. You can see the ones I submitted to Shutterstock this year and in 2014 here.
Next time I plan to:
Review the photos from past years and remember that I liked some that showed the top of the water tower in the background (See Shutterstock link) and try to get some shots with that background in addition to those above.
Move to an area where there are more visible audience members, as in this area many were in the shade protecting themselves from the heat, which took away from the energy of the parade participants.
Take more shots of some of the groups. In some cases I was not pleased with what I had but moved on too quickly to the next group instead of “traveling” with the group I wasn’t done with and getting another chance at solid photos.
In the meantime, best wishes in YOUR photography adventures.
(A special note for the folks I know through the University of Michigan: I’m a photographer in my other life and realized a few months ago that LinkedIn rules state you can only have one LinkedIn page, so I had to merge my UM and photography pages, so expect some photo related entries when I update my photography blog…)
I got my camera fixed in time to attend another Ann Arbor Derby Dimes bout last Friday, those wonderfully supportive women who give me free passes to their bouts and a nifty Media Pass… I got to try my new lens, a Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 that I’m proud to say I bought with my photography earnings. I got it at Camera Mall, a very nice relatively new camera shop in Ann Arbor. The folks there are super helpful and supportive. I also took along my “nifty fifty,” a Nikon 50 m f/1.8G that I got a few years ago then didn’t ever use as I got shy about street photography, sigh… But I’m learning to say “oh, well,” figure out the lesson to be learned and move on rather than linger on past mistakes, so, oh, well, at least I had it to use now.
The new lenses made such a difference! At a larger aperture more light came in, so I could have a faster shutter speed, thus able to capture the action in much better focus, yey! Remember, the aperture is the fraction of the lens that is open, e.g. f/8 on a 50 mm lens means a 6.25 mm diameter opening, so the smaller the f-stop the larger the lens opening when you click the shutter, thus “larger aperture” means “smaller f-stop.”
I also brought my monopod, made me look a bit dorky but at my age I don’t really care much what people think of me anymore, and it added another level of steadiness so the photos came out sharper.
24-70 mm lens at 42 mm, ISO 1600, 1/500 sec, f/2.8
What I’m pleased about:
With the new lenses I had much more light coming in, could go with faster (shorter) shutter speeds, so captured the action better.
Taking the time to learn about the sport so I better understand what is going on. Still have much to learn, but I’m getting there, and it helps me anticipate and frame the shots better.
How wonderfully supportive the team is of everyone, of each other and of the other teams, and making me feel very welcome.
The opportunity to show strong women in action, and never sharing any photos that might embarrass anyone.
Including the refs in the photos, for a full shot of the action and to show appreciation for their work.
As for backgrounds I like the first photo because the back wall makes for a much nicer background compared to the trees.
I notice that 3 of my 4 favorite photos are with the “nifty fifty”, the 50 mm lens, which let much more light in than the 24-70 mm (f/1.8 vs f/2.8). Notice that the aperture it selected for the shutter speed I set is larger than I could have gotten with the 24-70 mm lens.
Having the 24-70 mm lens, however, allowed me to also get wider shots than I couldn’t have gotten with the 50 mm, sometimes the 50 mm was too constraining. Notice the last photo is at 42 mm, which allows me to include the refs.
Altogether a very fun evening of roller derby and photography, learning every day.
It really is about getting out there and trying things, messing up, learning from your mistakes, trying again. I got my first “real” DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera in 2004, shot mostly my kids activities and family trips for a short time, took an online photography class at the local community college in 2010, have taken Lynda.com photography and photoshop courses most summers, took two Great Courses video courses by Joel Sartore of National Geographic in 2014, started this blog in 2014…
Just keep chugging away, keep learning and trying, and next thing you know you’ll feel comfortable with aperture, ISO, shutter speed, etc.
I’d been having some tough times with the quality of my photos, after I thought I had learned so much about photography, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, been so happy with my success in terms of photos accepted at stock websites, framed photos sold, etc. , recently I just couldn’t get a photo I was happy with to save my life, very soft focus, grr, what could I be doing wrong? That whole impostor thing was hovering just over my shoulder whispering in my ear: “See? what were you thinking? you’re not a photographer, never will be…”
The final straw was when I went to the Ann Arbor Derby Dimes bout, so excited to take photos, trying out a new Nikon 28-70 f/2.8 lens so I knew I’d have plenty of light coming in, so proud to be wearing my media pass, and still… crap photos… sigh… I decided to be bold at intermission and ask another photographer there, Dave, to take a look at my settings and see if he saw anything wrong. He was most generous, took a look at my photos, my settings, loaned me his flash so I could try some photos with it, and agreed that I was doing everything right, the photos should look better than what I was getting.
On Monday I went to Midwest Camera, a licensed Nikon repair shop to have them take a look, and wouldn’t you know it, the focus IS off, after 14 years and tens of thousands of photos the camera was tired and needed some care. Whew, what a relief! I can’t wait to see the quality of the photos I get after I get it back.
Of course after that if the photos are still crap I’ll have no one to blame by myself… hmm…
The ladies at Ann Arbor Derby Dimes, the local roller derby team, which I took photos off a few summers ago, were nice enough to contact me about photographing their bouts this summer. When I showed up last week they had actual media passes for us, cool! I’ll write separately about why I didn’t end up having photos I was happy with, but that’s another story, the big thing here is that someone liked my photos enough to consider me worthy of a media pass… I so appreciate their support!
Drove to Columbus, OH for my day job, and had fun shooting stock photos while I was out of town, here are some reflections on the trip… What I did right:
Planned ahead by checking out popular locations and marking them on Googlemaps, which helped tremendously with planning – Once I was at one location I could quickly scan the map and find other nearby locations, so I could see those that were near each other and prepare my photo taking.
Looked up headquarters of companies that might be nearby, to get some idea of what was there.
Took my time getting there, so I could pull out as I desired, like a stop at Bowling Green State University. I’d often wanted to check out the campus:
and having my camera on me at all times so when I’m moved to take a photo I can catch it before the opportunity disappears:
Went around Ohio Stadium to get a wide variety of shots:
COLUMBUS, OH – JUNE 25: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio is shown on June 25, 2017. It is the home of the Ohio State University Buckeyes.
COLUMBUS, OH – JUNE 25: The sign for Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio is shown on June 25, 2017. It is the home of the Ohio State University Buckeyes.
COLUMBUS, OH – JUNE 25: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio is shown on June 25, 2017. It is the home of the Ohio State University Buckeyes.
COLUMBUS, OH – JUNE 25: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio is shown on June 25, 2017. It is the home of the Ohio State University Buckeyes.
Took my time downtown, and waiting for enough people to walk into the shot to make for a more interesting photograph:
Looked for those random opportunities that present themselves:
COLUMBUS, OH – JUNE 27: A sign for the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival in Columbus, Ohio is shown on June 27, 2017. It is the second largest LGBTQ Pride festival in the Midwes.
COLUMBUS, OH – JUNE 27: An electrician works on an electrical pole near the Convention Center on June 27, 2017.
Enjoyed photography for its sake, not thinking only of stock photography
Let a little kid take a photograph with my camera, sharing the joy of photography with others.
Processed the photos fairly quickly, just finished just two weeks after the trip.
What I would do differently:
Print out a map with the popular locations, so I didn’t have to refer to the phone every time. I hadn’t realized that the saved locations don’t show when in directions mode…
You can see the photos Shutterstock accepted from Columbus here. Hope these reflections help you, and best wishes on YOUR photography adventures!
… and for the first time part of my photo was even included in the advertising postcard:
We were told that they received 120 entries, of which 64 were accepted.The AAWA selections are particularly meaningful to me because the judge is a working artist, so to have one of my photographs recognized by a working artist sure helps with the Impostor Syndrome concerns.
… and with that I think I’m all caught up on what has been happening with my photography, whew, nice to not have that backlog!
This is another update, for the record… I had three photographs accepted by Blueprint, the College’s literary magazine for their print edition and for their show, in February 2017:
The view from Notre Dame was a fun recreation of other similar ones I have seen over the years. Paris Love took me a bunch of shots and attempts to find just the right composition. The lakeshore is in Higgins Lake, “up north” as we say here in Michigan, the beauty of a lake in the winter.
It’s always inspiring to see the work of my colleagues and students, and I appreciate the time that the organizers take to put together each year’s edition and art show. I like to be a part of these college events to show students that it’s important to have a balanced life, with interests outside of your career – I’m still working on it as you can see from some past posts, but during the summer the balance is much better…
Best wishes to you on YOUR photography adventures,
Finally processed the photos I took on a trip to France last summer, yey…
I had a few days on my own first, where I visited Giverny and Monet’s house and garden, then had a bit more than a week with my boyfriend, mostly in Paris but also a day trip to Normandy and Omaha Beach area. I was very conscious that this was not a photography trip that he was coming along for, it was a couples trip that I happened to be taking advantage of to take some photographs.
Things I did right:
Balanced tourist time with photography time, so as not to burden him.
Took photos of every day scenes, like people walking on the streets, and pastry shops:
Lined up a shot I wanted then waited for the right combination of people to come into it to make it more interesting:
Took the time to get just the right shot – when my boyfriend was busy doing other things so I wasn’t making him wait forever. I spent over 10 minutes taking more than a dozen shots of this lovely musician while he shopped in the market:
Tried for unusual shots of the Eiffel Tower, with tourists in it:
Patiently waited for the wind to be just right to get the cool shot of the weathervane at a train station while waiting for the train to return from Giverny. The weathervane never again lined up before the train arrived, good thing I caught it when I did:
Made a note of the names of the streets and tourist signs at photo locations to make it easier to write captions later.
Had fun trying to recreate some of Monet’s paintings:
Things I could have done better:
Many little technical details and probably missed many shots, but I really enjoyed the trip for itself, the photos were a side thing.
Again, process them sooner, it took me months to get back to them. I realized I was overwhelmed by the number of photos I had to get through. Once I realized that the only way to get through them was to… get through them, I was able to break the task up into little pieces: Select favorites, copy them from iPhoto and name them, break them up into little sets that didn’t seem too overwhelming to work on, clean them up on Photoshop, then caption and keyword them. Some days I was all for cleaning up, other days I was more interested in captioning and keywording, I played it by ear until they all got done.
Yesterday I finished the last batch, and submitted the last photos, ended up having over 100 photos approved, yey. You can see the photos that were accepted by Shutterstock here (last few aren’t up just yet, patience..)