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  • Writer's pictureAbdul Quraishi (Abs)

My story about how I started making money in Stock Photography

It was during the end of 2019 beginning of 2020 during the first Covid lockdown that I started to seriously look into Stock Photography as a means of creating a small passive income.

I had always thought about it, but was always discourage and negatively influenced by people including photographers that it was impossible to get images published let alone sold and would read and hear comments like;

“They won't accept your images in their current form”, “You have to spend time in photoshop to remove all the commercial logos and make your images more generic”

“You need permission from all the people in your photos and get them all to sign a model release form”

“You can’t post images of buildings without a property release”, and it went on and on!

"you need concepts"

and on and on it went!

So late in 2019 when I discovered that Shutterstock was accepting images as editorial content which did not require consent, to say the least, I was excited.

Over the years, I had captured thousands of photos which had sat on my hard drives gathering digital dust and I always believed that one day, I would do something with them and now finally, it seemed, that this was it!

At this stage, I had no idea what impact this would have on me as a photographer and the opportunities it would open for me but with not much else going on during the lockdown except for whinging and moaning about the Government, I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Today, 2 years on, and having spent very minimal time on this project, I have a portfolio of over 650 images just on shutterstock alone with over 600 images downloaded and I continue to add to the portfolio every few days.

It feels great to have the confidence to ask prospective clients to just Google me and watch their confidence increase in me when they see a genuine web presence. They find it reassuring that my images have been used on so many websites and news agencies across the world and that Google displays them as a search result.

In other words, Shutterstock has not only provided me with an opportunity to generate a passive income but more importantly, created a platform that is separate from the likes of Instagram and considered by prospective clients as, “Professional”.

However, the journey was not all plain sailing and I came across many hurdles, a detailed account of rejections that I wrote about in this article. For the sake of this article, I will concentrate on the positives only.

I live just on the edge of London, very close to Heathrow Airport and having a keen interest in aviation has really helped as I have naturally gravitated towards aircraft photography and taken hundreds of images of different airlines.

Also a keen traveler, and having visited many different countries, I have gathered thousands of what I consider, "snapshots" with not much emphasis on composition, story telling or context. Therefore, initially after checking out other peoples work on Shutterstock, I was worried that my snaps were never going to be viewed let alone, someone pay for them!

I couldn't have been more wrong!

Despite my first uploaded images being rejected for technical shortfalls, such as out of focus, too much digital noise, needs sharpening etc: once I had figured out on how to get Shutterstock to accept previously rejected images, my first image was downloaded two days after being uploaded!

Emirates Image

A few days later, my second image and then the third.

I very quickly learned that I loved rejections because each time an image was rejected, Shutterstock would provide a detailed reason. Not only this meant that I got to learn a new skill in how to correct these mistakes in Lightroom and Photoshop, but also it allowed me to take greater care when taking the image so that I didn't make these silly mistakes at the time of pressing the shutter button and then spend additional time later correcting them with software.

Initially, most of my images were of airlines on their own with nothing else but just the aircraft itself. I did wonder who was downloading them, but soon discovered that Shutterstock shows the keyword that the customer typed in the search field that led them to my image. This was very interesting to me as it showed me why the correct Keywords are so important for customers to find the right image and ultimately resulted in more downloads for me.

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