I’m sure I’m not the only photographer who has watched with dismay as online stock photo (or microstock) libraries have mushroomed over recent years. Why dismay? Well, I used to sell my travel stories to clients as a package of words and images, of which the images would often be worth half or more of the fee. Yet since these image libraries have expanded to cover every destination and topic under the sun, and since their images are available for use at US$1 or less, most publications I work for now want me to provide text only, which means I’ve lost about half my previous income.
To give an idea how fast these sites are growing, Shutterstock (the biggest) has over 70 million images available, and uploads over half a million more each week. This works out to a staggering 50 images uploaded EVERY MINUTE! The downside for contributors to SS is that no sooner have they uploaded new material than it gets pushed off the first page and so has less chance of selling.
Despite these problems, I finally decided to stop grumbling and adopt the attitude of ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’. So I recently submitted a selection which was accepted, and you can see my tiny portfolio at http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?gallery_id=3496445. I’ll post a few samples below, and I’ll be submitting images quite frequently. After all, as SS contributors know, this is a numbers game, and only those who are constantly uploading make any money. Even then, at US$0.25 per image, you’ve got to make A LOT of sales to be successful. Nevertheless, I’ve made a steady start and already my earnings stand at US$1.50!
Usually when I travel, I’m updating a guidebook, so I’m rushing around from dawn to late, checking hotels and restaurants for inclusion in the next edition of the guide. But a few weeks ago I lucked out, spending ten days on a Pandaw cruise around Ha Long Bay and the Red River Delta in Vietnam in order to write and photograph a story about it for the company’s magazine, as it was a new route that they wanted to publicise.
Loved it! Sprawled on a sun lounger, taking in the endless change of view, from towering karst outcrops to container cranes, brick kilns, fields of rice and passion fruit, locals waving from the riverbank. Wandering around small villages, watching water puppet shows, seeing conical hats made, listening to traditional songs sung by teenagers. Writing a few notes about the experience and getting to know my fellow passengers, gorging on gourmet food three times a day. Following are a few images from the trip.
If you want to read the full story, take a Pandaw cruise and read it in the Pandaw Magazine while aboard, or sign up as a subscriber on their website—www.pandaw.com.
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.