Monthly Archives: June 2015

Growth in iStock Subscription Sales

I have been generating income through stock photography for over 7 years, and have written a number of posts for Beyond Here about stock photography. I continue to see stock photography as a great way for a photographer to enter the business of photography, and for established photographers to generate a steady year round cash flow to supplement their client work. (If you are new to stock photography please see this post Starting in Stock Photography)

The world of stock photography has changed significantly from when I started, and now consists of several very large image libraries with millions of images each. I choose to be an exclusive contributor with iStock (reasons are outlined in this post – Why Be Exclusive on iStock).


Stock photography sites give you access to buyers around the world. What’s your next move?

During September 2014 iStock made several alterations to their operating model. At the time there was an outcry from contributors and purchasers of small sized images. I wrote several posts which covered the changes (My Take on this Weeks iStock Announcements, Moving iStock Forward, and Understanding the Changes at iStock). iStock seemed to be focusing on the large volume image buyer – like ad agencies, publishing houses, and media companies – through its subscription sales model. So, what has happened to the growth in iStock subscription sales? Has there been an increase? And what are the implications for contributors?

Firstly, has there been growth in iStock subscription sales?

My personal experience has been that the subscription program does seem to be delivering. I have seen month on month growth in subscription sales with the exception of the seasonal downturn in January. (Keep in mind I am just one of thousands of contributors on iStock).

Note – in the graph I include both subscription and partner program (PP) downloads. I have very few images in the partner program and the number of downloads from PP is minimal. So, the growth you see is driven by growth in iStock subscription sales.

Subscription downloads

Subscription downloads from my iStock portfolio continue to grow

What has happened to ‘normal’ iStock downloads over the same period? My normal iStock downloads initially declined in the period for September to December 2014. Since then my ‘normal’ downloads have stabilized with very little variation on a month to month basis.

What are the implications for iStock contributors? I see 5 implications from the growth in iStock subscription sales.

1. Continued growth in iStock subscriptions sales. The trend is up, and I expect we will see continued growth. For contributors that will likely mean a continued increase in overall download numbers, at a lower average price per download.

2. Steady or slightly declining ‘normal’ downloads. My experience to date has been steady month on month ‘normal’ downloads despite an increase in portfolio size. I also expect this trend to continue. On a positive note, I am encouraged that we don’t seem to be seeing a wholesale switch from ‘normal’ to subscription sales. All going well, that means the iStock customer numbers will be growing overall.


Stock photography needs patience. Keep building your portfolio. The downloads will come.

3. Steady monthly income, variable weekly income. As normal iStock downloads (which are reported as they happen) make up a smaller percentage of my total downloads, my weekly income is now quite variable. However, the growth in the subscription sales (reported once a month) is seeing my monthly income be more consistent than it was before the change. Now that iStock makes payment to contributors automatically once per month, the week to week variations really don’t matter. The lesson here – ignore the week to week variations, and only assess your performance at the end of each month.

4. Difficulty in achieving redeemed credit targets. Redeemed credits currently don’t apply to subscription sales. That makes achieving the targets and increasing your royalty rate very difficult. I can’t see that the redeemed credit idea can survive in its current format. I suggest not getting too focused on redeemed credits. Trust that the powers-that-be at iStock will introduce a revision or a new system for determining royalty rates.

5. It’s tough to become exclusive. Many Beyond Here readers have opened iStock accounts in the last year (hooray!) But achieving the requirements to become exclusive is really tough now (driven by the growth in sub sales which don’t count currently toward the exclusivity criteria). I expect that the redeemed credits issue is going to be a higher priority – but the criteria for becoming an exclusive contributor will need to change if iStock want contributors to only submit their images to iStock. In the meantime, continue to build your portfolio and enjoy the growth in subscription sales.

Thanks for reading ‘Growth in iStock Subscription Sales’. Please leave a comment with your experience or your questions. Happy shooting.

Why Make Time to Shoot Personal Projects?

Running a small photography business can seem like a never ending challenge – finding new clients, planning shoots, doing the shoot, editing images, posting to social media, organizing albums and prints, delivering the finished product, and repeat! Yet we constantly hear about the importance of personal projects. I have both long running personal projects and shorter ones. They are a great asset for me and my business. So, why make time to shoot personal projects?


Shooting images of Australian wildlife is a long running personal project of mine

What sort of personal projects am I talking about? When I am not shooting weddings I shoot images for my stock photography portfolio. When I’m not shooting a specific theme for my stock photo work I will shoot a personal project. An example would be Australian wildlife images. I am a wildlife fan, and believe in the work being done by conservation organisations. I enjoy shooting wildlife images, and it feels good to know that conservation organisations can access those images at a very affordable price through my stock photo portfolio. I shoot Australian wildlife images and take particular interest in shooting images of endangered species.

Female athlete

I have taken up Getty Images brief for my latest personal project, ‘re-picturing femininity’

I have recently started a new personal project which I am also going to use for my stock photo portfolio. As an exclusive contributor to iStockphoto, I get access to the Getty Images briefs written for photographers. One of those looks at the theme of ‘re-picturing femininity’. That is, showing girls and women in a new light. Not traditional roles, but the new women of today – leaders, working mothers, trades people, and more. It is exciting to think that the images I shoot can have a small impact on the images available in this category. I’ve completed shoots showing women as business leader, corporate regulator, pilot, and athlete, with many more to come.

Female pilot

Personal projects make a difference and are fun.

So, why make time to shoot personal projects?

1. It fuels the passion! Shooting for somebody else or trying to shoot what somebody else will like is ultimately hard work and draining. If you are in a cycle of weddings every weekend, or corporate head shots every day, try something different to fuel the passion. Re discover what you love to shoot and why you picked up the camera in the first place.

2. It makes a difference. A difference to what? The causes you believe in, and to you. Shooting wildlife images may not appeal to everyone but it provides needed images to conservation organisations. That is important to me – so it makes a difference to know that my images are helping wildlife.

3. It lets you experiment. It is not easy to keep learning new things on every shoot, and if we are shooting weddings each Saturday that’s not the place to practice or experiment. That’s  the place to make sure the bride and groom have a great day, and that you create great images. Personal projects on the other hand give you opportunities to experiment, to try new things, and to push your boundaries. Shoot a close up with a 400mm lens – just because you can.

4. Personal projects attract like minded clients. Clients who share your interests will be attracted to your work. I have several wedding clients who first came across my work through my wildlife images. We instantly had something in common and an easy talking point. Shooting personal projects will attract like minded clients.

5. It’s fun! Yes, it’s fun to shoot personal projects! For that reason alone we should be able to find the time.

Thanks for reading ‘Why Make Time to Shoot Personal Projects?’

How to Build a Portfolio When You Have Limited Experience

Getting started in paid photography work is not easy. That’s the case whether you are just starting out, or if you are looking to make a transition from one style of photography work to another. A large part of being able to attract paid work is being able to show potential clients a strong portfolio which demonstrates your photographic style. Today we look at ‘how to build a portfolio when you have limited experience’.


Working with different models and different light conditions will help build a diverse portfolio quickly.

If you are expecting clients to hire you because you are a photographer and have done a good job on a handful of jobs, you are working on hope rather than a plan. To be able to effectively market yourself beyond your immediate circle of family and friends, you need to have a body of work which shows your photographic style. That allows a potential client to look at your work and say ‘yes, I like this. I am going to hire this photographer’.

So, how do we overcome the ‘chicken and egg’ situation of wanting to attract paying work, but needing a strong portfolio to show your style and to attract those clients?

The short answer is to build a portfolio that reflects the type of work you want to attract. If it’s weddings you want to get into, you need to build a wedding portfolio. If it’s family portraits, you need to build a family portrait portfolio. If you want to have clients buying your landscape images, you’ll need to have a portfolio of strong landscapes. I’m sure you get the idea. So, lets look at how to build a portfolio when you have limited experience.

Here are four ways to build a target portfolio:

1. Shoot TFP. There are facebook groups of models and photographers in nearly every city. Join one of those groups and post a brief for what you are looking for. You will have models and HMUA’s (hair and make up artists) volunteering their services to assist. Why? Because models and HMUA’s need portfolio’s too. It is a win-win situation which works for nearly every type of photography involving people. (Working cooperatively like this is known as ‘TFP’. This originally stood for Time for Prints, but now means Time for Portfolio. Each person contributes their time and skill to build their portfolio.)

2. Pay models to work with you. If you are serious about building a high quality portfolio, you may prefer to work with experienced models. Experienced models don’t have a need to build their portfolio and so you will need to pay the model for their time and skill. You can use facebook groups or dedicated sites like Model Mayhem to post your photographic briefs. Working with experienced models you are likely to get a higher percentage of quality images than you would if you are working with someone starting in the industry. One additional advantage – paid work results in fewer cases of people arriving late or not arriving at all. This the single best way I know to build a high quality portfolio quickly.


Working with friends and family is one way to build skills and your portfolio

3. Work with friends and family. This is my least preferred option, but I have seen photographers do this successfully. It works well for photographers who are mastering the style of shot they want, who don’t want the additional challenge of working with models they don’t know. This works well if you want to shoot and re-shoot until you get it right. If you’ve never shot a wedding before and want to get into wedding photography, ask friends to be your bride and groom. It is even better if they are actually married and own a wedding dress and suit. If you want to get into family portrait work, ask friends to help you and offer them edited images in return. You get the idea.


Working in different light will build your skills and add diversity to you portfolio

4. Work in different types of light. Whether you choose all or none of the options above, it is important to shoot in different lighting conditions. Light is the basis of good photography and it is important to build your experience and expertise working in different lighting conditions. That means shooting in bright daylight, cloudy conditions, low light, indoor, outdoor, in the studio, and with lights on location. A weak portfolio is likely to have one or two shoots in similar lighting conditions. A strong portfolio is made from a diverse range of shoots in all types of different lighting. Challenge yourself by shooting in different types of light.

If you follow these tips you can quickly build a strong and diverse portfolio which will be the foundation of attracting paying clients. Thanks for reading ‘How to build a portfolio when you have limited experience’.

Featured Photographer Janet Hastings

Today’s featured photographer on Beyond Here is Janet Hastings. Janet lives and works in Melbourne, Australia and operates her business as Janet Hastings Photography. Read on to learn more about Janet, her business, and how she operates.

Janet, tell us about Janet Hastings Photography ….

Janet Hastings Photography was born through the encouragement of my family following the birth of my twin grand daughters. I have always had a camera in hand, and have honed my skills over many year producing stock photography. This had always been a hobby and a way to fund my photography equipment. When my grand daughters arrived, my love affair with newborn photography began. Within a few months I was following this new dream of developing a photography business specializing in newborns, maternity, and baby’s first year. To get my dream off the ground I went back to study to gain qualifications in photography. I never want to stop learning.

I am never happier than when I am creating beautiful memories for new parents of their newborn’s earliest days.


Janet aims to capture the essence of a newborn. Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography.

How do you describe your photographic style?

I love to capture the pure essence of a newborn baby. For me, this means minimal props, with a focus on simplicity. I love to capture real memories of these earliest days – the serenity of a sleeping newborn, the unexpected facial expressions, right down to the tiny squishy lips, little toes, fingers and the tiniest fingernails. I also love to capture the essence of the relationship between new parents and their tiny baby. I know the images I create will become treasured family keepsakes.

While you use minimal props, what are your favorites?

My main props include a large variety of backdrop throws – soft and snuggly blankets in various colors and textures which set the color palette for each part of the newborn shoot. I then select complimentary wraps, bonnets, nappy covers and sometimes a special keepsake that the parents would like included. I have a variety of wicker baskets and tubs that I layer with faux furs and other fabrics to make a snuggly nest for baby. Prior to the session, I discuss with my clients their color preferences and home decor to ensure that the color palette of the blankets and props compliment their style as well as my creativity.

How do you prepare for a new born shoot?

I have a home studio dedicated to newborn photography. It has a large posing pod, backdrops and continuous lighting using soft boxes to soften and diffuse the light. I shoot with a Canon 7D which is ideal for my style of photography. I particularly enjoy using my Sigma Art Series 35mm lens for newborn photography, but will swap around with my other lenses for variety.

Mother and baby

It is important to have a studio environment where parents and baby feel at ease. Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography

It is so important that the parents feel relaxed and at ease during the photoshoot. I have a comfortable couch in my studio where parents can relax and generally feel at home while I photograph their baby. I provide a feeding cushion and privacy during feeding times. I do request that one of the parents assist when I am posing and photographing baby. I will never force a baby into a pose that they don’t seem comfortable with. Every baby is different as some are more flexible than others. Some curl beautifully while others like to stretch their little legs and my role is to work with the differences and still create memorable images. Baby definitely sets the pace and flow of my sessions which can last 3 hours or more.

Newborns have difficulty regulating their body temperature so I always heat the studio. While it can become uncomfortably hot for the adults, baby will be cozy and more likely to drop off to sleep for those beautiful, serene, sleepy images I hope to capture. I also use white noise which helps an unsettled baby to relax and drift off to sleep.

What is your most memorable session?

I have had many memorable moments, both fun and challenging. With newborn photography you need to expect the unexpected. I let parents know that ‘little accidents’ are bound to happen, and when they do we simply clean up and move on. It is just a part and parcel of newborn photography. I remember, during one of my early photo shoots, when a dad ended up with a handful of the ‘unexpected’. He didn’t know what to do for a moment but handled the situation so well. After the clean up we moved on with a very successful session. I’m sure that will be one of the stories that comes to mind when his daughter turns 21!

The challenging moments usually relate to fractious babies – the newborns that love to be cradled in their parents arms and instantly become upset when laid down. The greatest asset during a newborn session is patience and time. I am a naturally patient person which assists greatly when I am working with an unsettled baby. I usually succeed in settling a newborn to sleep during their shoot. I employ techniques I have learned through being a mum and more recently a grand mother. I have often been asked by a new parent if they could take me home after their session! Have you heard of the baby whisperer?

newborn photography

Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography

What are your keys to an efficient work flow?

My work flow commences before I even meet my clients. The first contact is usually by phone or email. I then provide information regarding cost and preparing for a newborn session. I ask my new client to complete a pre-session questionnaire which gives me insight into their style, their home decor and what they are hoping to achieve from their session.

After the session I use Lightroom to rate and short list the images to 30 to 40 of the best images which I present to my clients. I make basic adjustments to these images in Lightroom, and then export to Photoshop where I edit for skin tone, blemishes etc. My aim is to present images that truly reflect baby’s earliest days, so often I will leave flaky skin which is so typical of a newborn. The end result is a dreamy, serene style that parents love.

The parents return for a Portrait Preview Session approximately 3 weeks after the shoot. I use ProSelect software to conduct this session where parents choose the images they wish to use for their end products. That may be framed or block prints, canvases, keepsake albums and image boxes. Often clients will order enlargements or mini albums as gifts for grandparents.

How do you generate new clients?

Word of mouth is the best advertising – a happy client is always willing to refer you. I run a referral program so that the referring client receives a voucher for a future session if someone they refer books and completes a session with me.

The importance of social media cannot be understated. My website showcases my work, generates business and includes my blog (which is linked to social media). My facebook page is also an important aspect of my advertising program. With my clients permission I post one or two preview images on facebook following a shoot which my clients happily share with their facebook friends. I always watermark these images so that my business name is shared as well.

I occasionally offer model calls via my facebook page which are very popular. Participants receive a set number of prints for their time. During these sessions I can be free to work on new concepts and ideas and I use these as my professional development time. Model call sessions often result in further portrait sales and I make sure that my models and their parents enjoy the experience. These assist with word of mouth advertising too.

If you had 3 tips for photographers starting out in new born photography, what would they be?

Never stop learning – become a sponge to soak up all the information you can about your equipment, newborn posing techniques, editing software and marketing.

Don’t be discouraged if obtaining clients is slow at first. Persistence is vital to build your brand and your business. Be prepared for slow times at first, and use these times to develop your skill, learn something new, or develop advertising ideas.

Value yourself and your time. Make sure that you charge appropriately for your services. Take into account your time and talent for the photo shoot and the hours you put into post processing. You also need to cover your costs for website hosting, affiliations, public liability insurance etc. Most importantly, don’t sell yourself short.

What does the future hold for Janet Hastings Photography?

In January 2015 I gained accreditation with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) which has opened up a whole new world of inspiration and opportunities. I plan to continue to grow my business, to be a life long learner and an inspiration in my field of newborn photography.

Thank you Janet for sharing your story and your tips.

To see more of featured photographer Janet Hastings work please visit her website at Janet Hastings Photography.


Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography