How would you like to make money —good money— as a photographer? It’s totally doable. Shooting stock photos is our “make more” idea for this episode. Thanks to websites that post people’s photos for sale online, selling stock photos is a way to make some extra, passive income OR transition into photography full-time, like Blake Bronstad.
Blake, you’re a professional photographer now, but you weren’t always. Tell us what you were doing just a few years ago and how photography fit into that.
I was working at a tech start-up for three or four years and photography was a hobby. While I was at that company I started doing more paid photography gigs on the side. I generally got them from friends. But during that time Snapwi.re started up. I knew one guy from Instagram who was involved in the launch and he asked me if I wanted to beta test the service before they released it. I agreed to do so. They are based in Santa Barbara, where I live, so it was easy to do.
For someone like me, not yet a professional photographer, it was a way to find little paid jobs, make a few bucks here and there before I was ready to commit to photography full time. In the beginning I didn’t get paid as much. Maybe $100 here. $75 there. Lifestyle stuff.
For those who don’t know, explain what SnapWi.re is.
Snapwi.re puts dollar amounts on photos based on the credibility of the photographer. You get points, and as I rose through the ranks of the app, my photos became more valuable.
First let’s talk about how you had all sorts of photos already on your hard drive that you uploaded to Snapwire. How did that go?
I had a large amount of photos on my computer with nowhere to put it. —Someone blowing birthday cake candles
—a table of food.
For me I shoot a lot of Southern California summery warm vibe stuff. For a number of years I just shot my friends whenever I was at a birthday party, pool, beach or traveling. Snapwi.re started to get the ball rolling. I sold a few things and realized I made a few hundred bucks with fairly little effort. I realized if I uploaded a bunch of images to the Snapwi.re platform. It created a pool of stock images that I had and then those started getting the attention of buyers.
Snapwi.re would choose the ones they thought were top shelf and put a higher
price on those. They take 50% if it’s a stock image in your portfolio or archive – low compared to other stock services. Existing images I have, I could get up to $500 for one photo.
Snapwire also does something unique, giving customers the ability to
request images they need. How is that good for you and other
If a buyer creates a request with a specific photo need, that request can be open to the public for any photographer on the app or can be a private request. I get to keep between 70% and 80%. I’ve had jobs that pay up to $1000 an image for
specialized requests. If you have the right client it is very easy. The amount of time spent for what it pays generally is easier than other photography work I do.
At this point you started actually shooting photos just for Snapwi.re, right?
And had some pretty funny experiences?
It was pretty funny. At one point I had to put up a Craigslist ad for models and I ended up taking pictures of people I never met in weird settings – like holding up fruit or climbing on each other’s shoulders, doing cartwheels in a yard. I had someone sit on one of those toys in front of a grocery store and that picture sold.
Of course, stock photographers are always asking their friends and family to pose. How does your wife react?
My wife sometimes says…stop taking my picture. When we first started dating she would happily pose, but now I have to prove to her that it is worth it for an important client!
In 2015 you quit the start up job and became a full-time photographer. How does shooting stock photos for Snapwi.re play into that?
It’s not the largest stream of revenue for me but a large motivator. I’m a full time photographer. Snapwi.re is one of many ways I make money. Majority of income is typical photo shoots with brands. But Snapwi.re is what motivated me and pushed me into the professional realm. Gave me some momentum and a confidence boost and a little bit of income that helped me with what I had saved.
Snapwi.re has helped me become savvier. They’ve put me in touch with a couple other photo shoots in town. I’ve done corporate headshots and that’s been very helpful. Snapwi/re elped me jump ship and do what I really wanted to do full time.
How much money has you made on Snapwi.re and what kind of difference has it made in your life?
Probably about $15,000 since I started. My life is a lot better. The 9 to 5 thing is not for me. I don’t drive a Lamborghini and haven’t bought a house yet. But I am very comfortable. Live in nice city. I am married. My schedule is so flexible. Flexibility is invaluable to me. Being able to take dog to beach whenever I want.
Going on trips with friends.
You’ve got advice for aspiring stock photographers. First, you say take
lots of photos everywhere you go. Why?
Over time you realize what sells. Could be your sister or your dog. Scenes on a sailboat with friends. You start picking up what is commercially viable and sure enough these random pictures will start to make money.
I’ve heard stock photos can’t show brand names and you have to get releases from any people or properties in them. How do you handle that?
You only have to worry about legal things if the shot is of recognizable personal property at someone’s house for example. I started carrying around release forms for models and if I get a picture I think will sell, I will ask if they are willing to sign it for me. I offer to throw them a few bucks or a free headshot if it gets bought.
And finally, you point out that there is a possible tax benefit to shooting
Technically you can write off trips if you shoot stock photos on those trips and they get bought. I do it as much as my accountant recommends. I know my deal is sweet so don’t want to push too far but you can do that.
Interested in shooting and selling stock photos like Blake? Snapwi.re is his preferred stock photo site.