21 Aug 2008 10 Ways Microstock Coaching Can Increase Your Earnings

Rasmus Rasmussen (thePrint)Meet Rasmus Rasmussen. Yes, that’s his real name. He’s a Diamond level exclusive contributor at iStockphoto where he’s also an inspector. He’s the author of the best book on microstock, Microstock Photographer’s Guide, which is available free via his blog. Yes, he ‘gets’ new media.

Rasmus is considering offering portfolio consultations to microstock contributors. To beta test the concept and proposed format he’s running a competition where three lucky microstockers will win a free consultation. I convinced Rasmus to use me as an alpha tester and we did a consultation last week.

From all that I learned during that session I’ve narrowed down the 10 best ways you can increase your microstock earnings with a coaching session from a proven microstock success like Rasmus.

1. Focus – Find or Refine your Niche

I found my niche during my coaching session. Or rather Rasmus found it for me. It was one of those things that’s obvious once it’s pointed out to you, but you never considered it yourself. I love travel and do a lot of it, so my portfolio has considerable geographical diversity. When Rasmus suggested ‘travel lifestyle’ I knew I would be happy specializing in that niche.

2. Refining your Contributions

I learned how inspectors think and what they look for in a photo. Being an iStockphoto inspector Rasmus was able to lend me their perspective (without revealing trade secrets – unfortunately). iStockphoto inspectors are some of the most selective and often spot obscure brands or blemishes that other agency reviewers miss, so if you can please them you’ll raise your acceptance rates everywhere.

3. Realize Where You Are

Seeing my portfolio through the eyes of another provided many insights. I saw how far I’d progressed when Rasmas compared some of my older images to newer ones. I also found the general feedback – that I had a “pretty good idea about stock” – to help me see I am no longer a beginner. Always focused on finding ways to improve doesn’t give you that perspective, so when it’s shown to you, you feel encouraged.

4. Learn your Strengths

By showing me what makes my best selling photos sell, I learned how to repeat the success. With this knowledge, creating higher selling photos is simply a matter of keeping those things in mind when I’m planning and shooting.

5. You Get Photography Tips

It’s the most basic expectation for a microstock portfolio consultation and Rasmus delivered. He provided specific tips on composition, what to include and exclude from a shot, and how to think from the perspective of a designer. All this came via examples from my own portfolio.

6. Understand How Others Have Achieved Success

By providing stories about himself and other contributors he knew through iStockphoto, Rasmus helped me understand different ways in which other microstockers have achieved their success. It was like ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Microstockers’ – the 5 minute version.

7. Get an Outside Perspective

Along with points 3 and 4 above, an outside observer will see problems and opportunities for improvement that you can’t see yourself. With the knowledge and insights that Rasmus provided I could share his perspective a little, which in addition to feeling a little weird at first, will also help me shape and improve my portfolio as I add more photos.

8. Thinking Strategically

I live from my microstock earnings in part and I write a blog about microstock, so I considered myself to already be quite a strategic thinker on the topic. But Rasmus thinks about a slightly different set of strategies – more about the design, style and the message of the photo – so I picked up these new areas of focus during the session.

9. You Get a Plan

While we didn’t map out any sort of plan during the session, I got all the pieces I need to plan my microstock future. I have a niche, knowledge of my strengths and areas for improvement, ideas on how to shape my portfolio, and extra strategies to think about. I had a distinct shift from convenience shooting to a deliberate and chosen direction.

10. You get Inspired

How can you not? Knowledge and insight helps you improve, so an effective microstock coaching session can only make you a better microstocker. I’m excited about using my new knowledge and shooting in my new niche and inspired about where I can go from here.

How to Maximize the Benefit of a Microstock Coaching Session

Rasmus calls it a consultation, which is exactly what it is, but by approaching it like a coaching session you can participate in directing the session and better customize your results. This means being prepared by knowing what you want to achieve and having specific questions that will produce those outcomes.

Rasmus suggested I send through three full size examples from my portfolio. I chose a person, product and place to provide a range of subjects and picked what I thought were my best images to ensure we’d waste time talking about things I already knew.

As you can see, preparation was a key factor in maximizing the value I received from the session. The hour passed extremely quickly, so my preparation saved a lot of critical time.

Register to Win Your Free Microstock Consultation with Rasmus

After the competition Rasmus will be charging a fee for each consultation, so entering is your chance to get one for free! Entries close at the end of the month, so register via Rasmus’s blog now.

  • Rasmus
    Posted at 18:32h, 21 August Reply

    I’m glad you got something out of it. Thanks for writing such a great review about it, too. 🙂

  • Bruce Robbins
    Posted at 11:48h, 22 August Reply

    Hi Lee,

    I’m interested in what exactly constitutes “travel lifestyle” and wonder if you could possibly expand on it. I love travel photography, too, but from my own limited experience, it’s not the best selling type of photography. At least, I struggle to make many sales, which might not be the same thing! Can you describe what is meant by travel lifestyle? Any illustrations?

    Rasmus could be onto something here with his consultations. It would certainly be great to get an unbiased and knowledgeable opinion on my strengths and weaknesses but I wonder how many sales I’d have to make to cover the cost of the consultation. I’m starting to see many aspects of photography in a similar light: how many pics would I have to sell to cover that trip to Amsterdam, that new lens, a new bit of software, etc. I don’t know whether this is a good sign or a bad one.


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 13:16h, 22 August Reply

      Hi Bruce,

      Good question. I’m in that inquiry myself. What I already know is travel lifestyle is not the same as just travel. Like you, I have a lot of travel images and they’re not among my best selling photos either. I’ll be doing more research, but I imagine travel lifestyle involves photos of people in the context of travel.

      As for the value of the consultation, I think of it in terms of how many extra sales I’ll get from all that I learned and how I improved my photography. And doing this early in your microstock career will multiply the benefits as it drastically shortens your learning time and gets your earnings rising faster. For me, it’s the investment that will give you the greatest return, much bigger than a new lens or new camera.


      • Bruce Robbins
        Posted at 15:58h, 22 August Reply

        My own thinking about travel lifestyle is that it’s pics of indigenous people doing whatever they do in the countries in which we travel. Sort of National Geographic-lite. I’ve often thought that this type of photography would sell better but it doesn’t really fit in with my way of travelling – which is with a partner and four kids! I was in Bulgaria for a week last month and thought about photographing the locals but most don’t speak English and there’s no Bulgarian version of the model release forms…

        • Lee Torrens
          Posted at 17:00h, 22 August Reply

          Ok, I guess the definition will be broad, so I’ll have to figure out which parts (tourists or locals) sell better. All part of the inquiry.

          And good tip on the translated model releases!


  • Rasmus
    Posted at 18:00h, 22 August Reply

    Travel Lifestyle is, to me, the lifestyle of those travelling. Meaning photos that depict travel without being mere snapshots. This includes photos of indigenous people, but also models posing as tourists, hikers, guides etc. The market being travel agencies, tourist organizations, hotels, airlines, travel magazines and similar things.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 19:17h, 22 August Reply

      Thanks Rasmus, that makes a lot of sense and aligns well with my initial perception.

      Actually, the term conjured mental images of traveling to beautiful places with beautiful models as a standard work-day, which must be part of the appeal. Thanks for confirming my dream. 🙂

  • intermayer.com
    Posted at 14:49h, 24 August Reply

    Blick durch den Sucher – 2008-W35…

    Der Blick durch den Sucher – der Wochenrückblick auf die Fotografie-Szene – für Kalenderwoche 35.

    Mein Highlight der Woche: wie Fotografien Menschen verbinden (via Thomas Hawk).
    Fototechnik / Fotografen über die Schulter geschaut: Oliver Schaef spi…

  • Damian P. Gadal
    Posted at 18:04h, 28 August Reply

    Thanks for the well written, and informative article.

  • Soren from Stock Photo News
    Posted at 03:53h, 20 October Reply

    Thanks Lee,

    As a ’traditional stock photographer’ I have learned quite a lot about the mircostock business from the point of view of photographers from the Microstock Photographer’s Guide by Rasmus Rasmussen and know that he is very competent to give us advice on how to go into microstock photography. And your advice about how to make the best out of a personal consultation with Rasmus seems to be very useful.

    Direct and honest reviews of our work with photography should always be used to bring us further, and the microstock business has many similarities with traditional stock photography business but also some special aspects. For example the microstock customers can easily be ‘common people’ with a website that would never consider to pay $100 for a ‘traditional’ stock shot, but might consider buying a small resolution stock photo for one dollar.

    Soren Breiting

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