05 Aug 2009 Traveling the World with Microstock
Meet Holger Mette. In 2006 he left life as a lawyer in Australia to travel the world. He started shooting travel stock photos and selling them online to help subsidize his travels. Three year’s later he’s still traveling, though he fits in the occasional visit home to see family and friends. Together with some income from Alamy for editorial shots, his microstock income is now enough to fully support his traveling lifestyle.
From his website, Veo el Mundo (Spanish for ‘I see the world’), you can follow his travels and adventures. He also provides photography and travel tips, including shooting at night and (my personal favorite) how to use not-so-western bathroom facilities.
On his website he describes his travel style:
My style of travel can best be described as backpacking. While this term means many things to many people, for me it means low budget, low impact travel, with a backpack. I generally stay in locally owned guesthouses and hostels (as opposed to 5-star resorts), frequently eat local food including street food and prefer to travel over land wherever possible. For me backpacking doesn’t mean that I shun all the comforts of home, that I dispense with basic personal hygiene. It also doesn’t mean that I’m on some extended world wide pub crawl.
I caught up with Holger by email and asked him about his lifestyle, photography and microstock:
How much do you need to budget each month to afford your current lifestyle?
Over the last 2 years I’ve spent about US$1500 per month including airfares and insurance etc. Day to day living costs are often much lower, but you really need to allow for major one-off expenses that come up more often than you expect.
What is the most common reaction when you tell people you fund your travel with your photos?
The two common ones are “I wish I could take good photos” and “I wonder if I could do this too”.
What aspects do you think would deter most people from adopting your lifestyle?
The things I miss most are time with family and close friends, comforts such as familiar food and my own bed. The things that would deter most people is what they’d have to give up in their present lives that wouldn’t fit in with travel – often family responsibilities, mortgages and jobs.
Is Internet access becoming easier to find?
Yes – but its still a problem getting access to internet that is fast enough to efficiently upload large images in many places. The important thing is to have the discipline to work offline and prepare material properly for upload when you do have good connections.
Why no people photos or self-portraits? Don’t you carry model releases?
At the moment I’m sticking to mainly editorial people photos. Although I’ve traveled with model releases in the past, I don’t at the moment (but should!). At some point in the future there will be more people photos, but its not a focus at the moment.
How do you backup your photos when you’re always traveling?
I currently use 2x 320GB portable Hard-disk drives and additionally back everything up onto DVDs.
Aside from your DSLR, what photography equipment do you carry?
A quality tripod, a monopod, wireless flash system and a laptop.
What’s the advantage of microstock over other methods of selling your photos?
The key for me is that microstock provides regular and reasonably predictable income that doesn’t require me to be anywhere at a specific time, and doesn’t really require my active involvement in marketing my images. I also like that microstock makes my images accessible to image buyers that don’t have the resources to use traditional agencies.
How well does Alamy do for you?
I’m fairly new to Alamy and have a rights-managed editorial portfolio there that’s been online since the start of this year. On monthly averages, Alamy currently sits just behind the big 4, but well ahead of the lower income sites. The nice thing is that I get high value sales on images that I like, but often wouldn’t sell on micro-stock. Creatively it allows you to concentrate more on what you want to capture rather than thinking about whether there are visible trademarks or recognisable faces.
How many new photos do you upload in an average month?
I aim to upload about 60-80 photos a month, though am always struggling to manage the backlog of photos waiting to be processed and uploaded.
Was your microstock income enough to support your travel when you started?
No! Its really only been in the last 6-12 months that my monthly microstock income has been enough to cover all travel expenses. Before that the additional income was a big help in subsidising my travel.
Do you use any utilities or services to help manage uploading?
I use Deepmeta for iStockphoto, and Photoshelter Personal Archive for the sites that support FTP uploads – Photoshelter means that I only have to use the local bandwidth once for these sites, and can then FTP to as many other sites as I like even when I’m on a slow connection.
Which locations sell best for you?
Images of popular or Iconic landmarks sells best in terms of overall volume, but travel images from locations that aren’t well covered also forms an important component of my sales.
How much does sales performance influence where you travel and what you visit?
Sales performance isn’t a big factor. I plan my travel around what I want to shoot and when but I try to avoid shooting what I think will sell rather than what I would like to creatively or editorially. My aim with microstock is to give me the freedom to do things that I couldn’t do if I were tied to a normal job, rather than to match or exceed the income I’d earn otherwise.
More About Holger Mette
His portfolio is around 2,000 photos on most microstock agencies where he goes by the username ‘holgs’. You can read more about Holger at his travel and photography website and check out his microstock portfolios: Dreamstime, Fotolia, iStockphoto, Shutterstock, Crestock, BigStockPhoto and editorial photos at Alamy.
What about you? How are you taking advantages of the time and geographical freedom of being a stock photographer?