As a photographer, the search for new locations is endless. Unless you shoot exclusively in a studio, you’re going to need to spend some time finding photography locations, and you want to use this time wisely.
If you’re a location-based photographer, scouting is vital if you want to find new and fresh photography locations in your hometown. Even if you’re a travel or landscape photographer, researching photography locations is important if you want to be prepared and make the most of the places that you’ll be travelling to.
This is the first of a two-part series on researching and planning your photoshoots. This guide will show you some tools and techniques for finding photography locations. Part Two will show you how to plan your next photoshoot in detail.
How To Find Photography Locations
The first thing you’ll need is a rough idea of where you want your photography location to be. It might be as big as a country or as small as a beach or suburb. The larger the area, the more potential locations you can find.
Once you have an idea of where you’re looking, the search is on. If you use a combination of resources and tools, you’ll have more success in finding good locations. Each of the following photography location apps and websites have their pros and cons. You’ll need to experiment and find what works for you.
The first is probably the place you’re already getting your inspiration. You’re likely using social media to find photography locations, but using it effectively takes some thought.
Love it or hate it, Instagram is one of the best places to find great photography locations. The photo-sharing app has a few features that make researching locations easy.
The ability to geo-tag photos makes finding great locations super simple. Punch the name of the place you’re researching into the search bar and you’ll see a bunch of photos that have been geo-tagged with that location.
Hashtags can also be useful, if you can find the right ones. You could search for #NewZealand, but you’ll have more success if you use location-specific hashtags like #NZMustDo.
Another way to use Instagram to find photography locations is to look at location-based accounts. These will often be tourism or crowdsourced accounts that re-share some of the best photos from the area.
These techniques do have their flaws, but if you take some time to sift through the crap, you’ll usually find something that has potential. When you find a photo that you think has potential as a photography location, save it for later. We’ll take a look at what to do with them in Part Two.
Pinterest is an invaluable resource for finding photography locations. As a social bookmarking website, Pinterest allows you to research locations and bookmark them for later.
Where Pinterest is useful for photographers is in finding location guides that have been shared there. Users don’t pin photos in the same way they do on Instagram. They pin links to websites and blogs, meaning that instead of each pin showing you one location, they can show you a bunch of them.
Pinterest is a search engine, so search for boards or pins with the place you’re searching for and you’ll be shown a ton of relevant pins. Make sure you’re search is specific. Searching for “New Zealand” isn’t going to help you much. Try something like “New Zealand photography locations” or “Pacific Coast Highway”.
As with Instagram, most of the results won’t be any use, but if you spend some time sifting through it, you’ll find some gold. When you do, Pinterest makes it easy to save them. Just create a new board for that location and re-pin them there. You can make the board public or private. Remember to add detailed descriptions so you can find them later.
Photo Sharing Websites
If sifting through the wealth of half-naked selfies on Instagram or the vegan brownie recipes of Pinterest are too much for you to bear, try going where the photographers are. Photo-sharing websites like Flickr and 500px have been some of the best resources for finding photography locations for years.
They’ve both had their ups and downs, but Flickr and 500px have always been havens for people who love photography. They’re mostly selfie and vegan brownie free. These websites have large communities of photographers who love to share not just their photos, but their knowledge.
There are a couple of ways to use these sites. Searching for images with the place name you’re looking for will show you images that have the name in their description or tags.
You can also search for location-based communities. This can be a great way to network with other photographers who live there or have spent time there. You can often find photography locations by asking a question in these communities. You’ll be surprised how helpful people can be. You might even find a buddy to show you around.
You can save images you find using the save feature, but I prefer to pin them to the board in Pinterest that I’ve created for the location. It keeps all the photography locations I’ve found in the same place, which makes finding them easier.
If you’re not familiar with the location you’re researching, there is always a photographer who is. You don’t need to know them or even contact them. You can find photography locations purely by searching for local photographers in the area and checking out their work.
A quick Google search for “New Zealand landscape photographer”, or something similar, will likely give you a bunch of results. Spend some time looking through their portfolios and social media accounts and you’re bound to get a few ideas.
Keep in mind that many photographers won’t share their photography locations. This is usually because they don’t want to see another beautiful location trashed by Insta-hordes. This should always be respected.
If there’s one tool I use more than any other to find photography locations it’s Google Earth. You’ll be amazed what you can find by just looking at satellite images. Even in popular locations, there will always be spots that are relatively unknown because they’re not visible from roads or trails. Google Earth helps you find these.
When you’re trying to find photography locations using Google Maps, it’s worth zooming in and spending some time looking for spots that would be easily missed when looking at the larger area. When you find something that has potential, save it and move on. You can come back to it later.
If you’re looking for landscape photography locations, there are a couple of tricks to help you see the contours of the area. Firstly, viewing the landscape from a birds-eye view will never show you the shape of the earth. You need to enter 3D mode in Google Earth, which will allow you to move around and zoom in and out to see the landscape as it appears in real life.
The other thing I often do is enter Terrain Mode in Google Maps. This changes the map from a satellite view to a topographical view, making it far easier to see the shape of the landscape. It makes it easier to find mountains, valleys, gorges, cliffs, etc. I’ve found countless photography locations this way that I would have completely missed using Google Earth.
You can’t search for anything online without going to the search giant, Google. There are a couple of ways that Google is useful for finding photography locations.
The first, and most obvious, is Google Image Search. Plug in the name of the area you’re searching in and see what it comes back with. Depending on the location, you’ll often find you need to get more specific with your search phrases. Something as simple as “New York photography” will give you more useful results than just “New York”.
You’ll also get some useful results by doing a regular web search for phrases like “Noosa photography locations” or “Queensland road trip”, just like I mentioned with Pinterest search. These results will often tell you about popular locations that you’re already aware of, but they’ll often have some surprises.
Don’t Be That Guy
It’s worth mentioning at this point that you always need to be careful about copying other photographers’ work. There are very few places left on earth that haven’t been photographed, and there’s nothing wrong with getting that cliché shot at a popular location.
What I’m referring to is taking someone else’s image and trying to replicate it. This article is written to show you how to use the resources available to research and get inspired, not steal other people’s photos.
Collecting Your Locations
When you’ve found some potential photography locations, you’ll need to save them somewhere. As I’ve mentioned, one of the ways I do this is to create a board in Pinterest with photos and links for ideas and inspiration. This is a great starting point, but I usually want something more detailed also.
Yes another Google product. My Maps allows you to create maps with layers in which you can save locations or trips. I’ll create a map for a trip I’m planning, or photography locations in an area that I live or plan to visit at some stage in the future.
I create a layer called “photography locations”, and then add any location I can find into that layer. The advantage of My Maps is that it gives you a visual layout of the locations you’ve saved that you may want to visit. This helps a lot when you’re on a road trip and want to plan your route, and even where you stay.
One of my favourite features is that you can share your maps with others you’re travelling with, who can also contribute to them. You can even embed them if you have your own photography blog.
Researching and finding photography locations is vital, whether you’re travelling somewhere new or in your hometown. It’s good to get into the habit of always staying on the lookout for new spots and having an idea of the locations you want to photograph. What do you do once you have a list of potential locations, though?
Part Two of this series will discuss how to take the photography locations that you’ve found and plan your photos. Whether you’re planning a landscape, cityscape, astro, or portrait shoot, planning your photography can make the difference between success and failure. Subscribe below if you don’t want to miss Part 2.
Having an online presence is essential for photographers. Whether you’re a hobbyist wanting to show off your photos, or a professional wanting to make money by selling your photography services, being found online isn’t optional. If you’re in it for the long-term, you need to start a photography blog.
There are many way to share your photography online, such as social media, photo-sharing sites, and portfolio websites. They all have their pros and cons, and it’s a good idea to take advantage of multiple platforms. None of them will give you the benefits of your own blog, though. You may not think blogging is for you. I didn’t either, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for my photography.
Why You Should Start A Photography Blog
There are many benefits to having your own blog that you’ll never get from other services. These are just a few of them:It’s yours forever. You’ll be building your own platform that will always be there.
- You can do it your way. You can make it what you want it to be without the rules, features, or costs changing.
- You’ll be more visible. If Instagram makes you feel like a drop in the bucket, it’s because you are. Google loves blogs, so you’re more likely to be found be people searching for what you’re sharing.
- Your blog can double as your portfolio. You don’t need to have separate blog and portfolio sites if you want to keep them in the same place.
- It grows over time. The authority and visibility of your blog increases the longer you add to it.
Free vs Paid
So, you’ve decided to start a photography blog. The first question to ask yourself is whether to go the free option or the paid option. While it’s tempting to take the free option, I would encourage you to consider a paid blog.
Free blog services are easier to set up and maintain, but have a few limitations. You can only have a choice of a few themes, meaning you don’t have anywhere near the same level of customisation options. You can’t use your own domain, so you’ll always be renting on someone else’s land. You also don’t have the option to monetise your photography blog if that’s something you might want to do now or in the future.
A paid blog is the better option, and much more affordable than you might think. You have almost unlimited theme and customisation options. You can use the one site for your blog, portfolio, and store. You can add plugins, which allow you to add many other features and connect other services. You can even connect it to other photography portfolio websites like SmugMug.
The biggest advantage of going the paid blog route is longevity. If you see a blog as an investment in the future of your photography, you want something that allows you the freedom to grow and change the way you want. When you start a photography blog right, it’s a powerful foundation to build your online presence over time.
5 Steps To Start A Photography Blog
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to start a photography blog. Once you’ve made a couple of important decisions, you can have it set up and installed in a few minutes. Making it look and feel the way you want takes a bit longer, but that’s the fun part that never ends. I’m still tweaking and changing mine years later.
1. Choose Your Blog’s Domain
This is the biggest decision. Think of your domain as the home address of your blog, which is yours forever. It could be your own name, the name of your business, or even what kind of services you offer. The domain extension is also worth considering. You could use something generic like .com, but you may also want to consider a location-specific extension like .co.uk.
There’s no right or wrong, but I would suggest keeping it as simple as possible. Again, you need to think long-term. Something like www.londonweddingphotography.co.uk may be fine for now, but what happens if you stop shooting weddings or move to a new location? That domain is now useless to you.
For my blog, I opted for a domain that I will always be relevant no matter what I’m blogging about or where I’m based – www.rowansims.com. I’ll always be Rowan Sims and the .com isn’t location-specific. I considered using .co.nz, but I’m glad I didn’t as I’m not currently based in New Zealand. As a travel photographer, the .com works well.
Once you’ve decided on a domain and checked that it’s available, you’ll want to make sure there aren’t any existing websites using something too similar. It could lead to legal problems further down the track that you don’t want to deal with.
2. Set Up Hosting for Your Blog
The second big decision you’ll need to make is where to host your site. A host is a company that keeps your website’s data on its servers and shares them with the internet. Hosting isn’t expensive, but you want to know that they’re reliable.
I’ve used a few different hosts and would only recommend one. SiteGround is rock-solid, affordable, and has the best customer service I’ve experienced. You can register your domain and set up hosting in one place for $3.95/month. It couldn’t be easier.
3. Install WordPress
If you want to start a photography blog on the right foot, you’re going to want to use WordPress. There are other options, but they don’t even come close. Around 30% of the websites on the internet use WordPress, so it’s solid.
If you use Siteground or similar hosting services, you can install WordPress directly when you set up your domain and hosting. It’s a simple process that just takes a few clicks. This is standard these days, so if the host you’re considering doesn’t offer this service, I would seriously consider if they’re the right one for you.
4. Choose A Theme for Your Blog
Finding a theme that you like and includes the features you want takes some time. It’s not hard to find a theme that looks great, but it’s vital that it’s well built. There are a lot of themes available that are built for aesthetics first and function second. This may not be apparent until you find that your blog is constantly breaking, things don’t work properly, or worse – Google is penalising you.
There are WordPress developers that have a reputation for building solid themes that work well and look great. I’ve used a few over the years, and the best I’ve come across are Elegant Themes and StudioPress. They both have a range of themes available, some specifically built for photography blogs, and they’re both great options. The current design of this blog uses Elegant Themes.
When choosing a theme, you also need to consider how much work will be involved in making it look the way you want. Some themes work straight out of the box and only require you to add your info and photos. Others need a larger investment of time and effort to make your own. Deciding what’s right for you will depend on how much time and knowledge you have.
When you’ve chosen and downloaded your blog theme, you’ll need to install it. It’s easy with WordPress. In your dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes, then click Add New. In the next screen, click Upload Theme, then you’ll need to upload the theme file that you’ve downloaded. After WordPress has installed the theme, simply click Activate, and you’re done.
5. Customise The Look and Feel of Your Blog
This is the fun part. You can start adding your own photos, logo, profile information, and social links. If you want to dig deep, you can play around with colours, fonts, and layouts if your theme allows. I wouldn’t recommend playing around with the theme code unless you know what you’re doing.
There are millions of plugins that you can install that will add just about any feature you can imagine. Plugins allow you to integrate services or add features that aren’t included with your blog theme.
Some plugins add a visual feature, like the social follow widget in my sidebar, which uses a plugin called Monarch by Elegant Themes. Others work behind the scenes, like Yoast, which helps your blog get found by search engines.
If you want to offer sales through your site, you can use a powerful plugin called WooCommerce. It allows you to sell physical products, such as prints, or virtual products, such as stock photography or eBooks. It’s a great, free alternative to paid sales services.
If you want to show off your portfolio on the same domain as your blog, there are a few ways to do it. If your theme doesn’t include the feature, you can add it with one of many portfolio gallery plugins. If you would prefer to host your portfolio and sell prints through a separate service like I have, you can link them directly. Services like SmugMug and PhotoShelter allow you to use your own domain, so you can have your blog at yourname.com and your portfolio at portfolio.yourname.com.
You’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to customising your blog. If there’s something you don’t know how to do, there’s a wealth of information online to help you do it, and there’s always the option of paying a professional developer to make things look and work the way you want.
Share Your Photography With The World
You didn’t think you could start a photography blog without sharing anything did you? What you choose to share and how often you do it are entirely up to you, and that will change over time. You could start by sharing your photos and telling the stories behind them. Write about the process of planning, creating, and editing them.
Remember that even though it’s a photography blog, what you write is as important as the photos. If you want to be found by people and search engines, you need text to draw them to you. Write about what you love and then share it will whoever will listen.
A blog can be incredibly powerful, but it takes time and effort. Try to post regularly, even if it’s once a month to start with. Don’t expect too much overnight, it’s a long game. Writing is a skill as much as photography. The only way to get better is to do it.
Don’t forget – it’s supposed to be fun, so enjoy it.
One of the best ways to add interest and variety to your landscape photos is to include water in the scene. Although I love to photograph seascapes, sometimes there’s no coastline nearby, or I’m looking for calmer waters. Lake photography is a great way to add water to your landscapes that gives a very different feel to seascape photography.
There are many different approaches to photographing lakes. You can make them the focus and main subject of your photos, or include them as part of a larger scene. Try these tips for better lake photography. (more…)
There’s something about the ocean and the beach that has always been a magnet for landscape photographers. The meeting of land and sea is one of mother nature’s most attractive features, and can make for some incredible photo opportunities. Seascape photography has always been one of my favourite subjects, and I’m going to show you a how to create more dramatic seascapes.
One of the unique characteristics that make seascapes so attractive is that you have a moving body of water crashing up against un-moving earth. The meeting is ever changing, and no two moments in time appear that same. When you can capture water crashing up against the earth, and flowing back off it, you can convey drama that’s difficult to capture in other landscape scenes.
If no two moments in time are the same, how do you capture as much drama as possible in your seascape photography? You take multiple exposures of the same scene and blend them using a simple technique called exposure stacking. Have you heard of focus stacking? It uses a similar technique, but instead of each exposure having a different focus point, each one captures a different moment in time.
Gear For Seascape Photography
You don’t need any special gear to exposure stack for seascape photography. There are a few must-haves and a couple of nice-to-haves, though.
1. Camera. It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you use. DSLR, mirrorless, medium-format. It just needs to be digital.
2. Tripod. There are plenty of times that I shoot handheld, but this isn’t one of them. You’re going to be photographing these seascapes at shutter speeds that need a tripod to remain sharp. You also will be capturing many exposures without moving the camera. If you enjoy seascape photography, a solid, lightweight tripod is a necessary investment.
3. Microfiber lens cloth. Your lens is likely going to be getting at least a few splashes on it, probably a lot more. I like using alcohol lens wipes because they get the salt water off better than a regular lens cloth, and they’re cheap as chips.
4. Remote shutter release. This isn’t essential, but it’s nice to have. Being able to open the shutter at exactly the right moment without touching the camera will make this technique easier and keep your images sharper, but you can make do without it.
5. Circular polarizing (CP) filter. Again, not a necessity, but a CP filter will help cut reflections on the water and wet rocks. This is another item that I would recommend investing in. CP filters help to capture better colour in your landscape and seascape photography. I love the filter kit from NiSi, which includes a fantastic CP filter.
6. Neutral density (ND) filters. Whether you need ND filters will depend on how much light there is and how long you want your exposures to be.
7. Photoshop. It doesn’t need to be Photoshop, but you need to have some kind of post-processing software that allows you to blend exposures together.
With this type of seascape photo you want to find a scene where the waves are crashing against or over a solid surface that won’t move. Rocks or cliffs are prefect. A sandy beach won’t work so well because the sand will move with the waves.
Once you’ve found a good location, you need to make sure you go when the tide is at the right height. There’s no optimal tide height. Each location will be different. High tide will work for some, low tide will work for others. Most will be somewhere in-between.
Try to time your seascape photography so that the best tide coincides with great light around sunrise or sunset. This will give you the best light and waves for your seascapes. I use the PhotoPills app to plan for sunrise/sunset and a tides app like Tides Near Me.
Shooting Seascape Photos
First up, the sea crashing against rocks can make for some very dramatic seascape photography, but isn’t ideal if your body gets between them. Many a photographer has died because they underestimated the ocean and waves. No photo is worth your life. Make your safety your number one priority.
When you get to your location, find a spot where the waves are crashing onto and flowing off the rocks in various places. This technique works by combining exposures in different parts of the scene, so the more points of interest in your shot the better.
The usual rules of landscape composition still apply to seascapes. Try to frame a balanced scene with rocks, sea, and sky. The interest is going to be in the waves hitting the rocks, so make that part of the scene at least half, preferably two-thirds of the frame.
Once you’re happy with your composition, make sure your tripod is locked down tight so it’s rock-solid. You want to time your exposures so they capture the movement of the water as it flows onto and off the rocks. This is where a remote shutter release comes in handy as you can time each exposure perfectly without camera movement caused by your hands.
The shutter speed you choose will have the biggest effect on the look and feel of your seascapes. It will take a bit of experimentation, but I find that shutter speeds between 0.5 and 1 second are ideal for this technique. It will capture the movement of the water without creating the soft, foggy long exposure effect.
If you’re shooting at either end of the day in low light, you can often get away without ND filters, but in daylight you’ll need a 3 or 6-stop ND filter. Anything more than that, such as a 10-stop ND will probably be too dark and your shutter speed will end up being too long.
I often come home from shooting seascapes like this with over a hundred exposures. You can’t take too many. When it comes time to blend the exposures in Photoshop, the more you have to choose from, the better. As you’re shooting, watch each part of the scene and try to make sure you’re capturing interesting water movement everywhere.
Exposure Stacking Seascapes
When you’ve imported your images to your computer, you need to spend a bit of time going through them all and selecting the best. Using Lightroom, I go through each image one-by-one and flag (P) the ones that have captured the movement of the water well. There will be many that are very similar. That’s ok, flag them anyway.
Once you’ve flagged all the usable images, filter them based on flag status in the Filter Bar (\), then select each image that has similar water movement in the same part of the scene. Take these images into the Compare view (C) and find the best of them by removing the ones you like least.
Do this with each group of similar images until you only have a few that have captured the best water movement in each part of the scene. It could be anywhere from 2-10 images. Any more than that and you’re making unnecessary work for yourself in Photoshop. For this example I ended up with six images.
With your favourites selected, go into the Develop Module (D) and do a basic edit of one of the images. All I do at this stage is colour and exposure correction. With that done, sync your edits to each of your selected exposures by clicking the ‘Sync…’ button below the right-hand panel.
Now comes the fun part. Making sure each image is still selected, open them all in Photoshop by right-clicking on one of them and clicking ‘Edit In > Open as layers in Photoshop’. As expected, Photoshop will open each image as a separate layer in one document.
I could walk you through how to blend your exposures together into one epic seascape photo, but this video explains it far better than I could.
Once you’ve finished blending and have an image that you’re happy with, you can do your final edits. I like to use a combination of Photoshop and Lightroom for this, but it’s up to you how you like to process your photos. I definitely recommend using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop to add some punch and pull the viewer through your image.
That’s it. This process takes a bit of work, but it’s a lot of fun. If you’re near the coast, you should give it a try. The more you do it, the easier and quicker it becomes.
Making money from photography isn’t easy. If anything, it’s getting more difficult. As the supply increases, prices drop, meaning photographers have to keep diversifying to keep earning money. Whether photography accounts for 100% of your income or you want to make a little cash on the side to support your habit, you should consider stock photography.
The market for stock photography is massive, so whatever your niche, there’s likely a demand for it. As long as your photography is of a high quality it will likely be accepted into stock libraries. As trends change in marketing, so does the demand for certain genres and styles, but it isn’t hard to stay on top of what’s selling well. There will also be certain categories that will always sell well, such as travel photography.
Is Selling Stock Right For You?
Stock isn’t right for every photographer. You need to weigh up the pros and cons, and test the waters a little first. It’s easy, passive income that you can spend a little time updating and watch the dollars roll in. Don’t quit your job just yet, though. Royalties can be pretty poor (as low as 25c per sale). It takes quite a bit of time to build up a library large enough to start seeing payments coming in. You also need to remember that you need written consent from any recognizable person in your photos.
The Best Stock Photo Sites
I’ve been uploading and selling my photography through stock libraries for a few years now. I haven’t always been consistent, so I’ve sometimes had to spend a lot of time adding photos from quite a few months back. I haven’t made a lot of money this way, but it’s been a nice passive income in the background. I’ve used many different agencies over the years, most of which I’ve given up on. I’ve tested more than a dozen, but now these are the five I consider to be the best stock photo sites for selling your photography.
The big one. Shutterstock dominates the stock marketplace, and for good reason. It has a monstrous library of stock images and video. Most of the photographers I’ve spoken to who sell stock will tell you that Shutterstock is consistently their best seller. It definitely has been for me, although that’s changed in the last six months.
Shutterstock’s contributor tools are easy to use, and I’ve always had a great acceptance rate. Although royalties are often as low as 25c, the sheer volume of image buyers is so big that it’s still worth using in my opinion. Many 25c sales add up to many dollars. Shutterstock made up 24% of my stock photography earnings in the first half of this year.
Adobe Stock is a relatively new player, having bought out one of the previous big boys, Fotolia. I’ve been using Adobe Stock for close to a year, and so far I’m pretty impressed. They have a unique corner of the market given that a significant proportion of visual creatives use Adobe software. Adobe has capitalized on this brilliantly by allowing images to be sold and bought from right within their applications.
Earning are in a similar ballpark to Shutterstock, but again, its strength is in their numbers. The Adobe Stock userface is simple to use, and I love being able to upload directly from Lightroom. My image acceptance rate is almost 100%, which is pretty awesome. Adobe Stock made up 11% of my stock photography earnings for the first half of this year.
While most stock agencies are technically “microstock”, Alamy is one of the traditional agencies. It’s been around for a long time, right back to the days before you could buy stock online. Alamy seems to have much higher standards, making it harder to get accepted as a contributor and build up a decent archive.
It’s worth the effort, though. Royalties are much higher than the microstock agencies. My earnings from sales on Alamy are sometimes over $50 per sale. The platform isn’t as user-friendly as some of the other agencies, but could be worse. Alamy made up 53% of my stock photography earnings in the first half of this year.
iStock was one of the first stock agencies that I signed up with, and has continued to offer a great service. They’ve since combined with Getty, which is one of the traditional stock agencies, much like Alamy. This seems to have worked out well, as any images submitted through their awesome submission tool are potentially available to licence on either library. Exactly how they decide where to put images I’m not sure, but my sales have certainly increased as a result.
Earnings from iStock fluctuate quite a bit, but that seems to be a common issue for many contributors. Still, iStock made up 10% of my stock photography earnings in the first half of this year, so I’m happy to keep offering my images through the service.
A lot of photographers have had great results from Dreamstime, but my earnings have dropped off significantly in recent months. Certain images seem to do well, but nowhere near as well as my other stock libraries. Dreamstime’s submission tool is also painful to use. It’s slow and requires a lot of unnecessary repetition. It’s seriously in need of an update.
This may be one you want to experiment with, but I will likely be jumping ship if things continue as they have recently. Dreamstime only accounted for 1% of my stock photography earnings in the first half of this year.
The Changing World of Stock
As the industry continues to change, so will the stock agencies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means you need to keep on top of those changes and experiment with what’s working and what isn’t.
Although not an in-depth comparison, these are the stock agencies that I use and recommend. I will continue to experiment with what works and keep this article updated regularly, so check back from time to time. I’m currently testing out one of the newer stock agencies to see if it lives up to the hype. I’ll keep you posted on that one.
One of the many challenges for photographers is keeping up with social media. If you’re anything like me, your relationship with social media is bittersweet.
It can be incredibly rewarding and provides a fantastic opportunity to promote your photography while being inspired by others. At the same time, it can be a huge time-waster, can make you feel inadequate, and can even become something of an obsession.
So, if you’re going to share your photography to social networks, which ones will give the most return on your time and energy? After years of experimenting with various social networks, I’ve found that Pinterest is the most underrated platform for photographers.
I’m going to show you what I’ve found from my own experience as well as how to use Pinterest for your photography business.
What Makes Pinterest Different?
The first thing that helped me to make the most of Pinterest was changing the way I think of it. Pinterest is actually not a social network. It’s a social bookmarking site. There’s a difference.
People don’t generally use it to follow their friends and contacts the way they do on Facebook. People don’t share photos of their kids or cat videos. People use Pinterest to find inspiration, to learn new things, plan events, and to buy.
You probably think of Pinterest being for women, and on the one hand you’d be correct. Pinterest is a dark, mysterious world of fashion, crafts, recipes, and home decor. It’s a scary place for men like me.
On the other hand, with over 200 million active monthly users, there are plenty of men on the platform, and they’re growing. As a photographer, the gender of my audience means little. The world of photography is, for the most part, blissfully gender neutral, and I love it that way.
So what does matter to a photographer? Reach. I want to know that my efforts to network and share my work will get in front of eyeballs. I haven’t found a platform that allows me to do it anywhere near as effectively as Pinterest.
Instagram can be hugely powerful, but you need to have a significant following to see the benefits, which takes time. With Pinterest, however, you can see results almost overnight.
When you share to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the life of your post is crazy short. It will show up in feeds for hours or days (seven minutes on Twitter). Pinterest is the opposite. It takes 3.5 months to get 50% of a pin’s engagement. That means it’s good for at least seven months! Pinterest has been designed for longevity, so your hard work has a cumulative effect. I still see some of my pins from a few years ago repinned occasionally.
Another feature that makes Pinterest unique is search. It’s basically a massive search engine, which presents massive potential for photographers to promote their work. With the ability to add titles, descriptions, and hashtags, you can make your pins far more searchable than with other platforms.
Almost half of Pinterest users will turn to Pinterest before Google to find what they’re looking for. You may think that’s only useful if you have a product to sell, but think again. Couples are searching for wedding photographers. Travelers are searching for locations for their next Instagram selfie. Parents are searching for someone to photograph their children. Foodies are searching for photos of dishes from new restaurants. Photographers are searching for inspiration and photography tutorials.
Pinterest is a visual platform. What photographer wouldn’t love a website that wants to share your photos in all their glory to anyone who want to see them? You can share your photos to various boards based on genre, style, subject, location, event, whatever you want. As a travel photographer, my boards are mainly based on location.
The big limitation of Pinterest for photographers is the vertical pin. I don’t know many photographers who shoot all their photos vertically. I love to photograph wide landscapes, especially panoramas. I do get a little frustrated at times knowing that those photos won’t look so good on Pinterest, but I have to remind myself that my photography is first and foremost for myself.
I do love to shoot vertical too, though, and Pinterest has encouraged me to do it more, so I’m grateful for that. I have to admit, I’ve learned to love the look of the Pinterest feed with it’s vertical images, so I’ve gotten over it.
If you have a blog (and you should), this is where Pinterest shines. Remember what I was saying about search? Imagine a search engine that takes your beautiful photos with links to your website and spreads them far and wide for thousands of people to click. No throttling of your reach to make you pay to promote your content. No sharing to less then 10% of your audience. Just free, organic reach. Pinterest drives about 5% of the internet’s referral traffic.
I’ve been using the platform for a few years, but more as a personal pin-board than a tool to promote my photography. Since I decided to give Pinterest some serious consideration a couple of months ago, I’ve been blown away by how much traffic is possible in a relatively short time.
It took a fair bit of work to make the necessary changes. Switching to a business account. Changing personal boards to secret boards. Archiving others that I had no use for anymore. Updating all my profile information. I hadn’t realized what it would entail, but it was worth it.
Since I started taking Pinterest seriously I’ve seen my average monthly viewers steadily climb from around 1k to 300k. Many of my pins have received hundreds of repins. The best part is that all those eyeballs are being converted into real engagement. I’ve gone from getting virtually no referral traffic from Pinterest to getting on average 60 clicks per day. In only two months Pinterest has become my largest source of social referrals.
The most incredible thing is that all this is with very few followers. Pinterest is so good at feeding my content to the right users that having a tiny audience doesn’t matter. I have almost ten times as many followers on my Facebook page, yet my organic reach is so pitiful that I’m lucky if 1% of my followers actually click through to my blog. This is becoming a very common complaint.
In case I haven’t made it clear, using Pinterest has huge potential for your photography. No matter your genre or specialty, whether you have a photography blog or not, Pinterest wants to share whatever you’re creating. You can’t use Pinterest they same way the average user does, though. You also can’t use it the same way you use other platforms. It takes a unique approach.
How To Use Pinterest For Your Photography
Your Pinterest Profile
The first thing you need to do is switch your personal account to a business account. There are many benefits to doing this, the main one being access to Pinterest’s rich analytics. There are zero reasons not to. It’s free. Go do it now.
You then need to spend a bit of time working on your profile. Make sure your profile picture sends the right message about you and your photography. A photo of you or your logo is great. Not your baby or your cat.
Your profile name and description are also very important. When Pinterest analyzes the pins you share, it doesn’t only look at the pin’s description. It also looks at the name and description of the board it was pinned to and the profile it was shared by. Your profile name and description should tell Pinterest as much as possible about who you are and what kind of content you’ll be sharing.
My Pinterest profile makes it very clear who I am and what you can expect me to pin.
Boards are Pinterest’s most unique feature. They give you the ability to divide your pins up by various subjects and niches. This means your followers can decide which of your boards to follow. They don’t have to choose between following all your content or none of it like other platforms.
Where boards shine for photographers is the way you can divide them up based on what you photograph. For a wedding photographer, this could be separate boards for each element of a wedding, such as engagement sessions, dress, rings, ceremony, reception, etc. Portrait photographers might create separate boards for headshots, families, children, studio, location, etc. You get the idea. I wouldn’t create boards for individual shoots because people have no reason to follow that board once you’re done pinning to it.
I base my boards around travel destinations and photography tips and tutorials. I have one board that I pin my tutorial articles to and nothing else. This board has the highest engagement of all my boards as I only pin quality content there. My location-based travel and photography boards are based on a specific country, like “New Zealand Travel and Photography”. I pin my own photos and articles to these boards as well as re-pinning other people’s pins.
You’ll need to spend a little bit of time thinking about how to set up your boards based on your photography specialty. Take a look around at a few other photographers in your niche for ideas. Remove any personal or off-topic boards by making them secret or archiving them. They’ll attract the wrong type of pinner and will confuse Pinterest about what you pin about.
Pinterest feeds your pins to your followers first to measure how engaging they are before feeding them to other pinners. If your pins are being shown to people who followed you for your DIY or recipe pins, they’re unlikely to engage with your photography pins.
You want to tell Pinterest as much about your boards as possible. Give each board specific names with great, keyword-rich descriptions. Pinterest looks at the context of each pin (board name/description, profile name/description) to figure out what that pin is about, so make it clear. Also don’t forget to categorize each board.
The verdict is still out on the value of group boards. Every pinner you talk to will tell you something different. Some say they’re invaluable, some say they can harm your profile. I’m not an expert on the matter, so I can only speak from my own experience. Group boards have been hugely helpful for me in gaining traffic and new followers. Some of my most engaging pins have been on group boards.
The one thing that most experts seem to agree on is that if you’re going to use group boards, make sure it’s the right ones. You want to find boards specific to your niche. Avoid “pin anything” group boards. They don’t help anyone. Also be careful of boards that have a huge volume of pinners because your pins will become diluted and they are often poorly moderated.
Once you’ve found some group boards that relate to your niche, take a look at what’s being shared and make sure it’s good quality. Then contact the board owner and ask them to add you. Many group boards will have instructions for doing this in the description. If not, find the owner (their profile name is in the board’s URL), and send them a message or an email with your profile URL and ask for an invite. Don’t be offended if you don’t hear back. Decent group boards get a lot of requests to join.
When you’ve been added to a group board, start adding your best relevant pins. Don’t be spammy as this will likely get you kicked out. The board description will often have rules. Make sure you respect them. Pin to group boards regularly and share pins that other people have added. Group boards work best when everyone shares the love.
Don’t assume that a group board is working for you. You need to be analyzing each of your boards to see if they’re helping or hurting your efforts on Pinterest. Sometimes it will be obvious, as your pins will be re-pinned like crazy. Other times it will be more difficult to know.
Pins can come in many forms. Text quotes, product images, infographics, GIFs, videos, and of course, photos. What you choose to pin is up to you, but if you’re using Pinterest for your photography, you’re going to want to share your photos in one form or another.
If you’re only sharing photos, great. Make sure they’re your best work. Pinterest is your portfolio, so show what you can do. Vertical pins work best, but you can still share horizontal pins if you want. Pinterest recommends dimensions of 600×900. Taller pins up to 600×1260 will still work, but anything longer like the “Giraffe Pins” that used to be crazy popular, will be cropped. Pinterest has even suggested that really tall pins may not be shown as much as shorter ones.
Text overlays work really well on Pinterest as long as they add something to the image. This works best if the pin is linking to an article on your blog. Less is more when adding text. Make it short and sweet, just enough to grab the viewer’s attention and make them want to know more. Add a watermark if you want, but keep it subtle.
You can create beautiful designs with free services like Canva. You don’t need to be a designer, you only need a little creativity. I’ve created templates in Photoshop that speed up the process of creating pins and allow me to keep a consistent theme.
As a search engine, Pinterest needs as much information about your pins as possible. If you write great pin descriptions that include relevant keywords and search terms, they’ll be more likely to show up in search results. Hashtags haven’t been a big part of Pinterest in the past, but that’s changing, so add a few relevant ones to each pin.
Finally, make sure every one of your pins links to your website. Even if you’re not pinning a specific blog post, each pin is an opportunity for pinners to click through to your site, so link to a relevant page or your homepage.
If there’s one tool that has helped me to realize the potential of Pinterest, it’s Tailwind. As one of the only approved scheduling tools for Pinterest, Tailwind has created something that can make a massive difference to pinners wanting to grow their following and traffic.
Tailwind’s main feature is scheduling pins. Pinterest has told us that pinning regularly is important for growth, but unless you’re using Pinterest all day every day, it’s hard to do. If you pin dozens of pins together every few days most of them won’t be seen, as that would annoy your followers. Tailwind lets you schedule pins days and weeks in advance, so even if you only have time to do it once a week, your boards can see a nice steady stream of pins each day. You can use Tailwind’s optimized schedule, or customize your own.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Tailwind has a powerful set of features for analyzing everything from your profile to individual pins and boards. The Pin Inspector let’s you see which pins are getting the most engagement and lets you re-schedule them from right within Tailwind. This is extremely useful for figuring out what’s working and helping you decide what content to create more of.
Remember when I said you need to be analyzing which boards are working for you and which ones aren’t? The Board Inspector makes it ridiculously easy. You can see a bunch of stats about each of your boards. You can filter boards by regular, secret, and group boards.
The information you want is in the Virality Score and Engagement Score. These metrics tell you slightly different things, and which one you look at will depend on your boards, but basically the higher the scores the better. Low scores here are a sign that the board isn’t helping you.
Tailwind includes a bunch of other super helpful insights about your profile, followers, website visits, etc. It’s especially useful if you’re using Pinterest to drive visitors to your blog or website. You can also link it with Google Analytics, giving you even more valuable information.
Tailwind’s secret weapon is Tribes. Tribes are exactly what they sound like – groups for pinners who have mutual interests. They are communities where you can share your pins with other users on the understanding that you then pin other members’ pins to your own boards. It’s an insanely powerful feature for discovering new content within your niche, finding new pinners to follow, and reaching a larger audience. It was especially useful for me when I started over with my Pinterest profile with very few followers.
Tailwind is constantly working on improving and creating new features, so I can’t wait to see what the tool will be able to do in the future. I’m really looking forward to trying out the new SmartLoop feature, which lets you set up a schedule for re-pinning automatically.
If you haven’t used Tailwind before, I can’t recommend it enough. You can try it free for a month. Even if you decide not to use it, the benefits that you’ll get in that month will surprise you.
Finally, don’t forget that Pinterest is a place to find inspiration and ideas. Its potential for growing your audience as a photographer is massive, but don’t just pin your own photos and content. Share the love by pinning other photographers’ images and articles that inspire you.
I use it to research locations, plan road trips and travel, discover new photographers, and learn new techniques. Whatever your niche, I guaranteee you’ll get as much out of Pinterest as you put in.
I would love it if you would follow me over on Pinterest and consider sharing this article. I would also love to hear your thoughts and experiences on Pinterest, or drop your profile URL in the comments and I’ll take a look. Happy pinning 🙂