Most of us can only dream of making a living through traveling and taking photos of the most exciting places around the world. However, Ukrainian photographer Galyna Andrushko has proven that it can become a reality if you're willing to work hard.
Galyna is a true globetrotter who has gone on all sorts of adventures that most of us can only fantasize about. Some of her exploits include climbing mountains in the Andes, hiking boreal forests in Iceland, and even exploring the high plateaus in Mongolia. Like many others, she started out taking travel photos as a hobby, but now enjoys a lucrative career as a stock photographer.
We talk to the successful travel photographer about her experience in stock photography and asked her for tips on how to prosper in this field. As a veteran in the business, she imparts a few nuggets of wisdom you’ll undoubtedly find useful when you start out in this exciting venture.
Stock photography is so broad that it can be challenging to figure out which subject to focus on. If you don’t know where to begin, the simplest solution is to just concentrate on what you're interested in.
For Galyna, her love of travel was what pushed her to try stock photography. “In 2006, when my work became an obstacle to travel, I quit and asked Google how to earn with photography,” she shares. Since she started, she has amassed 60,000 stock photos, and she has no intention of stopping.
Of course, you don’t have to take travel photos if it isn’t your passion. What makes stock photography attractive is that you’re free to shoot virtually anything you like. There’s always a way for you to sell your work regardless of whether you’re into still life, portraiture, or even abstract photography. Furthermore, you don’t have to stick to one genre all the time. Galyna also shoots as much street and wildlife photography as she does landscapes.
Galyna doesn’t believe in planning shoots. Instead, she pursues a more casual approach and allows herself to be inspired by her surroundings to produce work. “I can plan to be in a great location at the right time, but in most cases, I just have to wait.” she shares. “Many of my best images were just suddenly ‘given’ to me by nature.”
Browsing through her portfolio, it’s easy to see her ability to recognize subjects that most people don’t usually notice. She knows how to elegantly capture anything from fallen leaves to footsteps in the sand.
Thankfully, you don’t need to worry about creating beautiful work even if you don't travel as much as Galyna does. The truth is, you can take stock photos just about anywhere if you know where to look. Pay enough attention to your environment, and you’ll realize that you can take pictures of anything; whether it’s in a remote location or in your own backyard.
Microstock companies have strict guidelines when it comes to the photos they accept. The snapshots you took of your weekend getaway will probably get rejected if they’re poorly composed or even if they're just a bit grainy. Although Galyna loves spontaneity, she still cares a lot about the quality of her images. “I spend about a month's worth of hard work, photographing every sunrise and sunset.” she says. “Then up to 14 hours a day working at home on my computer before I start the process all over again.”
Her strict regimen is the reason why her photos look so vivid and engaging. Shooting during the golden hour gives her the opportunity to work in the best lighting conditions possible. Apart from the colors, she also makes sure her images look sharp and clean. Instead of pressing the shutter haphazardly, she purposefully frames her shots to achieve the perfect composition.
When you start taking pictures to earn money, make sure your photographs hold up to the standards of stock photography. Use low ISO to minimize noise, consider the rule of thirds when composing your shots, and check if your subject is in focus before pressing the shutter. It will also help a lot if you tweak your color and exposure in post to make your photos look vibrant and well-lit.
A lot of microstock websites require people to submit a portfolio before you get accepted. So when you think you’re ready to start your stock photography business, build a solid collection of at least ten quality pictures to submit for review.
Almost every microstock company has their own set of rules for submissions, so read them before turning in your application. Nevertheless, most agencies generally share the same guidelines. The most common requirement is that photos should at least be 4 megapixels and saved either as JPEG or TIFF. As far as quality, your images need to be free of artifacts (e.g., image noise and pixelation), chromatic aberration (strange colors around your subjects caused by your lens), and lens flare. Of course, it goes without saying that your pictures should also be correctly exposed, sharp, and well-composed.
No matter what subject you choose to shoot, don't be surprised to find other stock photos just like it. So, if you want people to notice your photos, find a style that would make your work stand out from the rest.
Looking at Galyna’s gallery, it’s easy to see how her photos reflect her unique perspective. “I analyze my images to see which works better in my own portfolio,” Galyna shares. “I don’t try to copy bestsellers of other authors.”
Although she also shoots people hiking and standing on top of mountains just like many other photographers, what sets her photos apart is how she interprets the environment. She likes to shoot from unusual angles, often using wide angle lenses to make them look almost three-dimensional. She also likes to capture solitary individuals in sprawling landscapes to add a contemplative mood to her pictures.
Be critical of your work and don’t repeat what has already been done. Even if you’re in a location that has been photographed so many times before, you can always find a way to shoot it differently. Vary your angles. Kneel or lay down if you have to—as long as you end up with a shot nobody has ever seen before. Don't be afraid to experiment, because that's what it takes to create a unique body of work. “If you love it, do it.” she advises. “Never be afraid to look for your own style and take responsibility for your successes and failures.”
A lot of people may be put off by stock photography because they think a lot of photographers are already doing it. With so many stock photos out there, some are worried that clients won’t even get the chance to see their work.
The truth is, that kind of mindset can be toxic for any creative individual. As long as you have a good eye and you make sure you produce quality work, you shouldn’t worry about what others create. Galyna best sums it up with this analogy: “[Photography] is just like how everyone learns to write. There may be more writers, but I think the world still lacks good ones.”
So let go of your fears and just dive straight into it. Learn your craft and strive to become the best. It’s true there may be a lot of other photographers creating similar pictures, but they may not be good as yours. Clients that buy stock photography are quite discerning with what they choose. As long as you hold your work to high standards, you can guarantee that the right person will find your portfolio.
Stock photography requires an incredible amount of patience, and realistically, it can take a while before business picks up. However, if you persevere and continue to make and upload photos, it will eventually gain momentum. The more images you have online, the more chances you have to succeed in this field. Keep at it and don’t give up. Who knows—someday, you might just end up traveling the world and taking photos like Galyna.
To view more of Galyna Andrushko’s work visit her portfolio on Canva.