I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years, and a professional stock photographer for 15. The thing about stock photography, especially in today’s short attention span world of a billion websites, is you have to keep producing.
You have to feed the beast every day, or you get left behind.
The way it works is this. Let’s say you need a picture of fried chicken for your website. You go to one of the dozen popular stock photo sites and search on fried chicken. The websites all have various algorithms for what comes up first, but it’s usually a combination of popularity and newest.
What does this mean?
It means if your image is popular or new, it will show up high in the search. If you hit the magic formula of popular and new, it will be very high on the list. And we all know what happens to content that isn’t on the first page or two. It may as well not exist.
A few years ago, I hit a home run with just that, a picture of a plate of fried chicken that became popular right away. The result is that it was the number one image for that search term for months.
Which means it made me a lot of money.
But eventually, new images overcame its popularity, and it slipped further and further down the list. I still sell copies of it every day, but not big money like a few years ago.
And therein lies a big problem. Other than taking quality images, I can’t control what will be popular. But I can control what will be new. How do I do that?
By uploading new images every damn day. 365 days a year. Anywhere from 5 to 30 images. Every day.
How do I maintain that pace?
To maintain that many images, I have to keep a backlog of hundreds, if not thousands of pictures in my portfolio. And all of them have to be processed to make them ready for the stock agencies.
So what happens if I don’t feel like shooting, or can’t think of what to take shoot?
What happens if I get “photographer’s block”?
Tough. I shoot anyway. Because I have to.
Traveling and vacations help a lot. I can come home from a week of travel with a thousand images, easy. But that’s not enough to keep the pipeline full. In between trips, I still have to shoot. At home. In my neighborhood. In nearby cities.
So, every day, I take the camera out and start shooting. Whether I feel inspired or not. There are many times when I can’t think of one more damn thing to take a picture of.
But I do it anyway.
Because I have to.
But the good thing is, after all these years, photographer’s block doesn’t worry me. Because I know how to beat it. I take a picture.
And that picture leads to another. And another.
And at some point, one of those pictures will create a spark of inspiration.
And a spark is all I need.
A picture of a bowl of cereal turns into ten variations. Then I add the cereal box and create another dozen editorial shots for different markets. Then I back up and include the entire kitchen for real estate markets.
And that’s why I don’t worry about writer’s block.
Because I know how to conquer it.
And then, I write some more.
I know that all I have to do is get started. Write the first sentence. The rest of the article will come. This article came because I wrote the title.
And then, I just finished it.
The other thing that photography taught me is not to settle for one article from each idea. I can’t shoot the exact same picture of fried chicken ten times. But I can shoot ten different variations of that same plate of food. Some will be better than others. Some will sell more than others.
But I’ll sell all of them.
So the next time you get writer’s block, I want you to think about a plate of juicy, crispy, fried chicken.
And then start writing.
If nothing else, just start writing a bunch of random sentences on a blank page.
I guarantee you that one of them will cause a spark.
And a spark is all you need.