How To Become A Stock Photographer

Stock photography has positively impacted both my professional and personal life. It has allowed me to travel to other countries and live at my own pace while making a continuous income. Maybe that is the change you are looking for. Or maybe you just want to make a little cash from your favorite hobby. In this article, I will give you tips that I feel are important in how to become a stock photographer.

   The real key to gaining revenue in the stock photo business is by earning respect, from stock photo companies.

Consider for a moment, how people get a wage increase at their current job. We do so by earning a good reputation, over time.  It’s no different with stock photo companies. The acknowledgment process starts the very day you get hired for a job. So does the process in creating a stock photo contributor account and continues with each contribution you make.

Take a second and create an account today!  Honestly,  you shouldn’t hesitate… If you wait until tomorrow or next week, how many people are signing up before you? Before you read on, click this link and sign up for Shutterstock, then come back to read my tips on how to become a stock photographer.


It’s not about being the best photographer or the busiest photographer. 

You may notice, the best photo doesn’t always make it to the first page in stock photo website search results. You’ll see a variety, some great and some not-so-great photos, come up first. Why? Because all of those contributors have earned respect to make the front page. They have proven themselves valuable. And you will too. Your main goal is to earn a good reputation. It’s about being a great contributor, over time.


    3 Lessons about Stock Sites:

1. Think of online stock photo libraries similar to book stores. Book stores favor quality content providers. They can’t stock the shelves with every living author. We know Stephen King’s next novel will go straight to the “featured” section of most bookstores, even if it’s not his best product. Why? Because he has earned it. Don’t let this tip deflate you! Don’t expect to see results immediately. It’s the single reason most people will hesitate to start. They are impatient. You’re not. They want the first page immediately. Be patient, and trust the process because…

    2.  Stock sites need you. They want new content creators. It’s their life blood. You are as important to them as their older contributors. Because content evolves. Even the grandfather contributors who have been contributing from the beginning need to continue contributing new material, to stay relevant. You are immediately relevant because you are producing fresh new content.

3.  The Process. If you are impatient, then it’s possible the freelance mentality is clouding your mindset. As creative freelance photographers and videographers, we typically get paid upfront or somewhat immediately after a job. We don’t like the idea of waiting on investments. Try to remind yourself, that it’s worth it. It’s all about earning a reputation rather than instant gain. I was solely a freelance photographer until my stock photo sales climbed and climbed. Now, I can happily say that I have reached the point to where I can create my own schedule while structuring my own creative concepts. I have essentially become more of an investor. This is an important concept and my first tip in how to become a stock photographer…


Tip #1 Become an investor. 

You must ditch the freelance mentality and get into an investor’s mentality to become a stock photographer. Have you ever eaten a $1000 cheeseburger? Well, neither have I. But I’ve photographed one that cost me four dollars to make, at home on my free time. I didn’t make $1000 that day, or week or month or year, but over time the work I did on that single day, for a few hours, has earned me over $1000 and it keeps selling every day. Now, I approach each stock photoshoot with this in mind. I know each photoshoot I create will be worth it, in the long run.


Tip #2. Life is content.

In coming up with ideas of what to shoot, look at how we live. What are the essential things that will always be part of human life? Work, holidays, food, technology, lifestyle, love, etc. These themes will always be in high demand, and will evolve to fit modern fashions and trends. Your photoshoot should have a theme that fits modern life. This is my biggest tip for selecting content to create. If you really want to learn how to become a stock photographer, capture life’s essentials.


 Tip #3. Quality over quantity.

In the massive stock libraries online, the contributors who produce quality will last through time. Once quality secures the front page, it can stay there for many years. Some make the mistake of thinking quantity is the way to go. But it can actually hurt your seller reputation. The stock sites you contribute to need to build trust in you. If they respect your work, they will boost you higher. If they don’t respect you as a contributor, your work may never get seen.


  Tip #4. Keywording is important. 

There’s a limit to keywords for each content submission. Don’t waste your keywords. That’s a common mistake. Don’t add “cheese” to an image of a burger without cheese. If you have a photo of a businessman who is not smiling, don’t add the word “smile” or “happy” to your keywording. It seems like common sense but you’d be surprised, some contributors think they can fool the system by adding irrelevant keywords in hopes it’ll get broader attention in searches. But, this will only hurt your seller credibility and make it difficult for buyers to efficiently search through relevant stock images. Keep everyone happy, the site, the buyers, and the stock community by trying to attach appropriate keywords.


  Tip #5 Editing: Improve quality, not style.

When editing, I keep it minimal, solely to improve the quality of the image. Over-editing is not always appreciated by stock catalogs. This is because many stock photo buyers actually prefer a neutral image. With a neutral image, they can apply their own style to it. Too much editing can lock an image into a dated look, for a short period of time. I edit to look neutral and clean. I keep my color balancing pure for the most part and try to avoid color grading for style. Again, choose quality enhancement over style.


  Tip #6. Models and actors truly make a difference.

Sure, I’ve had my friends and family model for a concept and I’ve even put myself in front of the camera. But nothing has proven more successful than working with a professional model or actor. It’s worth the investment! And often times there are actors who will agree to collaborate in exchange for headshots. One of my most successful photoshoots was with an actor who needed headshots. We traded services. I put him in front of a greenscreen and we were able to produce over a hundred images with many different expressions and outfits, in less than an hour. This would be impossible with an amateur. This actor even came ready to go, with makeup applied and his outfits pressed. That saved me a lot of editing time!


Where to start? 

In my opinion, the two best stock photography sites that are going to help you on how to become a stock photographer are Shutterstock and Adobe Stock. They both are continuously updating their sites to be modern and compatible with every tech device. They both are recognized by all the biggest search engines. They advertise more frequently than other stock sites. They even post suggestions for content. And most importantly, they both have the quickest and easiest forms to enter descriptive data for your content. This saves you time. Sign up today!

My stock photos: Shutterstock

Professional Photographer – Is It Worth It To Hire A Pro?

Professional photographer 1

An Unbiased Look At Whether Or Not You Should Hire A Professional Photographer

Okay, so I’m a professional photographer. You’re thinking I am going to say, that not only should you hire a professional photographer, you should hire me. Well, I promise that I wont say that. This is a little blog, from a professional photographer’s perspective on why you should or shouldn’t hire a professional photographer.

First off, this is a fairly new debate, due to the growing advancement of technology. Everybody now has a smart phone with a camera in their pocket. And some of the newer models are taking pretty darn good photos. Thanks to digital, versus film, you can take 1000’s of photos of your lunch and there will be at least one that might look like a cooking magazine cover print. But let’s face it, taking photos of your homemade lasagna or your new nike shoes is not the typical reason you’d hire a photographer.

So what are the typical reasons? Usually when your life is making a drastic change, you want to be sure to capture it. Here are a few examples:

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Copyright Noel Bass Photography, Los Angeles

Your Business/Products: If you’re a business with a brand new product, how are you going to compete with the market? You’ll need a professional photographer at some point to reach that next level in your marketing and sales. Especially when many businesses make most of their profits online, it’s best not to let a lens the size of a pimple represent your product. This category can include you, as the product. If you’re an entertainer or market yourself in any way as a brand, only a professional photographer can really deliver the quality to exceed or match your competition. This includes headshots, business portfolios, politicians, and even homemade blogs. Just because you can make an online business from home, that doesn’t mean it should look like it. Everyone’s business model should include at least one professional photoshoot in their expenses. Too many small businesses forget to do this and end up trying to hire a photographer with the change in their pockets, when their profits aren’t where they hoped they’d be. Don’t mess around with your business, hire a professional photographer.

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Copyright Noel Bass Photography, Los Angeles

Weddings: are obviously one day in your life that you don’t want to fool around with the idea of appointing an amateur. The day your new family begins will be revisited by generations to come, through those photos. You should know that as professional photographers, we hear horror stories from people who decided not to hire a professional photographer on their wedding day. In fact I get calls from people asking if I can fix their wedding photos: “I had a friend shoot my wedding, and all the photos are out of focus or way too dark. Can you edit them to look like your portfolio?” This is always sad to hear. The truth is, no. It’s impossible to edit photos that are blurry or underexposed to match the quality of properly metered photographs. Professionals know this, which is why we use light meters and why we invest in low-light lenses and expensive digital cameras that can handle dark environments. If you think about the cost it would take to retouch a full wedding of badly exposed and blurry images, you’ll have spent a lot more in the end, by appointing the amateur.


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Copyright Noel Bass Photography, Los Angeles

Family: Family photos are probably the most overlooked reason as to when you should hire a professional photographer. To be honest, I’m like you, I love seeing any photo of my family. I would probably get the same emotional reward from a picture of my nephews playing soccer, whether shot on an iphone or with a top-of-the-line DSLR camera. And how about those goofy moments, or the endearing moments that you can’t plan for? Those are priceless moments, even if the photo quality is terrible. But consider this: I recently shot a family portrait session of a family with teens, that they confessed was their first time they have ever been all together in a portrait. Think about it. How often do you get everyone in your family to cooperate and take family photos together for an hour or two? It’s impossible, unless you have your kids trained well. If you do, that’s impressive, but not normal. Most families have a short attention span when the camera is on a tripod and mom or dad are running back and forth to set the timer. And “Geez mom, stop telling me to fix my hair.” Time flies by and kids become adults in a flash. The next thing you know, you look back and wish that you had at least a few photos of everyone, looking their best, feeling great together.

Professional Photographer 5
Copyright Noel Bass Photography, Los Angeles

 When is it not worth it to hire a professional photographer? This is simple really. Don’t hire a professional photographer when:

When you’re not ready: Don’t hire a professional photographer when you aren’t prepared. I’ve been hired to photograph musicians many times. You’d be amazed how many times I’ll show up to a photoshoot and upon arrival they’ll say,

“Hey, can you photoshop the bass player into these shots?”.

“Why isn’t he here?”

“Oh well, he’s not technically part of the band yet. We’re deciding between a few guys.”

Okay, yeah, not a good idea. Get everything organized first. Sometimes I will get companies who have a product to shoot, then a day before the shoot, they cancel because their expected shipment didn’t come on time. Not a good idea. Have the product in your hand, then schedule a professional photographer.

When you don’t want photos: I know this sounds silly, but some people need to get their photos taken, but don’t want to. Don’t waste your money if you don’t want to make the most out of your photoshoot. Working with a professional photographer should be a team effort. We listen to what you need, collaborate on a game plan, and walk through every step of the way until you say, “Aha! I think I’m getting the hang of this!”

When you think “photoshop” is a magic button: Too many times people think hiring a professional photographer means that they are hiring a photoshop editor. I happen to be a professional photoshop editor as well as a professional photographer, but most photographers only know the basics of photoshop. Don’t expect magic from a photographer. If you head into a photoshoot already having a long list of expectations for them to photoshop, be sure you make that clear. And be sure to review the photographer’s editing samples.

When you don’t have the budget for it: When you don’t have a budget, you’ll end up getting yourself into a mess. It’s like any profession that delivers a product. If a professional photographer feels their time is worth pennies, than you’ll get photos that are worth pennies. Professional photographers charge what they do because of the high level equipment, expertise, experience, and energy. This is what I call the four E’s of professional photography (I know, I know. I just made that up. But it’s true). Energy being the amount of attention to detail, enthusiasm/care, and in many cases both physical and psychological energy. Some events that I’ve photographed have me on my feet for 12 hours. The next time you see a friend or amateur who was hired for a long event, watch how often they either sit down or become careless. A professional photographer can balance their energy for the long haul.

This is kind of funny from GoingPro: An Atlanta-based photographer posted a funny Craigslist ad on Monday highlighting the fact that people often assume that professional photographers are willing to do work for free.

professional photographer

He says, “I am a photographer and since people are always looking for free shoots I assume that they must also do their job, or provide their services, for free. I am looking to hire all types of people to do all sorts of jobs for me, as long as I do not have to pay anything…I look forward to you free service.


This is obviously a joke, but he is reacting to a truth that professional photographers deal with all the time. We get countless calls asking to work for free, based on how much exposure it will get us. We don’t care. Amateurs might. So, if you don’t have a budget, don’t try to hire a professional photographer.

I hope this blog helped you in some way. The list is endless as to when you should or should not hire a professional photographer. Message me if you are on the fence. I’ll give you honest advice.

 by Noel Bass, Los Angeles Photographer


The Controversy Over “Tattoo Baby”

controversy baby tattoo

Why Would She Tattoo A Baby On Her Chest?

by Noel Bass, Los Angeles Photographer

One of my most controversial and shared photos is this photo, simply titled, “Tattoo Baby”. For the past couple of years, Tattoo Baby has been posted on hundreds of blogs and forums, without a story attached, and frankly without my knowledge. “Controversial” for a few reasons, but mostly because of the simple question, “Why would she tattoo a baby on her chest?!”

Sites that range from tattoo-enthusiast-blogs, to your everyday image sharing forums, like Pinterest all have something to say about it. The tattoo-based-sites mostly like to discuss the complexity of the tattoo, which enthusiasts label as a “3D tattoo“, due the detail and shading. There are probably over 100 tattoo blogs that have posted “Tattoo baby” as real. Keep in mind, I never knew this was happening. The reality of this image is really nothing to get upset about or be that impressed by. I created this photo with a (model) friend a few years ago. I put it up on my flickr account, simply titled, “Tattoo Baby”. I got a few comments and wiped my hands clean of it. Basically, I was just practicing my photoshopping.

What happened though was that people began to take the photo and spread it on the internet. For the next three years, “tattoo baby” was out of my mind and out of my control.

Tattoo Baby

Tattoo Baby by Noel Bass, Los Angeles Photographer

“Why did she tattoo a baby on her breasts?! Is she crazy?”


“That’s kind of… beautiful?  Is that real or photoshop?”

Is that real? Therein lies the controversy. Reality versus a concept makes all the difference. It is indeed photoshopped. It’s a concept piece. It’s simple really. Breasts in America are plagued with responsibility. It’s taboo in our society to really do anything with one’s breasts, other than cover them up. They are more related to sex in our national consciousness than for the purpose of feeding a child. So it’s no surprise when you see responses such as these below, in regards to what the subject decided to do with her own body.

baby tattoo controversy

The above was taken from an article entitled “Creepy or Cool?” by This along with the next comments have all jumped into the pool of controversy because they think it’s reality. With no watermark or story, the only side to the story they can see is their own opinion, “She must be crazy.”

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It wasn’t til recently, a friend pointed out that “tattoo baby” was also being used to promote other websites and even, other photographers claiming it as their own. Check this Instagram post that has over 17,000 likes and over 800 comments.

Noel Bass Baby Tattoo

The person who posted this linked it to himself and another photographer. Pretty sneaky.

A facebook tattoo page posted the image and it generated a big buzz, over 28,000 likes and over 7000 shares: Click Here

One blog took the photo and pasted their own watermark (something I failed to do) on it for the attention of controversy. Check out how they made sure their website was linked to the photo: Click Here

It’s interesting to see the organic evolution of what is happening to Tattoo Baby online. I get to see the pulse on a concept as if it was reality, versus being a photoshop creation with a name and story attached. To be honest, let’s face it, it wouldn’t get nearly as much attention if people were spreading it as a photoshop piece. So it’s fun to watch the comments. What I don’t like are the people who try to claim the image as their own.

This is pretty interesting: Click this link to see the many postings on various tattoo websites: baby  (scroll down after clicking to see variety)

There are several levels to the story of “tattoo baby”, such as the moral issues of ownership of one’s body or the social acceptance of breasts as separate from sex appeal. From a photographer’s standpoint, the lesson learned here is to watermark your images; something I’ll be doing with my next concept pieces.


Tallgrass Prairie Documentary Short Film, “The Prairie Flower Way of Life”

Bev and Dwight rutter on the Tallgrass Prairie

A Look at Life on America’s Iconic Tallgrass Prairie.

For the past two summers, I have taken nearly identical trips to the midwest. Both were to the same Tallgrass Prairie Farm in Iowa, called “The Prairie Flower”. Though, nearly identical trips, these two years could not be more different. The main factor being the 2012 drought. The summer of 2011 was a rich season, with a perfect balance of rainfall and sunshine.  It was quite a shock later to see the same land, during the worst drought in decades. I took 4 individual trips to The Prairie Flower, during 2011 and 2012. Each time I documented pieces of footage of life on the tallgrass prairie. On my last trip, I was able to spend some time capturing interviews with Bev and Dwight Rutter, owners of the tallgrass prairie farm. The end result is this little story about a family and land that are equally generous. Equal in my heart.

I first learned about the tallgrass prairie through a website called, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. My original goal was to find volunteer opportunities on Native American reservations. A friend pointed me to WWOOF. After a lot of browsing, I did find a volunteer opportunity on an Native American reservation, but I also came upon a very unique little farm in the middle of Iowa. Every other farm on WWOOF seemed to be centered around the typical organic farming that we think about. Most center around edible vegetation or livestock. The Prairie Flower was growing grass. Yep, grass. I had to know more. After a little research, I discovered that the tallgrass prairie was once America’s dominant landscape. Now only 4% of it remains. We removed something solely unique to our continent, when we removed the tallgrass prairies of America. No other place in this world has what we had.

Pale Coneflower field against sky

Pale Purple Coneflower on The Prairie Flower, Noel Bass Photography

We replaced the tallgrass prairie with organized rows of  corn and soy beans. Both of these crops don’t like intruders, so they require pesticides. And because of corporate control and governmental subsidies, what we consider “farming”, is no more. The land is poisoned with chemical fertilizers. The wildlife is killed off. It’s sterile, especially on the eyes. There’s more variety of life in your average home closet. Underneath the surface of all this corn, is tens of thousands of years of roots and nutrients from the once massive tallgrass prairie.

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Mono-culture in Iowa, Noel Bass Photography

The tallgrass prairie has a chance at revival. In fact Dwight Rutter argues that if we quit farming today, the tallgrass prairie would begin to rise again without having to plant a single seed. There are signs of this on every mono-crop farm. Corn farmers call them “weeds”. But if you look closely, that “weed” is a native tallgrass prairie plant, deserving of it’s place.

Close Encounter Dragonfly CROP

Dragonfly on The Prairie Flower, Noel Bass Photography

Needless to say, I was intrigued by the wwoof opportunity on The Prairie Flower. I set out to Iowa with a camera and a will to get my hands dirty. My first impression was not of the land, but of family. I met up with Dwight and Bev at a parking lot in the nearby town of Spencer, Iowa. After a very quick greeting, Dwight immediately jumped in my truck and said, “Okay, so we’ll just follow her (Bev).” Dwight is Dwight. And Bev is Bev. From the first time you meet them until you leave, they are as the prairie is. The prairie is a prairie. More than we can say for what we are trying to think of as “human”. We say things like, “Hey, I’m human”, when we make an error in judgement or have an accident. Then, at the same time, we can glorify “human”, by calling superiority over other species. What it means to be “human” is not simple to classify because we live in fantasies about our role on this planet. We watch super hero blockbusters and run to theaters to watch stories about human characters who are more like immortal gods. Dwight, Bev, and the tallgrass prairie, are not. They know their role here. It’s simple. Work with the weather. Work with the land and nature. Most of it is labor intensive, though rewarding. Droughts will come. Troubles will follow. That’s life.

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Bev and Dwight Rutter on The Prairie Flower, Noel Bass Photography

Going against nature might be “human”. So you thought. It’s not. It’s a lesson we will learn. But that’s not the point of the story. The story of “human” doesn’t find itself in mistakes or god-like triumphs. It finds itself in-between. It’s there in our connections. My last trip to the tallgrass prairie was unique for another reason. I met Alison DeMartino, a volunteer through WWOOF. I was able to see a family accept another individual as effortlessly as a new seed into the farm. That’s how Dwight and Bev operate. They see things naturally. People come into your life, but for the most part, things don’t change. Like seasons on the prairie, they bloom and become colorful. Some seasons, parts of the farm will excel in seed production while other parts may not mature. The clouds will dump rain where they want to. Just as volunteers may fall onto the Prairie Flower. In between, the connections are human. Possibly and ironically, it’s the connection to be less “human” that brings people to the tallgrass prairie. It’s bigger than you. It’s taller than you. It’s more beautiful than you are. But it doesn’t say this when you’re in it. Without speaking it, it says, “welcome home” to a stranger.

Thanks Dwight, Bev, Rutter Family and Friends!

by Noel Bass, Los Angeles Photographer