If you're relatively new to the world of stock photography and trying to figure out the best way to make money, then I might just have the answer for you. With creativity, you can produce work that fills a need and earns income. In this article, I aim to provide some methods that will help give you an edge.
What Are Textures?
Textures are essentially images of different surfaces. Every surface tends to have a certain look, feel, or texture and images of them can be very useful for other photographers and designers. Sourcing new textures has been made really easy because of stock photography and they remain one of the more popular types of images being sold on stock websites. Their popularity is obviously very beneficial for photographers who wish to sell stock images. Images of wooden surfaces can be very popular too as they have many uses. Wooden textures give a natural rustic feel and designers can use them in a variety of different ways. Another very popular type of texture image is of white textured surfaces. The color white is extremely popular due to its versatility. Many stock websites tend to actually request these types of images regularly. Images of textures need to be very simple, less is without a doubt more.
Where to Find and Shoot Textures?
This is actually one of the easiest kinds of images to produce and can be done right in your home too. Most of the surfaces in your home can be used for stock photography. For example, walls, table tops, floorboards, carpets, drywall, brickwork, and strangely enough, even pets.
My pet cat
The number of available surfaces in your home gives you plenty of options and lots of potential images. You can also shoot the same surface to create multiple texture images. For example, one shot can be done with a 50mm lens and another can be a really close up of the surface with a macro lens. Once you've exhausted all of the available options in your home a simple walk down the street can offer a huge variety of options. Options like photographing a fence, the sidewalk, shop walls and so on. During a casual walk around my city, I was comfortably able to produce approximately 50 images in less than an hour.
Types of Surfaces to Look Out for
Generally speaking, walls are super easy surfaces to photograph and also find. Walking around almost any city or town will offer you a plethora of options. Sure, you may look a little odd photographing a blank wall but if it makes you money who cares right? Surfaces with flaws are generally what offer the best textures. For example, metal sheets that are rusting slightly can offer a very interesting surface.
Once again white surfaces or lighter colors tend to be more popular and it makes sense to build a large library of those images. A great way to build that library quickly is to photograph the same surface multiple times. For example, an individual wall will have lots of different sections that are slightly different. It's important to make sure that each image is different enough to offer a different texture.
How to Shoot Textures for Stock
To photograph textures, the kind of gear you need doesn't need to be super expensive. Personally, I think a 50mm lens is a good choice. There are occasions when I will use a macro lens although those situations are relatively few in comparison. Even with an entry level lens like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 you can comfortably produce exactly the results that you need for this kind of photography. It's generally not a good idea to shoot wide open, therefore, even a kit lens like the 18-55mm f/3.5-f/5.6 is going to be more than effective.
As mentioned above, shooting wide open is probably not a good idea because you need the depth of field of a smaller aperture. If you shoot wide open and you haven't perfectly aligned the surface to your camera you may have certain areas of the image out of focus. I recommend around f/5.6 in most situations. It's also not a good idea to shoot in low light because you'll want to keep your ISO as low as possible. The maximum I tend to shoot is at ISO 400; anything above that can risk the images having visible noise which may lead to them being rejected. For the shutter speed, obviously, the higher the better, motion blur is another thing you'll want to avoid. Textures need to remain as sharp and as detailed as possible.
Most cameras these days tend to have enough megapixels. There are several entry-level cameras that are 24mp in resolution and for the most part, this is more than enough. Of course, if you do have a 50mp camera or even higher, this can help increase your potential for income, although it's not a major factor.
For this type of photography, the best way to shoot is with a one-point perspective. Try and get the camera as parallel to the surface as possible. This will help eliminate any potential issues with depth of field. Once again stopping down the lens is advisable and around f/5.6 is what I recommend. Generally speaking, lenses tend to be sharpest around that aperture. Always take more than one shot for the same image and this is to ensure you have a number of options available when selecting which image you edit. Make sure to fill the frame as much as you possibly can so that you're not having to crop and lose resolution. If you're shooting a brick wall, avoid shooting too close; this way you can have a much larger section in the frame. Shooting too close to the subject will also increase the risk of missing focus. Even if you move slightly at the minimum focus, you risk your image being out of focus. Although you can shoot with a tripod, it does increase the amount of time you spend per image, making the process less practical. So, I recommend shooting with a high shutter speed handheld. Textures that are sold for stock are mostly about volume.
Brick walls are very popular as textures. However, they can be the trickiest types of images to produce. The reason for this is you need to have your camera aligned properly. Keep the vertical and horizontal lines straight in camera. You may be able to straighten the image in post but, but it's better to get it correctly in the camera.
Having a polarizer at hand can be extremely useful. Many interesting surfaces that could work as textures may be quite reflective. Having a polarizer can prevent any unwanted reflections that can affect the image. For example, the image below is of a wooden surface and the reflections are negatively affecting the image.
Finally, I recommend having a ColorChecker Passport or a gray card at hand too. This is just to help in post if you want to ensure you have correct white balance. It's not extremely important or vital to have these at hand, I simply recommend it based on my own experience of shooting stock.
How to Maximize your Income
Stock photography has one aim and that is to provide an income. The great thing about textures is that the time required per image is relatively low and the income potential is relatively high. This genre of photography is all about volume and the number of high-quality images you have uploaded increases your income potential.
This is quite possibly the most important thing that will determine your income. This needs to be a long-term project that you do regularly. Most people will more than likely see meaningful results after a year of consistently shooting stock and uploading them regularly to the website. Consistency is probably the one thing that will determine whether you're successful or not.
Based on some crude calculations, I estimate that the kind of income you can expect to see is about $40 a month per 1,000 images. Uploading 1,000 is also not that great of a feat and can be done relatively quickly. Once you start reaching numbers of around 10,000+ you will more than likely start to notice a more meaningful income. This is a passive source of income that can continue even if you stop uploading images for a period of time. The stock image library that you produce will require effort to begin with, but, if you remain consistent and understand that it is a longer-term project, it can even potentially provide a full-time income. Textures are a high turnover low margin business and the great thing is that each image does not need to require significant amounts of effort. Selling textures on Adobe stock has the potential for a significant and regular income. The aim is to produce and upload as many images as you can regularly and consistently.
For more information on how to submit your photos, check out the Adobe Stock Contributor Guide.