Thursday, November 27, 2008

50 Albums for $5 each

(Click here for Link)

This is too good of a deal to keep to myself. Black Friday music deals from Amazon -- 50 Albums for $5 each. Downloadable full albums for $5. Including the newest albums by Coldplay, Metallica, Sugarland, Portishead, Jack Johnson, Gnarls Barkley, Chris Tomlin and Flight Of The Conchords. If that's not a wide variety, I don't know what is.

If you're not familiar with this aspect of Amazon, these are full albums for $5. They come in individual mp3 files, which are usable on iPods and other mp3 players alike. They're all DRM-Free as well, which means you can put them on your mp3 player, burn it to a cd, play it on linux/osx/win or just about anything else you want to do with it. You *do* have to download the Amazon MP3 Album Downloader, but that's a small (free) program and available for Windows, Linux and OS X, and it automatically adds the songs into iTunes or windows media player.

This is a stellar deal - the mp3's sound great and DRM-free is a huge bonus. But do it now! After Friday, the deal is gone.

Amazon -- 50 albums for $5 each

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Getting Started in Microstock Photography

What is Microstock? In a nutshell, you sell your pictures (or 3D images or vector images, etc) on one or more websites, and for most of them, you get from $0.25 on up to a few dollars each. While that doesn't sound like a lot, it adds up pretty quick. And if someone wants to use your photograph in a magazine or something like that, you get an extended license that usually goes for $25-$30, but they can also buy the rights to it outright which go for $350 on up. I don't have the camera or the photography chops to do that side of it, but I've been doing graphics over the last 7 months and have made about $400 doing this on this side (i.e. in addition to my normal 8-5 gig) over the last 9 months. I know that you're probably thinking "a quarter for an image? no thanks" -- but this doesn't cut into your normal photography
business, it's more of "in addition to" -- it's selling pictures of things (or people) that you wouldn't normally be able (or have the time) to sell. And I've got one image that's earned me almost $50, most of that on one site. Most of the places pay you via paypal and do it once you hit a certain payment threshold, like $75 or $100.

If you're interested in doing this, please use these referral codes listed below -- I like to keep up with people and help them as I can, and I'll get a couple of pennies each time you sell a picture or image... And over time, that adds up :)

Here are my 4 favorite sites, in order (and order of profitability!)
Shutterstock -- this one pays $0.25 each sale to start, but the quantity of sales makes up for it. I sell LOTS and LOTS of images here.
Dreamstime -- that one takes you to my
portfolio.. this is prob my favorite of the bunch, though I don't earn
quite as much. All their images show how many downloads one has had.
123RF -- this is my third best earner, but I don't have a lot of images there.
Cutcaster -- this one is newer,
but you can set your price and you get 40% of the selling price. The guy who runs the place, John, is a super cool guy and you're typically going to get very fast feedback/responses from him (as opposed to another site which will remain nameless that, months later, I still haven't heard back from their tech people... but I guess when you're that big, you can ignore the normal people). There are definitely more than these 4 out there, but of the 10 or so that I've tried, these are the only ones that I've found to really be worth my time and effort. You can, of course, upload the same images to all of the sites you're on.

Some people do it as a hobby, some people grow to the place where they can do it for a living. I think most people use it to supplement, though if you're already doing a business that somehow involves photography or graphic design, it's a nice way to do what you're doing and earn a little passive income on the side. The larger your portfolio, the more money you'll make, of course. Some people are making hundreds (or more) a month, though they have large portfolios.

Don't think it's just all about the money, either. My images have gotten much
better by most accounts since I've been doing it. There are some
great forums with extremely helpful people (esp. on shutterstock) and
I've learned a lot from there, too.

It's also important to note that there are restrictions placed on the usage of your images. First, you retain *all* rights and ownership (unless you sell those away for several hundred dollars or more). Second, they cannot (at least on the sites mentioned and on most of the others I've seen) use your photos or images on cafepress, for example. Many people doing the graphic side of it (myself included) have a cafepress shop where we're selling the same images on our own t-shirts and items, and we don't want to be competing against ourselves! There are also usage restrictions as far as if it's print publication over x thousand issues, they must purchase an extended license (which goes for more) and so on. It's good to read through the usage rights of the end user and the things that are specifically disallowed (print for sale items life cafepress are usually mentioned by name in the "these things are not allowed" area) and know what you're getting into before you do it. Overall, though, I'm quite pleased with what I've earned (gives me some spending money) and I think there are a lot more possibilities. I imagine I would have earned a lot more money over the last 9 months if I was doing this fulltime (or doing graphics fulltime, which I'm not) but like anything else, you get what you put into it.

And again, here are the links to use to sign up. I also get credit if you use these links and purchase stock images, photography or footage (i.e. video), so please consider that as well.

Anyway, I hope you now know a lot more about Microstock and how it can help you than you did when you started. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in comments and I'll help you any way I can.
Also, here's a link to my "microstock" entries on this blog which may be helpful:

So what's the cup of coffee at the top have to do with anything?  That's my latest 3D render that's about to be my newest microstock image.  Oh, and I love coffee :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Free Software for Linux and OS X

(Click here for Link)

I'm posting this slightly off topic note to let people know that today, Tuesday, October 28th, there's a program that's available for free that normally costs
$40-$100. It's for Mac OS X and Linux -- it's called CrossOver, and there's an application version and a game version for Linux and OS X.

What the software does is allow you to run Windows applications or games inside Linux or OS X just like it was a normal program for that operating system (at those speeds, anyway). It'll be as fast as running in boot camp (more or less), but you can run windows only applications (or games) from within Linux or OS X without doing anything but clicking on the icon to fire it up like normal. It's not virtualization like vmware, and it's not like rebooting into boot camp. For those familiar with the WINE project for linux, this is an extension of that.

In any case, even if this doesn't sound particularly useful at the moment, I'd suggest you download the appropriate versions for your operating system, because this is a one day only deal. They're giving it away because the price of gas is so low, and they made a bet back when gas was $4 a gallon that if it hit $2.86 a gallon (or something like that), they'd give their software away for free, and they're holding true to their word.

Anyway, here's the link to download the versions you'll need:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Who downloads these images?

This was in response to a question on Shutterstock about who downloads images and why. Most of this holds true for other stock sites as well, though shutterstock with it's subscription plan seems to pull a lot more downloads down than the others.

So who is downloading the images and how are they finding them?

First, you have the "newest" crowd. They look through categories sorted by "newest" and grab what they see that they like that might be useful at some point. That's why you get some downloads right after you upload something but those downloads taper off after more new stuff is in that category. Most of the people downloading here have a subscription, so they have downloads to spare.

Then you have the "most popular" crowd. They look through categories also, but they're sorted to view by "most popular". If your image gets a lot of downloads when it's new, it may fall into this category, and then it gets a resurgence of downloads and can stay in the "most popular" group for a specific category for a while... "popular" seems to be defined by the system as a combination of how recently it was uploaded and how many downloads it's had. Most of these people also have a subscription, so they have downloads to spare.

Then, finally, you come to the "I need it" crowd. This is where you get your Extended License (EL's $28) sales and your On Demand (from a few dollars on up) sales. This is where someone actually needs a picture of a wedding ring or an elk or an illustration of a coffee cup (for example). Someone is searching and looking through the images for what they need. So you'll get sales from images that haven't been downloaded in a while. You also have regular subscription sales here, too. These people can also be sorted by newest or most popular, but it's going to be based on the keywords and this is where keywords and the size of your portfolio will make or break you.

Now with all of these, some people will come and get x image from you but also take a moment to look and see what else you've got in your portfolio (particularly with the subscription model) and might snag a few other images they find neat.

That's my $0.02 -- if anyone has other experiences, I'd love to hear it.

Click Here if you'd like to sign up to sell your photographs/artwork/3D on Shutterstock.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Raster vs Vector

This is a copy of a post I made on Shutterstock in reference to someone's question about raster and vector images and is simplified a bit, but should be helpful to someone who is still trying to figure out the whole raster/bitmap vs vector thing.

In a very basic nutshell... bitmap and raster are used interchangeably. That format is basically represented by x number of pixels (dots) and each of those pixels has a color. If you zoom all the way in to an image (like a photograph) you see big dots and each one has a color. That's a raster image or more commonly referred to as a bitmap image. With one of these raster images, like a picture, you can make it smaller if you need to, but you can't really make it much larger (called upsizing) than it is without a serious degradation in quality. Some common bitmap files are .png, .jpg, .gif, .tga, .tif and .bmp.

A vector image is made up (again, simplifying) of math commands that say "go here and draw this kind of line" or "go here and draw a circle of x radius" -- but of course, we don't create those images that way, thankfully! As a result, you can't really zoom "all the way" to a vector image to see the dots or pixels. As a result, a vector can be resized to whatever size it needs to be. So vector images can be upsized/resized to any size that someone might need, from an icon to a 300 dpi billboard (which would be insane). Illustrator is the most common program used to create vector images. Flash is probably the other really well known program that makes vectors, though it's not really referred to as such and isn't really built for making "vector images" as much as interactive stuff. Inkscape is a free vector creation program, and it's quite nice. An .eps file is an example of a vector file, along with .ai files.

To confuse the issue further, you can import pictures (aka rasters or bitmaps) into flash or illustrator but if you're doing a true vector illustration you won't want to do that.

If you're doing stock images, when you're done making your vector image in Inkscape, you need to export the vector version (.eps) for upload to your favorite site as well as a raster version (which you export from inkscape as .png and convert to .jpg) which you create from within inkscape by doing Export->PNG.

It's all a bit confusing, but once you jump into it, it'll make more sense.

Click here to sell your images or photos on Shutterstock.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Getting started in 3D

I originally posted this in response to a question on a forum on Dreamstime, but I thought it might be useful to the general public, so I'm reposting it here.

Let's say that you're interested in getting started with 3D... which software do you choose?

Well, the good things about choosing a piece of 3D software these days is that 1) you have a lot of options, 2) almost all of them have downloadable demos you can try out and 3) there's a lot of learning materials for all of them.

I've been working with 3D software since the mid 90's and here's my advice for someone who hasn't done 3D before....

Maya: Stay away from it. It's not new-user friendly (heck, it's not really user friendly), it's not particularly easy to learn, it's fairly expensive and by the time you learn it well enough to get your money's worth from it, they'll probably have 2 or 3 revisions out by then. Maya is amazing, but you're likely to get turned off from 3D altogether if this is your first experience.

3D Studio Max: Not a bad program, but very dated, and by many accounts, nearing the end of it's lifecycle. Everyone expects some new beast to come out from Autodesk in the next few years that'll replace it. Also, it's Windows only.

Modo: A new player to the game, but a pretty full-featured one and not a bad price. I'd elaborate on it more, but my experience with it has been limited. They're constantly adding new features, though, and it's quite a nice package for the money.

Lightwave: Used to be great, but has really fallen behind the times. I don't recommend it for a new user, either.

Cinema 4D: This is my personal favorite... It's very user friendly, it's very easy to start up and play with and get a feel for it, it's not terribly intimidating, it runs on Windows, OS X and Linux (though that's only for studios and hasn't been publicly released), there's a great user base and there's a non-time limited, full featured demo (except for saving out files, but you can do full size, non watermarked renders with it) and the company that makes it is constantly listening to the user and coming out with new things. A new version may well be announced at siggraph in a few months.

Blender: Blender is a super program, and I've used it off and on for years as well, but it's not the easiest to pick up right off the bat. It's open source, though, so the UI is constantly changing for the better. It can do quite a bit, and is a great place to start learning, if you want to take the time to learn it. It's also free, which is a big plus.

My suggestion would be if you have a little bit of money, go for Cinema 4D or Modo, but first try out the demos. I think modo's is fully featured (even saving files and renders) but only 30 days. Cinema 4D's demo can't save anything, but you can load and render any existing c4d file you can find, and it's not time limited, so you can really spend some time playing with it to see if you like it. If you don't want to spend money right now and are willing to learn an unusual workflow, go with Blender. For someone brand new to 3D, I'd stay away from the rest. I think Cinema 4D is probably the most user (and artist) friendly, followed by Modo -- but both of those applications still contains an immense amount of power, and you can get into either one for under $1000, but if you want to do everything that Cinema does, you'll need the studio bundle, but again, I'd wait until you needed it...

Like all the other opinions, you can take or leave them, but I've been doing this a while... I started with 3D Studio R2 (back in the mid 90's) and then Truespace, Hash's Animation Master, etc... then I did tech support for 3D Studio Max reseller for several years and learned lightwave to the point where I knew I didn't want to work with it, I found Cinema 4D. And love it.

Those are my thoughts, hope they're helpful to someone.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

iPhone... will it blend?

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, this video is worth 1,000 times that, easily.

I have several friends cringing as they watch right now, I'm sure. I quite enjoyed it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Great drawing/painting resource

I found a new site recently called "I Draw Girls" -- but he draws a whole lot more than just girls. Among other things, he draws cartoony characters, landscape type portraits, guns, mecha, manga and some pretty fierce beasts. Most of it with some very good commentary, and all of it (that I've seen) very useful.

Here are a couple of sample videos from his site/portfolio:

Draw a cartoon bunny. An angry one, at that.

Profile of woman's face with helmet

Iron Man

Waterfall Concept Environment Scene

As you can see, he's pretty diverse and pretty talented. The other thing I really like about his stuff is that he uses a number of different tools -- Photoshop (of course) but also things like Manga Studio and Gimp (which is a nice, free, open source alternative to Photoshop).

Anyway, check out his site and get to drawing :)

Monday, May 19, 2008


I recently signed up with Crestock and submit 10 images, 7 of which were accepted. They seem to have fairly high standards, so I'm pleased I got in. I've been trying to get into iStockPhoto for about 3 months (and it's been very frustrating, but I'll save that for another post) so I was pleased. It didn't take long to get the images reviewed, either -- I think about 3 or 4 days.

Crestock offers you 20% of the sale price of the image until you've reached 100 sales, and then you get 30% per sale. Image prices are $5, $10 and $15 for small, medium and extra-large images. One of my images was uploaded at an original size of 4000x3000, and that size (12.0 Megapixels 4000 x 3000 pixels) is considered extra large (i.e. $15) and they also offer it downsized to medium (6.0 Megapixels or 2828 x 2121 pixels) or small (4.0 Megapixels 2309 x 1732 pixels). A couple of my images are 3200x2400, which is considered medium and they also offer it downsized to small (2309x1732). One good thing about most (if not all) of the stock sites is that you don't have to upload a whole slew of different sizes -- you upload the largest original you have and they'll downsize it when someone needs a smaller one. They also offer a dpi calculator for each image someone is looking at so they can see at 100 dpi what they could get (cm and inches) with the medium or small images, for example.

I've seen Crestock ads in magazines, so I know they're advertising and being an up-and-comer to the game, they're really pushing hard to get to the top of the stack. I'm pretty excited about being in there.

Click here if you'd like to sign up as a contributor or designer for Crestock.

My portfolio on Crestock.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Shutterstock was my first foray into the world of microstock. They offer their clients a subscription based schedule where they pay X amount and then get to download Y amount of images per month. Contributors receive between $0.25 and $0.38 for each time someone downloads one of their images, depending on that contributor's sales previously. If you've made under $500, then you're at $0.25 per image and so on. Now, a quarter an image doesn't seem like a lot, but it adds up. Consider that a musician gets $0.17 for an album sale, and $0.25 doesn't sound so bad.

The main requirements to become a submitter for shutterstock is that you submit 10 initial images and have at least 7 of them accepted. It's a general consensus that the initial 10 are judged a little harsher than subsequent uploads, and while I won't point out specific portfolios, if you dig around some, the standards are not always terribly high of what they accept. Don't get me wrong, there's a tremendous amount of good content on there, but there's some "2 minute photoshop" (and worse) stuff on there as well.

After the initial review process, your goal is to upload at a steady pace and be active on the forums. While it hasn't been proven, it's been the longstanding theory (and I've found it to be true) that on shutterstock, in particular, you need to keep a relatively steady stream of uploads and post on the forum relatively often (i.e. do both at least a few times a week) to have success.

To date, I've made the majority of my microstock income from shutterstock, including a recent $9 sale from a short video clip (aka Footage) but I'll leave the Footage information for another post on another day.

If you'd like to sign up for shutterstock to be a contributor, or to buy images, click here.