'You've captured a moment': Island photographers turning hobby into money

In the developing gig-economy, more and more people are turning their hobbies and interests into a source of supplemental income and stock photography is becoming an important aspect of the media landscape.

Two Islanders are supplementing income by selling stock photos online

Rusty Elliott says this is one of his favourite pictures that he's taken — Vatican City at sunrise. (Submitted by Rusty Elliott)

In the developing gig-economy, more and more people are turning their hobbies and interests into a source of supplemental income and stock photography is becoming an important aspect of the media landscape. 

Rusty Elliott has been selling his pictures since 2009 on Shutterstock, a stock photo depository that sells photos to businesses that need them.

Rusty Elliott has been uploading his photographs to Shutterstock since 2009. (Submitted by Rusty Elliott)

"I love to take pictures," Elliott said.

"I'd seen that there was an opportunity … I could sell pictures that I made."

Around the world

Elliott and his wife have travelled to Austria, Portugal, Spain, France, and most recently the Balkans, and everywhere he goes he takes photos. 

"If we go on a trip, I'll take my camera with me and I'll get up early and try and catch some pictures," he said.

Elliott, who runs a grocery and gas station near Basin Head Provincial Park, said that most of the money he makes through Shutterstock sales goes back into his hobby.

Rusty Elliott says that any time he and his wife travel, he brings his camera and takes time to get plenty of photos. (Submitted by Rusty Elliott)

"As you get going you need filters to make your sky better, you need tripods for your long exposures," he said.

"With the internet there's so many different things to learn and try and make your pictures better but you also need stuff that goes with it."

'Captured a moment'

Steve McFeeters is another Islander that has turned a long time passion into a source of income. 

"I've been taking pictures for a long time, I had an interest in photography fairly early," he said.

McFeeters who lives in Cornwall, P.E.I., said that he's been uploading photos to Shutterstock for five or six years.

Steve McFeeters says that he travelled a lot when he was younger, but wasn't carrying a camera much of the time. (Submitted by Steve McFeeters)

He said that the idea of selling his pictures to people without knowing where and how they will be used has never bothered him.

"I figured if I'm putting them up there, and even if somebody buys them or whatever, they're gone anyways," he said.

"The whole idea is that you've captured a moment and hopefully somebody else enjoys it."

'A really good feeling'

Elliott agrees that getting paid to share his work gives him a unique sense of accomplishment.

"It is a really good feeling to have one of your pictures sold," he said.

Steve McFeeters is building his portfolio on Shutterstock so the income will help him ease into retirement. (Submitted by Steve McFeeters)

"It's a different feeling … it's just nice to know that something you've done, somebody else wants."

Getting in the door

Photographers apply to Shutterstock with a portfolio, and if accepted, can begin uploading photos to the website.

Once photos are uploaded the company decides whether or not they pass muster, which in the beginning was tough for McFeeters.

Steve McFeeters has been uploading photos to Shutterstock for 5 or 6 years. (Submitted by Steve McFeeters)

"For somebody new it is usually very frustrating because a lot of photos will be rejected because they're too artistic," he said.

"It's a bit of a different world. As somebody who takes photographs you often to create something that is visually appealing. But in stock photography detail is more important than artistic impression."

Elliott said that the standards imposed by Shutterstock lead to an improvement on his finished product.

'I like a picture to actually have a mood or some striking colours that make it stand out,' says Steve McFeeters. (Submitted by Steve McFeeters)

"They don't put the pictures on if they're crappy," he said.

"Your work has to be good to get on, because they'll just reject it."

Setting a price

Once a photo has been deemed acceptable by Shutterstock the company decides on a price, something Elliott loves about the service. 

"That is the beauty of it, I would have no idea."

'I’m a landscape guy, I’m not a people guy,' says Steve McFeeters. (Submitted by Steve McFeeters)

'Some kind of magic'

McFeeters said he currently makes "hundreds" of dollars each year, but plans to continue building his portfolio on Shutterstock so that eventually it becomes a more significant source of income as he prepares to retire, as well as something to do with his spare time. He said he's like to push the annual income from Shutterstock into the thousands of dollars.

"My wife says I'm never going to retire, but she says she's retiring very soon," he said with a laugh.

Rusty Elliott says that he spends a lot of his free time on the Island taking pictures. (Submitted by Rusty Elliott)

"I need to find things to do because I am not one that likes to sit around."

For Elliott, he finds that taking pictures is good outlet for his energy, and something he enjoys doing.

"With a camera hopefully you can catch some light or some kind of magic that someone else sees."