You perhaps already know that there are really only a couple of principle ways of making money from photography. In fact, there are only two. There’s Assignment Photography and Stock Photography – both are lucrative if they are handled correctly and professionally. Assignment photography is based on you taking pictures at a predetermined function or event. Stock photography however, is based on you taking the pictures and hoping that someone will buy them later. Remember, this is in principle only. There are ways to ensure that you do in fact sell stock photography. More on that later.
It’s true that stock photography demand a lower price in general but they have a wider audience and base. Their sales can also be ongoing.
There are Stock Libraries all over the internet which are keen on being the agent between the photographer and the buyer.
The system is pretty much the same between most of them except for a few. You take a clever picture, they post them on their highly visited sites and ‘on sell’ them to agents, production houses, designers, advertising agents, publishers etc. This is a highly popular vehicle and has grown tremendously over the last decade. This manner or niche of photography has many benefits including when you are just starting your photography business part time or looking for some compounding income so that you may one day move into your planned business. The list goes on.
This way of marketing photographs has more distinct advantages, if you are a part time freelancer, or have just started your own business. Either way you are probably too busy making portfolios, and taking pictures to market them. Another factor, which makes this method of marketing advantageous, is that when you are starting you do not have the network of contacts to market your photographs. Added to that there are some people who won’t or can’t perfect their marketing skills.
A downside of this marketing method is that there is a little more to it than taking photographs and waiting for the Rayalty cheques to come in. Most stock libraries, will want to re-caption your pictures to fit in with their image, this can be a time consuming process and it can take months to get them online. However, you can avoid these stock houses and work with those who have better systems too. Like many aspects of selling it is a “numbers game”, the more photographs you have available to sell the more you are likely to sell. This is a fairly general aspect of marketing, but it is more specific in this instance, as prospective buyers may look at other images, if they like one particular one. Because of the time factor of getting your work to the buyers or the public, many stock libraries, have insisted on a minimum contract, which means that they typically ask to retain your work for a minimum of two years.
Some of the stock libraries are general and some are more specific.
Marine Themes obviously specialise in underwater photography, and they scan and correct all their images before sale. They are then color corrected to ensure that any prints will be the best quality. All this takes time, to get the images actually for sale on the Internet. The benefit is that marine photography is highly specialised, and this process does increase your chances to merchandise your work.
In the past the market was limited to buyers who were sent colour brochures and made their selection from them, now the market is expanding, as many libraries have widened their sales base by allowing customer’s to make their purchases directly on line. This factor alone has increased the numbers game the more people who have access, the more who are likely to buy. Some stock libraries are general and some are highly specific such as South African images. Some cover specialist areas such as marine photography, or nature.
So how do you choose the stock library that will be the most beneficial to you?
There are independent reports covering the various strengths and weaknesses. The annual Freelance Photographer’s Market Handbook in the UK features a section on stock libraries and is an excellent reference guide. Some of the stock libraries have been established for ten years. They have hundreds of photographer’s and hundreds of thousands of images. As a result of this they may be reluctant to take on new clients. However if you have a large portfolio available immediately it may be worth trying one of the older companies. However you will be competing with established photographers who have built up a client base. Many of the new companies have less than a hundred photographers and you will start by being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. However, I will soon show you a good way to beat the bigger fish if you so choose – stay with me!
At the end of the day, the choice has to be your personal decision, and there is nothing to stop you from registering with more than one library. Whilst the market is growing and will continue to grow to encompass on line sales, remember to consider that sales from a printed catalogue will be important for a while, and it may be advantageous for you to choose a library with a well referenced catalogue.
Many stock library have different terms and conditions. In general most give you a straight 50% of the earnings. However some do let the images go into the hands of “sub agents”, and they will expect an additional cut from any sales. Read your contract well before you sign and beware of copyright issues. Normally when the photograph is sold the buyer is issued with a license number, which only allows them to use the image the once. You minimise your royalties if you allow a buyer to pay once and then get multiple uses out of it.
All in all if you are prepared to look at your market strategy over a long period of time, stock libraries offer you an option. There are forums for professional photographers that do address the issue, and it may be worth you looking into othe peoples style and work. In a second, I will show you where you can get some great information on making good money with your digital camera related to all of this.
There are also available a huge number of royalty free sites. You may question why buyer’s would consider paying for an image whilst they can obtain others free? The answer here is that royalty free photographs don’t make them free, you do purchase them, but you have the rights to re-use the stock photos and CDs for as many different projects and clients as you choose without paying additional licensing fees.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: Don’t get caught up struggling to find your way through the maze of alternatives and confusing instructions, go look at this link and make it happen faster –
…all the best and stay focused,
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