Selling Your Photos --

Where Does Your Trail Go?

In the first edition (1981) of my book, "Sell & ReSell Your Photos," I advised photographers to avoid setting up a stock photo agency of their own that did not specialize in a particular subject area. By specializing, you can better define your customers and survive in this industry.

Those stock agencies that did not heed my advice now find themselves in competition with Corbis, Getty, Alamy, Shutterstock, and other giants.

The present economy bodes well for the individual editorial stock photographer. Individual editorial stock photography is its own ball game. You match your highly specialized stock photography area with the same category of a highly specialized publishing company(s).

Example: --not aviation, but American World War II aircraft. A search in Google provides you with publishing house(s) of magazines, books, and electronic media that is seeking your photos as we talk.

Since editorial stock photographers work in a vertical market -- selling single-use, content-specific images and working in volume with close-knit special-interest clients, this is different than most generalized stock photographers who tend to spead themselves thin in all markets, all directions out there.

Editorial photographers don’t work broadly across the board, as do commercial or other photographers working with microstock or traditional all-purpose stock agencies.

So, editorial stock photographers can sit back and be spectators in the battle now roiling in the commercial stock photography field, where inexpensive “royalty-free” is fast becoming the source of choice for commercial images among many art directors who don't mind using manufactured all-pirpose photos.

When you specialize in your stock photography, you, in a sense, become an “authority” in your field –a mini-expert. Because the specialty you have chosen to photograph is important to you (childhood education, panthers, antique Ford automobiles, health care, etc.) you are enthusiastic about the subject. This knowledge and enthusiasm spills over into your photography as well as communication and correspondence with your clients. They sense your competence on the subject and choose to work with you for stock photos, as well as for future assignments.


Specialized photobuying customers looking for pictures they need do not care who made the photo. A lot depends on the right choice of photo for their project not the name of the photographer who made the picture.

They feel safe with a photographer who is an “authority” in the subject area, plus shows technical skill.

Should you only specialize? Continue to take random photos and dump them in your favorite microstock site(s), but build a deep selection of photos in a specialized area you’re passionate about. This is your treasure chest that no other photographer can compete with. You, in a sense, will eventually have a monopoly in this category.

This will be the key to your stock photo success.

As an editorial stock photographer you are going to find much more enjoyment when you are photographing subject matter that you like to take. Learn more about how to sell those pictures at PhotoSource International and the PhotoSourceBANK, Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Rohn Engh is director of and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. E-mail: Fax: 1 715 248 3800;

Back to PhotoStockNotes