OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND! - PART II
New Strategies for Stock Photographers
By Dale O'Dell
Corporate stock agency consolidation has inspired many independent stock photographers
to become free spirits. Dale O’Dell examines some of the choices for
marketing your stock photos – ranging from the online portals to self-marketing.
Because of stock agency consolidation in the
late 90's, the new millenium seemed very bleak for professional stock photographers.
With fewer avenues of distribution, more restrictive contracts, and smaller
commissions, stock photography looked to become a non-viable business option
In response to bad deals generated by the rush for
corporate profit and quick investor return, photographers now have three alternatives.
First is to sign on with the big agencies and hope for the best. This isn’t
really a workable plan for most stock photographers, especially for low-volume
producers of non-cliché imagery.
The second alternative is to go it alone and self-market.
However, self-marketing is a time-consuming and on-going endeavor that takes
time away from image-making.
The newest alternative is to join revamped smaller
existing agencies, specialty agencies, and new online stock portals. (A
short list of the new online portals is: alamy.com, image.net, picsmart.com,
solusimages.com, speedpix.com and stockmedia.net.)
CHOICES ARE GROWING
The number of choices of online portals is growing
and you’ll have to decide for yourself which one(s) are best for you.
It is possible that these new alternatives may be the best way to balance
the demands of creating with selling. Many of these online portals charge
a fee for image placement, but in return they pay a higher commission rate.
In general, the more a selling entity does for you the higher percentage of
the sale they deserve. Conversely, the more risks and responsibilities you
take on, the higher percentage you deserve.
If your involvement ends with delivery of imagery
to the agency and they handle everything else while charging no additional
fees, then a 50% commission may be fair. If you take on jobs like keywording
or digitizing, rather than the agency handling these tasks, then a higher
commission paid to you is in order. Also, if you’re charged a fee for
features like catalog or web placement, digitizing or keywording, then a higher
percentage of the fee paid should go to you -- along with more control over
placement of your imagery. I’ve noticed that the bigger an agency is,
the more conservative they are when selecting images to market. If you assume
some of the monetary risk to place images in catalogs, disks or on websites,
then you should have control over which of your images is marketed.
THE TWO-PART APPROACH
A two-part approach may be the key to remaining
viable in the stock business. One part would be to self-market as much as
you can without becoming a complete slave to it. Every studio has existing
clients as well as potential clients who use similar imagery. Market to those
users through direct mail, your website, and online directories like PhotoSourceBANK.
An expensive marketing tool (that may not repay
your investment) are the sourcebooks, such as Black Book, Stock Workbook,
and Klik. Consider them carefully.
A second part of a stock marketing plan would be
to get as much imagery as possible to as many different selling entities as
possible. Reject all photographer-exclusive clauses in contracts. Image-exclusivity
is workable, but photographer-exclusivity only limits your ability to earn
a living. Since we’re learning that big isn’t always better, seek
out small regional and specialty agencies. Picture users who need regional
or specialized imagery will look to niche agencies first; they don’t
have the time or inclination to wade through the massive files of a huge generalist
A reaction to corporate consolidation is fragmentation.
As the market fragments into areas of specialization, you should distribute
your work accordingly. Stock agency editors have different agendas and priorities
than photographers. If you’re working with many of the above selling
entities, work rejected by one agency may be accepted by another. Remember,
no one knows for sure what the next trend hot image is going to be.
The axiom, "a picture seen is a picture sold,"
still holds true. You may be doing spectacular work, but if no one sees it
or has access to it, you’re out of business. Having all of your images
at one agency can put you at the mercy of a company that has little investment
in you and doesn’t need to care about you. This may sound contradictory,
but a "targeted shotgun" approach to marketing your stock pictures is in order.
Having as many images as possible in the places they’re most likely to
be seen is the best way to increase your earning potential.
Strangely, the best thing to come of stock market
consolidation has been more opportunities for photographers willing to do
a little extra work. Go for it!
produces cyber-generated stock photography from his studio in Prescott, Arizona.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: 1 520 541-0944; Fax: 1 520 541-0957; Web:
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