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Unless it is in a subject area you specialize in… Don't Photograph ItThe most common mistake editorial stock photographers make that leads directly to failure is that they try to be all things to all photobuyers.
Instead, want to quick-start your stock photography business?
Take a tip from successful magazine writers. The successful ones are those who focus on one (or a select few) special interest areas, e.g. genetics, NASA, horse racing, rock groups, etc. Amateur writers, on the other hand, attempt to sell articles on subjects "all across the board" to any and all magazine publishers in the spectrum.
As a parallel, many stock photographers just starting out, take photos of all kinds of subjects and try to sell them in an attempt to pay the grocery bill. In the long run, this approach leads not to more dollars in the treasury, but less.
By scattering their attention across many subject areas, amateur stock photographers aren’t able to collect deep coverage in any specific areas, to offer buyers enough choice in their area of focus. Nor do the photographers develop expertise and knowledge in depth, of specific areas, which can enable them to be a sought-after resource by buyers.
Professionals approach it another way. They take photos only in their field(s) of interest. It may be one field or a half dozen. But seldom more. Since the photographer is already a mini-expert in these fields, there's no 'initial' research to accomplish. Because they have an established track record in the field, and previous photos sales to show for it, gaining entrance, and permission for taking certain photos, when necessary, is only a matter of a phone call. Very often, these specializing photographers come to be on a first-name basis with the persons who give or deny access for photo coverage of events or activity in specific areas.
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“Amateur stock photographers tend to take ‘Sunday’ photos – and at random. Ask yourself, am I taking this photo for sale or for soul..?
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In contrast, amateurs will take completely different photos each day of the week. On Monday, they cover a museum. On Tuesday, it's a dog show. On Wednesday, it’s photos of a new medical procedure, etc. Time allows only scant research, and the result is surface coverage. A scatter-shot approach like this doesn’t offer much promise to advance your career.
Exceptions would be when you happen upon good photo opportunities while on vacation or a Sunday outing. Include these scattered categories on your website along with plentiful keywords. Allow the search engines to pick up these keywords. (Who knows? Maybe the Internet will help you to discover new prospects and make a match with buyers for these photos now and then.)
Professionals build substantive coverage in a select number of areas, and find buyers who need photos in those specific areas. They build up contacts with dependable markets who come to rely on the photographer as an expert in their field of interest. Buyers looking for pictures in these specific areas know who to go to for the widest and most current selection.
Eventually, the photographer does not have to seek out buyers; the buyers come to him/her. It’s not an overnight process. You have to have a real desire to photograph in the area of your choosing. Waiting for sales to click won’t be a problem because you enjoy what you ‘re doing.
The problem of paying the grocery bill is solved, and the future looks bright. The next time you’re tempted to take photos that are "out of your field," have the courage to say, "No." Or at least just take those photos on Sundays or your vacation.
Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . Fax: 1 715 248 7394. Web site: http://www.photosource.com .