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Stock Photo Success… Finding The Right PathTraditional (RM – “Rights Managed”) single-use commercial stock photography,
in my estimation, is doomed.
And not because Getty, Corbis, et al are engaging in price wars - but because of a
more important tenet in retail marketing that says,
"If you want to live with the masses, (down in the ghetto) appeal to the classes. (Rights-managed (RM) stock photography appeals to the classes).
“If you want to live with the classes, (out in the suburbs high on a hill) appeal to the masses."
Microstock (RF) appeals to the masses.
Any stock photographer attempting to sell photos based on clever label
merchandising, brochures and posters that appeal only to the "classes," can
expect to live eventually in the ghetto.
A second reason traditional single-use (RM) commercial
stock photography is doomed is that history shows that the
company that achieves the classic economics formula,
m = c + v + t
will prevail over its competition and control prices. [ m
(market share) = c (cash flow) + v (volume, inventory,
product line selection) + t (technology, automation,
speed, service). Put them all together and you have
commercial success.] All those elements are not there, especially customer service.
Ten, twenty years ago, small stock photo agencies could survive if they had only parts of that formula in place.
In the first edition (1981) of my book, "Sell & ReSell Your Photos," I advised photographers to avoid setting up a stock photo agency that did not specialize in a particular subject area. By specializing, you can better define your customers and survive. Those stock agencies
that did not heed my advice now find themselves in competition with Corbis, Getty, JupiterImages, Shutterstock, and other giants.
Worse still, as the ‘well runs dry’ for ad agencies, marketing groups, and commercial promotion agencies, their demand for rights-managed photography has fallen.
A handful of top stock photographers have attempted to boost their industry awareness by hiring “brand” organizations to publicize their work through seminars, postal mailings and the usual advertising. Not a good idea at a time when their target clients are losing budgets.
All of these changes bode well for the editorial stock photographer. Individual editorial stock photography is a different ball game. The situation takes a different tack, 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.) They don’t work broadly across the board as with microstock or traditional stock.
So, editorial stock photographers are 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 art directors who don't mind using manufactured 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) you are enthusiastic about the subject. This knowledge spills over in 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 future assignments.
WHY WOULD THEY CHOOSE YOU?
But aren’t photobuyers looking for pictures they need and don’t care who made the photo?
They feel safe with a photographer who is an “authority” in the subject area plus shows technical skill. A lot depends on the right choice of photo for their project not the name of the photographer who made the picture.
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.
This will be the key to your stock photo success.
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Rohn Engh, veteran stock photographer and best-selling author of “Sell & ReSell Your Photos” and “sellphotos.com,” has helped scores of photographers launch their careers. He is the founder of “The Breeze” a system for photographers to use in order to attain the Page 1-2 of a Google search. For access to great information on making money from pictures you like to take, and to receive free report: “8 Steps to Becoming a Published Photographer,” visit http://www.sellphotos.com