Article by John M. Lund
Shooting Assignments and Stock Photo Production
In a way, a photographer who shoots only stock and no assignments is putting themselves at a disadvantage when in comes to stock photography production. When shooting assignments you end up in places, and with access to people, that you probably would never even think of, let alone be subsidized to shoot.
So I have often asked myself if it wouldn’t help my stock photography career to shoot assignments. Ah, but then I think of all the wasted time associated with assignments.
Estimates, Prep and Post
There are the estimates, that to do a good job, can take a least a day and sometimes several days to complete. And if you do get the job there are the days of prep and of post, and the endless little changes the clients always seem to want, and the last minute additions that they don’t want to pay for…and the hassles to get paid.
Introducing Fresh Ideas
OK, I say to myself, I won’t return to doing assignments just yet. But how can I introduce new and fresh ideas into my work that are comparable to those that would come in via assignments?
Expose Yourself to Something New
Well, I have come up with a couple of thoughts around that. First, I get out of my ordinary environment and expose myself to something completely new and different. One way in which I have done that very successfully is by doing what I refer to as adventure travel. I have a friend and colleague who leads photo trips to some pretty cool places. Places like India, Jordan, Myanmar and China. Every time I have taken one of these trips I have come back not only refreshed and with a whole notebook of new ideas, but also with photography from the trips themselves that have invariably paid back the cost of the trip and have each become their own little profit center.
Travel, Time, and a New Paradigm
Occasionally I have undertaken such travel by myself, but it is a lot more fun for me to be with like-minded people and to have the logistics handled by someone else. In a way these trips are far more efficient for me as well. I avoid spending all that time in researching places and putting together the trip. Instead, I just step out of my business world and into a whole new paradigm, and then, recharged, step back into my “real world” existence.
An African Safari, a Photography Blog and Great White Sharks
The other method I have for injecting some unusual ideas into my work comes as kind of a corollary to the travel. I keep a list of 100 things I want to do before I die (OK, I have never actually gotten more than about 60 things written down). Things like go on an African safari (haven’t done that one yet…but think of the cool stock photos that could come out of that…and I don’t mean photos of wild animals, but of camp life and so forth…), shoot photography for a world humanitarian organization, dive with great white sharks, start a photography blog (oh yeah, I did that one), Visit Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, anyway, you get the picture.
Dream Assignments and Stock Photography
Make a list of things you want to do before you die. Go crazy with it! Then look at that list with an eye for how you can accomplish those things and make them pay off for you through stock photography. It is kind of like giving yourself your own dream assignments…and using stock photography to enhance your life in more ways than just monetarily. In the end, it is a full and rich life that I want more than a full and rich estate!
Funny Pics & Stock Photos: Funny pictures cat dominatrix with boots, corset and a whip
Funny Pics and Stock Photography: funny cat and kitten stock photo
Funny Pics and Animal Photos: tricky cat holds up two fingers behind a Bloodhound’s head
Sometimes we associate stock photography with some negative concepts such as the photos you see in frames that are on sale at a department store or the photo that comes in a new wallet. Sure, those images did come from a stock photography library but there is so much more to stock photography than that.
You can put a lot of creative energy into building a solid stock photography library that will draw customers who need these images and like your creative eye. Really, if you think about it, stock photography is no different from doing a shoot for a customer. It’s just that you are taking the photos in advance of finding the customer and you can sell the same stock photo a multitude of times. And that last part is what makes running a stock photography service a lucrative business to operate.
The demand for stock photography is ongoing and increasing. But in the economic “model” of any marketplace, supply is as important as demand. So to compete for business you need a good, diverse supply. That means your first step in building your stock photography business is to build the “stock”. In this situation, quantity counts.
When you start entertaining customers, you want to be able to show them a strong catalog not only of many genres of stock photos but of a good variety of photos for each genre. So if the buyer is looking for floral shots, you don’t just have three or four stock photos in that category. You should have dozens for them to pick from. By building a large collection, you vastly increase your chances of making a sale with each customer you entertain.
Don’t think that taking stock photos takes the creativity out of the process. In fact, the opposite is true. Really great stock photography screams personality, even if it’s just an assortment of floral scenes you are taking. The buyer is looking for a photo that seems to have a story to it, that draws the eye and makes the viewer want to ponder the meaning of that photo.
Sounds a bit like art photography, doesn’t it? Well, in a way, it is. Just because you are selling the photo as part of your stock collection, doesn’t lower the artistic value of what you are doing. And if your art is going out the door to be used by a customer, it is still being seen by people who will reflect on what you are trying to say with that photo. So to you, the photographer, your artistic calling is satisfied and you have a nice chuck of change in your pocket to boot.
Along with building a strong portfolio of quality pictures of each category, make your categories as diverse as possible. View other stock collections and gather ideas for the genres they have represented and of the diversity of shots and settings they have included in their collection. You are not plagiarizing other photographers work if you are letting them inspire you to do your best work.
A good discipline to build your stock photography gallery is to take a day each week and go out and build one category of stock photos all day long. So you may do floral shots all day one week, photos of automobiles the next and pictures of college students the next.
Now don’t forget to get your releases signed if you use human subjects. Even if you just hang out on a college campus and talk students into posing for stock photos. Be sure you pay them something for their work and get a release. In that way if their picture ends up in some very public setting because of how a customer uses it, you are protected from them coming back with their palm up wanting more.
Finally, trust your instincts on what to include in your gallery. Your artistic “eye” for what you like is probably pretty reliable and will reflect what interests your customers. Once the gallery is built, then you can go about the “business” of putting together a physical catalog to sell from. And don’t forget the option of building an online gallery to sell from. You will need some technical help to get your site up and learning how to sell from it and collect money that way. But this can be a great expansion of your successful and growing stock photography business.
Brian Scott is a full-time self-employed entrepreneur. Visit Brian’s free website, http://www.FastCashPhoto.com and learn about making money as a photographer and receiving free digital photography help.
Find More Stock Photography Articles
We continue our series for the Working Photographer with this insightful discussion from the Cannes Lions Festival, with Siri Vorbeck: creative director for Corbis. She discusses the current stock photography market and how she and her team work with photographers to ensure that all parties are successful. Her experience and share will help every photographer there looking to figure out the volatile stock market. And if you want to get into this profession, pay close attention. Go to photoinduced.com for more photo info. C
Video Rating: 3 / 5
Article by Tim Gagne Paquette
Thinking it’s time you started selling your images as stock? Stock photography is in big demand and everybody looks to be doing it, unfortunately though, most photographers are going about it the wrong way.
The very first thing you must do is get clear on where you want to end up …
Do you want a full time business? Do you dream about throwing in the day job and becoming a pro photographer? Or do you simply need some more cash from your photography? Perhaps you’d be content to buy a new lens every now and then from your profits?
If you need the first option, you are looking at joining a particularly tough industry and that is going to take serious time, effort and you’re going to have to invest real money to make it happen.
For stock photography you want to evaluate every element of your photography the standard of your work, the commercial potential of the subjects you shoot, how many images you have on file and how often you add to them. Quality, Content & Volume to achieve success in stock photography you have to have each of those aspects absolutely covered.
If you happen to feel you may need to work on any of those areas, I’d counsel you take your time to work on them first. Take a short course to improve your photography technique, buy some stock photography books to find more commercial subjects, and then shoot constantly to build your volume.
Stock is competitive and sure to suck the joy right out of your photography if you try to start sell stock photos before you’re prepared.
If you aren’t out for a major life-change though, you really have other more options.
A lot of part-time photographers place their pictures with the microstock libraries and hope to make a little bit of small change each year but I truly believe this is about the very worst of your choices.
A few of these stock photo sites are selling pictures for a buck or less each, royalty free, so the photographers gets a few cents for the sale, and the buyer gets free use of the image, forever. This does not worry plenty of beginners, but it has a huge impact on the industry. If that doesn’t concern you, it probably should.
If circumstances change and you decide one day to sell your photos seriously, each $ 1 sale you make is going to make it that much harder for you to make a living. And to make matters worse, you won’t be able to sell and of those photos to high-end photo buyers, because you will not have any idea where they’ve been published before or where they might turn up next.
Generally you’ll find a much better option for the hobbyist is to use your photosphotos as content rather than product, and publish them on your own easy photography internet sites promoting affiliate products. For most photographers this will lead on to much better returns without giving your photos away for peanuts, and if you one day decide to get serious about selling your photos, they are still exclusively yours to sell.
Matt Brading is a photographer, writer and webmaster. Matt prefers to sell stock photos through the direct contact libraries: GlobalEye Stock Photo Agency and OzImages Stock Photography Library.
Matt recently published over-the-shoulder videos that show you how to make your own profitable photo web sites in a weekend!