Thursday, December 10, 2009

Studying Stock Photo Sales History And Drawing Conclusions

Shoot to your strength to create photos that are impactful, relavent to the market, and as timeless as possible.
Studying Sales History Of Stock Photos
I spent some time studying the sales history of my stock photos today. I have been keeping track of every sale since 2004, about the time I started shooting RF imagery. Up until that point, until I began shooting for Blend Images, I had limited my stock to Rights Managed images. When I started shooting for Blend I began to also handle the work of some associate photographers and had to keep track of royalty splits. At this point I have access to the sales history of about 1200 Rights Managed images and about 6,000 Royalty Fee images.

Variations In Styles and Subject Matter
Even better, I believe, most of the images in my sales database were actually photographed by photographers who work with me. That means that my sales history covers a wide variety of styles and subject matter. There are images from a total of 14 different photographers.

Long Life Spans And Best Selling Images

When I study the sales history the first thing that strikes me is that my conceptual Rights Managed images have a surprisingly long life span. Over the past six months three of my top twenty images, in terms of earnings, were created over ten years ago. My best selling image over the last six months is a rights managed image that I created fifteen years ago! My best selling royalty free picture was created five years ago. My second and seventh best selling royalty free images were created a little over three years ago. Even when I look at the top 100 images I am still struck by the number of images that exhibit a very long life. Of course, I suppose it could be that I and my cohorts could just be getting worse rather than better at our chosen profession…hope not!

Comparing Images
The next thing that strikes me is that comparing images can be very misleading. I think it might be better to compare shoots. Generally, you get more images from a given shoot, with Royalty Free than with Rights Managed. When I look at shoots, my two best money-producing shoots are royalty free. Most of my Rights Managed images, until very recently, were pretty much one-off undertakings. That is, I came up with a single idea and executed it. I no longer work that way, but with the bulk of my sales history that is what I am dealing with. Based on what I see in my sales history I think it remains important to shoot for both RM and RF.

Concepts, Business Images, Lifestyle And Conclusions

The third conclusion I get from looking at the images is that, for me, everything seems to sell. Concepts sell the best as far as individual images go, our business images tend to sell better than our lifestyle, but a few of the lifestyle images do really, really well. Not only that, but my core of active photographers are all doing equally well despite different approaches, subject matter, and styles.

Core Concepts And Supplemental Opportunities
So what the heck do I do with this information? The best selling images of my group tend to have long life spans; RM and RF both make money, and everything sells. I’ll let you know if I every really figure out what to do with that information. But for now I will just keep going on my path, devising shoots with a core concept and supplemental opportunities, and do my best to create images that have impact, are relevant to the market, and are as timeless as possible.


Anonymous said...

thanks John for sharing your analysis. I am in my first year of being a stock shooter and your analysis is certainly helpful

John Lund said...


Glad to hear that...I find that trying to make sense out of my numbers is very frustrating!