Thursday, February 24, 2011

Putting All Your (Stock Photo) Eggs In One Basket

All Of Your Eggs In One Basket
If you put all your eggs in one basket, you’d better be sure that it is the right basket. But, of course, since change happens we can never be sure we have the right basket. We may have the right basket at any given time, but, at least in the world of stock photography, things can change quickly and I believe it is important to diversify in terms having images in royalty free and rights managed, as well as having your images with several different agencies.

Diversification And Anxiety
The biggest problem with diversification for me is anxiety. I’ll give you an example. A couple of years back I rented a nightclub in Buenos Aires and did a gang stock shoot with several of my photographer friends. We hired about twenty or thirty models and spent a half a day shooting. A few weeks ago I came across the raw files as I was looking through my archives for ideas and decided to create a composite image to capture the energy and fun of the club scene.  Once I had my image it was time to get it into distribution. That is where my anxiety comes in.
To create this picture of an enthusiastic crowd of young people dancing at a rave or club, we rented a nightclub and hired models in Buenos Aires.
Creating a vibrant image of a nightclub, rave or disco is one thing, figuring out how to distribute it can be quite another.

The Biggest Market Share, Declining Royalties and Petty Irritations
Do I give it to Getty, which has been my primary distributor over the years? Getty has the biggest market share. But my sales with Getty have been declining, I hate that they sell my images for such small amounts, and who knows, at any second they could be sold again and then who knows what might happen! Do I give this disco dance photo to Blend Images, of which I am part owner, and which would get even wider distribution than Getty? Of course, even as a part owner of Blend Images I would only get a percentage of a percentage. How about another agency I use, SuperStock? I believe in the SuperStock management and see them as a solid alternative and one that will continue to move up in the ranks. I have work with Corbis as well, but lately they have turned down several images that I believe in and so in a huff of petty irritation I am not sending them new work just yet.  Of course, the agencies I work with are not the only good agencies out there. But I have enough anxiety just trying to distribute work among them!  Then there is the question of RF or RM (and for some Microstock as well). BTW, I urge microstockers to explore some traditional agencies as well. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Rising Revenue and Successful RF Images        
In this case I went with RF and Blend Images. A big part of that decision is because my revenue from Blend has actually been going up…and I am finding that RF images are often making me more than RM images. Not always, but some of my highest earning images are RF even in this time when everyone is lamenting the demise of royalty free because of image over-saturation. Another big part of the decision is because with Blend my images end up with pretty much everywhere. I get a small slice of the pie, but the pie is bigger (hey, how’d I get from egg baskets to pie?), and if something happens to any one agency I won’t take as big a hit as I otherwise would.

A Jack-of-All-Trades and Basic Investment Wisdom
Of course, all my images go up on my web site, which is yet another way to diversify, and I consider and also part of my diversification plan. While I have major doubts about video, I am obviously, and cautiously, dabbling in motion as well. 3D is tempting, but I just don’t have time for everything. I am not advocating being a jack of all trades and a master of none, but rather being as much of a master as you can possibly be in your image production, and following the most basic investment wisdom (after all, you are investing in your stock imagery) in distributing your work: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.


Luis Santos said...

There isn´t a zoom out on the video right? But it looks like it is zooming out.. because of the floor perhaps, great vid

John Lund said...


No zoom...



Sami Sarkis said...

Thanks for sharing those moments of doubts with us, John!
Part of our daily job as stock photographers is to answer those questions as you mentioned it (Distribution channels and license type) but also what to shoot, how, where, why, with who, and how much time and money shall we invest in it?

When it comes to make decisions I feel like I'm gambling, even after all these years of so called 'experience': don't you?

I mean, the market, the buyers, the agents, and the competition are so unpredictable those days, at least for me!

Shall we be back to pure 'intuition'?