Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Equation For Success In Stock Photography

Photograph of a young child in diapers standing at a blackboard in school and completing a very complex mathematical formula.
The secret ingredients in the formula for success are copius amounts of hard work and an appropriate gestation period (i.e. a lot of time!).

Exploring The Work of Photographers
Earlier this week I spent some time exploring the work of other photographers. Man, there are a lot of great shooters out there! I also spent time looking at work in stock agencies. Again, some of the photography that is being produced is amazing. Sure, there is a ton of bad photography, and mountains of mediocre imagery, but there is also a copious amount of fantastic work flooding into the market…work that is adding to the already staggering glut of stock photography.

The Equation For Success In Stock Photography
Every once-in-a-while, when I do that kind of searching, I am amazed that I am still successful in stock photography. I mean, with all of that truly great work out there, how does anyone ever find my work let alone choose to license it? I don’t have an answer to that question. But it is a question that continues to concern me, and that leads to the question of what I can do to make sure that I can continue to do well in stock photography.  I believe that there is an equation for success in stock photography:

Quality Images + visibility = Success x Quantity + Variety

Of course, this doesn't include the necessity of a ton of hard work and a huge investment of time!

No Magic Bullet
There is no one answer, no magic bullet. The formula for success lies in having great images with high visibility. Of course, the more of those images the greater the success as well, though the quantity requires variety to avoid cannibalization. So on the one hand it is simple: create great images and get them seen. On the other hand, it isn’t easy. It is a ton of work, and one that requires tremendous passion for success. You need the passion or you’ll never get the work done.

Great Work And Visibility
That begs the questions of how to create great work, how do get visibility for your images, and how to be able to produce the quantity of work needed to meet your financial goals. But it can be done and a lot of people are doing it. Some are doing it by themselves, some with plenty of staff, some using video and some using stills. Again, to succeed you need to find the combination that works for you, the combination that works with the passion you have.

Making The Numbers Work And Work Flow Interruption
Actually, it gets even more complicated. You have to make the numbers work as well. You need to be sure that you are paying attention to your expenses, being realistic in your accounting and planning, and dealing, effectively, with all the pain-in-the-neck details that running a successful business takes.  For example, I spent most of the day today getting a new server up and running. Who among us budgets accurately for such work flow interruptions? That is just one example of too many for me to even think about right now.

Images Online And Building Traffic
I will say that one thing I am certain is a good move in relation to insuring that my stock photo career flourishes in the long term is in getting my images online and building the traffic of my site to increase the visibility of my images. I began the process three years ago. What I have come to believe through these efforts is that the strategy is a sound one, but that the process is almost unbelievably time-intensive and an insanely long-term undertaking. I do believe that someday I will wake up and say “Man, I am glad I did that work!” which is what I have also said many times about my efforts to build my stock photography business in the first place.


Stock fotos said...

Nice work.

Good photography is a combination of the right mix of light with the best angle and clicking at the right moment. A good photographer will take care to have the right mix of all these ingredients to deliver the best shot. There may be situations where a photographer is not able to get the right angle or is not able to click at the right moment but lighting is still under his control.
stock photography

Jaak Nilson said...


You wrote that there are about 1000 visitors per day on your site. Your photos are linked and directed to Blend Images or Getty pages.
Is it worth your efforts. Do you have enough stock sales via your blog.
A funny animal pictures probably yes, but I mean your main stock photos.

Happy Holidays !

John Lund said...


Whether my efforts to get traffic to my site to increase my stock sales are worth it or not is still open to question. I get at least twenty people a day finding my images on my site and then clicking on the links to Blend, Getty, Corbis or Superstock. However, I cannot easily tell whether they actually license an image at that point. The best I can tell is that some small percentage do license images...and occasionally some one license directly through me...though that is rare because almost all of my images are handled by the agencies. After three years of hard work to build traffic I believe that to this date I would have earned more money by simply putting that time into making new images. I do believe that in the long run, say three to five more years from now, this effort will be paying off very well. Only time will tell!



donfarrall said...

I could relate to much of what you have eluded to in this installment. There is indeed a lot of very good work out there, and too much of it being sold for far too little. As for the web efforts... I built a website to help my realtor sell my house, and filled it with photos and some background story info about building a "New-Old House". So far I have had 57,000 visitors, which is far more than I expected, but no offers on the house. As they say in Real Estate, it only takes one buyer, but that buyer remains elusive. So here is my shameless plug, for anyone interested in seeing a website about a house that can draw that level of web traffic. www.castlevictorian.com Keep up the good fight... Don Farrall

John Lund said...


Wow...that is some house! And sixty acres too...things are a bit more pricey here...oh well.

In the meantime...I'm fighting!



Photographer Melbourne said...

great photos I enjoyed looking at them. What fab style they had. I have a few old photos in digital format.Plus a dvd of my grandparents' home movies which shows how stylish my grandma was - never seen without lipstick on.
Photography Melbourne