Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Succeeding In Stock Photography

Business people ride a roller coaster in a photo illustrating the ups and downs of the market.
The stock photography business has become a roller coaster of ups an downs, but some photographers are still doing well.

Poor Sales And Pulling Imagery
I just read a post on a forum in which a photographer complained about his sales (or lack of sales) at Alamy and is going to pull all of his imagery. Everywhere one turns photographers are decrying the state of the industry. I can’t even count how many photographers I have heard give up on Getty and Corbis. Even microstock photographers are hating on iStock (formerly iStockphoto) and Shutterstock. There is no doubt that these are challenging times in the stock photo industry, but I think it is important to keep in mind that the ones we hear from most are the ones who are having a hard time. The shooters who are experiencing success are for the most part eschewing the forums to…drum roll…make images!

Photographers Succeeding In Stock
There are photographers who are succeeding in stock.  So while that one unnamed photographer is pulling his imagery from Alamy, Jon Boyes has found a formula for making Alamy pay well…and is experiencing increasing sales.   Cristian Baitg is finding success with iStock. Others I know are growing their sales at Getty (I can’t speak to Corbis as I don’t personally know anyone who is an active Corbis contributor). Even the upstart agency Stocksy, with just a few months under its belt, is claiming that several of their photographers are making good livings (though I would sure love to know exactly what that means….). I am also aware of many Blend Images photographers who are doing well.

Making Stock Photography Work
My point is that we photographers can still make stock work for us, but need to understand what model suits our particular abilities and style. Jon Boyes, for example, has the patience and discipline to understand and make the most of key wording at Alamy.  Cristian Baitg knows what works, and how to shoot it, for the micro model. 

Rights Managed, Royalty Free, Microstock And Roller Coasters
I hear photographers say their RM imagery is doing well but that they are giving up on RF…and I also hear the exact opposite. I know at least one photographer who has given up on Getty to shoot microstock! I personally am experiencing what I am sure many other shooters are…a roller coaster of up and down months. One month I think things have turned the corner and the future is rosy, the next I have to grit my teeth and not let a disappointing sales report interrupt my productivity. When you hear the sky is falling, take it with a grain of salt and learn as much as you can about your own situation and what will work for you.

Understand Your Distribution
To succeed in stock photography these days it certainly helps to understand which agencies offer what. Getty, for example, is still the 600 lb. Gorilla, but is not offering much in the way of individual art direction. Blend Images (disclaimer…I am a part owner of Blend), as another example, offers vast distribution and individual art direction.  Shutterstock boasts a huge customer base, but certainly isn’t right for my style of imagery…at least not “as right” as Getty or Blend. On top of everything else agencies are going public, venture capital is coming in, and agencies are jockeying for position with renewed vigor. Change is afoot and it may be very important to pay attention to it!

What To Shoot, How To Shoot And How To Distribute
Each of use needs to really understand what to shoot, how to take advantage of our own skill sets and shooting styles, and which distribution channels work best our own circumstances. If we can understand those things we can still thrive in stock photography...it just isn't easy.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

well said John, I still think Microstock is a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Getty is the only stock agency worth ones while. I've tried a few. Nothing compares.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you that at this moment we are in a roller coaster situation. Nice image by the way. The supply is outstripping demand by large so we are entering a new terrain were only the best prepared are going to stay in this business. The demand of images is stronger than ever but we are just too many eating from the same cake. Jumping off the ship has already started and will go on for the next years. I don't know if I will make it but all I know is that the only chance to be in the game is to produce relevant work until it is no longer profitable.....Our situation is equivalent of many industries nowadays. No shortcuts in this tough road.

Anonymous said...

Getty is the only one. They own the industry period and especially in RM. Never had such good sales-reports as of lately. Many of my collegues agree on this one. I mean where else can you get thousands of dollars, regular basis, every month?
Photographers, even part-timers in micro-stock are jumping ship in droves. I know one guy with a portfolio of 8K images who is in the process of deleting every one of them.
The micros have brought this upon themselves, short term profit thinking, sites constantly full of bugs, glitches and constant royalty cuts.

Anonymous said...

Microstock is a joke. It is unsustainable. No wonder Yuri Arcurs jumped ship. Very glad I never went that road. I've had images in many places....ever reputable stock agencies....no one compares to Getty. I've moved ALL my images to Getty. Getty is where a stock photographer can make the best sales, hands down!

Anonymous said...

I have had my nine years in micro-stock, earnt a small fortune. It was good as long as it lasted but now its finished. Sites, quality, royalty and management is just going down and down. Its for part-timers and weekend-snappers.
As far as Alamy, Stocksy and this new Offset? well it aint much better. Pie in the sky.
Getty is the only one.

Anonymous said...

AGREED: agencies like Masterfile, Alamy, Superstock, Stocksy--its hard to make good money as a photog. Microstock--forget it. You need many many images, and even then, who knows if you'll make much. Getty is the only one left were a photog. can make decent $ with the right kinds of images, like JOHN LUND!

Jim West said...

I think those who say Getty is the only way are missing the point of John's article. I personally have never been with Getty, but I am making a very good living from a variety of other agencies, including Alamy. My work is editorial, emphasizing social issues, and does very well in the textbook market. It would not do well at all at an agency focused on commercial markets. I am indeed upset about price cutting, led by Getty and Alamy, and I am therefore not too optimistic about the long term. But I have been pessimistic for several years, and for me, Armageddon has not yet arrived.

Anonymous said...

If editorial photography then yes Alamy would be an ok choice.
Armageddon? no hardly but I do sometimes pop in to the Shutterstock forum and others and I must say. Never seen so many unhappy people and I am talking about people with huge portfolios.
My choice have always been Getty. As said above they ARE the stock industry.

Anonymous said...

Getty is the only one left where a photog. can make decent $ in commercial stock photography. Look at Blend Images, which John Lund touts (ofcourse he would, he's part owner), distributes through Getty and probably make most (or a good chunk) of their sales through Getty.

John Lund said...

Anonymous,

I think every stock shooter should have work both with Getty and with another agency be it Blend, Alamy or whomever best suits your strategy. I know one photographer who has learned how to really make his Alamy sales excel, wile aggregators like Blend actually have a wider audience than Getty and offer more support. I think it is wise to avoid having all your eggs in one basket too.....

John

Anonymous said...

Blend is like a broker. Most of their sales are through Getty or another stock agency. They don't sell that much direct off their website. Why give a third party a cut of the pie? If you own it, great. Otherwise, less sales for the photographer as you have to pay Blend a cut. Best to establish a contract direct through Getty or another stock agency if possible. This is easier said than done. It took me 7 years to finally get a house collection through Getty. Worth the wait!

John Lund said...

Anonymous,

Blend takes a cut, true, but offers more guidance and more distributors. Blend has numerous contributors who have Getty contracts but who still choose to take advantage of what Blend has to offer. I think it is a smart strategy to work both with Getty and with other agencies too.

John

Anonymous said...

Our business will never be the same as long as it remains at this micro gutter level.
I know many photographers earning very good money with some micros but they seriously regret the day they jumped on the bandwagon. Its slowly killing this business, forcing the big traditional agencies to lower quality and standards.
Thank Christ it hasnt hit the freelance dayrate photographers yet.

Anonymous said...

If the wise photographers leave micro, that will hurt those companies. There has to be a massive exodus though...

Sarah Fix said...

Getty is certainly a good option but NOT the only option. At Blend Images we not only represent the owner photographers but have a thriving community of contributing photographers as well.

The industry has changed significantly over the past several years. A symbiotic relationship has formed between the 3rd party and the large distributor. We give them quality and quantity, top selling imagery and in return get a closer relationship and more favorable terms than what most individual shooters can enjoy. This allows the large agency to invest millions in technology and client outreach while Blend makes investments in creative support for photographers.

In addition to the working with large North American agencies, we work with many agencies large and small around the world. By having a diverse and robust distribution channel we do not rely on any one partner for our revenue. If a large player has a loss in market share or another company shows substantial growth we have the ability to take advantage of changes and remain flexible.

I completely agree with what so many of you have said, there is a lot of content out there. You have to create imagery that justifies the price. We work hard to stay on top of market changes and trends and share this information with our photographers so that, together, we can create the most valuable, competitive content out there.

Pixel Stock Photos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pixel Stock Photos said...

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