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.