More than ever stock shooters need to value quality over quantity, and search is fast becoming more important than the quantity of content.
Search Is King
Word on the street is that buyers are increasingly turning to boutique stock sites where they can see more quality images and have less quantity to have to wade through. Search is becoming more important than quantity…though agencies still seem compelled to promote the number of images they have. So what can we, as individual stock shooters, do about this inundation of imagery that sucks the earning power out of our own collections?
I see three things that we can do to combat the tsunami of stock photos deluging the marketplace:
Quality Over Quantity
First, focus on quality not quantity. Obviously the more great images you have the better, but now is the time, more than ever to focus on quality. And by quality I mean images that are truly needed…not the low hanging fruit that any one with a new DLSR can go out and shoot in the spare time…but rather the images that truly need some effort. The images that will rise to the top are the ones created from the effort of casting, of prime locations, and with styling and propping and careful post-production work. It is the images that rise above the ordinary that will attract viewers, rise in the search ranks because of sophisticated algorithms, and have a correspondingly long life resulting in the multiple sales that will determine the success of both the shoot and the shooter!
Promote Your Imagery
Second, promote your imagery. Whether you do it via social media, the Internet, or even printed catalogs, if your images don’t get seen they won’t earn you money. If you can generate sales directly, wonderful. In my case I don’t actually want to deal with direct sales so I promote my images via my website and direct potential buyers to the agencies that carry the work. It is working for me. I get thousands of dollars a month more because of those efforts. And remember, by driving viewers to your images on an agency site you will bring those images up higher in the search insuring yet more views of those images. The great Jim Erickson even prints a thick catalog of his stock images just like the agencies used to do back in the day. One of the few Getty photographers I know who is doing well…really well…attributes it to his facebook ad campaign. However you do it, be proactive in getting your work in front of prospective buyers!
The Right Stock Agency
Third, pick the right stock agency(s). It is tempting to sign with any agency that sends you a nice invitation praising your work, but do your research before signing. Talk to photographers that they represent. Is that agency really working for them? Does your work fit in with the agency (Stocksy, for example, turned me down)? Is that agency on a growth path (sales…not quantity of images)? What kind of guidance does the agency offer? How challenging is it to upload your images (and do you have to do your own key wording etc.)? Be thorough…your livelihood depends on it!
Blend Images And Curated Collections
Blend Images (of which I am a part owner), for example, has what I believe is a very smart strategy. They offer broad distribution through channels such as Getty, Masterfile, Gallery Stock and many others (including imagery with some microstock agencies at traditional RF prices)...and their own tightly edited collection of images. We Blend I get that broad distribution AND the attraction to art buyers of a boutique agency.I think it is the right approach at this time for success in stock photography. But again, I also work very hard to get my images exposure via my website, and link back to both Blend and Getty. I am also stepping up my efforts to gain visibility via social media. Wish me luck!