Hiring models for stock images

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by symple, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. Is it common to hire models for stock images without actually having any certainty of sales?
    I am thinking of choosing a few locations locally with the intent of creating images specific to my local market, images I believe they(local businesses and marketing groups) will buy for web and print promotional material, and am thinking that I need to hire models to get the right demographic to make my images unique and valuable relative to what is already out there. I have no contract or intent from any of the prospective buyers, but do have a strong sense of where their marketing will be aimed at and what locations and client base they want to market to. Mostly this will be based around destination tourism to foreign markets, and all the existing marketing images seem to be identifying with the Caucasian forty to fifty something consumer/tourist in North America and Europe, while the research group reports along with the chamber of commerce are telling local businesses that other markets may be more lucrative than their traditional consumer.
    Do I spend the money and hire amateur models from the college and university, or should I try to get paid work that fits specific business marketing goals? This is very amateur of me to have to ask, but I am legitimately asking if this is an important part of marketing in the photography business for individual photographers, or should this stuff be left to larger agencies that have big budgets to collect more generic images of certain demographics.
    This will be be outdoor activity photography showing local recreational activities, local industry tourism, and general lifestyle images for my specific area.
    Thank-you for the consideration and input.
  2. Is it common to hire models for stock images without actually having any certainty of sales?​
    Yes. But you have to be really confident (certain!) of sales!
    However if you know the (amateur) models well you might be able to do a deal so they 'invest' in the pictures too, by modelling without a fee on the understanding that you pay them a % of sales, get pictures for their resume, and they are your preferred models for future shoots. Of course then you need to be scrupulously honest and do that. Once the need for the pics by your intended customer is established you can then in future pay models up front and everyone is happy. There are of course obvious pitfalls in this method of working, but those aside it can get you over this initial hurdle.
    The biggest problem in al this is what the intended customer might feel is a reasonable fee to pay you for all your time, creative input, and all the rest that goes into producing 'professional' work, managing the models etc. You might find they've been deaing either with stack en high. sell em cheap photogs and dont really want to pay you a fee that comes anywhere near compensating you, never mind leave anything to pay reasonable modelling fees OR they know that going to a stock agency can get them images that are 'good enough' for a few pennies. Thats why these gigs are better done as commissions, with a clear understanding of whats required, and what the budget will be, with the modelling fees priced into the job. If you have a very unique location that's a compelling world-class destination then taking a gamble on it might pay off, but it still a chance, only less of a gamble than trying to sell some small town little-known destination.
    When I do this the models are either hired by the client, or are actually staff members of the client's organization doing it as a part of their job. It can get very expensive if you have to pick up the tab for this. Job I did a few weeks back required 10 models, in various locations for 5 days, which included food and accommodation for them, loads of props and additional transport plus pre-arranged food drops as we were working partly in remote locations. The client managed all those arrangements, wih input from me, but I had no involvement in the financial aspects of all of this, thankfully.
  3. huge gamble but if you do it right, along with developing solid relationships with the right people (assuming
    your photography is good enough) it can produce results . . . What your talking about doing is called "free
    lancing." There's lots of opportunity if you know what youre doing but there really are two elements, great
    photography and a well established network . . .
  4. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    If you are producing the images for marketing by a stock agency it is usual for the photographer to invest in his photography, whether that be equipment , travel, model fees and so on . You take two risks; the first is that you take the shots , then the agencies don't want it. The second is that they do want it but it doesn't sell. I would not do this without first being accepted by the agency and having a general contract in place, and also having discussed my ideas with my editor. Its pretty unusual to get a rock solid commitment to take work before its seen , but its a long way better than relying entirely on your own judgment and then finding out that the editor just doesn't like the idea or the way its been executed so you never had a chance.
    Some high-end stock agencies commission shoots to get work that they know they can sell, on a fully owned basis. Here the Agency choose , supply and pay the models and all your expenses, together with an agreed fee. Its work for hire and the photorapher just hands over the card at the end of the shoot, which may well be art directed by the stock agency. Usually you don't get to edit the work or keep a copy of it. This type of work - which i'd personally find very unattractive for a lot of reasons- is a lot less common than it was, and it would be almost impossible to get without the agency knowing your work and capabilities.
    If you know the market you're aiming at , then you could be the Agency as well as the photographer. Essentially you continue to run the risk that the prospects don't want it, but if they do you get to keep all the money. There's some downsides though. First you need to sell to prospects yourself, which takes time. Second you need to know about Licences, Contracts and so on and you need to collect money.
    Finally, as John intimates, you can approach prospects with your idea and try and get them to commission the work. You'd have to know at the outset how much you'd want to charge for it and discuss whether the work was being done exclusively for one client , or whether you're free to market it to several. Naturally the latter attracts lower prices, and indeed the issue John raises about whether companies are willing to pay a reasonable rate for commissioned photography is certainly a real one.
    I think you'd be surprised to find out how little you need to pay for using stock agency photograph on the web. Certainly it would need to be sold many times before it became worthwhile for either you or the client to hire models. You should find out .
  5. To John and David,
    Really good examples of how I should approach this business opportunity, and thank-you for looking at the caveats and advantages of holding the rights myself versus handing them over to an agency. The aspect of creative control is very important to me, as is profit from the effort, so taking the risk is worth it based on what you are telling me with regard to landing a larger paid shoot like you've been doing John where I honestly don't have the skill or credibility to perform in a scheduled environment; I have been on the other end of the lens in photo and video on paid shoots and things seem hectic enough there never mind with a few other people telling me what they want too on the conceptual side. I was thinking along the lines of money payment plus images for their resume to the younger models at a flat rate per two hour session in lifestyle shots (near landmarks, geographically unique locations, businesses), and for the mature and family models offer use of the venue and the option of payment or images (examples here would be rounds of golf, winery tour, pleasure boat rental, ski passes for the opportunity own the images and market them).
    Thanks for your input too Tony, I know it is reality check time, and between insurance, licenses, equipment fees, venue costs, plus lost time to inexperienced shooter and models it is a risk. Hopefully I'll have a good deal of luck to make up for my photography and lack of networks!
  6. simon, i think one of the best things we as professionals need to remember is that this who thing takes
    time. . . while we are in it and moving forward it seems at times slow. . . but looking back on it it's
    amazing how much we can accomplish if we plan it out . . .

    So, what i'm saying is this, stick with it, take "baby" steps, keep shooting and building that network and it
    will come. . . the buys that stick it out and day in and day out produce results are the ones that will be
    around to see this thing through . . .

    Good luck. . . just keep at it, do what you can with what you have, but keep doing it . . . it will pan out but
    dont forget to network. . . network more than you shoot! No matter how good are your shots, if you dont
    network and meet the players (take your time with them get to know them let then learn about who you are
    and dont hard sell them) you wont ever see the results of your photographic labors . . .

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