Stock photography

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by Rick Helmke, Feb 19, 2018.

  1. Evening everyone,

    With all of the changes the digital age has brought us I've started thinking about what is a more profitable way to go about photography these days. Newspapers seem to be fading and I wonder if they will still be printed 10 years from now. Is stock photography still a viable business model for the independent photographer? I've never worked that street before and at least during the film days it seemed to be a more or less profitable endeavor as long as one kept their eyes open. These days though it seems like there is sharp operator on every street corner looking to grab any image that suites their purpose and use it for free. I imagine my outlook is a bit jaded as I get a little older but is stock photography worth the bother now?

    Rick H.
  2. With the advent of micro-stock, I really don't think stock photography is viable unless 1) you are only interested in a check amounting to less than $100 each quarter, or 2) you have massive amounts of photos to dump onto a stock agency (think 10,000-1 million photos)
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    All the profitable photographers I know (read that as meaning "making a main stream and livable income from Photography or a similar allied industry") either have:

    1> a niche product and market solely bedded in their Photography
    2> do a range of Photography jobs and do anything that comes their way
    3> have (usually made themselvesh over the last decade) a new business which is a spin off from their original and more tradition Photography business that they had

    People I know pursuing options 1 and 3 seem the more successful. I recently bought a Canon TS-E lens from a colleague who was employing Option 2. He is giving up due to "Burn Out" (his words) of chasing the necessary number jobs required in a week for ever and ever decreasing payment which is always haggled by editors, advertising directors, real estate agents, film producers, etc.and he is changing his business entirely to another pursuit devoid of all photography and anything similar.

    I wouldn't touch Stock Photography with a ten foot barge pole.

    I tried option 1 and that had limited success: I quickly developed my option 3 and that is working fine. I also kept option 1, but that is more a seconary activity that I can complete on my timeline and book at my discresion, it comprises three elements: forensic analysis of images; teaching; and commissioned portraiture.

  4. I expected it would be something like this. Basically a rat race, shoot anything and everything and then fight over getting paid for it. I think I'll find something else to do that I can be at least a little selective about. Thanks.

    Rick H.
  5. Rick I was with a number of agencies in the days of film and medium format transparencies could earn you a reasonable amount from the agencies. However, digital killed the market and by the time I moved over to digital I found that income was very low for most work. On one occasion and agency sold an image right for 50 US cents! That was when I decided to enjoy my photography and forget about the hassle of selling. I was lucky I made some money and was then able to retire and now simply enjoy using a nice camera and lens kit to do my own thing. Wish you luck.
    jim_hobson|1 and denny_rane like this.
  6. You have to start somewhere. Even Yuri Arcurs who apparently sells "more than 4 million individual image licenses each year or 1 every 8 seconds..." started with uploading one image. Expect the costs of making an image (travel, models, etc...) to be fully paid back only after 3 years or so (if the image actually sells).
  7. Stock is long term endeavor. It's based on 1) content 2) keywording/captioning and 3) volume. Anyone of those three missing and it's a dud. But on top of all that it's a long term project. I'm not a stock expert but it seems to me that a lot of people want a place to throw away their leftover scraps from a previous assignment or pretty photos that have little to no commercial/editorial value and get paid for it - right away. I'm not saying stock is high paying but if you approach any job with a half-ass attitude like "I'll just throw all my reject photos that the original client that hired me to shoot doesn't even want" then it seems safe to assume you're going to get paid accordingly. Again, I don't think stock is high paying. Even the people that make more than most in stock complain about low pay. But my point is that a lot of photographers (not necessarily Rick) want to just dump anything into stock and get paid. It's like any other job - garbage in, garbage out. Give a bride all your "excess waste" shots after her wedding and see how far you'll get with that marketing scheme.

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