#153 Stock photography a tough(er) market

When I started work as a photographer (~1994) I had one goal in mind – shoot stock, period. And that hurt my young business.

The Golden Years

At the time, established and successful stock photographers were making a very good living shooting exciting (and less exciting) imagery. The mantra was “shoot, shoot, shoot.” It was a numbers game – the more photos you could get in front of buying customers the better the odds of sales.

Stock Photo Stock photography

The Bubble Bursting

But everyone else noticed the gold. The market started filling with imagery and sales agencies started undercutting each other in the feeding frenzy. The bubble slowly started bursting to the point that you can now sell imagery for $1 on iStockPhoto and actually earn 20 cents in royalty fees for that sale. Wow. That’s rough.

Current News

I just saw a Photo District News article about Bill Gates’ large Corbis stock agency – they are predicting lower stock sales and reduced royalties for Rights Managed stock shooters – making a tough market tougher.

Stock is still a fun and viable industry but you need to be very savvy on the business front. There are no longer stock streets paved with gold – you have to work much harder to find your jackpots.


At Harry, Inc. we still shoot stock, love it, and earn profits. But we are more careful about our business choices and have started seeking out under-saturated stock and photo niches related to stock and photography. I shoot directly for clients and consult on projects. My expertise has diversified. The business has grown well since I took the blinkers off.

This weekend I will be collaborating with the Entrepreneurship Centre to facilitate the Creative Business Seminar where we explore viable creative business practices, evaluate stock agencies and test ideas.

Take photos, work smart!


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