#249 Stock Photography – Part 2

Last week we posted the first part of this stock mini series and touched on the history of stock photography. Today we look at trends, stock photographer’s opinions and practical ideas of shooting stock.

Stock photography has changed dramatically over the last few years – past realities are now tougher to negotiate.

Trends and points of view:

  • Jim Pickerrell is a well known photographer with respected views on stock. In Rangefinder Magazine Jim is quoted as saying “there is now a huge oversupply of imagery… I no longer persuade photographers to shoot stock… there are exceptions but even the rock stars are seeing their gross incomes drop.” And that was in 2007!
  • One such exception is Masterfile photographer Garry Black. He recently offered “If there is any secret to succeeding in stock it would have to be keep on producing new images! Of course there are quite a few underlying factors in this as well. The more diverse your portfolio is, the greater chance you have for sales… I have continued to produce stock on an ongoing and full time basis over my entire photographic career (since 1986). This is probably the one reason that my sales continue to increase, despite the fact that the number of sales for traditional licensed images has declined as well as the average price for those images.
  • A few years ago Getty started selling subscriptions to clients – for a lump sum the client could access photos for any purpose. That’s a tough business model for the new stock photo producer!           Stock PhotographyStock photo HarryNowell.com
  • Larger agencies have started purchasing collections of imagery outright that can be resold without paying royalties. For a lump sum it can make sense for the agency or photographer in some scenarios.
  • Agencies are also directing their own stock shoots – hiring photographers on an assignment basis – again no royalties – just a slick and trim stock production machine!
  • Grant Heilman, small agency owner, has said “Our situation changed in the digital world with the influx of very bright, very experienced business people armed with plenty of capital.

Good advice:

Garry Black offers this advice to anyone entering the stock photo industry: “… But living off of stock is next to impossible when starting out, it’s very capital intensive with small initial returns. When you’re first starting out you will need at least five years of financial backing. And then you will have to shoot stock exhaustively, building up the number of images that you have with an agent(s).

If you can’t afford to shoot stock on a full time basis, then you can expect it will be considerably longer before you’ll be able to live completely off of stock. The reality is that most photographers fail at making stock a significant portion of their income because they can’t either afford the time or the expense or both in order to produce it.

Understanding Success

In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell studies the exceptional superstars that blow the average bell curve. He suggests there are many reasons for through-the-roof success including:

  • talent
  • massive amounts of experience – thousands of hours spent honing a skill
  • good timing and appropriate opportunity

Without all three elements the Beatles, hockey uberstar Wayne Gretzky and Bill Gates would never have reached such lofty successes. While today is a very different time for stock than the golden years of the 80’s there is always opportunity for photographers. The tough part is finding it.

Coming soon – Part 3 – Future opportunities

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