What They Pay and How to Break In
By Shelly Perry
A radical shift is underway in the world of stock photography today. Some argue it represents the death of professional photography as we know it. Others are embracing the changing market and finding ways to thrive in it.
Like it or not, the changes are upon us. Talking about stock photography today is much different than it was just a couple of years ago.
Today we have both "traditional" stock agencies (and by that I mean big corporations that act as brokers for all sorts of images) and we have the new kids on the block "micro stock" agencies which were birthed on the web and deal with digital files only.
Micro stock agencies are responsible for the big stir. They've only been around six or seven years. And while they started as a platform for trading and sharing between photographers, designers, and creatives they continued to evolve in response to several factors:
gross sale of your images. That may sound like a lot. But remember that they handle all the promoting, storing, marketing, and sales of your work for you. You have only to take the pictures (something you enjoy anyway).
What does that leave you with, then?
Well, as a general rule of thumb, I've heard photographers with traditional agencies claim $1 per year for every image they have on file with an agency.
Why are they happy to give up their photos for $1 a piece a year?
Well, with traditional stock agencies you often have a contractual obligation to submit photos every month. One hundred photos a month (which is typical) translates to $1,200 a year, and your portfolio will grow exponentially each and every year.
Now, micro stock agencies also take a commission from your sales. But they charge buyers a lot less than traditional agencies do to purchase their photos. And they're dealing in much larger quantities -- that is, many, many more sales.
So instead of estimating income on a per-year basis, when it comes to micro stock agencies, photographers usually consider per-month numbers.
I, for example, currently earn an average of about $.80 a month per photograph on www.istockphoto.com. That's significantly more than $1.00 per photo per year. So I choose to host my photos with a micro stock site rather than with a traditional agency.
To break into a traditional stock agency you need four things:
When it comes to micro stock agencies, I recommend you choose the agency first -- before you collect your pictures -- because that will affect the way you prepare them.
Each agency has different requirements, from the size of image they accept to the number of keywords they want you to submit. So take a look through the sites and read through the requirements and the photographer agreement before you decide.
Once you decide, you can upload your images at your own pace (there are no minimum requirements but there are some maximum limits). And you'll need to supply titles, descriptions, and keywords for each photo (be specific, descriptive and clear -- not prolific and creative).
WARNING: Be your own worst critic when it comes to sorting through your photographs and deciding which ones to submit. Most micro stock agencies monitor your acceptance rate and some will even put a hold on your account if you submit too many images that don't meet their needs or follow their guidelines.
If you get five rejections in a row without a single acceptance, stop submitting and go back to practicing your craft.
Yes, you'll need model releases. No image with a recognizable person or people can be sold for commercial purposes without their permission in writing. Check the agency you are with as most have a release you can download, copy, and use.
[About the Author: Shelly Perry from Portland, Oregon, specializes in people photography, what she calls documentary or lifestyle portraits. She is known especially for her imaging of children. Shelly's concern for people is reflected both in her sense of purpose and the images she produces.
To read her full biography, browse through more of her articles, and learn about AWAI programs she has contributed to, visit her bio page on thephotographerslife.com here: http://www.thephotographerslife.com/shellperry/index.php]
The Right Way to Travel is a FREE newsletter from the American Writers & Artists Inc., available to AWAI members and friends.
(c) 2006 American Writers & Artists Inc.
245 NE 4th Ave., Ste 102
Delray Beach, FL 33483
Phone (561) 278-5557
Fax (561) 278-5929
To LEARN MORE, visit: