I believe are many more potential purchasers of photography doing Google searches (what I will call the “consumer” market) than those searching stock agencies. This “consumer” market includes everyone looking for fine art prints and bathroom wall décor to photo-imprinted coffee mugs, tote bags, T-Shirts, greeting cards and, yes, licensing stock photos (though they might not know that they are seeking to license a stock image).
Stock Agencies, Publishers and More Money
I also know that it is a heck of a lot easier for me to make money by licensing stock through the traditional agencies than it is for me to license images directly or to penetrate that consumer market. As I have said before, if I want to earn more money as quickly as possible then I should be shooting as many pictures (intelligently) as possible and getting them into Blend, Corbis, Getty, Kimball and SuperStock (my agencies in alphabetical order) as quickly as I can. Similarly, I can earn significant money by getting more greeting cards of my silly animal pictures into the market through brick and mortar publishers.
A Ton of Work and Slow Progress
After over a year of pushing SEO, upload and key wording images, blogging, writing articles, and putting images up on Imagekind and CafePress, I have learned a couple of things. Firstly, it is a TON of work! Secondly, there is progress but it is agonizingly slow. I have gone from an average of one unique visitor per week to my website, to an average of almost 500 a day. I have gone from about 1 sale on CafePress every couple of weeks to pretty much an average of one sale a day. And don’t forget all the click-through ad revenue…about $5.00 a day.
Pumping Out More Images
Given all of the downward price pressure from low price stock and an oversupply of images the idea of trying to pump out more and more images, and adding to that oversupply, just doesn’t make a whole lot of long-term sense to me. I still very much believe in stock photography, and frankly, particularly looking at my Blend sales, I’d have to say there is still a lot of life left in the old girl yet. But it ain’t like it used to be. Not in RF or RM. But creating more new quality content can still work for both the short and long term.
Changes In the Photo Market, Bad Business Decisions, and the Recession
I used to make a killing in greeting cards as well, and I am down about 70% on those (I am only down about 30% on stock photos but still earn enough to make me feel a little guilty). Given that the greeting card company that used to publish my cards made some seriously questionable business moves (like firing their entire sales staff), it is unclear how much of that drop is due to the changes in the photo market and how much due to bad business decisions and the recession.
Shipping Product, Generating Traffic and Income Streams
This brings to the point where I am now, trying to continually adjust my time and efforts to provide for the maximum return. I have to look at both the short and long term. For me, the short term is creating images and getting them to the stock agencies, what Seth Godwin would term “shipping product”. The long term, for me, means tapping into the vast powers of the internet and continuing to build traffic to generate income from that “consumer” market as well as guide more users of stock photography to my images at the various agencies that handle them. The seemingly slow nature of that process is secondary to the evidence that it does work. Ultimately, they all work together. Creating more images for agencies, which I can then put up as additional content on my site, will both generate that short-term income (hopefully middle-term and long-term revenue as well), and will generate more traffic that I can channel into various income streams.
Creating Compelling Stock Photos As Quality Content
My tasks, then, are to create compelling stock photos, market-needed images, get them onto my site, and continue my SEO through key wording, blogging, article writing and link-building. In short, creating quality content for the agencies and my site. I guess it boils down to patience, perseverance and perspiration…all with a sense of urgency.