Making A Living At Stock Photography
To make a good living at creating and licensing stock photography you need two things. You need a body of high caliber images that are relevant to the market place, and you need effective distribution. It has never been easier to get started in stock photography, but in recent years it has also become increasingly difficult to earn a good living from it. The market is simply saturated by images with literally millions of additional images becoming available each year. There are more images available online at this time than a person could ever look at. The premier problem becomes getting your images seen by those who are looking to license images. That is where distribution comes in.
As I see it, the biggest challenges in earning money from stock photography are getting your images seen by potential customers and dealing with the licensing of those images. In both cases I believe stock agencies offer distinct advantages over licensing the images your self. Generating a substantial amount of traffic to a stock site is deceptively difficult. It takes huge amounts of both time and money. There is also the question of creating an infrastructure for sales. If you are selling Rights Managed images then either you or a sales person will be needed to handle negotiations. Handling sales, negotiating, billing and collecting money all take time, time that could be devoted to creating more images.
It is, however, important to research the agencies and find the ones most appropriate for you and your work. If you have an unusual specialty then a niche agency might be most appropriate. Carefully weigh whether your images are better suited to Rights Managed, Royalty Free, or Micro stock. Check the forums, talk to photographers with the various agencies, and make an informed decision on who should handle your distribution. Don’t just choose the first agency you come across.
With or without the advantages of working with a stock agency you will be competing with an immense number of images. I believe that it is increasingly important to post your images on your own website to help supplement agency sales. By utilizing Search Engine Optimization you can increase the number of prospective clients who see your work. You increase your sales and thusly your income without the overhead and hassle of direct sales. With my own site prospective clients who want to license an image click a button and end up on the individual image page of the stock agency handling that image be it Blend Images, Corbis, Getty or Kimball Stock where they can immediately price and license the image.
Another way to effectively compete with the vast sea of stock photos out there is to create quality images that are relevant to the market place and fill the holes in agency collections. Create images that are in short supply rather than in needless over abundance. When possible check with your agencies on what their needs are. In addition, you can come up with photos that illustrate concepts that are needed for stock images, concepts such as Teamwork, Success, Freedom and so forth. Then check your photo ideas against the agencies images to see where the “holes” or needs are.
Additional questions to ask yourself to help insure that your images will be successful include:
Can the images be read quickly even as thumbnails?
Do they have a clear and succinct message?
Do the images make an emotional connection?
By creating quality images that fill the agency holes and are relevant to the marketplace, by making informed choices for your distribution, and by bolstering your sales by driving more buyers to your images through your own web site, you can indeed make a very good living with stock photography.
If an image is entertaining and makes an emotional connection then there is a very good chance it will be a good selling stock photo.
This picture fills a need for images illustrating social media and networking.
Images that can illustrate traditional concepts (Here, the difficulty of getting ahead) in new and different ways are always needed.
Humor used to portray concepts create some of the best selling stock photos.