What’s up with stock photography?

September 28th, 2010 by

A better question might be, “What’s NOT up with stock photography?”  Answer? Royalties, number of paid productions, royalty free and rights managed revenues and photographer satisfaction.

A few points on the graph are on the upswing: number of people submitting photos, number of photos being used, number of photos submitted, growth of the microstock agencies’ revenue and the quality of images available to buyers from microstock.

The scales are overloaded with bad news for professional photographers that have depended on stock sales as their major source of revenue over the past few decades. Hand wringing, doomsday predictions and misplaced insults only create the illusion that one is doing something about the situation.

The industry has radically changed.  It is not likely to ever return to its glory days. What to do about the current state of affairs?

1.   If stock makes up your sole income and your work is so specialized that only a few could fill your niche; congratulations, you are safe for now.

2.   If not, develop alternative income and soon.  What can you do with your skill set outside of stock? The hard fact is that some of you will choose to leave the industry. You will trade places with the amateurs that left their day jobs to become serious about stock.  Those of you who make that decision are not failing but growing.

3.   Create innovative images that will satisfy the most discriminating art buyer and place them in rights managed collections. (The revenues may be in decline but millions are still generated with these licenses)

4.   Shrink your overheads to match your declining stock revenues. You can do it; most of America has figured out how in the last two years. Start with reviewing renegotiating charges for insurance, products and services.

5.   Develop as many revenue streams as possible. That will include participating in microstock for some.

6.   Revitalize your assignment business. Only a few have the talent, equipment, business skills and eye to consistently bring back the money shot. Make certain that that person is you by constantly improving and updating your skills and business sense.  You may be an artist but you must be a savvy business person to succeed.

Part II What’s up with microstock?  To follow

This post first appeared in slightly different form on the ASMP Strictly Business Blog