Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Get Into The Stock Market
With more Outdoor Photographer readers looking to sell images in the face of an increasingly fragmented marketplace, there are some tremendous opportunities opening up
As Corbis and Getty tried to buy their way to prosperity, they watched their margins on stock photography slip. Profits for stock imagery shrank. Granted, the economic climate has been challenging in the extreme, but critics have predicted that the larger agencies would soon run out of road.
Buyers also lose working with the big agencies. They have access to only a fraction of the best photographers’ best work and must wade through an ocean of mediocrity. The buyers are also burdened by the large agencies’ overhead.
The solution for both photographers and buyers consists of direct marketing by photographers. Photographers can offer more images, decide which images are offered and set lower prices while still receiving a higher return per image.
Consider the math. If an agency licenses an image for $100, the photographer gets 30% to 40%, $40 at most. If the photographer uses a system such as PhotoShelter or LicenseStream, he or she gets 90%. Even at a 25% discount on the gross sale a large agency commands, the photographer still nets $67.50. If the photographer triples his or her exposure, the net should grow proportionally, even with lower prices per image.
PhotoShelter, LicenseStream and other websites allow photographers to establish an archive. Within that archive, we may elect to license stock images, either rights-managed or royalty-free. We can set prices for auto-fulfillment or direct them to a phone number or e-mail—our choice. I house my digital stock collection on PhotoShelter, and it will soon contain all my best work. I’m now responsible for file management, color and contrast, keywording, etc., but the rewards outstrip the costs. While I’ll continue to produce fine-art, limited-edition prints at my gallery, people will be able to purchase lower-cost prints directly from the stock site. The buyer benefits from a larger selection of the best work at more favorable terms.
The disadvantage for the photographer is the cost of driving traffic—advertising, mailers, press releases—and the disadvantage for the buyer is finding and then searching the individual collections. There’s a solution that works for both parties.
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