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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

Labels: BusinessStock

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As the stock agency landscape underwent major fundamental changes and consolidation in recent years, longtime OP contributor and consummate professional photographer Art Wolfe saw an opportunity. Working with Tom Mangelsen and David Doubilet, he started a new stock agency, WILD (www.wildphotography.com), aimed at bringing control back to the photographers. They partnered with PhotoShelter to make the agency a reality. This model of a virtual agency has promise for aspiring pros and even amateur photographers who would like to try selling images, but can’t get into one of the mega-stock companies.
PhotoShelter allows photographers to band together in a virtual agency, where the collections from two or more photographers become searchable under a virtual agency name. The images are still controlled by each individual photographer, and each sets his or her own licensing terms. The agency isn’t managed. It’s essentially a search pool, a way to make it easy for buyers to find what they need. If a client desires an image, the sale goes to that photographer.

I’ve invited the people I respect most to join me in a virtual agency, which we call WILD (www.wildphotography.com). Our first partners are Tom Mangelsen and David Doubilet.

“We had been exploring new ways to market our imagery to compensate for the decline in stock when the PhotoShelter model came to our attention,” Doubilet says. “While the terms were certainly attractive to us, it was the power of the association with Tom and Art that sealed the deal. Now art buyers will be able to review the full array of our best work in one place.”

Tom Mangelsen already marketed with PhotoShelter when we approached him to join WILD. “Art didn’t have to sell me on the concept,” says Mangelsen. “Our association doesn’t cost us a dime, and our clients have a convenient way to find what they need.”

We’ll soon be able to truly claim we have the richest and highest-quality image collection celebrating the wild world, searchable on one site. Our motto: Go to the Source. This is a form of niche marketing, a way to create a brand people can picture easily and describe on the back of a business card. We intend to be one of the “must-search” collections in our specialties.

Certainly, this won’t be the only model for stock photographers. For the time being, the big agencies are the default search targets, and they employ some very smart and talented people. Some photographers will do very well in microstock by dint of hard work and a keen eye for what sells. Individuals will succeed with their own stock sites if they can differentiate their images from the pack. Quality and vision will rise to the top. People who can capitalize on Google and its inevitable successors will prosper. However, those who sit still will sink. As Henry Thoreau said, “One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.”

We define ourselves by how we react to change and challenge. New technologies continue to emerge, and we must seize those that work and quickly discard the others. I see opportunity everywhere in this difficult moment. When the old models burn down, we can build better structures on the ruins, armed with a little confidence and a readiness to work hard.

To see more of Art Wolfe’s photography, visit www.artwolfe.com. Go to www.wildphotography.com to learn more about the virtual agency WILD.


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