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08-09-2009, 03:32 AM   #1
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Selling Out and the Stock Photography Dilemma!

Selling Out and the Stock Photography Dilemma!

Someone on another photography forum , stated that a photographer sold their image for a cover of TIME Magazine for $30. It was sold through a stock photography agency called iStockPhoto. That is sadly unfortunate. It also represents the present state of affairs for many photographers attempting to make a living by their craft.

It is for this reason, that I am glad that I am a fashion photographer. It is impossible to sell stock of fashion shoots after more than three months as the next collections are already being prepared to be shot for the next season of fashion magazines.

Every editor knows which designers have come out with which collection and images must always be current. There are instances where fashion photography is sold as stock. If there is a fashion retrospective or a special article on a specific designer. Several of my older images from a magazine in France called Madame Figaro were used in a book about the Italian Designer Emanuel Ungaro, but that was a book and not a magazine.

Like in the music business, photographers outside of fashion are getting royally screwed in terms of fee's. However, they are still in a good position to negotiate royalties. Most image bank agencies take between 40-60 percent and that IS the norm. In my venue the standard across the board fee taken by a photographer agents is 25%.

It is up to you to not sell your images at bargain based prices. It is up to you to set the precedent. Once the barometer goes too low, you will have to find a more creative means of generating an income from your images.

Unfortunately, there is a line of photographers prepared to take your place for that $30, if you decide to say no to the proposition. A new business model must eventually surface for photographer's to be able to survive. Perhaps the new pro-photographers of the future will be all of you.

Benjamin Kanarek Blog Selling Out and the Stock Photography Dilemma!

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08-09-2009, 08:41 AM   #2
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Photographers are not getting screwed. The low prices are simply the effects of supply ad demand. There is a metric ton of photographers providing stock, which will inevitably drive the prices down.

I think that Yuri Arcurs and Chase Jarvis would disagree with you that they are getting screwed. They make a lot of money doing stock. You can't think of it as a dumping ground for your old work that 'didn't make the cut' to be published or used by a client.
08-09-2009, 09:08 AM   #3
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Good article to reflect on Ben.
It's sad to devalue good work, though Dave's right in saying the supply of stock photos is increasingly overwhelming the market...
08-09-2009, 09:55 AM   #4
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It's a great article, Ben with a great reflection of today's issues. I have also witnessed the downward spiral of the stock photo market, but it has not just all of a sudden started. It has been going on for quite a few years now, and the low prices are quite the norm. In the first place with the advent of the internet and more people getting involved with stock photos, the prices could not stay in a range where the photographer can really make a living. It's really the photographers fault. (I know, I know How can you say that?) well it is, because the photographer lets it happen by accepting the price paid. Besides if you as a photographer would say Well my photos are worth more then you want to pay, the stock company would pass you by and find other photographers willing to prostitute them selves and accept what the company says they are worth to them.

If a photographer of your caliber is willing to say OK I'll take your $30.00 for that shot then he is the one responsible for the decline. And as of today many young photographers (Amateur and Pro alike,) have led to the downturn in the pricing.

A few years ago, I sent many photos to stock companies, and I was surprised to find that they sold at all. I was happy to get what they paid. I couldn't make a living at it but, Hay in my case an extra 1-$200.00 bucks a month or every three months was just easy money, and extra spending money I had for other things I wanted, at the time. The prices got less and less, and I found I had to submit more, and more to make the same amount. I also finally found it wasn't worth the hassle.

I find the pleasure in the shoot and results not in the sale. If some one likes what I do and want's to pay me for it so be it (I don't have to sell my work to live, just as i don't live to sell my work.) I enjoy what I do and I'm satisfied with knowing I do a good job. (Its the old saying, some days you're the bird and some days you're the windshield.) I think we all get a kick out of the shoot and being recognized then the sale.

08-09-2009, 06:17 PM   #5
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My understanding is that for people "trying to make a living" selling stuff is good.
08-09-2009, 08:26 PM   #6
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Another perspective

Interesting topic and one very important to photographers - pros and enthusiast alike. To provide another perspective, I've been involved in advertising and marketing for a number of years, working for a number of small agencies services local and global corporate clients. Now more than ever budgets are being squeezed. That has repercussions down the line, all the way down to the photography used in print ad and billboards and brochures and online banner ads.

Where possible, we've always encouraged clients to shoot their own photography because so much is conveyed in the tone and style of the photos used. But invariably there are situations where there is no budget, and we've got to use stock - of two businessmen shaking hands, of someone rushing to catch a train, of 5 people in a meeting, etc.. The quality of this stuff used to be horrible and/or very limited, and unless you got an exclusive license, you'd run the risk of seeing a shot that you chose used by somebody else.

The explosion of the dSLR market by pros and ams alike has given agencies on a budget much more choice and more quality as well at a lower price, a godsend to the designer or creative director on a strict budget. And while the $30 Newsweek cover photo story is interesting - it's ashamed the photographer didn't get paid more - it's understandable considering Newsweek's and the print industry's current struggle for survival.

So there's been a flood of decent photography to choose from. I imagine the competition among new/entry-level pro photographers is fiercer than ever. But quality will always rise to the top, and there will always be clients and companies with the pockets deep enough to pay for it.
08-11-2009, 08:38 AM   #7
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Difficult...at best!

I see a lot of shooters that are starstruck with the idea of selling their photos and/or becoming famous. It is about the same odds as becoming a Pro quarterback or highly paid NBA star. Sure, a few make it, and some manage a living, if they work very hard and have the right combination of talent, personal drive, and winning personality....as well as a good understanding of business and economics. I truly respect those that make the cut, they have earned every dollar they take in, but for me, I am very pleased to just please myself and a few friends and relatives. As long as it is fun....it stays fun! How many times have you heard...."you should sell those"? It sounds so good and so easy, but reality is much different, isn't it! Enjoy what you do, if you make a fortune, you are truly blessed...or cursed....but if not you are still blessed with your own satisfaction.
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08-11-2009, 08:48 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rupert Quote
I see a lot of shooters that are starstruck with the idea of selling their photos and/or becoming famous. It is about the same odds as becoming a Pro quarterback or highly paid NBA star. Sure, a few make it, and some manage a living, if they work very hard and have the right combination of talent, personal drive, and winning personality....as well as a good understanding of business and economics. I truly respect those that make the cut, they have earned every dollar they take in, but for me, I am very pleased to just please myself and a few friends and relatives. As long as it is fun....it stays fun! How many times have you heard...."you should sell those"? It sounds so good and so easy, but reality is much different, isn't it! Enjoy what you do, if you make a fortune, you are truly blessed...or cursed....but if not you are still blessed with your own satisfaction.
Regards
Rupert
100.001% agreed.

And I would add..."if you have something that you love to do and you transform it in work, chances are that you will end up hating what was your passion at the speed of light".

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