The Online Photographer

Check out our new site at!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

How to Succeed at Stock Photography

That the economic model of the stock photography business is changing is an undeniable fact. More agencies, more submissions, lower prices, lower standards, consolidation of major agencies, etc.

But the photographers who have been, and will continue to be, most successful in stock photography are those who treat it like a business in itself. These are photographers who are not simply master camera technicians. They pay close attention to print marketing trends, visual message styles, current color/lighting designs, and subject selections. They often shoot with very specific industry segments in mind. They then deliver images that represent something fresh, something that just seems to fit into what art directors are thinking now, not last quarter. They don't simply toss out discards from commercial work. They shoot for stock sales.

Personally I think that we should celebrate the existence of "microstock" agencies where marginal photographers (often just weekend shutterbugs) can offer images for equally marginal applications for marginal pricing. Everybody wins.

Those photographers who take stock imaging seriously will, as always, remain at the top of the game in terms of popularity and income.

Posted by: KEN TANAKA

Featured Comment by Speedtrials1975: "This is really funny and about stock photo models:"

These are both TOTALLY hilarious! I love it. Thanks. —Mike


Blogger speedtrials1975 said...

this is really funny and about stock photo models:
(found via

7:32 AM  
Blogger Dean Tomasula said...

Actually Ken, the microstock agencies are what's wrong with the stock business today. They have driven down the prices that us RM stock shooters are able to get. Because everyone with a digital camera thinks they're a stock photographer and can get 3 cents for a shot from companie like istockphoto, it's become harder and harder to make decent money selling RM images to advertising and editorial clients. Buyers can get dozens of images from the microstocks to every one RM image we sell them, so naturally they are going to go with the cheaper option.

Not only that, many of the microstocks have lax quality standards, so shots that wouldn't normally make it into a stock collection are available for sale. Buyers then come to expect "so so" quality at cheap prices, but take it over a quality RM image that might cost 3 or 4 times as much.

I'm all for people making money off their photography, but not at the expense of other photographers' livelihoods. The only people who make any real money with microsotocks are the owners of the companies. It always amazes me how anyone can make money running a microstock today with so many of them out there.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dean: I certainly can't disagree that royalty-free microstocks also present us with a dirty downside. There is, of course, also a downside from buyers' perspectives. How much time can/should a photo researcher or assistant art director spend searching through the bins of the $1/pic agencies looking for a gem in the rough? Let's make a guess that the fully-burdoned hourly cost (wages + taxes + benefits) of such a person is at least $45/hr. This can get to be an expensive proposition, let alone the time consumed against an always looming deadline.

Gee, and we haven't even discussed the new "custom stock" model that's been paraded during the past year or so!

12:04 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

This is cute: the top 10 stock photography cliches. See

12:48 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home