Understanding Stock Photo Agencies
Stock photo agencies can be loosely classified as service oriented or sales oriented. For the most part, service oriented agencies supply the editorial market and sales oriented agencies the commercial market.
Service oriented agencies are subject driven. When people are the subject, the look is more or less journalistic. Photos stocked by these agencies are generally not contrived or stylized but natural in appearance. Their photos are meant to show something real, whether it be people, places, or things. The primary market for service oriented agencies is editorial, the publishers of books and magazines, filmstrips or video disks, and the photo researchers who will send them call lists or come looking for practically any subject under the sun. Model releases are seldom required.
Sales oriented agencies are concept driven. Photos stocked by sales oriented agencies tend to be stylized or contrived. This is where the former or would-be advertising photographer will seek to market his work. It's where concept is king and strong graphics a necessity, with models playing the part of any people shown. The images are more commercial in appearance for what is primarily a commercial clientele, and model releases are a must. Sales oriented agencies may research requests, but the majority of their sales come from catalogs of specially selected images, CDs, duplicate transparencies distributed through affiliated offices, and now, digital images available online.
As a photographer, you can make sales by having a large quantity of material with a service based agency or generate sales with a potentially higher dollar value by having fewer but more carefully executed images on file with a sales oriented agency.
So, you want to build your agency file with several hundred stock photographs this year? The key is to write down the steps that you’ll need to take to get you there. What will you photograph? What will it involve? What will you need to do? Write all this down. List what you will photograph and what you will do to get those photographs. Will they involve props and models? Will it involve travel? Where? Then just do it!
Here’s a few Stock Photo Houses to check out:
Place your work with a stock photo agency that's big on travel photography. Stock agencies that supply travel photos can best be found by studying the travel magazines and seeing whose pictures are frequently used within them. Let users of travel photography know what you have available in stock. Magazines using travel photography should welcome lists of travel-related material. When preparing your lists, stress location and don't mix in more general subjects with your "travel" stock lists unless you can tag them appropriately such as, "Hawaiian Sunsets" or "Grizzly Bear, Glacier National Park, Montana".
Also, if you’re working with a stock photo agency, let them know about your travel plans and ask them for suggestions or what they might be interested in seeing from your destinations. You may be able to help fill gaps in their files or supply them with up-to-date material that's needed.
When selling travel photography to publications, supply articles along with the photos you do. A lot of publications use travel pieces, not just the big travel magazines, but also the auto club magazines and the in-flight magazines of various airlines. There are also regional magazines and magazines for owners of recreational vehicles that feature travel. And don't forget the retirement magazines.
Wildlife photography is more than a specialty, it's a lifestyle. Wildlife photographers are people who live for that special picture and are happiest in the pursuit of it.
Wildlife photos are widely used in the market place: in magazines that are completely devoted to them and some that are not, in textbooks, on cards, calendars, and other paper products, even in ads. Some agencies totally specialize in wildlife. While many wildlife photographers just sell their own work or publish their own books on the subject.
With so many animal species in existence, subject matter is plentiful. But needs can also be very specific and animals don't change very much. So the stock files aren't begging to be replenished, a good collection is almost timeless. This can work for or against a photographer: for the one who's established and against the one seeking entry into the field. Agencies, for example, will probably not be interested in more of the same kinds of shots of the same animals. They will want something different. This generally comes down to photographs depicting life processes and behavior, stuff that's harder to get.
If you're an experienced hunter, you're probably ahead of the game in what it takes to stalk and find animals. If you not, you'd do well to learn by subscribing to sporting magazines. You'll also be treated to some good photography and these magazines could be among the first markets for your work once you get started.
Like so much in photography, you've got to love taking wildlife photos and view it long term. Wildlife photography isn't for everyone. But if it's something you really enjoy, it could be for you. (in my next post Finding Freelance Photography Jobs I’ll give you a great resource in this area)
Finally, stock photo agencies are an area you need to research and develop in your portfolio, but they are just one area among many in which to turn your hobby into an income with photography.
NOTE: Seeing how digital is the wave of the future, a great free resource is the Digital Learning Center at Kodak. They’ve really done a nice job with this site and when you combine it with the course in my first post of this series “Freelance Photography“, you’re on your way to becoming a quality digital photographer.
To your success,
CHECK OUT: http://www.FreeOnlineBusiness.org the site that finds and posts FREE software and tools for running an online business!