For articles, see F2 eZine Archive 7 - July - Sept 2001

Archive 7 - July - September, 2001

Marketing News #1

Stock Photography in Today's Market
by © Pat Hunt, 2001

What is today's market? Where is it going? Can I make money in it? Which stock agency is for me? According to Allen Russell, former head of PACA (Picture Agency council of America), "there are not a lot of common denominators anymore. The former industry standards are out the window."

Within the last decade, you could judge how many of your images would be accepted by your agency. You could measure your expected income, and you could plan timing around their marketing program, or how many images you might get into their printed catalog within a year. It all seemed pretty straight forward and measurable. Now the former "high rollers" are seeing their revenue shrink and their images endure heavy edits. Some are being dropped from the agencies all together. So, where does this leave you?

It leaves you with a lot more homework to do, if you are going to play in the stock industry. I believe that stock photography, illustration and film footage is a bigger global industry than ever before. There is plenty of room for opportunity and plenty of opportunity to make money. You need to investigate all the agencies, and decide what is right for you. Consider what is your specialty and subject matter. What is your production level? Are you a full time assignment artist doing stock on the side, or can you be a full time stock producer? How much marketing money are you willing to allot to the project, and how much time? Can you market yourself or do you need an agent? Lots of questions!

Start to look around and analyze your position. Do some web research. Study the big "acquisitions and mergers" – the sorting out of what became absorbed into Corbis, Getty Images and Index Stock Imagery. There's lots of good information on - The Picture Agency Council of America. They are an excellent organization for stock agencies and all their members are listed with their web sites. As you study these, you will see that some promote exclusive types of subject matter (sports, food, etc.); some represent only a few named photographers; some are small and some are very large. Some don't have web sites and some do.

Study the web sites and request contributor guidelines. Study the PACA "Code of Ethics". It will guide you in what questions to ask the agencies about their mode of doing business. Most agencies are open to new talent, but are highly selective and often accept only about 10% of the new submissions. This means you have to be severe in judging how your own work will fit. Know what the agency needs before you submit. Most likely they won't need pretty sunsets, lots of sun flowers, or your grab shots of vacations and family photos. In general they will need stylish concepts, model released life style, active sports, unique locations, images representing such industries as financial, electronics, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, health and beauty, travel and business.

Decide if the assignment work you do fits in the stock world. Many successful photographers make the cross-over work. It's not for the person who won't make the extra effort. It concerns saving the rights to use the images with other clients. It requires model and property releases that are yours, not your clients. It requires removing client logos and fitting the image into a new concept. I've seen this done successfully with everything from table top product photography to fashion photography, but it requires time and expense.

Consider how you file your work and how you caption it. A closet full of old chromes is not necessarily a gold mind you haven't tapped. Keep your selections and filing up to date and current. In a year's time your work is old – hair and clothing styles change; film types change; sports, computer and medical equipment get updated; buildings get built and torn down. Unless your work is vintage, it may be useless for stock if over a year old.

Don't ever try to submit work to an agent without proper captions. It's a waste of time for them and downright annoying. Get a captioning program for speed and neatness. Besides your copyright, include the "what, when, where, and why" of the image. A caption can sell the image. If it's a location, give the exact street, city, country, beach, park, etc. Agents are not interested in just pretty pictures of palm trees, unless they know where the palm trees are.

Having come from years of selling stock and 2 intense years of selling it on line at Index Stock, I can tell you, an Account Executive's biggest nightmares are lack of comprehensive keywording (especially with locations), insufficient property and model releases, lack of updated equipment (cell phones, computers, medical, etc.) and lack of updated events.

Other areas to consider – does your work fit into the advertising market of the editorial market? Is it slick, clean and conceptual, or does it represent a current sociological issue of our times? Each requires a different style and serves a different need. Each earns different amounts of money on different time schedules.

Consider the issue of selling "on line". The image industry has fully developed into an on line industry. This trend is led by the big agencies with the big money. It's not cost efficient for Corbis, Getty or Index to sell any way other way than on line, and they take every effort never to send out a chrome. Clients can download low res comps immediately, design their ad and order a high res web page to go to press, all in one day. All clients now have sophisticated equipment and savvy computer programs to accomplish this. The large stock agencies have computer "help desk" staff to aid with download problems. Account Executives are taught how to handle client technical issues all in a day's work. This is where the volume and the money is. However this is where the start up cost is so high that the agent has to function as large and corporate.

This is what brings us back to why it is difficult to understand the industry and its changes today; why it is difficult to find large agents to spend the money it takes to edit, barcode, library, keyword, scan and get your images up on line. It requires a large staff to do it on a timely basis. It also requires your ability to produce images that read well as small scans on a client's computer screen.

Also understanding the new world markets takes some reeducation. Your work now may not only be represented to pro accounts (ad agencies, publishers, graphic designers, marketing departments), it is being make available to SOHO markets (small office, home office), consumer markets and royalty free markets. Describing all of those is yet another article! These markets are often not presented to you until you reach the contract stage, and then not well enough to understand.

Try to decide how you want to be placed in this industry and go after it. Devote the time and effort it takes to run a business and "be flexible" in your thinking. If you don't you will never float with the tide and go into the future understanding the new markets and how you fit into the picture.

Pat Hunt

Pat Hunt, Stock Photography Consultant for Port Authority, Inc. has spent the last 20 years in the photography industry. Fifteen of them in stock photography, as the owner of Light Sources. She later merged her company with industry giant, Index Stock Imagery. Pat became VP and Sales Director of Index Stock Boston. It was there that she had the opportunity to work with some of the world's best shooters, helping them to define their vision, understand the industry and become successful in the art of selling stock photography. Her commitment to photographers and her extensive experience in the field of stock photography are a bonus to any photographer. She can be reached at

Who is Port Authority...the marketing resource
(Port Authority will produce articles for WIPI's Marketing News starting July 2001 Quarterly)

At the fundamental core of Port Authority is a commitment to delivering informative support and to encourage the vision of creatives with integrity and with heart.

Officially established in 1995 by Selina Oppenheim, Port Authority represents the culmination of over 20 years of Selina's dedication to professionalism in the creative industry. Her focus on the needs unique to talent along with her experience in matching both the need and the talent, to marketplace expectations, has yielded many success stories.

Through consultations, lectures, and continual research, Selina and the Port Authority team have honed that focus to a strategic system that is clear, with predictable results, yet is malleable to the nature of each client.

It's all about business smarts teamed with the soul of the individual.

Selina Oppenheim Biography

Having begun her professional career as a representative for some of Boston's leading photographers, Selina has spent the last 20 years as a consultant to creative professionals, as a nationally acclaimed lecturer and as the developer of several professional workshops, the most popular being "CREATING YOUR OWN DESTINY." She has served on the Board of Directors of the Boston Graphic Artists' Guild and is a former correspondent for Photo District News. She has been profiled by Boston Magazine, ADWEEK, The Boston Globe Magazine, Photo District News, ADCOM, and Capital District Business Review.

Port Authority, Inc.
25A Stow Road, Boxborough MA 01719
Phone: 978.263.6822 Fax: 978.263.6439

Archive #7 Marketing News #2


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For articles, see F2 eZine Archive 7 - July - Sept 2001