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!
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 www.pacaoffice.org. - 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.
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.
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
Port Authority...the marketing resource
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.
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.
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.
about business smarts teamed with the soul of the individual.
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.
Archive #7 Marketing News #2
DISTRICT NEWS.. PDN OnLine
For articles, see F2 eZine Archive 7 - July - Sept 2001