|In this "Marketing Your Images" series,
I am going to share some of the "wisdom" we have gained
in building our photo business over the last 3 decades.
More than 29 years ago, I sold my first stock image as a greeting
card. I was thrilled! My mother thinks all of my photographs
are great but when a client sends you a check for an image, that
is rewarding on many levels, not the least of which is my bank
Over the years, through much trial and error (mostly error!)
we have managed to get 10,000 images published and have expanded
our efforts to include representation by seven stock agencies.
It has not been easy but it has been worth it.
Everyday in the United States thousands of images are licensed
for publication in books, magazines, greeting cards, posters,
calendars, etc., as well as for use in videos, cd covers, brochures,
billboards and display advertisements across the country. More
recently, the internet has opened up a market for even more image
usage. In fact, it is estimated that about 80,000 images are
licensed for publication each day and the stock photo industry
as a whole has sales of approximately 2 billion dollars per year
through agencies alone.
So what is the stock photo business? In short, it is the licensing
of images that already exist in your collection. In other words,
images that you shot for enjoyment or on assignment. Outtakes
which are sitting in your files are a potential source of revenue.
The images in your files have a value which can be calculated.
I like to use a conservative value of $1.00 per image in your
files, per year. In other words, if you have 10,000 "marketable" images
in your files, they have a potential value of at least $10,000
per year, each year, from here forward. The key word here is "marketable".
This doesn't necessarily mean a "fine art photograph".
What it does mean is an image that is well exposed, composed
and appropriately sharp, with a clear subject. What you are looking
for is an interesting image like you might see in a book, magazine,
calendar or advertisement. How many similar images could you
find in your own files? These images I like to call, "Little
Oil Wells". Every time you press that shutter button you
are drilling for oil! Most may come up dry, some will produce
a modest income, others might be gushers!
Remember that like an oil well these images will continue to
earn for years. They can earn a residual income that will continue
for your family long after you are gone.
The way to begin marketing your images is the same as beginning
with most any venture: Setting Goals.
Your goals should be based on the number of images in your
files and how much shooting you plan to do, as well as
the time you
are willing to put into marketing these images. If you are
willing to put a few hours per week into managing , organizing
your images to clients, then the $1.00 per image, per year
goal is very reachable.
Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Get Started
A. How many marketable images have you got in your files?
You will need at least 1,000 to get started, 10,000 would be
B. Quality....How do you stack up?
Before you get started you need to conduct a quality checkup.
The first place to check is the competing quality of your images.
By this, I mean is the composition pleasing, is it well lit and
sharp? How do your images compare to "published for pay" images
in the same genre. Be honest with yourself. Are you using the
best digital cameras or film (if you are a film shooter) that
you can afford? Use the best lenses that you can afford as well.
C. Are you willing to be a business person as well as an "Artiste"?
Many photographers starve to death with one hand on the phone,
just waiting for it to ring. The ones who earn money are out
selling themselves and their images.
D. Stock photography is a front end loaded business. Are you
willing to pay the price?
Most people won't pay the price financially or with enough
sweat equity to build a successful business. Photography is a
business like any other and to be successful, you have to be
willing to make an investment in knowledge, equipment and time.
Finding Your Way in the Market
The next step is to find where you will fit into the marketplace.
We call this market research. This involves a couple of things.
First go to a bookstore and try to find images like the ones
you shoot. Check magazines, books, greeting cards music cds,
gift items, software packaging etc. Note the names of the publishers
or manufacturers. These will become your first contacts.
While you are checking these names out, compare the images that
they have already bought and are using, with your own. Are yours
at least as good?
Another good resource is "The Photographers Market". This book
breaks down the editorial and some of the advertising market
into categories. It tells what kind of images they are looking
for, what they pay, and how to approach them. Since a lot of
photographers buy this book the competition here can be fierce.
The information in the book can be of value as you approach other
markets, in any case.
In the next installment , we will take a look at some other
ways to find potential clients as well as how to organize your
images to make them more sellable.
What I hope to do with this series, as in my Marketing Workshops,
is to help you avoid the costly mistakes; both in time and in
money that we run into along the way.
For more information on Byron's, " Marketing Your Images" 2-Day
retreat, go to