I'm going to be taking a 6-month 'career break' shortly, and planned to use the time to a lot of photography - do what I didn't have enough time to do whilst I was working. One thing I'm looking at is taking and submitting photographs to stock libraries, but I'm completely in the dark about this area.
Has anyone in apug gone through a similar experience and can give some advice? In particular;
- photograph subject matter
- size of portfolio needed
- sources of information
- library sites
- expected rates
- is there a market for b&w?
- general experience of it all
I shoot mostly 6x7 transparency (when I'm not doing b&w). I guess I need a decent neg scanner, or do libraries these days expect (god forbid) digitally captured images.
Please PM me if you like.
At the beginning of my career I worked for a stock house. It's extremely difficult to make a living at stock. We took 50% of all sales. Frankly, it was 50% of not much. (Although, we were strongly editorial, and less commercial- probably more money on the commercial side) If you can fill your own stock requests, you'll make more per sale. We represented a number of National Geographic photographers who were always on the road, so they didn't have time to fill stock requests. It's been years since I was in this business, but I expect that with all the amount of 'clip art' out there, it has changed dramatically. I'm sure it's become very digitized.
I would start your research with Corbis in Seattle. See what they look for in portfolios. They seem to represent everybody, now!
Good Morning, Snapper,
For a period of time in the eighties and nineties, I shot stock for a small agency in St. Louis. I was teaching full time, but, of course, had some free time available during the summers and weekends. Given my time constraints, I had moderate success with the stock shooting, but I certainly never came close to earning a living at it. Some of the sales I had were, I'm sure, because I shot mostly 4 x 5 (a little 6 x 7); I'm confident that some things which sold did so almost entirely because of the format. As time went on, I realized that the time and effort involved, combined with a full teaching load, made it impractical to continue. On many a perfect shooting day, I'd be looking out the classroom window, but the following weekend would end up being rainy or stomy--discouraging to a view camera shooter. In addition, the small agency I worked with tended to have a somewhat limited local market and faced increasing competition from large agencies and on-line photo collections available either free or at low cost. It's generally conceded that being successful in stock photography requires a hugh body of work and a constant up-dating of existing photos. Some stock shooters do well with a specialization, such as scientific photography or aerial photography, but it's usually a tough business for most. I had some fun with it and made enough to add some good equipment, but that's about it.
I have found that it is easier to represent my own work than have it represented by others. Let me explain. I am a third generation photographer, and I have what adds up to 80 years worth of well archived photography. When the internet was first coming around in the early 90's, I sought to write my own stock photo site, and it worked. Now, I never competed with the likes of the big photo houses, but the real goal was met. I occupied myself during my non-assignment down time doing photo related tasks that I enjoyed. I have spent thousands of hours scanning, keywording, and editing photos for over ten years now. I have only given away commissions along the way once, for a short while, when I was being represented by an agency. Though I was happy with the commissions that I got from that venue, I wanted to do it on my own, and I did. I myself have paid people along the way to do keywording and site building for my own project. I have found a great deal of happiness doing it, and recommend it to anybody who has the spare time and devotion to do it.
One set of tools that I recommend comes from: Ktools.net. This software is the platform that I built my most recent stock photo site on, and it is very powerful. I am able to manage mulitple photographers, bulk list photographs, and track sales, all in one place. I never would have been able to build such a robust package on my own, and, frankly, this is the software that I had been wanting for years. WR
Have you seen a copy of the annual publication "Photographer's Market" (2005 edition has ISBN 1-58297-277-X)? It's full of info on who wants what and in what form.
PS: As you are in England, well worth joining the Bureau of Freelance Photographers and becoming aware of BAPLA (easy to find on the web).