Bill Bachmann: Ardently Rights-Managed - Part 1

Posted on 12/1/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

Travel photographer Bill Bachmann is an ardent advocate for basing stock image pricing on usage (the rights-managed model), not on file size (the royalty-free and microstock models). In 2009, Bachmann is on track to earn almost $1 million from licensing his travel and lifestyle images.

Over 80% of Bachmann’s income will come from more than 50 agencies that represent his work around the world; the rest is from direct sales. For most of the last 25 years, he has grossed over $1 million in stock sales per year.

For 35 years, Bachmann has worked as a commercial photographer. Stock has been a big part of this business for 29 of those years. Bachmann has done stock and assignment shoots for many clients in over 170 countries. About 60% of his income typically comes from assignments and directing commercials, which clients hire him to do to achieve a more consistent look between television and print. The remaining 40% comes from stock. In slow economic times, when ad agencies make fewer assignments—such as 2009—the split is reversed: almost 60% of Bachmann’s income tends to come from stock. He achieves this despite the fact that Getty Images, Corbis or Masterfile do not represent any of his images.

Bachmann points out, “Getty demands exclusivity, and I will not do that. Getty photographers tell me that out of a selection of 100 pictures Getty may accept one. Then they forbid similars—for which they have a very loose definition—limiting the photographer’s potential sales elsewhere. This also hurts clients, who then see the same pictures over and over on Getty.”

In the old days, Bachmann had about 350,000 slides with his agencies. As everything has gone digital, his agencies now only represent about 18,000 of his best images—totally cleaned, color-corrected, captioned and keyworded. He makes a point of visiting every agency that represents his images and developing personal relationships with his agents. One agency has a few images exclusively, but the vast majority is represented by all agencies on a non-exclusive basis. This enables Bachmann to have the same worldwide distribution as if Getty or Corbis represented him, while receiving a better percentage of the gross sale. His agencies also tend to do less discounting.

An important element of Bachmann’s success in stock is that he also does assignment work. He advertises for assignment work on,, and elsewhere. “I am hired to shoot travel and lifestyle assignments and lifestyle ad campaigns. When doing these shoots, I make sure I shoot more and different images for my stock. The stock and assignments go hand-in-hand,” he explained. “The client has paid all the expenses for the trip somewhere and paid for the models… I just shoot extra stuff for me under that assignment. I almost always make more money on the back end from stock sales long after the assignment is finished. From time to time, I finance my own trips and major stock productions, but it is more fun when the client pays all the expenses!”

Some agencies that previously represented Bachmann’s stock work have either been acquired or gone out of business in the last few years. He acknowledged that revenue “has definitely decreased since the Golden Years of the 1990s. It would decrease even more, I am sure, if I were not a prolific shooter. But I love to shoot, so I keep shooting things that I feel will sell.”

“Those starting today must realize that they are a little late, but they still can make very good money shooting good stock images and sending them to rights-managed agencies, especially if they are very good at some particular type of imagery and shoot it regularly. If you have a unique style, you are in the driver’s seat,” he added.

It is generally believed that the market for travel images has declined in the last few years, due to the decline in brochure uses as more tickets are sold online, smaller-than-print budgets for online pictures and the effect of microstock. Bachmann said: “There have been less sales in every market, but I still sell many travel images daily around the world, so it is hard for me to feel it has gotten much worse. Travel sales went down drastically for almost a year after 9/11, but they have picked up again. If you can shoot iconic travel stock—and do it a little differently—you will still make significant sales around the world.”

“While microstock and other things have had some negative impact, the Internet has also created a positive impact. Two countries—India and China—finally have money to spend on travel. I shoot a lot of travel stock with Asian models, rather than just white Americans, and that does wonderfully. Minorities in our country also need pictures, so shoot African-American and Hispanic travel and lifestyles. There will always be ‘doom and gloom’ people... far too many of them. I tend to think, ‘What are the opportunities now?’ Positive attitudes are always better. Get off your butt and do it!”

Bachmann recently published a book, Remember the Joy—How to Have a Successful Career in Photography and Have Fun Doing It. In it, he outlines his ideas for how photographers can get started and become successful selling stock. The book is normally priced at $49.95, but Selling Stock subscribers can take 20% off by going to Bachmann’s Web site to find the address for ordering and mailing a check with a note that says “SELLING STOCK.”

Copyright © 2009 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Dec 1, 2009
    Thanks, Jim. Your interview questions for Part II should also help others see the possibilities of success if we maintain the premise of not giving our images away for almost no dollars.

    I want to help others any way I can. This has been a GREAT profession I have had and I want to leave it to the next generation as a CAREER rather than a part-time hobby for future photographers. The only way photographers can do that is with sound business systems and practices.

    You offer a great service to allow others to look into those possibilities. That is why I allowed you to interview me for both parts of our long talk. I hope the Q&A in PART II really helps open some people's vision to a road that we all can take rather than letting clients buy pictures for $1 ---and later have no career because we gave our work away.

    Keep having this "Selling Stock" vehicle to expose us all to other ideas, systems and progressions.

    Bill Bachmann
    Orlando, Florida

  • Gerard Fritz Posted Dec 1, 2009
    Bill Bachmann shows that not all photographers see each other as mere competitors, chasing ever lower fees to the bottom of the barrel. As long as there are "Walmart Photographers" willing to sell at the lowest price, stock will only limp along on life support. We all need to learn to say no to sales not worthy of one's work.

  • Mary Kate Denny Posted Dec 2, 2009
    Excellent article to give everyone a boost at staying positive and unique.
    Thanks. Mary Kate Denny

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