504 NEW MARKETING STRATEGIES
September 19, 2002
Recently a very experienced stock photographer with a large file of images of
children, families and school situations asked for my recommendations as to how to
market the images in today's environment.
There are over 50,000 color transparencies and a larger number of B&W prints in this
collection and 99% of the images are model released. The photographer has images with
two stock agencies, but the income from these agencies has dropped to 20% to 30% of
what it used to be.
Some of the images in the collection are out of date, but many are still what
customers are buying, if the images can be put where the customers can find them.
Agencies this photographer has contacted want to represent a few of the "cream of the
crop" but the photographer wants to find a "home for the entire collection."
Many photographers face similar problems. The following were my recommendations.
Forget about "finding a home for your entire collection." Nobody will take it on and
anyone who will doesn't have a clear understanding of where the market is headed.
Work with the people who want to "cherry pick" but insist that they take the images
on a non-exclusive basis so you can simultaneously offer the same images through
There is nothing wrong with just trying to sell the "cream of the crop" but you have
to make sure that those images reach the broadest possible potential market and that
will mean using multi-channels for marketing.
Nobody, not even Getty or Corbis, reaches all the customers. There are buyers out
there who either won't work with these companies or who can't find what they are
looking for on their sites. You need to have your images where these customers can
find them, and today that means online. Keep in mind that different customers use
many different resources to find the images they need. Almost no one uses a single
resource despite what Getty would like for you to believe.
If you can get an image accepted by Getty or Corbis do it because chances are they
will generate more revenue for you than any other single outlet. However, in all
likelihood they will be willing to accept few, if any, of your images. Don't worry
about that and don't take it as a statement about the quality of your work. Just move
on. Also, don't spend an inordinate amount of time jumping through hoops trying to
get accepted by either one. If they are not very enthusiastic about your work or not
aggressively pursuing you then being represented by them will probably not be worth
Try to work with companies that will place your images on many portals and in many
online databases once the images have been scanned and keyworded. This leverages the
cost of scanning and keywording. Ideally you want to scan and keyword as few times as
possible and get maximum leverage out of your investment.
To the extent you can try to deal directly with the various marketing channels rather
than having one prime agent make all the marketing decisions for you. It is better to
deal directly with an agent in Germany than to have your American agent take care of
marketing in Germany because you will get a bigger cut of any sales.
Recognize that different editors have different ideas about what the "cream" is. Let
as many editors as possible pick from your files because that way more of your images
will be available for buyers to find. There will be some images that every editor
will pick (and that's why you need a non-exclusive agreement), but there will be
other images that one editor selects that the next would reject. Get each editor to
accept as many images as possible.
After you have shopped every image around there will still be a very large percentage
of your file that has not been accepted. Don't worry about that. If you later find
another outlet that is interested in your work let them see what is left.
If you think there are good images left, after all the editors have cherry picked
your file, scan and keyword them and put them on alamy.com. Alamy is not necessarily
the portal of last resort. You ought to put some of your images on Alamy right away.
The big advantage to Alamy is that you get to decide which images go up. Consequently
images that other editors might reject can still be put where they can be seen by
customers. With Alamy there is no editor rejecting your choice, so you can make sure
that images that have sold in the past are where they can be found in the future.
The checks from all outlets (channels) may be small compared with what you used to
make from one or two agencies, but if you are getting checks from 10 different
sources instead of just two you have spread your risk. In addition you will have
taken advantage of a variety of different editing and marketing philosophies. In this
way your income might end up equaling, or exceeding, what you used to get from just
The role of the stock agent is changing. The internet is creating new ways of
working. Photographers need to approach the marketing of their images in a very
different way from the way the operated just a few years ago.