Several stock photographers have shared their strategies to cope with the rapidly changed business environment. Cost cutting and diversifying top the list.
Several of the most successful U.S. stock producers are closing their studios to eliminate the overhead. Many recognize that, for some time, they have been doing most of their shooting on location and having a studio they use infrequently is a luxury that no longer makes sense.
When real estate was booming, one lifestyle photographer would buy a house in an interesting location, use it as a studio for a year and then resell it at a profit. It is not clear that such a strategy would work today, but when the housing market bottoms out and turns around it may be something to consider.
Several photographers plan to reduce their use of modeling agencies and do more street casting in an effort to find cheaper models. Many are looking toward using their children, grandchildren and family friends. Another strategy is to put more effort into trading photography for modeling services and looking for actors who need headshots. A few intend to cut modeling costs by shooting in certain European countries; for example, models in Prague work for $35 to $50 per day.
One photographer pays his models to get a manicure before a shoot. Another has found it useful on shoots with several models to get everyone together the night before for dinner or drinks to discuss plans for the next day. He finds this greatly increases productivity on the shooting day.
In order to get maximum value from models, some photographers work together in groups of two or three, taking turns shooting various models during the same shoot and sharing expenses. In this way, one photographer can be setting up for the next shot while another is actually shooting. One photographer also has an associate shoot every model on white.
A strategy for getting locations inexpensively is to do tradeouts with builders, real estate agents, interior designers and resorts.
To reduce expenses, some photographers buy props and clothes, leave the tags on and return them after the shoot. For those uncomfortable with the ethics of this strategy, some retail stores will rent products for around 30% of the retail price.
A few photographers are looking for opportunities to sell quantities of images outright, including their copyright, rather than holding onto a product that is declining in value.
One shooter recently contacted five of Getty’s best-selling photographers in the Seattle area. All of these people had cut their stock production and gone back to concentrating on shooting assignments.
A number who had previously made a full-time income shooting stock are now looking for other ways to earn part of their living. Some have focused on other types of photography, while others have ventured into teaching, conducting paid seminars and Webinars, or putting together photo tours. A few are shooting video, but it does not appear that any still shooters are seeing much of a revenue stream from footage.
In the last few months, photographers who receive payments from overseas agencies have seen a rapid falloff in royalties due to the growing strength of the U.S. dollar. (On June 30, the British Pound was worth $1.99; it is now worth $1.53.) One photographer has set up an account in Canada and is having the money transferred there, with the hope that the rate will go up before he has to convert the funds.
Among the things photographers intend to stop doing is looking at old royalty statements and thinking it is possible to achieve similar returns.