128 TEXTBOOKS IN YOUR FUTURE
March 6, 1998
It may be time for many photographers to give renewed consideration to servicing the textbook and
educational market. I
estimate the worldwide market
for educational use of photographs is $150 to $200 million annually.
The educational business has a much greater overhead per dollar of sales than selling through
catalogs, and it is
generally recognized that the
photographers who earn the most from stock produce concept images that sell through catalogs for
However, our recent survey demonstrated that several photographers who specialize in supplying
images to the editorial
market earned in excess of
$150,000 in 1997 from their stock images. At least two were earning in excess of $250,000. (While
large portions of
these incomes were derived from
educational uses, education was not their sole source of stock income.)
The two leading agencies in this field are Stock Boston (in Boston, naturally) and The Image Works
in Woodstock, NY.
(Don't confuse TIW with The Image
Bank, which a photographer I referred to TIW did recently.)
Textbooks need a much greater variety of subject matter than is normally used in advertising. This
is because the
messages the photos communicate are
often much more specific and direct than the concepts used in advertising.
This educational market is usually not interested in trendy pictures due to the long lead time in
getting images into
books and the many years that
books are used.
There are a few other factors that differentiate the needs of the educational publisher from the
corporate and advertising
With editorial uses it is often necessary to know facts that are not readily apparent by just
looking at the image. It is
important to be sure the
image is an appropriate illustration of the points being made in the text. Thus being able to
supply specific details of
exactly what is happening is
as important as the artistic qualities of the images.
Buyers often need to talk to the photographer or at least to a very knowledgeable agent who can
background information about the
photograph. Because their first purpose is to educate, it is more important for images to clearly
and simply communicate
specific information, than to
be graphically exciting and beautiful.
This is not to say that a well planned and designed image is not important, but it is of secondary
value to the message
Shock value and getting the viewers attention, often of prime importance in advertising, is also of
lesser importance in
the educational field.
Editing & Research
Not only is what you shoot and how you shoot it different in editorial, but editing and picture
research need to be
approached from a different
perspective than that of an advertising oriented marketing system.
When photographer submissions arrive, the person doing the initial edit must have a sense of what
the editorial market is
looking for in order to
select appropriate images.
In small and medium size agencies the people editing new submissions often participate in the
research to fill client
requests. Thus, the editors have
an intimate understanding of the subject matter clients are requesting.
In large agencies editing new submissions and researching client requests are usually handled by
On top of that, the people
making strategic decisions about how editors and researchers should be trained may have little or
no practical experience
at either editing or
Once an image is filed, the researcher becomes the critical link. Researchers who specialize in
finding images for
educational use develop special
skills and knowledge in particular subject areas. They supply images that are on target and don't
overload the client
with selections that only
marginally fit the criteria. The more they are called on to do this type of research, the better
they hone these skills.
Researchers that fulfill catalog requests usually look for images by number and don't necessarily
develop the skills
necessary for finding images for
educational buyers. Agencies that specialize in the educational market have an advantage over
general agencies that try
to do everything.
Photographers and small agencies that have specialties can do well in this market if they research
carefully. Buyers for
textbooks like to work with
researchers who know their subject matter thoroughly.
The Role of Preferred Providers
Many photographers with very specialized files deal with the market directly, but unless you are
the only producer of
images in your subject area there
is a good case for having images with a stock agency, even if you continue to make some sales
Most publishers use "Preferred Providers." When they begin looking for 200 to 300 images for a
book project, they start
by sending a list of subjects
to their PP's. These PP's are organizations the publisher anticipates will be able to supply a
high percentage of the
images on the list, and which
will offer the publisher a discount for a volume sale. For some projects it is possible that an
with a major file may qualify
as a PP.
The PP's get the first look at the needs list. They supply what they can and the publisher selects
the images they want.
Next the publisher produces
a shorter list of the remaining needs which goes to the next level of PP's.
On any project there may be two or three levels of PP's. Some will offer any image at $125, others
at $150 or $175. The
publisher goes to those
offering the best price first.
Only after the files of all the PP's have been exhausted will the publisher put out requests for
the remaining images that
they have been unable to
find. It is at this point that most photographers learn of the project's existence when only a few
images remain to be chosen. The only way to get a
shot at providing those other images is to have them with an agency that is a PP.
The Future of Electronic Databases in This Market
Even when the corporate and advertising buyers go to full digital, there are a number of reasons to
educational market will continue to get
the majority of its images from smaller agencies that specialize in serving this market and rely
primarily on film files.
While textbook researchers might like to search on-line, there is a question as to whether it is in
the best interest of
sellers to put All
their images, and all relevant detail on-line.
Editorial images in an electronic database will need much more extensive captioning and keywording
than business concept
Given the costs of filing, the variety of images needed and the relative infrequency that any
single image will be
requested, it will be much less
desirable to go to the expense of putting a large selection of images in a costly electronic
database. The better and
cheaper solution may be to
supply an electronic sample that is just large enough to make buyers aware of your coverage on a
particular subject and
which encourages them to call
for in-depth research of the latest and most appropriate images. This strategy may produce more
profit than putting
everything available on-line.
Longer Useful Life
Images that fit the needs of this market tend to have a longer useful life because the educational
concepts are classic
In advertising there is beginning to be a question as to how long of a useful life some images will
have given the push to
produce images with a
contemporary look. In the educational market it may be easier to produce pictures that will earn
income long after you
have stopped producing.
For example the following are some of my images with The Image Works in Woodstock, NY that have
sold recently for
High School Students in a computer lab (three computers seen,student talking to teacher) -
Appeared in two publications
- Elementary school children getting on a bus at the head of a line of buses.
- Portrait of fireman, in coat & helmet with truck as background,model released
- Policeman giving breath test to young man, model released
- A 4 year old birthday party with the mother cutting the cake.
- A staged group of people in a group therapy session. Model released - used in 3 publications
- Woman with a flip chart instructing two men.
- 7 people around conference table in a business meeting. Good ethnic mix and balance of male
- A man at desk piled high with paper looking frustrated (photo staged in studio)
- Woman in hospital room after delivery. Doctor holds baby and nurse looks on. (My photo
assistants played the roles of
doctor and nurse.)
- Nurse working at computer at hospital nurse's station while another nurse looks on.
- Man working in a steel mill
- A worker in Hershey chocolate factory
- Physically handicapped woman working as a receptionist at major corporation.
All are rather straight shots, cleanly lit which illustrate a particular point that is simple,
straight forward and easy
to understand. By today's
advertising standards many would call these pictures boring, but they continue to sell. The
MTV look with crazy
colors, weird filter, strange
angles is not for this market.
These images were produced between seven and fifteen years ago. They have sold before, and are
still selling. In this
market it is not necessary to
constantly update all images in order to generate sales.
It should also be noted that this market is much less likely to be impacted by Royalty Free
photography because the type
of images that are in demand
will never be needed in the volume that justifies producing a Royalty Free disc. Very few
photographers will be able to
make their entire living from
the income they can generate from editorial sales. But, this income can be an important supplement
to other lines of business and very worth pursuing.
©1998 SELLING STOCK
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