Tom Grill on RF vs RM

Posted on 4/11/2003 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



April 11, 2003

    Editors Note: Some readers may not be aware that Tom Grill is one of the most
    financially successful, if not the most successful, stock photographer in the industry in
    the last 30 years. For much of that time he was a partner and principal photographer at Comstock.
    His speeches at PhotoPlus in the late 80's and early 90's inspired many photographer to begin
    producing stock. In 2001 he left Comstock to create his own production company and has been
    producing both RM and RF stock images ever since. My recent articles on RF vs RM inspired
    him to write me. I responded with a series of questions that his letter raises and he
    graciously answered them. The following is our conversation. (For more about Grill's
    operation see Story 428 .)

Jim - It's been awhile since we've talked, although I've been hearing your voice on the
internet for some time. I received your recent email directing me to your latest edition of
Selling Stock. RF vs RM. You got my attention. So I read it - all of it. I spent the
past twenty-four hours thinking about what was said, when I finally realized that I had to
write to you.

I found the general thrust of your articles tentative, if not outright discouraging. The
theme is promising: RF vs. RM. Is RF sufficiently lucrative for a photographer to dedicate
his/her efforts. Nothing concrete. Warnings not to be imitative, but nothing concrete put
forth as a strategy. So I thought I would pass on some observations of my own.

Bear with me. First, I am going to have to fill you in about my career of late. It's
important to what I have to say later.

Two years ago, I re-entered the stock photo marketplace as a "photographer", albeit one with
thirty-five years (yikes!) of prior experience. Nonetheless, I was on the street, alone, and
had to find an agency, or - in our image-exclusive world - agencies to represent my work. By
"work", I mean new work. I began taking photos anew two years ago. In other words, I began
with zero photos two years ago. The point I am trying to make here is that I was in the same
position as many startup photographers - with one important difference: I have been shooting
stock photography for thirty-five years. As I studied the stock marketplace I came to the
unequivocal conclusion that I was facing the greatest opportunity I have ever witnessed to
establish a successful career in the stock photography.

In the past year I have been offering my assistance to promising new talent wanting to enter
the industry. I give them the advice I took for my self in the past two years. It works.
Here it is....

    But first some ground rules: I will not be revealing how much I earn, what agencies I
    am signed with, or exactly how I obtain my precise information on how to proceed. I will be
    revealing the basic strategy a photographer can use to become successful in the stock photo
    marketplace - whether RF or RM. All of the information I am providing is based exclusively
    on the experience of my last two years of re-entry into the stock photo marketplace.

OK? Here goes:

Shooting RF vs RM: Truth is, it doesn't matter. From what I can determine, the two are
financially equal. In RM the photographer tends to sell fewer images for high dollars per
image. In RF the reverse is true - volume, volume, volume! The aim is the sell a lot of
images because the pay is less. From my recent experience, the financial outcome per chrome
is the same. The important thing for a photographer to discover is which area, RF or RM, is
most suitable to their style of shooting. (Personally, I do both equally.) Do you produce
fewer images of high quality? RM is probably for you. Can you churn it out, day after day?
RF may be your medium.

RF is on the up tick. It is one of the few profitable areas of stock photography from the
agency point-of-view. As more and better imagery infiltrates this area, we will see a
gradual increase of the current (ridiculously low) price level. This has already begun to
happen, and, I predict, will continue. Better photographers entering the RF field with
better images is fanning the fire of this price increase. The obvious advantage to RF
photographers is greater income on the same number of sales.

The "good news", "bad news" is that many highly talented photographers are already entering
the RF market. In your article, Jim, you mentioned Klaus Tiedge. He's good. Damn good.
And, most importantly, he ups the ante for the rest of us. Hats off to him! And, he's not
alone. There a many talented photographers out there dedicating themselves to the RF
marketplace, and reaping the benefits their talents deserve.

So the "good news" aspect of this is that talent of this type will lend support to a price
increase. The "bad news" aspect is that high talent sets a higher benchmark for the rest of
us -- something I personally welcome.

2. Selecting an agency: This may be the most important piece of advice I can

The agency/photographer fit is critically important. It is a relationship that must go on
for some time and survive the inevitable ups and downs of the marketplace. My first, and
most important rule, is for a photographer to find an agency where he/she CAN MAKE A
DIFFERENCE TO THE BOTTOM LINE OF THE AGENCY. This requires an honest assessment of your
talents as a photographer and sufficient research into the agency world to recognize a "need"
that you can fill. Do not under any circumstances approach an agency with an attitude that
says: " I am the greatest creative talent since Michael Angelo. Now tell me what to shoot,
and maybe I will shoot it for you."

The photographer has to do some serious homework. Make a list of any and every agency under
consideration. Visit their web sites. Examine their imagery. Do you have something to
contribute? Is there something you do well that they don't have? Who are their competitors?
Do their competitors have your type of material? If the competitors have your material, but
your agency doesn't, you have a possible fit. You have something to offer the agency to make
it more competitive. YOU can make a difference on their bottom line. This is important for
them, AND this is important for you. You have a "fit".

3. Agency size: This may not seem important, but it is as far as "fit" is concerned.
There are a lot - and I mean "a lot" - of agencies out there. Big ones, small ones, and
everything in between. Does agency size matter to you? Maybe.

Small agencies (billing under $10 million per year) offer great potential of growth and
accessability to beginners. (Of course, this means picking an agency that is going places.)
It's easier to get into smaller agencies because they have fewer photographers approaching
them. Personally, I drew the line at agencies billing less than $15 million per year. Why?
Small agencies do not have the resources necessary for the promotion of material on the level
at which I shoot. On the other hand, I can tell you that I did discover many, many high
quality agencies in this under $10 range. These are agencies that are perfect for niche
talent, or beginning photographers - a ripe area where the agency and the photographer can
learn and grow together. There are some really neat smaller agencies out there. I only wish
I could devote time to produce for all of those I talked to.

4. Regarding the issue you raised about agencies being more selective in their acceptance
of material:

This is true....Absolutely true....AND, they are making the right decision. The internet
world has made a significant change in the way images are marketed. All the "extras" that
were accepted in the past are excess baggage on a web database. There is nothing so
disconcerting as slogging through web pages of similar material. The agencies realize this
and are making efforts to remedy it. One of their solutions it to accept fewer image
variations. Surely, they realize that some clients want the subject looking at the camera,
while others want the subject looking away. Yep. But they may take the
"looking-at-the-camera" shot from you, and the "looking-away" from someone else. At least
this adds variety as opposed to repetition on the web site. Frankly, I agree with this
thinking. Otherwise the web site will become a cluttered mess, which will only result in
driving the client elsewhere.

So what's a photographer to do? Shoot less on each scene. This session, shoot your telecom
model looking at the camera. Next session, shoot a different telecom model looking away.
Instead of wasting your time covering each situation in depth, move on to another situation.
Multiplicity of situations, not multiplicity within a situation.

5. Work with your agency. It is important to establish an agency relationship that
is comfortable both for you and for the agency. In the past two years, I have come in
contact with agency personnel who are exceptionally talented and knowledgeable. In the past
two years, I have learned more working with them than I did in the previous thirty years of
my career. As a photographer, you need to establish a relationship - a friendship - that is
also a partnership. You and your agency need to be working together towards similar goals.
I have found that once agencies realized that I was producing images that were pertinent to
their database and in a fresh style that is commiserate with the design look of today, they
have been candid and forthcoming in sharing significant sales information that is crucial to
making decisions for what to shoot and how to shoot it. This information, when added to your
own analysis of current sales figures is crucial for strategic image planning. I find the
agencies to be extremely savvy in their market analysis. Work with them on this.

As an addendum to this: Working with several agencies increases your overview of the general
marketplace. In point of fact, I have found that I can do better for an individual agency
because of the increased knowledge I obtain working with several agencies. My personal
strategy for agency selection is to increase my perspective by working with agencies involved
in very different markets.

6. From what I can tell, the "me too" guys have disappeared from the industry - early
casualties of agency consolidation, economic down turn, and the switchover to an internet
Yah, but is there still room for more? You betcha! My crew and I shoot five
full days a week and we cannot keep up with the demand for new imagery. A year ago, I ceased
accepting new agency relationships because I could scarcely keep up with the ones I already
have. There is a voracious appetite for new imagery out there. Why?

Styles change.

In our era, styles change faster than we can imagine. The conglomerate agencies that
acquired immense files of material realized that much of it was growing stylistically out of
date -- rapidly. So, they began to seek new material as opposed to wasting resources in
placing old material on the web. Subjects don't change. They've been the same as long as
advertising has been in existence. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that an
allegory for "strategy" is "chess". There are millions of chess images in stock agencies.
Is there really room for a new one? Yep. So long as it is stylistically current and
topically appropriate. As an example, in the past this shot might have been done in an
overly-filtered yellow or blue with a male hand moving the chess piece. Today, it might be a
muted color (get rid of those filters, cross processing, and film mismatch!) of a female hand
moving the queen to checkmate the king. Get it? Simple. I have done countless chess shots
in my career. I continue to do them. They continue to sell. The key? Keep them current.

This begs the question: What is "current"?

This is an area where I do not intend to give away my secrets. I will, however, outline a

A stock photographer must establish resources that provide an indication of what will be
happening, stylistically, in commercial advertising approximately two years from today. I
will not divulge my own hard won resources, but I will say that the information is out there,
readily available, and it has nothing to do with the stock photo marketplace. I will also
repeat that for the immediate future: Put your filters in a drawer, stop tilting the camera
horizon, forget all you knew about mismatching film to the light source. Simplify. The
internet demands it. Enough said.

7. Yah, but how much can I earn? (I knew you were going to ask!) This is what every
photographer wants to know. The answer? As much as you can put in, as much as you are
willing to earn. Want to have net sales of $100,000 or less? Easy. Frankly, I believe that
the era of the $1million+ per year stock photographer is at hand, if not already here. I
recently discussed this with some friends (stock shooters). There is really no reason why in
an industry that is grossing around $1billion per year for photographers not to have the
potential of earning millions annually. Personally (and without revealing any secrets) my
current prospects are better now than they ever have been in my career - and that's with
starting all over again less than two years ago. So much for a down market place.

Summary advice:

  • Select agencies where you can make a significant impact. Can't make an impact?
    Wrong agency. Move on.

  • Keep stylistically current. Work with your agency on this. Find out who their clients
    are. What style image do these clients want? Agencies continue to seek unique, timely,
    creative images. They do not need to replace what they already have.

  • Be true to yourself. If your style of shooting doesn't suit the clientele of your
    agency, you are with the wrong agency. Move on.

  • Never sign away the rights (copyright) to your images. The images you create are
    financial building blocks to your future. Sign away your rights and you sign away your

  • Set realistic financial goals. It won't take long to arrive at a dollar per image per
    month figure. From this it is easy to interpolate your earnings into the future.

  • Do your homework. Study what images your agency has and what it is lacking. What its
    competitors have and don't have. This information is readily available on the internet.

I could expand and amplify all of this, but I don't want to try your patience more than I
have already. Should you like to discuss this further, let me know. - Tom Grill


    JP - I think you got the thrust of my articles right "tentative, if not outright
    discouraging". In fact, I am very pessimistic about the future of RM right now. (After the
    recent PACA Annual Meeting I'm more optimistic. See Story 549 .)
    It seems to me that the income growth for photographers is in RF, not RM. You say you "do both equally",
    but you don't say whether your income from both is equal. My guess is that you are seeing
    more income from RF that RM (without getting into how much) because from everything I can see
    the numbers of RM sales are falling off dramatically (with the possible exception of Getty).
    If you're making equal amounts from RF and RM that is "breaking news" because I don't know
    of anyone else who is able to accomplish that.

TG - Then "breaking news" it is. You heard it here first. I am earning equally (with
equal time input) in RF and RM. RM was not killed by RF. I mention below that there are
myriad markets. The same applies here. There are clients...plenty of them...who want
exclucivity, or, they just don't care what the price is (Hard to believe, isn't it.).

More importantly, what is taking place today is an upward price move in RF as image quality
increases. This makes the RM area less foreboding. The unseen here is that the two will
meet at some yet to be determined middle ground. The RF/RM conundrum has a long way to go
before it plays itself out. In the interim, I chose to work both sides of the fence,
realizing that the two may meet in the middle sometime in the future.

    JP - I know of other very experienced and good RM shooters who are trying to do
    RF, but the RF income is not making up for the falloff they are seeing in their RM sales. I
    know some very successful RF shooters who are trying to broaden out into RM but so far are
    unable to place enough images to generate reasonable income on the RM side.

TG - Currently, RF and RM are different markets. I mentioned in my initial letter to
you that it takes different talents for each. At least for now it does. The biggest visual
difference between the two has been RF discs. I can see the discs dying out in the near
future, spurred on by the introduction of individual RF image sales. After that it will go
back to supply-and-demand.

In addition, RM will be affected by the diminishing need (desire) for exclusivity. As image
use increases exponentially, there will be less and less need for an exclusive image. Forget
about being famous for 15 minutes. Most ads will be happy with an attendance of 15
milliseconds. We are oversaturated with commercial images. "Now" becomes a nanosecond. RF
and RM will merge. Into what? We'll see. But, it won't be long before we do.

    JP - Clearly, your experience and your knowledge base give you a tremendous
    advantage over almost everyone else in the industry. And your capital to invest in a startup
    operation and your work ethic are also very valuable assets. There are few photographers out
    there who can come to the stock photo business with such assets. The one that comes to mind
    is Ron Chapple of Thinkstock, and that's about it.

TG - I am trying to emphasize "to each his own". I do not expect all photographers to
compare themselves to me or to a Ron Chapple. Far from it. All I suggest is that a
photographer be realistic about his/her abilities and make decisions accordingly. The
decisions are similar albeit on a different scale. Nonetheless, there is nothing wrong with a
$50,000 to $100,000 income, if that is your current goal. Move up later if you can. But,
there is nothing wrong with that as an initial goal. There have been many periods in my life
when that would have been a significant goal.

I have been coaching some beginner photographers in the past year. The advise I give to
them has been: Keep your immediate goals realistic. Once you establish a base camp at stage
one, you can move on to stage two. In sum: my advice applies to everyone, however it is up
to the individual to interpolate where he/she is on the chain of development.

Agency of Significant Size

    JP - You recommend picking an agency where you can make a difference in the bottom
    line of the agency. But you also recommend picking an agency of significant size. While I
    agree in principle with both ideas I think it is very tough to find an agency of significant
    size where a single photographer can affect their bottom line.

    First off, lets take Getty and Corbis out of the mix. No single photographer is ever going to
    be a big deal with them. In fact, one photographer whose gross sales (for the agency) were
    approaching $2 million a year when Corbis acquired TSM was ignored to the point that now he
    is no longer shooting for them.

TG - Wrong. Your "one photographer" example is part of the shakeup that is taking
place in the industry. The marketplace was bloated. It was an over-extended, bear market
(more below). Of course photographers - many of them - fell by the wayside during
consolidation. The past few years have witnessed a separation of the wheat from the chaff.
The acquiring agencies had to decide what material was adaptable to a "real" marketplace, not
an "over-sold" marketplace. There is a huge difference. It is precisely this shakeup that I
put forth as the moment of greatest opportunity to produce and sell for the present and into
the future.

Background: There have been two great shakeups in our industry in recent history. One was
the advent of the stock photo catalog (approximately twenty years ago), and the other is the
advent of the internet as marketing tools (recent history). Catalogs immediately separated
those who could produce for a mass market from those who could not. The internet is that
times a million. Don't underestimate this. The ability to produce imagery for a mass market
is what it's all about ... and, it separates the men from the boys (my apologies to the

Let's analyze the market: First off, there is no ONE market. There are myriad markets.
What is avant garde to some is passÈ to others, and vice versa. That is why a Digital Vision
and a Tony Stone can exist under the same umbrella.

    JP - Then we have the other agencies that are over $15 million -- Zefa,
    Masterfile, SuperStock, Digital Vision, Creatas (PictureQuest/Digital Graphics), Orion, maybe
    AGE, maybe Mauritius, and maybe Photonica (if we include their Amana parent) - and I think
    that is about it. Can you name any others? I hear you are shooting for AGE which must be one
    of your agencies. I don't think you are shooting for Masterfile and I would be surprised if
    you are back shooting for Superstock. That pretty much leaves Creatas as the only U.S.
    possibility. I would guess that the other agencies you are working with are based overseas.

TG - I am not trying to be mysterious about my agencies. First, and most important, I
think that that knowledge could influence the decision of readers of this article. It
shouldn't. I want to reiterate, each photographer must find an agency suitable to the
his/her particular style and circumstances. Second, I have contractual obligations not to
reveal the agencies or projects I am working on. Finally, all will be common knowledge later
this year anyway.

    JP - The agency list doesn't get much bigger if we lower the number from $15
    million to $10 million. At $10 million I might include ImageSource and Stockbyte although I
    wouldn't be surprised if both are making less than $10 million. I don't think you would work
    with Stockbyte because they seem to want a buyout of everything they use and you recommend
    hanging onto the copyright. My bet is that Comstock isn't doing $10 million these days. (I
    heard they were doing $8.5 back when they were shopping the company and when Getty, among
    others, considered purchasing them.) By cutting back on operational costs as they seem to
    have done, they can still make a nice profit on less than $10 million in sales, but they
    don't meet the threshold you recommend for other photographers. And, of course, Comstock
    doesn't work because they want to wholly own all their RF.

    Most everyone else is way below the $10 million threshold, in my opinion, and if they are
    focused on RM they are suffering. My point in all this is that I think no more than a
    handful of people can become a significant player with an agency doing at least $10 million
    in sales. More power to you that your one of them, but your recommendation sounds like a lot
    of people could do it if they are just willing to work hard enough. I don't think that's
    true. The few big agencies are not going to take on that many major players.

TG - I agree. Not many photographers can make a difference to the plus $10 million
agencies. I think I can and I know of others who do. I did not in any way want to denigrate
agencies under that benchmark. As I said, there are some excellent agencies under $10
million who offer great opportunity to photographers. I am not that photographer. I am not
suggesting that anyone should follow my lead. Quite the contrary, I regularly recommend that
photographers find niche or smaller agencies where they can make a difference. The latter
part of that sentence - "where they can make a difference" - is what is important. Can you
make a difference to the bottom line of the agency? This question should be at the top of a
photographer's selection criteria. The fact that I, personally, could make a difference to
the bottom of a Getty or a Corbis is important to me and to my decision and NOT to the
decision of any other photographer. A reminder: I am offering strategies here, not
particular solutions. In my explorations, I found many, many excellent agencies in the under
$10 million range. Many times I found myself personally challenged to join forces with them.
Ultimately, I realized that those agencies were not the best choice for me and my style of
shooting. Nonetheless, they remain a significant potential for others.

    JP - I don't think there are a lot of agencies that meet the criteria of being
    able to do significant marketing -- a necessity with RF. Reaching the marketing threshold is
    the big problem for all agencies now, and particularly the smaller players. As far as I can
    see the number of agencies, and options for photographers, is dwindling rapidly. That may be
    a good thing for the buyers, and it is a good thing for a few top photographers who are very
    productive. But, there will be many photographers who used to make a reasonable amount of
    income from producing stock who will be pushed out of the industry - again, not necessarily a
    bad thing, except for the photographers who get pushed out.

TG - From what I can determine, the stock photography market has paralleled the actual
stock market so far as the investor/photographer relationship is concerned. In the most
recent bull market it was easy to make money -- pick a tech stock and watch it grow. At the
same time stock photography was in an expansion phase - pick a hot photo, replicate it, and
watch it sell. Those days are over. The success of this market will be had by savvy
investors and talented photographers. I am addressing the later. There is no greater wisdom
than to buy low and sell high. Now is low. If you are the type investor who buys at the top
(i.e. a follower), this market is not for you. This market takes real talent, knowledge,
insight, and foresight. For those who really understand it, this market is fun with a
capital "F" - with an additional capital "O" for opportunity. My prediction: Within a few
years you will be talking about photographers whose names are currently only the smallest
blip on the radar screen.

Size of the industry

    JP - We may get some interesting figures next week on the size of the industry as
    a result of the recent PACA survey. I think we've likely to find that it is smaller than we
    all thought -and getting smaller. As RF takes a bigger percentage of sales the gross revenue
    of the industry gets smaller. The numbers may show that Getty, in particular, and Corbis
    have a much bigger share of the market than we all thought.

TG - I'm not surprised. Nonetheless, a photographer must not think that bigger is
necessarily better. Keep in mind that a $5 million dollar agency is still selling $5 million
dollars worth of photography. My guess is - and it is only a guess - the individual
photographers with the large agency and the small agency are earning similar incomes. Keep
in mind that there are proportionately fewer photographers with the smaller agency. The
worst position I can imagine is being the small fish in the big pond. Remember my dictum: If
you can't make a difference in the bottom line of the agency, you are with the wrong agency.

    JP - Then the question arises as to how much you can make if your images are not
    on the Getty web site. If you can get Getty to accept your images directly (or be part of
    Photographer's Choice) that's one thing. But if you're with Digital Vision and Getty takes
    60% off the top and the photographer gets 25% of the remaining 40% is that enough to offset
    the costs of production? The photographer's images have to generate $1 million in sales for
    him to net $100,000 - and that is before paying production expenses.

TG - I'm not familiar with the Digital Vision split. If what you say is true. I
would not recommend accepting it. I think it safe to say that the Digital Vision material is
not on the creative level of the rest of the Getty brands. Nothing wrong with this. Going
into it, a photographer might not expect substantial income. On the other hand, it might be
a great experiential starting point. If a photographer is entering the stock photography
market for the first time, it might be wise to consider Digital Vision as a starting point to
gain some experience and move on as talents and experience could command greater royalties.
This is another example of what I meant in my article about a fit between photographer and

RF royalties are in the 20% range. Low? Not if you sell five times or more than you do in
RM. To make a million, you have to sell $5 million. You got it. In a billion dollar
marketplace...even in a $500 million dollar marketplace, that's chicken feed. Getty and
Corbis are in this because they see the vast potential of the marketplace in the immediate
future. I am where I am because I see the same thing.

Never Sign Away Your Copyright

    JP - The recommendation to never sign away copyright means that photographers
    should not work for Comstock or Stockbyte because they want to wholly own everything. If
    these companies are paying an attractive day rate (Henry says up to $3,000 per day) isn't it
    worth considering doing some work on that basis if the alternative is not getting anyone to
    accept your RF work?

TG - Your knowledge of agencies currently asking for ownership of copyright is more
authoritative than mine. I really do not know which agencies are asking for ownership. I
only know that I do not recommend it. A day rate of $2000-3000 is not very much money when
weighed against the potential of future commission earnings. Also, the photographer has to
ask: Is it a day rate, a week rate, or a month rate? In other words, how often do your get
paid for shooting stock. I can also tell you that I know of some agencies providing similar
money for shooting and not asking for ownership of the photography.

    JP - Also, what about all the RF you shot for Comstock while you were still there?
    Henry says the company wholly owns all the RF.

TG - Henry is correct.

Your Background

    JP - It may be hard to imagine, but some of my readers don't know who Tom Grill
    is. You've been pretty quiet since you and Henry stopped doing your shows at PhotoPlus over
    a decade ago. If I publish your piece I think I have to say a little more about your
    background in an introduction. I need to say that for most of those 35 years you were an
    owner and principle photographer for Comstock. (I've been told that in the heyday as much as
    85% of Comstock's gross revenue came from images produced by you and Michael Stuckey.) Once
    that's said the question automatically comes to mind, "Why did he leave?" I think there
    needs to be some type of explanation such as, "Wanted to deal with multiple outlets." That
    may not be the whole explanation, but before you were very much the advocate of being
    represented by a single agency. Now you advocate working with multiple agencies. Maybe some
    explanation such as this will be enough to satisfy the curious. I recognize that there are
    probably a lot of personal reasons that you don't want to get into, but somehow we need to
    explain those 35 years. Can you give me something that I can write as an introduction that
    covers this?

TG - I fully understand that there are many who do not know who I am. Frankly, that
was part of a plan I had some years ago. My PhotoExpo and subsequent talks had the
deleterious effect of making me the target of anyone wanting to make some money in stock
photography. After awhile, enough was enough. I decided to go "underground". I ceased
giving talks, interviews, or doing anything that put me in the front lines of stock photo

As part of my separation agreement with Comstock, I am not allowed to divulge anything about
the agency. I find it safer to say nothing at all about that experience. You, of course,
have no such restriction and can say anything you like. You are on your own here. All I ask
is that you mention that your information on my Comstock years represents your own opinions
and observations and have nothing to do with information you received from me - which, of
course, is absolutely true.

I can say that I left Comstock for personal reasons. I am doing what I love - shooting stock
photography, exclusively. I don't sell it. I shoot it. Since I am no longer involved in
the selling of images, I can use all of my time to increase my output. This I have done -
significantly. The past two years have been the most exciting, productive, and enjoyable
years of my life. I became a born-again stock photographer. The big difference is that I
did so with 35 years of experience. Exhilarating. Very exhilarating.

One of the significant changes I found in our industry was the non-exclusive contract. It
took a long time for this to evolve. While I don't recommend it for all photographers, for
someone whose output is prolific, it is a blessing. However, this feature must be properly
deployed. I do not look upon it as simply placing tons of images indiscriminately with many
agencies. I do see it as a way for the prolific photographer to expand his/her market into
every nook and cranny of the world by carefully putting together a composite of agencies with
unique and different client coverage. You mentioned AGE. This is a perfect example of an
agency that has made a successful business of marketing into the nooks and crannies of the
world. Put them together with a few major markets and you have a global coverage -

    JP - Hope this is some food for thought. I would be interested in any expansion
    or amplification of your original piece that you want to make. Look forward to hearing from

TG - You got it. - Tom

Copyright © 2003 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 301-251-0720, 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:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

You must log in to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive our FREE weekly email listing new stories posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More
Where Is The Stock Photo Industry Headed?
For new readers, or those who may have missed some of what I have written over the last few months, the following are a list of stories worth looking at to get a sense of where the industry is headed.
Read More
Photography As A Career
It’s that time of year when high school seniors are waiting for college acceptance letters and thinking about future careers. If you know someone who is thinking about photography as a career you mig...
Read More
2014 Stories You May Have Missed
For many the end of the year is a time to review past experiences and consider whether it makes sense to chart a new course in the year ahead. Stock photography has changed dramatically for professio...
Read More
More Stories In 2014 You May Have Missed
Every so often I put together a list of the most important stories we’ve published in the recent past. If you are engaged in the business of stock photography the links below are to stories that we’v...
Read More
Getty: A Three Month Review
In all the excitement about 35 million FREE images it is worth looking back at some of things that have been happening at Getty Images in the last three months. After watching revenue decline for the...
Read More
State Of Stock Photo Industry: 2013
If you’re looking for an overview of the state of the stock photo industry as of October 2013 the stories listed below are a good place to start. Regular readers of Selling-Stock will have seen all t...
Read More
Education Market Shifts To Digital
If supplying pictures for educational use is a significant part of your business plan you need to be aware of how the market is trending toward digital delivery and how that is likely to affect the p...
Read More

More from Free Stuff