Top Pros Stop Shooting

Posted on 8/13/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (6)

Many rights-managed and traditional royalty-free production companies are having trouble finding photographers willing to shoot for them. Many of the photographers who were rights-managed and traditional royalty-free stars five to ten years ago have given up shooting stock, or at the very least dramatically cut the number of images they produce and the amount they are willing to spend production.


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Copyright © 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  

Comments

  • Mary Kate Denny Posted Aug 14, 2010
    Good article and right on. It is what we know the business to be now.
    The quote "Only those who risk going too far know how far they can go" applies, but to use common sense at this point is important if you want to make a living.
    It is necessary to think outside of the box and find new ways.
    Your questions should be sent to incoming photographers for reality check.
    MK Denny

  • Jagdish Agarwal Posted Aug 14, 2010
    Jim,
    How right you are. We also did a shoot, two years ago, for one of the top agencies. The art director flew down from USA to India. We spent about US$4000 and over 150 images were selected. But till to-day, we have not even received US$500 from stock sales.

  • Bill Bachmann Posted Aug 14, 2010
    Golly, Jim, I must be doing something wrong! (or right) As you know, I still shoot all the time AND ONLY RIGHTS MANAGED. And I am NOT with Getty.

    But I shoot as much as I have in many other years and do quite well. Not as much as in stock's heyday, but still plenty for me. You know the numbers because you & I have talked. I still travel (expensive I guess you would say) but they still sell well in RM.

    What am I saying? Well, you can NOT be all "gloom & doom". The problem for most photographers is that they submit to RF and Microstock. Then I agree.... YOU CAN NOT MAKE A LIVING IN MICROSTOCK!!!


    I hope you will help beginners by leading them AWAY from Microstock rather than telling them to do a little of everything like you often do. Selling pics for $2 and making less than $1 each is really discouraging to any photographer.

    There is still money to be made with the right images, with the right agencies, and in Rights Managed Only. I have many people who read my newest book and are doing well shooting great stuff and knowing how to do all the things needed.

    www.billbachmann.com

  • Scott Barrow Posted Aug 14, 2010
    Hi Jim,

    I have to agree with Bill Bachmann. I have the greatest respect for you and have since I first went to a seminar of yours in DC in 1975. However, I have stopped reading your posts several times over the last 5 years because they were just too depressing. Too often the message is "gloom and doom." The focus is on the big players who are the cause of the downward spiral of pricing. That said, our stock agencies are a valuable element of our businesses and we need to appreciate their efforts as well as encourage the hiring of motivated sales people, not just order takers. We also must give them permission to say "no" sometimes in order to keep pricing reasonable. Photographers need to remember that it is their creativity and effort that makes the whole stock engine possible. By shooting photographs that express our views and interests and then making the marketing of them part of our personal business plans we can reestablish our individuality. I not interested in being an interchangeable part of the stock commodity business. Currently I am in the process of rebuilding my own stock site and see the marketing challenge as just another part of building my own brand. My hat is off to Jim Erickson for his energy and style along these lines. You, Jim Pickerell are THE stock photo guru. We could use your help and insights on how to carve out or reclaim the market segment that wants to work directly with photographers in order to find the freshest and most creative images possible. You did that in the '90s with Stock Connection followed by Ari Kopelman with Direct Stock. We need a new approach and you could be a major help. Marketing our own work could make the whole process fun again. And as we should all remember, we got into this business because photography is all about fun. www.scottbarrow.com

  • John Harris Posted Aug 16, 2010
    Better to recognize the consequences of the price/volume model even if the reality is "depressing". Picture researchers tell me it is harder to find a decent picture now than it was 10 years ago - so the qualitative effects may now be creating opportunity.

  • Robert Henson Posted Aug 16, 2010
    Jim,

    Yesterday I had a very long conversation with one of our veteran photographers. He's been in the business for over 20 years. He said "sales are down, but man, not sure why all the doom and gloom, I still make a great living -- not as much as a couple of years ago -- but I'm just fine." Of course, everyone has their own perspective on what "making a living" means. This shooter has content in RF and RM collections and he creates imagery that continues to be in high demand. He does a lot with image compositing, he keeps his overhead low, but he produces new content every month for Blend Images and Getty as well as a few smaller agencies. Based purely on extrapolation and conjecture, I estimate he brings in north of $500k in stock sales per annum.

    Let's be careful not to conflate one of the deepest recessions in history with the advent of micro-stock / flickr / subscription. Blend had its largest gross sales month in October of 2008. November of 2008, sales dropped substantially. It wasn't subtle. And we weren’t alone. It would be a stretch to believe that suddenly the entire world of art-buyers discovered iStockphoto on the same day. Not coincidentally, the sales drop was perfectly in sync with the wholesale destruction of the financial markets. Basically, everyone stopped spending on marketing overnight. Since this time, we've had up months and down, but our sales were off about 20% in 2009. They will be marginally higher this year. I do accept that there is too much fungible, easy to produce content in the market, and that iStock has essentially single-handedly force a price correction that was bound to happen as technology allowed for much lower barrier to entry for content creators. Now, more than ever, it’s hard to generalize about our industry. There are many, many, stock shooters who have seen the low-hanging fruit from which they relied for most of their sales, disappear. There were too many photographers, shooting the same subjects, over and over again the same way. It turns out, that a lot of that of ‘classic’ stock shots are very easy to produce (something we all knew but perhaps left unsaid.) But we all did it, and we all made a lot of money doing it. That business model was fun while it lasted. Frankly, I still get checks every month from shots that are 15 years old – love that. (In your example above, earning $1,000 the first quarter the shots are generating revenue is a decent start - how much will that $8k earn for this photographer over 15 years? I imagine it will be a great investment.) It amazes me when I analyze our sales data just how far and away some shooters generate per image returns compared to others. There are qualitative differences between stock photographers. It's difficult to approach "stock shooters" as a single homogeneous group. Just as it is important not to think of "the stock industry" as it was 10 years ago -- with so much media/content available, worldwide, instantly with increasingly diverse licensing models, it's difficult to define. Blend's revenue mix continues to evolve and change. We have new "products" coming out this year - including HD motion, and content for subscription and other lower price/high-volume models. Not all content will perform well in every licensing model and not every photographer will be successful in re-engineering to engage successfully with the complex world of image licensing we live in today.

    Rick Becker-Leckrone, CEO, Blend Images



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