Email Marketing

Posted on 11/25/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Recently I wrote about PhotoShelter’s survey of 500 buyers of stock in their new Free guide to Selling Stock Photography.

While the survey information will be very useful the guide also listed “15 Things Photo Buyers LOVE to See in and Email.” There are a number of items on this list that can be very misleading for stock photographers.
    1 – Images must be beautiful, striking, and high quality
    2 – State relevance in subject line

    3 – Images(s) and copy immediately relevant
    4 – Unique style or technique
    5 – Images truly represent a photographer’s work
    6 – Highly targeted vs. clearly a mass mailing
    7 – Simple and direct

    8 – Emotionally riveting/evocative
    9 – Demonstrate problem solving
    10 – Clever and creative copy headlines
    11 – Share work in use by other campaigns
    12 – Sensible, accessible geographic location

    13 – Good self promotional design
    14 – Highlight the photographer’s abilities, specialities
    15 – Consistency/ regularity in sending promos
There is no denying that buyers who both purchase stock and make assignments like to see the 15 things, but different marketing strategies are required for each and the way to approach customers for assignments may not be the best way to maximize stock sales.
Photographers will need to read the explanations of each item on pages 9 and 10 of the stock guide.

One thing that makes no sense at all for someone marketing stock is Item #12 “Sensible, accessible geographic location.” Stock is being marketed to the world. The photographer never has to meet face to face with the client. Stock is being delivered over the Internet. Customers buying stock don’t care where the photographer lives. The customer’s only concern is whether a particular image works for her project; whether it looks like the photographer might have images that will work for her project; whether it is easy to search the photographer’s collection and whether it is easy to get delivery and pay for the usage.

In fact, narrowing one’s marketing to only those companies in “accessible geographic locations” will certainly limit the potential stock sales. But, you say, “I would like to get assignments as well as sell stock.” Then you need to have separate and very different marketing strategies for each.  

When marketing for assignment work the photographer’s promotional pieces must take an entirely different approach compared to marketing aimed at customers to whom the photographer hopes to license stock. It doesn’t hurt to also send stock marketing pieces to the same people you’re marketing for assignments because they may occasionally need stock as well. But, the imagery on assignment marketing pieces needs to be much more tightly focused on the customer’s niche than is the case for stock marketing pieces.

Remember, that the assignment customer is looking for a photographer who demonstrates he can shoot the same type of imagery as the customer normally uses. In addition there is noting wrong with doing mass mailings (Item #6) to potential stock customers. Stock customers are looking at the quality of the photographer’s work and the likelihood that the photographer will have something in his collection that might fit the customer’s future needs for stock. The goal of the stock marketing piece is to drive the customer to the photographer’s website the next time that customer needs a stock image. One strong image in the body of the email is probably the best approach, but a link to a lightbox with 20 to 30 carefully selected images on the same theme can give interested customers a quick insight into what the photographer has to offer and a better understanding of the overall work than just a link to the overall website.

Stock photographers will need to show more variety than assignment photographers who simply need to convince the customer that they are capable of handling the customers assignment. Item #10 stresses the importance of “creative copy” to help the customer understand who the photographer is as a person. This is important for those seeking assignments or trying to sell their work as fine art. Stock customers want to know that captions are accurate and that the photographer has some understanding of his subject matter.

Item #4 says, “Don’t be like everyone else. You should have your own unique style and approach to photography.” This is not nearly as important with stock as it is with assignment work. Go to iStockphoto,com, search on the subjects you shoot; sort by “downloads”; look at the stock images that are most frequently used and the number of times they have been licensed. For the most part the best selling images are generic. The concepts are simple and easy to understand. Great selling images of illustrate several different concepts. They may not be all that unique, but they are extremely well executed.

Item #6 says, “There’s no replacement for doing your homework. …Know who you are emailing, what they’re interested in, what they’ve recently used, what styles work with their publication, and the subject matter that hits their sweet spot.” First, this is not nearly as important with stock as it is when trolling for assignments. Sure, the buyers would love for you to spend hours of your time in research in exchange for the hope of a $50 sale once a year. They want you to waste your time, not the time it takes them to open an email and see a picture. If you want to survive in business you can’t afford to waste your time customizing your search for every stock customer.

Buyers of stock are always looking for new resources. If your email is well crafted so it doesn’t take a lot of time to see a great image, even if it doesn’t happen to be what the customer uses, they will not be too turned off. Always give them the option to remove their name from your database. Getty, Corbis and all the major stock sellers do mass mailings all the time. Stock is a numbers game. No single stock customer is likely to represent a significant percentage of an individual’s revenue. You must find ways to reach out far beyond customers whose work you know and can research.

Item #9 is totally for the assignment people. Buyers of stock don’t expect you to understand their problems or solve them. When they are ready to purchase they will be looking for a specific image. They will go to your site if they think there is a reasonable chance of finding something that will work on your site. Your image will either be the right one, or it won’t. They are not hiring you to go out and shoot something.

Item #11. Having a section of your web site that shows how others have used your work is OK, but again this is an assignment thing, not a way to sell stock. PhotoShelter say, “Photo editors/buyers love to see how your photography has been used because it gives them a better sense of your range and professionalism.” Stock customers don’t care if you’re an amateur who has never sold a picture, or a professional. They only care about whether the picture is the right one for their needs at a particular time. When it comes to “professionalism” in stock the issues are: is their site easy to search; can the customer get additional information about the image if she needs it; is the photographer easy to deal with; and can the customer get a price and delivery in a timely manner.    

Item #15 talks about consistency of mailings. This is very important. I recommend every couple weeks or once a month. Most photographers will find it difficult to come up with a great, new image that frequently. Don’t compromise the quality of the imagery to meet your mailing deadline. You’ll be remembered for your weakest promotion. But try not to let too much time pass between promotions.

See Also: Where Do Buyers Go To Get Stock?

Copyright © 2011 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 301-461-7627, 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:  


  • Ted Spiegel Posted Nov 25, 2011
    Jim - A little thanks being given your way by Ted Spiegel - your guide to the guide promises to be very helpful, offering the professionalism we all have learned to expect from Selling Stock. I printed out the guide and plan to go over it with your 15 comments on hand.

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