Textbooks in Your Future

Posted on 3/6/1998 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



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

advertising uses.

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


Background Information

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

supply additional

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

being communicated.

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

different departments.

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

individual photographer

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

believe the

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

and timeless.

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

educational use.

  • 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

    and female

  • 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.


The above copyrighted article(s) are for the sole use of Selling Stock subscribers and may

not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner to non-subscribers without

the written permission of Jim Pickerell, the editor. For subscription information contact:

Selling Stock 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720,

fax 301-309-0941, e-mail: jim@chd.com.

Copyright © 1998 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 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.  


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