The Changing Face of Stock

Posted on 2/24/2001 by Allen Russell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



February 24, 2001

By Allen Russell

Director of Photography for Index Stock Imagery

immediate past president of PACA

(Picture Agency Council of America)

The other day I ran into an old friend who has been a leading stock shooter for

many years. He has been represented by a top stock photo agency for over 10 years

and has always been a prolific shooter. As we discussed the current condition of

the stock industry, he commented, " I shot a total of only 18 rolls of film last

year." This at first shocked me because I have seen this photographer shoot that

much film in a day.

He went on to explain that he just could not justify making the investment to

produce stock under the current conditions at his agency. To begin with, the actual

terms and royalty percentages of his contract remain in question. He stressed that

it doesn't take an extremely keen businessman to pass, on a partnership that asks

you to put up the front end money and then produce a product on speculation without

even knowing what your royalty terms will be.

Next he discussed the dilemma of what to shoot. In the past, at his former stock

agency, he had a good relationship with a long-term editor and they discussed most

of his shoots in advance, which resulted in a high acceptance rate of images

submitted. Such a high rate of acceptance is also necessary for him, to make it

feasible for him to make the investment in producing stock. He has since moved to a

new agency. There, when he attempted to discuss a shoot with his editor, he felt

little confidence. To begin with, his editor had little experience in stock and

often gave him suggestions that he disagreed with and/or had no interest in

shooting. His comment was, "either they are way off base or I am, but either way I

sure am not pumped up to go out and produce after a talk with that editor."

Another thing bothering this photographer was that his agency had begun the

practice of hiring young photographers to shoot stock for them. It didn't

particularly endear him to this agency that they apparently were pursuing ways to

replace him. I could detect the pleasure in his voice as he related that he

understood that this experiment of bypassing independent stock photographers was

not bringing the agency success. Apparently, they were learning the value of the

veteran entrepreneurial freelance photographer.

Our discussion continued for some time, talking about a number of issues of

concern. I couldn't help but remember many other discussions we'd had over the

years about stock photo agencies. Always before he was very proud of being a part

of his agency and felt fortunate to be represented by them. In return, he worked

hard and produced good saleable images. This combination had produced a long-term

successful relationship. Regretfully, I cannot imagine his current relationship

bringing either him or his agency success.

As I walked away, my concern was not only that I had just had such a disturbing

discussion with a very good photographer. What worried me deeply was how often

I've been having similar discussions with photographers over the last few months.

Copyright © 2001 Allen Russell. 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


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