Handshakes, challenges and success as a stock photographer

As stock photographers, as well as artists, we must take old concepts, like the dreaded business handshake, and bring them to life in new and exciting ways.

Blend Images, A Recession, And Opportunity
The negative news in the photography world is rampant, and it would be foolish not to pay attention…and not to be concerned. But I can’t help but believe that with the tremendous demand for images there isn’t also a lot of opportunity. I will come out and say it: There is a lot of opportunity! Blend Images, of which I am a part of, has just licensed more images than ever…even in a recession year. And they weren’t doing it by discounting. As a matter of fact, one of my associates had one sale in Blend’s just introduced Rights Managed collection for over $9,000.00. Don’t forget, despite the doom and gloom there are hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on stock images.

Our Challenge As Stock Photographers
There are opportunities…but how do we take advantage of them? One way is to shoot the old tried-and-true concepts, but to shoot them in a new and different way. Let’s take the example of a handshake. Kind of makes you cringe, right? I mean if anything has been done to death, overused, and driven into the ground it is the business handshake. And yet, what better symbol is there for such important and necessary concepts as sealing the deal, agreement, success and teamwork? Handshakes are a quick read and we all get the point. Handshakes really are a necessary image in the business world. As creative photographers, as artists if you will, and certainly as stock shooters, it is our challenge to take such mundane concepts and take them to a new level.

Photos That Stand Out From The Crowd, And Success
Our continued success certainly depends on our ability to do so. I don’t really know if the crushing glut of images will spell doom for the careers of most stock shooters, but I do believe that there will always be success and good rewards for those who can create photos that stand out from the crowd. One problem, though, is getting paid adequately for creating such photos. It could be that if you create exceptional pictures and put them into micro you might have a volume of sales that justifies the blood, sweat and money that goes into such images. Of course, one danger with that is that you might have every Tom, Dick and Jane copying your better selling images.

No Guarantees, Negotiation and Possibilities
I believe it is a better strategy to put such images into Rights Managed collections. There is no guarantee that whoever is negotiating the fee for the images will do them justice, but there is at least the possibility! Too, if the demand for great images does result in higher fees then Rights Managed can easily step up to that task. Once you release an image into micro, or even RF…well, what’s done is done.

Diversification And Knowledge
That being said, I am putting images in both RM and RF. I am staying diversified in as many ways as I think prudent (micro not being one of them…yet*) in order to both minimize the impact of changes in the market, and to have the first hand information of what is selling and for how much. As they say, knowledge is power…sort of. Whether I put images into RF or RM, I want them, ideally, to be fresh, and filling a definite need in the marketplace. I am positive that if you can create exciting and compelling photography that fills the needs for business, there are ample opportunities for success and for making a very good living. Call me an optimist!

*A word about micro. I don’t mean to bash micro. I don’t begrudge the participants of micro. I just don’t believe that it is the right business model for me. Micro opened up the stock photo door to everyone and, in a sense, leveled the playing field. It has forever changed the landscape. It isn’t good, or bad, it just is. Heck, some photographers are amazingly successful with that model, and maybe someday it will be more attractive to me, but right now I believe I can earn more through the traditional outlets.

About the author

John Lund  has been shooting professionally for over 30 years.  John was an early adopter of Photoshop, first using version 1.0 in 1990.  He began using digital capture in 1994.  John has been active in the stock photography world as a founding member of BLEND IMAGES, and long time contributor to Getty Images, Corbis, and, more recently SuperStock.

John has lectured on digital imaging and stock photography, has been a columnist for PICTURE and DIGITAL IMAGING magazines, and written ADOBE MASTER CLASS, PHOTOSHOP COMPOSITING WITH JOHN LUND.  John has been a frequent speaker at Photo Plus and other venues and has taught workshops at Palm Beach Workshops and Santa Fe Workshops.  His work can be seen at www.johnlund.com

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

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