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Phil

US stock photog $10m career sales

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Wow.. what jumped out at me is:  These stock agencies “undermined assignment photographers who made thousands a day in the ‘60s. Suddenly you could buy these images for just a thousand bucks,” he says.

 

But, you know, it's like that book, Who Moved My Cheese, you have to be on your game and anticipate where things are going. You can bitch and moan about it -- or you can put on your running shoes and get ahead of the game. For me -- I know how to take pictures. If I knew engineering or finance, I'd have other options, but it is what it is.

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Problem is, just about all the prices he quotes are from images licensed in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Rates have dropped considerably since then. I doubt he makes anything like that from a single image nowadays through Shutterstock.

 

fD

Edited by fotoDogue
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You can bitch and moan about it -- or you can put on your running shoes and get ahead of the game.

 

 

You'll get tired of saying that in photography forums...

 

Alan

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You all seem to be missing another point that I remember vividly; only a few photographers ever were able to get their work into stock agencies at all. Before the digital age, simply finding an agency that would accept your work was a huge task that most people failed at. I wonder how many of us who have images at Alamy now would have had their work accepted by Comstock, The Image Bank or The Stock Market back in 1977 when editors often favored medium and large format film and checked submissions with Coke-can sized loupes that resembled hand-held microscopes?

 

Fees may be lower today, but it's a much fair-er business from the photographer's point of view. (Unless you're one of the tiny handful that thrived in the old days.) Entry is easy, tutorials are there for the asking, and there are no film and processing costs at all.

 

I for one am running.

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Problem is, just about all the prices he quotes are from images licensed in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Rates have dropped considerably since then. I doubt he makes anything like that from a single image nowadays through Shutterstock.

 

fD

 

And that's only one misleading "fact" here, fD. Reading this piece as history or a PR profile of Mr. Sohm might be interesting, but don't make the mistake of taking it as your diagram for success or a path forward.

 

Larry Fried invited me to join Image Bank in the '70s. Tony Stone invited me to join his agency, too. At the time, Larry, a very important PJ in his day, was also the head of the ASMP. I saw that as a possible conflict of interest, so I went with Tony Stone. That relationship worked out very well for 16 years. But this was the film era remember. It was the past, and "people did things differently there." Today's stock business must be approached in a very different way.

 

The "pilot" mentioned in this piece was actually a flight steward with PanAm; I knew him well. 

 

Edo

Edited by Ed Rooney
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And that's only one misleading "fact" here, fD. Reading this piece as history or a PR profile of Mr. Sohm might be interesting, but don't make the mistake of taking it as your diagram for success or a path forward.

 

 

 

 

Been there done that. Listen to Edo. The piece is very accurate up until about 1997, but very misleading for today.
 
I wonder which stock library arranged for this PR piece?
 
$10 million over 30 years sounds great, but do the math. Is the $10 million his royalties, or his gross agency sales? If it is his royalties then income before expenses would average $333,333 per year. If it is gross agency sales, then income before expenses would be about 40% X $333,333 equals $133,333 per year. His expenses for catalogue placement, film, travel, photo equipment, probably ran between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, but only if he ran the business out of a spare bedroom with no employees.
 
Being paid $120 per download, and then licensing 15 images during the conversation just goes off into a kind of meaningless PR nonsense in my opinion. I don't doubt that he did 15 downloads, but I doubt if all, or any, were at $120. Lets be generous and say $5 average download equals $75 before expenses.
 
Today no one, operating as he did then, could come anywhere near that $10 million figure. 
 
The $10 million figure was a living, but not overly generous for someone at the very top of their profession working their butt off for 30 years.
 
Do not use this article as a stock photography business plan. 
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Once again Edo has it right, My opinion:

 

I was with Tony, and Marty Loken (did you know him Edo?)  Again in my opinion, the largest problem with photography as a profession is that

everyone thinks they can be a photographer.  In this day that is true to a point, but making images on commission is a completely different story.

 

I took more than ten years off, which I spent scanning, keywording and uploading images to Alamy.  I did a few over 1,000 in a decade, that tells

you how much time I spent on every image.  I never had a problem with QC and I do not regret the time I spent, but now as a working photographer

mostly corporate, I make more in an hour than I do in a month on Alamy.  Keep in mind that I go out on a shoot with over 400 lbs of equipment and

am now only using Nikon D800's, which is making Western Digital very happy...

 

I love being a photographer, never was really a shock photographer and I do appreciate Alamy for exactly what Alamy is, a small secondary source

of income.

 

One more funny note:  Because of my years of finishing images for Alamy.  I am not working on all images for clients at 100% and checking and

retouching to the same standards that I do for Alamy and my clients love what I give them.  So I guess I did really get something out of all those

years I spent working on images for Alamy....

Edited by Chuck Nacke
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Thank you for your support, Bill and Chuck. I know you guys are both pro shooters, and I value your opinions. :) Me? I'm trying to learn to be retired. Keeping my hand in by doing some low-pressure stock is about right for me now.  B)

 

I was glad to hear of your involvement with corporate portraiture, Chuck. That was where Eddie Adams landed when he got weary of ducking bullets. I hope it continues to work out.  It's not something the guy or girl at the end of the hall can do with their iPhone.

 

I didn't know Tony or Marty . . . but the name of a small PJ assignment agency in NYC is somewhere back in the forgotten area of my mind.

 

The trick is to find a niche that cannot be solved by stock. 

 

Edo

Edited by Ed Rooney

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Because of my years of finishing images for Alamy.  I am not working on all images for clients at 100% and checking and

retouching to the same standards that I do for Alamy and my clients love what I give them. 

 

Chuck, my proof-reading services, such as they are, are free for esteemed members such as your good self . . . I think you mean you are NOW working on all images for clients at 100% . . . ;)

 

dd

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Thanks dd,

 

What do I woe you......

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"Do not use this article as a stock photography business plan."  BB

 

Not a good plan for the present, no, but the reality is that the pace of change is now so remorseless that nobody will be able to keep up, and just about any business plan conceived today will be a sack of old potatoes tomorrow. 

 

For example, one trend that may have a major impact here is the opening up of the micros to photojournalism.  This is not photojournalism as previously conceived, where pros were bussed into trouble spots at great expense to put together stories for consumers back home.  These are images by people who are part of the story.  And mixed in with these are the virtual reality boys (search for ‘war’ at SS, and it’s not immediately obvious which is which).  This can all easily be dismissed, because it is at a very early stage, and a lot of the work is immature (heck, they may not even be ‘real’ photographers).  But clearly micro editorial has the potential to be anything and everything that is currently available in the traditional system, the survival of which may involve a very disruptive process.  And meanwhile we are only just getting a glimpse of a future where most digital image-making will be just that: images formed directly out of binary code. 

 

There will still be a few jobs for photographers though, such as providing the textures needed for enhanced realism.

 

Ask Jonas:  http://www.kartooner.com/archives/2011/11/08/jonas/

Edited by Robert Brook
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Thanks dd,

 

What do I woe you......

 

Two dolars.

 

dd

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Too dallirs? Dat's to much!

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For some reason, after reading this thread, I started thinking about Shakespeare's poem "Full Fathom Five." It still seems prescient.

 

Glad I'm getting too far over the hill to care about business plans and sacks of old potatoes (accurate simile, though). B)

Edited by John Mitchell
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This is getting strange. I just bought a bag of new baby potatoes today.  :unsure:

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For some reason, after reading this thread, I started thinking about Shakespeare's poem "Full Fathom Five." It still seems prescient.

 

Glad I'm getting too far over the hill to care about business plans and sacks of old potatoes (accurate simile, though). B)

 

Thanks very much for that link John - it's wonderful.  I am very sparing with this green arrow thingy, but I'm giving you one for that.

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Apart from the real cert's I see a fraction of the number of photographers at events in comparison to a few years ago...to the point where it gets a bit embarrassing, there are so few of us. 

 

For the record, I am a 75 year old amateur photographer who retired from pro photography 10 years ago. I don't have the good sense to put down my camera.
 
Photography was digitized. Digitized industries loose their middle class jobs. Digitization leaves any industry with a very few highly paid individuals, supported by a large number of crowd sourced suppliers working for peanuts.
 
It has already happened to photography, music, writing, accounting, manufacturing. It will soon happen to teaching, medicine, and law.
 
PR stories about big money in stock photography. Photography contests. Appeals to amateur news photographers with cell phones to send in their images. Facebook owns your image content. Google Images. Flickr. All signs of the transfer of photography from pros to amateurs.
 
Ironically publishers are forced to crowd source amateurs because the publishers' low prices have driven so many pro photographers out of business. Unfortunately for pro photographers, crowd sourcing photos is working for publishers.
 
Some Pro photographers are still making big money by consulting in photography, but not by selling pictures or even working on assignment.

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Bill and all,

 

I am sorry to tell you that your statement of " not by selling pictures" (FYI I do not now nor have I often Sold a picture, I and my agents license images).  I got out of the business of

assignments for magazines and commissions by corporate clients ten years ago and six months ago I started accepting commissions from corporate clients and private individuals, no I don't do

weddings, and I am busier than I have ever been.  I have found that there is a large market for professionals, who come to the job prepared and have extensive experience doing

high-end corporate work.

 

The only major down side to me is that it is a lot more difficult with digital than it was in the film days.  Unfortunately clients expect more from the photographer than they did in the

film days. I remember the days when retouching film cost the client $2,500 per hour...

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Most people are in "photography, music, writing" because it's what they love doing - these are not options for people who want to be in business.  Crowd sourcing has been very destructive, but has also opened doors for people who would previously have been shut out.  Artists have always had to live by their wits, and photographers, who once belonged to a rather respectable, and well paid profession, are going to have to learn to do the same.  And many are.

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This is getting strange. I just bought a bag of new baby potatoes today.  :unsure:

 

No problem, Edo. Just keep a few for a rainy day (or the next famine), photograph the rest and upload 'em. B)

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Too dallirs? Dat's to much!

 

No it's not--I meant two dollas Australian . . . .

 

dd

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