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Hi All,

 

I seem to have reached a crossroads with stock photography.

 

In fairness I only have 1500 pics on here, but also have 9,500 pics with another agency, fotoLibra. I would reasonably expect to sell up to maybe 5 per month across the two but come nowhere near that. One sale every two months would be good! :)  I have been at it for as many years as Alamy have.

My crossroads dilemma is that if I just pack it in and walk away I will never sell, but if I carry on slugging it out I don't sell anyway!

Does anyone else feel they have reached their crossroads too? And, if so, have you had any positive thoughts about it?

I am enquiring with some specialist agencies (thanks to forum members who have suggested some on here).

 

I wonder if any/all of the following are my issues but general feedback seems to indicate no:

 

Poor keywording
Uninteresting content

Unimaginative content

Too big a pool/too small a fish

 

Those who know me outside of stock will know I have run a fairly successful photography business for the last 11 years, so what am I doing wrong in stockland?

 

 

I love taking stock shots but if there is such a low return I seriously need to re-evaluate if this will ever make a contributing income stream to the Jenkins family vaults.

 

nj

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Not sure what you mean by well placed Chrissie. They are with fotoLibra, if that's what you mean, and I am not at all impressed with how they have done. But, is that a reflection on fotoLibra or my work? (rhetorical).

nj

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Hi nj

 

Have you checked how much you earn per hour of effort in your mainstream photo business. With the best will in the world you will never achieve that rate of return with stock as your experience has shown. No doubt you could improve your stock returns in the way that you have said but the rewards will still be meagre.

 

Financially stock no longer makes sense unless it is a byproduct of your mainstream activities or if you are one of the chosen few. When I first started out in stock I was selling for around $500. Now I am averaging $70. All good fun but it isn't going to pay the mortgage!

 

dov

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Hi Nick, this isn't relevant but I thought I had seen a similar post from you saying that you were leaving Alamy for the reason you mentioned above? Or am I dreaming (which isn't unusual)?  By the way, this is a genuine question.

 

Sung

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Why don't you place your 9,500 images on FotoLibra with Alamy and see what happens over the next few months?

 

I've only got about 350 images with FotoLibra and over the last couple of years I haven't sold one. Ive got 3600 with alamy and sell on average 4-5 a month.

 

I'm sure you would average more than 4-5 a month with 9,500 images on Alamy.

 

John

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Your pix are fine, Nick, except maybe too many country churches (I have a weakness for them too: must be my age. I stick them under a pseudo, and sell a shot every now and then).

You just don’t have enough pix at Alamy to be making regular sales. And you do seem to reach a crisis point with some regularity! All I can suggest is that you either commit to increasing your Alamy portfolio to, say, 5,000, to get a better idea about what sells and what doesn’t... or pack it in.

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Thanks all - John, I agree. I just really want/wanted to make a success of stock - depending, of course, on what is the definition of success. And, yes, every so often I review it and do issue a 'crie du coeur'! Sung, you are right :)

I think that fotoLibra is just no longer viable for me to waste my time on. I will not scrap it, but just not spend time adding any more. Instead, I will just focus on building up on Alamy, my concern being that during the time I build up to my 5,000 plus, the prices and sales will have slid down commensurately!

 

Thanks all - I think I will concentrate my general stock purely on Alamy, look for specialist libraries for my NH work, forget fofoLibra and stop stressing out!!

 

Onwards and upwards (sideways?)

 

nj

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Not sure what you mean by well placed Chrissie. They are with fotoLibra, if that's what you mean, and I am not at all impressed with how they have done. But, is that a reflection on fotoLibra or my work? (rhetorical).

nj

I was trying to be tactful! I would work on the assumption that the fault is with the agency and start moving your collection. I think your idea to place specialist images with a specialist agency is a good one (check out the BAPLA website) although this is a much more demanding area of stock - specialist agencies are ruthless and very exacting (this is a good thing!) I'm surprised at your lack of sales, I don't have many more than you on Alamy and would expect to make 5-10 sales a month, sometimes more. Your images look good, but maybe there is a lack of variety in terms of genre. Mix in some of those other ones and see what happens!

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Ah! Understand now Chrissie! I would genuinely LOVE 5 to 10 sales a month and this is why I NEED to know what is possibly going wrong so I can attempt to fix it. I could try asking MS for a quick opinion but to be fiar they have better things to do.

nick

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Nick, fotoLibra despite Gwen's efforts just does not work for casual sales. I was impressed when he grabbed the Ordnance Survey map cover deal off other agencies and fed it to his photographers, and made lots of sales (OS used to buy from Alamy). But Gwen is not finding new deals every week and I for one seem to have dropped off his circular with 'image requirements' (perhaps because it's part of a kind of pay-to-play scheme?). He also found a lucrative channel for book covers at one point.

 

I'm seeing a recovery if anything in values right now, so I am optimistic. But I do not sell many, if any, generic countryside and landscape views. What I actually sell is tending to support the idea that travel is worthwhile as long as Alamy continues to sell the work for 5-10 years.

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Here you go Nick - this is the secret to the whole stock conundrum - I realise that by revealing this I will lay myself open to abuse and plagiarism. Make sure that your collection is either specialized - or eclectic. Targeted or scattergun - corner the market in a subject if you can, or read the news, and create images to suit the consumers. Have a look at the crazy variety in my images - everything on the latest page from a courgette flower to toads via a few wild birds - taken within twenty paces of my back-door - plus a number of opportunistic shots.

 

Here is the rub, the © of the vast majority of the images which I created in my working life (estimate about 45,000) belongs to my then employers - what is in Alamy with the exception of a number of B/W historical images from an old picture library which I bought in 1970s is a real hotch-potch of grabbed moments and carefully contrived images - the secret is - they seem to work, from just under 5,000 images I am averaging about 30 sales a month - not enough to live on, but enough to keep me interested. Alamy works for me - I put a couple of hundred images in another library at the beginning of the year - nothing sold so far - and I have a longstanding relationship with Rex (where sales have dropped off badly).

 

These, plus direct sales (like the £90 Daily Mail sale which dropped in this week - from an image of a Chinese Lantern which Alamy Live News rejected because they said that they had plenty of stock pictures available) are keeping the proverbial wolf from the door,.

 

So there you are - chin-up - as they say and ever onwards......

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Thanks so much everyone - you have all been really helpful. Lots of practical advice there! I do find stock hard (I never thought it would be easy) and it does get me down sometimes but those of you who know me know I will bounce back - just with a differing approach.

 

I will read through your comments (twenty paces?!!) and reformat my approach/attitude.

 

More shots->more variety

 

@David - I was with fotoLibra from the beginning - it never REALLY did it for me. 43 sales in the last four years!

 

Nick

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Hi All,

 

I seem to have reached a crossroads with stock photography.

 

In fairness I only have 1500 pics on here, but also have 9,500 pics with another agency, fotoLibra. I would reasonably expect to sell up to maybe 5 per month across the two but come nowhere near that. One sale every two months would be good! :)  I have been at it for as many years as Alamy have.

 

My crossroads dilemma is that if I just pack it in and walk away I will never sell, but if I carry on slugging it out I don't sell anyway!

 

Does anyone else feel they have reached their crossroads too? And, if so, have you had any positive thoughts about it?

 

I am enquiring with some specialist agencies (thanks to forum members who have suggested some on here).

 

I wonder if any/all of the following are my issues but general feedback seems to indicate no:

 

Poor keywording

Uninteresting content

Unimaginative content

Too big a pool/too small a fish

 

Those who know me outside of stock will know I have run a fairly successful photography business for the last 11 years, so what am I doing wrong in stockland?

 

 

I love taking stock shots but if there is such a low return I seriously need to re-evaluate if this will ever make a contributing income stream to the Jenkins family vaults.

 

nj

 

Hi Nick.... I know my Pure landscape work does not sell as stock very often, even when I misguidedly placed them with micros. Since then I have change a few things to increase sales and to allow me to continue taking the shots I love.

 

1. Added people to my landscapes while out and about in the hills, seems to sell well in outdoor magazines, got the cover of Lakeland Walker for July / Aug. Images with people in the distance look nice printed as well

 

2. Decided not to go out quite as much.... by that I mean work on studio shots / concepts. I have split this between RM and RF. The RF is aimed at covering the micro market while still uploaded here to pick up any potential customers who do not have accounts with the larger subscription micros. Low prices but high volume of downloads. This seems to produce good returns with limited time spent on it, lower volume of images required to make a return. I have less than a 100 images with micros but they consistently return $80 a month, sometimes quite a bit more. It also doesn't take to long to do as I don't have to travel anywhere and is done in between trips. I want to increase this side to balance more with my RM portfolio. Eggs split between two baskets.

 

3. When I do go out / on holiday etc, I spend more time on the everyday items rather than purely looking for that one big shot. I look for images that could illustrate a story/article. Food cooking on a stove while camping, filtering water  

 

I find I can still go looking for the great wall print shots as I did before but now I fill in the time in between with a mixture of the three things above. I have found #2 more enjoyable than I expected  :D and doesn't interfere with my mountain activities.... which is important to me! 

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Take the best shots out of Photolibra and place them with Alamy; keyword them well. You may as well leave the rest in PL in case you get a sale or 2 rather than scrap them. Concentrate on shots of people doing things and get releases. Otherwise shoot everyday "items". No matter what you do - it's a lot of work now for peanut returns - think about a part time job somewhere - you'll get more $ for your time and you'll enjoy a social life with people! Stock ruined my life - an addiction like any other that removes you from things in life that are far more important. When i travel now I travel to enjoy, to take it all in, not run here and there in a panic to get photos or to hit the " best selling spots, icons or places" 

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Cheers Mr Addict - I do also run a successful photography business, courses, workshops, commissions etc - phew! (Freespirit Images) I was just looking to add an income stream of some substance to my existing ones. Still, after all the great advice I have had off the post this could still yet happen.
nj

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I've been at the crossroads for a while but the lights are still at red :)

 

I'm still a newbie with stock so can't really give advice to Nick but it is soul destroying when you spend a lot of time loading images and keywording while your zooms go through the floor.

 

I'm making an effort when covering news type stories of making sure I get some shots that can be used in a generic way as stock so hopefully that will help me get some sales.

 

As DavidC, Addict and others have pointed out though, you will struggle to make a living on stock alone due to the crappy prices.

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Hi Nick,

 

I also have shots with FotoLibra, just short of 1400. I hardly ever sell anything with them, but regard FL primarily as a safe storage with the added bonus of possible sales. This I believe was the reason why Gwyn started FL.

I also find it handy to download images, as my archive system is rather chaotic!

Why don't you leave the shots with them, as they are not exclusive, even skip the quarterly fee and accept the 20% (or is it 25%?) cut!

 

As for Alamy, I agree with "Addict" :)

Edited by David Davies
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Nick, we've had the discussion many times. You know my opinion as to how to get those sales.

 

A week or so ago you sent out on of your workshop emails and there was an amazing images on there. If I was you, would I put in Alamy? NO!

 

That place we have talked about on many occasions has just produced another amazing quarter. One sale in there of £333!

 

Come on Nick. You are savvy enough to see what it is you need to do...or do I need to come over from France to Cardiff to kick you up the bum to do it ;)

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Moving images around to various agencies isn't necessarily the answer. Maybe a few shots, but I doubt most of your FotoLibra shots will fair any better on Alamy either. Not because some of them are not good, but because of the vast number of shots already in the library. Since you don't obviously make a living from stock photography I would pick a specialty that you really like and are good at. Shoot the heck out of it. Tightly edit your work. Be heartless. Then submit to specialty agencies that carry that sort of work. Another route is to set up shop on a site like Photoshelter and sell your own best work. Research buyers that could use your work and point them to the site with your images. And above all temper your expectations. Don't expect to make big bucks, but rather a modest income to say keep your equipment updated or a few extra $$ for a holiday. Shooting stock for a living is a very serious business that requires a ton of time, equipment and frustration. Too often contributors have that "get rich" glint in their eyes when they submit to Alamy and are disappointed.

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Guest Felix Oscar

Nick, I just wanted to add this. I was almost 2 years with Fotolibra - particularly liked their "picture calls" and I was often chosen for light boxes - but had no sales from around 1500+ images. My image for whatever reason did not go well there.

 

Few months ago I closed my account and moved some to Alamy. Of course, it can always be better but I do sell with Alamy - most recently an entire page in Guardian supplement - probably terrible money but a great motivator!

 

Whatever you decide good luck.

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There is a subject category that I've found is being ignored by many but should not be: cliché landmarks and icons. 

 

In June I went up to Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street to photograph the main library with the twin lions in front. I did it for a writer's Web site. I put some of those shots on Alamy, and low and behold, I've had two sales of them. Again, I wouldn't think to waste my time shooting the Empire State Building, yet from the one time I did, Alamy has made sales. Jools was complaining about not being about to find subjects in his city of Tours. Why not shoot some food? He's in France, for godsakes. 

 

I don't know Wales well, Nick, but have you got all the main landmarks and icons covered? 

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Sometimes Ed, it is not always as simple as you think.

 

Last year I needed some shots of people working. I went and asked the baker's where I go every single day and they refused. I did manage something in another bakery though.

 

What I have here is that when you ask you get two responses:

 

1) Positive

2) why?

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Yeah, I am perplexed by the modern French attitude about being photographed . . . the place where photography was born and the place where many of the great ones  worked and developed their craft. It is a puzzlement. 

 

But what about something simple at home, a cheese, bread, some wine. You don't need a big production. I'm not doing anything at the moment; it's simply too hot here in NYC.  Good luck to you, Jools.

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