Jump to content
IanButty

Is it possible to make a living out of stock photography any more?

Recommended Posts

On 10/27/2017 at 18:40, geogphotos said:

Robert,

 

Apart from Adobe which I understand who are the 'tech companies' you refer to?

 

One of the ones I mentioned got removed by the moderator, so I had better not say. Needless to say, those that place technology (programming, apps, platforms, neural networks are just round the corner) at the heart of their operation rather than editing, curation, art direction, etc. Traditional agencies were, possibly still are, created by photographers, tech companies by programmers, or are bolted onto existing tech operations like this one (computers, cancer research etc.).

 

I agree about your comments on cameras. The dominant trend in commercial photography at the moment is 'authenticity'. There is legacy of over-stylised, over-composed, flawless, beautifully lit imagery which buyers don't want any more.  It's actually quite difficult to produce, but the spec of camera is neither here nor there. Not that I am particularly trying myself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cheap cameras?

Is someone here able to recognize a $100 Sony Rx100-mark-whatever RAW file from a full frame camera file?

Post-processing is the key.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The elephant in the room here is CGI.  Technically flawless commercial imagery - products, interiors, even creeping into fashion - are now increasingly done in CGI. 

 

.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Ian.  I have just done one on this forum topic - bloke jumping out of a high window.  Can't give a link here though

 

 

Edited by Robert Brook

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
26 minutes ago, geogphotos said:

I find stock gives me a useful supplement to my other income but couldn't imagine ever being able to live from stock alone. Maybe in the past it could have been a possibility but not now. My best year on Alamy was 2006.

 

Same here. At my age, I'm just looking for some extra income doing something I enjoy (except the boring parts) and perhaps have a bit of aptitude for.

 

The high-tech stuff is way beyond me. I had to Google "CGI" for at least the third time. B)

 

Enlightening conversation, though. Please don't stop.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, JeffGreenberg said:

 

 

And CELEBRATE success in yourself and others.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/29/2017 at 12:18, geogphotos said:

If you were to start as a newbie today by using Google to find out how to sell stock images you would be drawn to the micros. To start with you would probably be delighted to get a few sales and some validation and an ego boost in being a proper stock photographer. You'd be motivated for a while but it would probably soon wane. To start with you'd be excited and keen to put in all the hours but judging from the stream of new arrivals here the interest doesn't last and people just don't get the expected rewards. Then you might give Alamy a try and realise that as Philippe often said to succeed in stock today you should have started a decade ago! According to Brasilnut who should know the most active micro stock photographers are those from poorer countries in eastern Europe and Asia. 

 

I find stock gives me a useful supplement to my other income but couldn't imagine ever being able to live from stock alone. Maybe in the past it could have been a possibility but not now. My best year on Alamy was 2006.

 

This is exactly how I got started as a "professional photographer".  I can't remember not having a camera in my hand.  My father was a professional photographer, on the side, back in the 50's and shot with a 4x5 Speed Graphic.  I helped in the dark room and my love of photography continued from there.

 

My friends and family kept telling me I should start a photography business on the side, believing in me more than I did.  I know I could take a decent photo but was not sure anyone would buy one of my pictures.  Somehow through Google, probably, I stumbled upon the micro stock industry.  I never knew Alamy existed at that point.  I quickly submitted about 80 or so images to several of the well known agencies and, low and behold, I made some money.  Not much, a couple thousand US dollars, but it was the validation that stuck with me.

 

Long story short, I started a portrait business progressing from family portraits to commercial work.  Never did much else with the stock agencies after that.

 

After retiring from my photography business, I decided to continue with Alamy because I like their business model and the people associated with it.  It keeps me busy but I am not sure there would be any way for me to make a full time living at it where I live.  I know some do very well, Keith Morris, comes to mind, but he works his butt off and is in a much better market location than I am, (south central Alabama).  Not much demand by the UK papers for live news here, I'm afraid.

 

Personally, I think stock photography, for most people, even the very serious photographers, will be supplemental income only.  From what I've seen over the many years, even the highly rated Magnum photographers had thriving assignment work and stock appeared to be a byproduct of those assignments.  One NatGeo photographer that was/is very good comes to mind, Bob Krist.  I imagine he makes most his income from assignment work and supplements it with stock.  He, like many, have a link to his stock port on his site, along with teaching etc.

 

The industry is constantly changing and technology is speeding up the rate of change.  Those that recognize the change, and work very, very hard may make a go of it.  Few will want to work that hard though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, geogphotos said:

And I for one will always be grateful to Alamy for providing the opportunity for me to do what I always wanted to do - be a stock photographer.

 

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s I did approach stock agencies but could not get accepted by the best ones. They already had my sort of content and didn't want more unless it was going to offer something extra. Many simply turned you away if you didn't have a very large number of medium format selects from any initial submission. It was a question of sending slide folders in with return postage and then waiting and usually being disappointed. I did find my way into one or two smaller libraries that were more editorial, less choosy, but never had any success.

 

I once got suckered into sending  all my slides off to a new start up agency advertising in the classified ads at the back of a US magazine. They accepted all the pics. Actually I should say that they 'took' all the pics. It required several years of letters, in the end solicitor's letters to get them back. Even the UK agencies that I was with lost work. One image of a carnival in Jamaica is still something I can get a bit upset about - the agency posted it off along with a batch of others to a magazine and it all disappeared. No insurance. Another agency went through a series of address changes which couldn't help identify their decline as they shifted from West London to a bedsit in a New Town. In drips and drabs the pics eventually came back... most of them anyway. The owner of that agency was a decent person by the way. I see his name frequently in the Alamy 'Sales' threads, so good on him for keeping going.

 

I had a few direct sales to magazines and calendar companies ( which reminded me that I could sell) and a few illustrated articles ( a Yachting Monthly one 'Teignmouth Electron' and Donald Crowhurst which pleased me because I know nothing at all about sailing and some for the Geographical) but I sold literally nothing through stock agencies. 

 

Then got sucked into teaching career and family. Eventually left ( job not family!) in 2000 to go freelance as a writer. One of the publishers asked if I had any pics. I asked where they usually got theirs. They told me about Alamy. 

 

Nice story but how awful losing those pics. 

 

I always wanted to sell stock but never owned medium format so didn't even attempt to approach an agency.  I like to think one can make a living out of stock, but I'd say you need a good 20-50,000 images in your port, something which I'll never have.  Wish I'd started all those years ago... :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/29/2017 at 17:20, KODAKovic said:

Cheap cameras?

Is someone here able to recognize a $100 Sony Rx100-mark-whatever RAW file from a full frame camera file?

Post-processing is the key.

If you know where to get a Sony RX100 for $100, please let me know!

 

Alex

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 24/09/2017 at 23:11, famousbelgian said:

My advice would be to find a niche, or a USP, for your portfolio. Not easy these days but still possible, and it has a dramatic impact on sales and income.

 

Marc

Quite agree with Marc. Unless you do that,a simple tenet of marketing, you will be lost in the billions of photographs being taken and splashed around the internet these days. Anywhere on the tourist trail will heve been photographed millions of times, from every angle and viewpoint, at all times of the day, seasons etc etc... Have come to the conclusion that the only images I now value have to be personal, ie unique to me. Easy to say ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As for personal, MS asked me to lift a PU restriction for a picture with my father (and St. Paul's) in it recently, for a retirement present. No sale yet though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Between Alamy and a couple of other agencies, I probably bring in about 2/3 of the UK national average income per year.....(and stock is only one element in my portfoio of photographic activitiers)

 

So yes, it's possible to  at least make a significant % of your income from stock of one kind or another

 

km

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Alex Ramsay said:

If you know where to get a Sony RX100 for $100, please let me know!

 

Alex

 

Me too. They are definitely not cheap cameras, not here in Canada anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One aspect hasn't been considered in this informative thread.  That is that stock income is inherently unpredictable.  I suspect that even those actually making a living from stock will experience significant fluctuations in monthly income.  OK. that's an inherent part of freelance life but it does mean that future planning and, in particular, raising finance for development and business expansion will be difficult without a predictable cashflow.  The more erratic your monthly earnings are the lower the likelihood of attracting the finance needed to invest in the equipment, travel, etc needed to grow and develop your stock business.  Better, as others have said, to regard it as a income supplement and, as I once saw it described, "build a portfolio of income opportunities".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
38 minutes ago, John Richmond said:

 I suspect that even those actually making a living from stock will experience significant fluctuations in monthly income. 

 

The higher the number of sales, the lower the monthly fluctuations .......and the more agencies/libraries that are in the mix, the less volatile the situation

 

My payouts here are pretty stable , with the variation  per month  no more than around +/- 10%. Which is an easily managed variation

 

km

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, RedSnapper said:

The higher the number of sales, the lower the monthly fluctuations .......and the more agencies/libraries that are in the mix, the less volatile the situation

 

My payouts here are pretty stable , with the variation  per month  no more than around +/- 10%. Which is an easily managed variation

 

km

Useful information.  Thanks for revealing that, Keith.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, funkyworm said:

I'd be interested to hear how others supplement their stock income (if they are willing to share.) My main other income is as a film extra.

 

I divide my time between photography and writing. Sometimes just writing, sometimes just photography, sometimes the two together for books, mags, etc. 

 

Whoops... I forgot I had a 'film career' too. You'll remember 'Fanny & Elvis', set around Hebden Bridge? C'mon, surely you do. Well... I was the guy who broke up the fight in the pub and dragged Ray Winstone out the door...

 

I got £30 for about 36 hours work! It was fun, but surreal. The fight took place about eight times before we 'had a wrap'...

Edited by John Morrison
  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, funkyworm said:

I'd be interested to hear how others supplement their stock income

 

I'm a full time photographer, the stock is a small part of what I do.

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Supplement my stock income with pension/annuity income.;)

 

Allan

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steenbeck rental.

See FB londonsteenbeck.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My main income is from custom dog collars and horse equipment.  I spend most weekends at either dog shows or pet expos.  Love it though.  Love meeting all the dogs. Want to take them all home with me.

 

Website:  jkmorganpets.com

 

Currently happy with making enough extra income from the photography to cover Adobe subscription and my gear with a little left over for the odd dinner out.  Of course when and if I do retire, I will spend more time on photography to supplement the pension income.

 

Jill

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, funkyworm said:

One of the conclusions I take off this thread is that there are very few of us earning the majority of our income from stock.

 

And those who are have additional income supplements. And why not? We are entrepreneurs so if additional income opportunites present themselves... grab them. It is a bit of a phyrric victory to be the last person standing... but destitute.

 

I'd be interested to hear how others supplement their stock income (if they are willing to share.) My main other income is as a film extra. Plus I earn a few bob criticising companies products in market research (I dont consume much - so not so much of these.) Plus a small amount from my shares, both in companies and in a few solar parks and green projects around the country. 

As Colblimp above, photography is my only living, and always has been. Stock is a very small part of my income, even though I'm now semi retired. (Another 16 months and 9 days to state pension, not that I'm counting, you understand ... :) )
To answer the original post, I think it highly unlikely anyone could start from scratch these days and create a living from stock alone.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, John Richmond said:

Useful information.  Thanks for revealing that, Keith.

 

Hardly revealed anything.....

Large volumes/numbers of anything are inherently less volatile and subject to stochastic events than small numbers

 

km

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, geogphotos said:

 

Aren't you out hunting an escaped lynx? Or hunting those who are hunting the lynx?

 

 

covered that story on Monday....commission from The Guardian, plus spec sales to three of the UK print tabloids, and a bunch of on-line uses too.

 

My work is done

 

km

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, geogphotos said:

 

But the lynx is still out there...

 

 

the lynx is out there

 

but the media interest isn't

 

its not a story that needs 24/7 covering. 

 

km

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.