Stock photography in itself is not new, as so many photographers starting their careers believe, but online stock photo agencies certainly are. Stock agencies of yesteryear simply consisted of an image bank of hundreds of thousands of slides/negatives and prints, from which a buyer had to manually select his perfect image, the difference being almost the same as that of a conventional library of books as compared to an online one. The rules and methods of catering to a stock photo agency remain the same, as do the agreement terms ‘royalty paid’ and ‘royalty free’ , both of which will be discussed in more detail later in this article.
The business of buying and selling stock photographs online can certainly be a tricky one, as it is not always the ‘pretty picture’ that gets selected for a sale, as one learns with a bit of experience. Any beginning photographer learns from his ‘guru’ or from experience, to show the client the final image created for them , not the five or so he rejected before he was satisfied he’d captured the right effect, but this doesn’t apply to stock photography , as there is no one particular client in question. The saying goes "one man’s meat is another’s poison" and it is just as true that what one stock photography client wants will be nothing like what another is looking for, sometimes a photo YOU would have rejected is just the one someone else loves!
The beginner needs to understand the terms 'royalty free’ and ‘royalty paid’. Just as implies, the term ‘royalty paid’ means that whenever an image sells, the photographer gets a percentage. For example, if it is sold for the use of a book or magazine publishing, the photographer gets paid a ‘royalty’ every time a book is sold. On the other hand, the term ‘royalty free’ implies that the photographer has given total rights to the publisher, for the specified usage, and gets no commission on every sale of the publishing. It is wrong to generalise that one kind of agreement is ‘better’ than the other. A royalty paid agreement may or may NOT give long term returns, whereas a royalty free image will give a high initial income. There really is no rule of thumb about this , and it is only by experience and preference that you will find out what works for you.
As a side note, it's always a good idea to check the reputation of the publishing house when making a royalty paid agreement.
Now, some more on the nature of images suitable for stock photography. When shooting for stock sales, remember to get every possible angle and every possible lighting effect, all permutations and combinations. When offering a set of images, offer every one that you shot. Try and look from the publishers’ point of view, and understand that something as seemingly trivial as a pen or a glass of water may be required by an advertising company across the globe, who would really hate their time wasted on setting up a photoshoot specially for that. Also, remember that we live in a globalized world today, and the more diverse the people are in your photographs, the better the chances of one of them being sold.
Micro payment agencies have sprung up of late, which allow the buyer to download and use an image for several dollars, royalty free! Shocking as this may sound, photographers who market their work this way CAN make a steady income – where they lose on higher payments , they make up in number of sales. But some leading stock agencies refuse to market photographers who cater to micro payment agencies, and understandably so.
The beauty of mastering the shooting and sales of stock photography is, that they allows the photographer to live life more or less according to his or her terms, up to a point. Some pioneering stock photographers travel as they please, uploading their images to stock agencies, and getting paid online!
George Ryan works for HeyGeek! Inc, administrating and managing several websites including http://www.ebooks.cc and the wildly successful stock photo marketplace http://www.greatstockphoto.com, where photographers get $0.95 per download.
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