Image via CrunchBase
My dad, Bob Abraham, was a very successful photographer who moved into stock photography early on. He also got me into it in a big way and I shot for Corbis née The Stock Market and Pacific Stock actively until 2003. I have over 100,000 images somewhere working for me. If I were to do it again today, I would add Fotolia to my list.
Why? Because I don’t want to carry around expensive digital SLRs and all the associated glass but I still want to shoot and an agency like Fotolia meets my needs as a second job, second profession, second income, only requiring a good eye, a passion to shoot, a good enough modern digital camera and a commitment to following Fotolia’s uploading, labeling, and business processes.
I have not been shooting for stock in ten years; however, I still receive stock photography royalty checks from both Corbis and Pacific Stock to this day. While I am not able to live full-time on what I make, there has also been a fallow decade.
My residuals for stock photography almost completely petered out until my agencies offered me options to make my images royalty free and to partial-pay to convert decades of slides into high-quality scans that can be sold digitally.
If I were to re-kindle my past life as a shooter and gear up with some top-of-the-line digital SLRs to replace my Nikon N90s then I would surely put all of my chips in on an easy-to-use, royalty-free, still photo and video stock media agency like Fotolia.
Fotolia’s a client of Abraham Harrison and I have a feeling that I am probably just a royalty check away from getting myself a gorgeous Canon or Nikon DLSR and some expensive glass — or maybe just add a Canon S95 to the mix — and start uploading and labeling the best of them to Fotolia — I already upload every snappy photo known to man to Flickr as it is!
Too many shooters don’t want to choose the royalty free model of stock photo selling; however, most photographers also over-value their ability to shoot, the quality of their images, and also the desirability and marketability of what they have to license and rights managed can get very expensive, both in terms of tracking licenses and also in missed sales.
Be honest, are you as good, consistently, as you think you are? Also, are you as productive and as serious as you perceive yourself? Also, if you’re interested in holding out for 100% of the fees for your images, you’re a fool because 100% of nothing is nothing.
Let other people who are invested in selling, marketing, promoting, and delivering do the heavy-lifting for you. When I shot, I didn’t even like complying with all of the slide-labeling requirements that my agencies demanded. If it were up to me, I would shoot and just leave all that Fuji 100, Velvia, Kodachrome 64 and Kodachrome 25 in a box, undeveloped.
I wanted to shoot, not label; I wanted to shoot, not file, promote, market, and sell. There’s the rub.
I have made only between 40% and 50% from my stock. I am making 40% now. But I am grateful because Pacific Stock does an amazing job of tracking down copyright infringements and also doing the business of stock and sending me monthly checks. I hate that stuff! But, Pacific Stock also will only take image that are a minimum 10MP+ through a professional digital SLR like a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III or Nikon D3x. No way! I am a PR executive of sorts now and would be happy to keep a Canon S95, Canon G12, or a Panasonic Lumix on me at all times, shoot in RAW, and even do some post-production work on Photoshop, however, I will no longer gladly schlepp a Domke F-2 filled with Nikon bodies, Speedlights, battery packs, and an assortment of 2.8 AF Nikkor glass from 24mm-200mm.
Also, don’t be naive — if your stock photo agency doesn’t hold an exclusivity contract over your head, be sure to spread your love — and images — around to as many online digital stock photo agencies you have the time to do right. And when I mean doing it right, I mean that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush — cliche #1 — and garbage in, garbage out: don’t do any of this half-assed. Too many people make nothing in their pursuit on making money slow in stock photography because they:
- Don’t shoot enough (stock is a numbers game)*
- Don’t edit enough (do not upload anything but your best)*
- Don’t label well or accurately
- Don’t caption well and accurately
- Don’t tag well or accurately
- Aren’t honest about their ability
(* Yes, the combination of #1 and #2 is a paradox but you really do need to upload loads and scads on only your best images. Just because you can fit 10,000 images into your new card doesn’t mean you have 10,000 stellar images, sorry to say, even if your mother loves them. She’s lying. You have a fragile ego and she’s afraid of you a little because you tend to rage.)
Additionally, if you do your homework, you’ll be able to find cheap ways to scan your old slides and negatives into a viable digital format. You don’t need to over-sample if your agency doesn’t require it.
Finally, last time I looked, I think there might be applications or intermediary services that allow you to upload your images once and have the images and videos uploaded to all or most of your online photo agencies — but, again, don’t be naive — if your agency does insist on keeping an exclusive on you, on your particular images, and on their similars, you can get in a lot of trouble over that as well. So, ask questions and be careful. I don’t know if there’s a stock photo agency wide black-balling process, but stock agencies are supposed to be your friend, your business partner, and your advocate so please show them all due respect.
I think Fotolia is the answer.