Shooting Rights Managed Stock
Shooting stock is a long term project spanning years – no quick fortunes here, unless you’re a photographic genius. You’ll just need to keep shooting, submitting to your agency and keywording for several years until you see reasonable sales figures. £1 per picture per year is a realistic guide (some years it’s optimistic).
Accumulating Stock – occasionally some friends and I will organise a vintage clothing model shoot and I might get 50 or 70 shots for the agency in a day. ‘Wandering about shooting’ where you’re hunting for shots out and about might yield only 5 or 10 in a day – sometimes none.
On average I’m adding 500 pictures per year to the agency, but the ‘day job’ (working on IT contracts) does get in the way of the ‘proper job’ sometimes.
It may sound daunting but it’s well worth the effort. It gives you a reason to get out there and take pictures (you’d be doing that anyway?), pay for the kit and make a profit if you’re lucky.
You’ll also get to meet some interesting people, research and visit some unusual places, and the satisfaction gained when published is fantastic! At the very worst you’ll take your camera for a walk and get a pub lunch out of a day which is still a result.
Why I Started
Having been an amateur photographer since the early 80’s, I got into stock photography as a personal project primarily to cope with boredom whilst cooped up in a rented house after a house fire in 2005. Having looked at the big agencies, with their millions of images taken on pro kit, a smaller agency with a style close to mine seemed attractive – hence the choice of Arcangel.
Steps to getting you started
1) Find an Agency that Suits Your Style
There are hundreds of stock agencies (see http://www.bapla.org.uk/) or http://www.pacaoffice.org/ in the US, so the first step is to research these. Many are specialist sport, fashion or celebrity agencies, others specialise in scientific or nature photography. Then there are the monster agencies (Alamy, Corbis etc), niche creative agencies and finally ‘micro stock’ agencies, which I’ve never tried as the don’t seem to offer a decent return (I could be wrong!).
2) Get Accepted
Shoot some stock and edit mercillessly. You’ll probably need up to 50 or so shots for an initial acceptance submission on non micro stock agencies. Only send the very best and be very self critical. Don’t be put off by initial rejections.
3) Build up your stock and wait to get paid (it may be a long wait but be patient).
If accepted, get out there and build up your stock. Keep an eye on the current trends (book covers in my case). I’d personally recommend varying the photographic approach and do things that others aren’t doing – e.g. infra red, lensbaby, film, DXO filmpack (see later), long exposures and unusual processing. More varied subjects and processing make your work stand out. If you’re with a particularly creative agency, the more experimental the better!
It’s more productive treating stock photography as a proper job for a set period of available time rather than just fun. Research locations, plan shots and themes rather than just wander about looking for inspiration. When you can’t plan, carry a camera at all times, even going to work.
That’s about it. After that it’s just enjoyable photography and imagination – what you wanted from photography in the first place.
So – what are you waiting for?