What Is Commercial Stock Photography?
Major corporations set aside huge advertising budgets to promote their products. Not every company, in fact most do not, have that type of budget though. That is where commercial stock photography comes in. The idea is simple. Photographers shoot concepts they think will be in demand and send them to an agency. The agency then sells the pictures to clients for a fraction of what producing an entire shoot would be. The pictures are not exclusive to the buyer so they are sold to multiple companies and the agency and photographer share in the profits.
Why Is This An Important Business Model For Photographers?
Photography has always been a tough business at which to make a living. Digital photography and the low price of quality digital cameras has made that even tougher.
Most photographers struggle to find constant work. If you have weddings booked 50 weeks out of the year and are turning down business, it might not be the model for you. But, if like most photographers, you go days or weeks without steady clients, it is perfect.
In commercial stock photography you can work whenever you want. You set the schedule, so you are always working and your business doesn’t have any downtime. That is the first step to making it as a full time professional. Always be earning money!
The thing I love about commercial stock photography is that customer service is handled for you. Customers aren’t purchasing from you, they are purchasing from an agency. That agency just sends you a check every month. You’ll never even hear from them. All the hassle of running a business pretty much evaporates and you can focus on your photography.
10 years ago when I was just getting started I was approached by a family that wanted me to do family portraits. They offered me $100. I proposed a different scenario to them. I asked them if I could pay them $100, and have them sign releases to sell the pictures. We did a 2 hour session. I spent about 30 minutes on typical family portraits and the rest of the time on concepts.
Fast forward 10 years later. Did my gamble pay off? I’ve sold 9,600 pictures from that photo shoot and profited over $10,000. I didn’t get paid up front, but I did get paid. I’m still getting paid. I’ll be getting paid for that photo shoot 5 years from now.
Why limit your profits to one person at one moment in time when you could sell the exact same pictures to millions of companies over the next 15 years. Not only that but they’ll be thrilled because they’ll get published and get paid.
Are they going to like the photos. That is the question you ask yourself as you edit that portrait session you shot. I don’t ask that question. Models that you hire are more concerned if you like the photos than if they will. The roles are reversed when you are hiring a model because essentially you are the client and they are providing the service to you. If you are a person that stresses over your work, that little tweak can change everything. The phrase I hear most from models after a photo shoot is “I hope you got what you needed.”
Getting Published. Over and Over and Over
When I started as a photographer I struggled for a long time to figure out how to get published. It was my goal, my dream, to get 1 picture published in a magazine. That was 700,000 pictures ago now. If having your pictures published is part of your dream, this is easily the best way to do it.
This post is part of our Stock Photography Guide. If you want to get started making a living as a photographer, go read the rest. The series will help you get setup with agencies and start you on the path to earning money with your pictures!