What is Stock Photography?
Stock photography is the resale of existing images. It is important to look more closely at the concept of stock photography and correct some common misconceptions.
Introduction to stock photography
Stock photography is a potential ongoing income source for images you have already taken as well as images you can take at minimal cost. Building a sizable, quality archive of unique stock images can be a supplementary revenue stream for years to come.
Stock photography refers to collections of images that are used by publications and designers to fulfil their picture needs instead of hiring a photographer to do a shoot.
What stock is not
Stock photography differs from assignment photography. An assignment is commissioned by a client who pays the photographer usually for their time or for the images supplied. The client usually commissions the images for one particular use. In contrast, stock is usually not commissioned or paid for upfront, but rather it is paid for when someone wants to use it. Stock photography can be used many times and in many ways. Rather than hiring a photographer clients may select to use a stock image that exists already in a stock library, as it is often cheaper to purchase images this way.
Stock photography differs from news photography. News images are usually needed within days, hours or minutes of an event happening. Stock photography, on the other hand, has a much longer lifespan. Having said that though, the best news photography also becomes good stock photography later on since it may be required by a buyer to represent that event in future. In time those shots may have value historically if the event that they captured has long-term significance. Think of some of the pictures of 911 or of the inauguration of Nelson Mandela. These pictures are used again and again.
Multiple uses for each image
The same stock image can sell multiple times for multiple uses. A newspaper may buy the image to illustrate an article, a designer may use it on a calendar, it may be used as the cover of a book and for many other purposes.
Figures 1 and 2: Multiple use of a single image by Stephen Mudiari Kasabuli - once on a news website and once in a magazine
Occasionally a client may request 'exclusive use'. This means that for an agreed period of time no other use may be made of the image. Exclusive use should be charged at a much higher rate and the image removed from circulation - either within a particular industry or altogether for the agreed period of time
Long term use of images
The longer an image can continue to be sold, the better for your income. The life-span of a stock image depends on its uniqueness, quality and relevance. Stock images of daily life and news images can become historical/archival stock images if they successfully capture a certain period of time or people who have made history. Other stock images may date and become less useful with age. The file size of the image may also affect its long term value as the requirements for minimum file size by clients continues to go up.
The image below has sold regularly over the last 10 years.
Figure 3:This picture taken by David A. Larsen of the Aids Ribbon monument in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa has sold again and again because it is representative of an issue that needs to be illustrated again and again.
There are no guarantees on the sales of stock images but the chance of them selling when you have edited, captioned and got them online is a lot higher than if they are just sitting on a hard drive at home. As you get into it, you become more aware of what sells and what doesn't. There are, of course, key factors that will dramatically increase the chance of selling an image. These will be discussed in more depth further on in this chapter. This includes:
- an indepth understanding of the markets and how and what to shoot
- a knowledge of what images are regularly required but in short supply
- what makes a high quality image
- good captions and keywords
- inovative marketing of your collection of images