Sunday, November 29, 2009

Selling Stock Photography

So, you ask yourself, what type of stock photos will sell?  What is the magic combination of conveying the perfect concept, lighting and model?  What does it take to create an image that makes people jump out of their seats to purchase the image to sell their product? What is the secret? Well, the answer is simple, I don't have a clue. Really.

I have shot images I thought would sell for certain, and no sales. Other times, I have an image I struggle with, and it sells.

Take the image above, for example. I shot this image last week for my lifestyle portfolio. I think it promotes the concept of a woman living a healthy, happy lifestyle. Do I think it will sell?  I would think so, but you just never know, and I have been wrong so many times before.

Why is it so hard to predict what sells? One reason might be that the market is quickly becoming over saturated with images, which means more competition.

Years ago, images were being sold as Rights Managed (RM) when Royalty Free (RF or macro) hit the streets.  Later, the microstock explosion hit the scene. If you look at the number of images being uploaded to microstock sites on a daily basis, you would find the number staggering.  Searching the big guy Getty Images for the term "lifestyle, female" yields 110,432 images.  That's a lot of images. 

Let's face it; there will come a point in time when image buyers will not have time to wade through millions of images, every time they need to buy a photo. Its simple math, time equals money. So, at some point something will have give and big changes will come out of it for all of us. 

We also need to consider the quality of stock photography.  We have all seen images that look like they have come straight out of the camera, and uploaded to the site with a few keywords added.  Image buyers are trying to save a buck just like the rest of us, but their reputation is on the line with the advertisements they create, and buying poor quality images hurts them as well.  And really, at the end of the day, if a client is spending a large budget for and ad in a magazine, do you really think it matters if the image was $5 or $500? 

One change that I have seen, is there seems to be a big wave of photographers turning to self promotion, either by building their own website or using a portal to self promote like Photoshelter. Maybe this is so they don't get lost in the crowd, or maybe it's because they are seeing the market becoming over saturated with images, and want a little more control over their own situation.   

With all of the changes happening where does this leave us?  Well, last week it left me shooting a girl in a polka dot dress with a handful of blueberries.