Archive for August 2011

31 Aug, 2011 | Posted by: st

You Do The Math

Editorial stock photography pros who subscribe to our photo listing service know that the fees paid for photos requested on our PhotoDaily are between a minimum of $100 to $300.

Using the average of $200, it is interesting to calculate what fee a commercial stock photographer receives from a major stock agency based on the average of 30%. Getty and Corbis...these two giant companies pay out anywhere from 30% to 40% of the gross sales price.
That's right, the photographer with photos in these or similar giant agencies receives from a $200 sale, -- $80 (40%), while the subscriber to our PhotoDaily receives $200 (100% of the sale).
This may be the answer as to why many commercial stock photographers receive most of their income from work other than stock agency sales, such as annual reports, assignments, fashion, catalogs, weddings, portraits, etc.

Editorial stock photographers are rarely full-time pros. Although they have what it takes to be a pro, they are pros in other fields: education, medicine, sales, technology, law, transportation, etc. They are able to devote their skills and talents to the subjects of their choice in editorial photography, and operate within its promise of long-term value.


There is an unstated factor involved when a photographer is on contract for a stock photo agency. The photographer is required to shoot what the agency needs. Working for yourself as an editorial stock photographer, on the other hand, you shoot what you need and desire, that is, your particular interest area. As one photographer told me, "In commercial stock, the agency's desires drive you; in editorial stock your desires drive you.”
Another consideration is that the editorial photographer who specializes in a particular subject area(category) develops an expertise in that area. He or she develops an expertise that is useful on a consultancy basis for the magazine or book publisher. Eventually the publisher will make assignments to the editorial photographer. The rest of the story is that the publisher and photographer develop a long-term relationship, first-name basis for many years ahead.
A final factor to consider: Many editorial photographers who were shooting editorial subjects in the 70's and 80's, such as environmental issues, personalities, politics, schooling, social issues, etc. have told me that these pictures are now making them more money than when they were originally shot. These editorial photos are used in coffee table books, textbooks, and in PBS and other TV series.
In contrast, I haven't heard of any commercial stock photographers who consider many of their photos of ten or twenty years ago as still marketable. The life of a commercial stock photo is generally considered to be seven to eight years.


A testimony to the importance of editorial stock photography is to browse the book Life Magazine published featuring the important photos of the 20th century. All of them can be considered to be editorial stock. The same holds true for classic PBS programs, which show the influence of photography on our lives in the USA. Editorial stock photography has a way of impacting our lives. You are part of that impact.

As an editorial stock photographer you are going to find much more enjoyment when you are photographing subject matter that you like to take. Learn more about how to sell those pictures at PhotoSource International and the PhotoSourceBANK, Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Rohn Engh is director of and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. E-mail: info[at]photosource[dot]com Fax: 1 715 248 3800;


24 Aug, 2011 | Posted by: st

Google Helps You

Sell Your Photos

…even the ones you haven’t taken yet.

Search engines have come along and made it easier for the photographer who deals in editorial stock.

Most editorial photography editors don't have the tight deadlines (like needing the photo yesterday) that ad agency art directors struggle with. A three- or four-day deadline span is not uncommon for editorial photos.

This reality, together with an editor's "Googlbility" to locate a photographer who shoots in the subject area the editor needs, enables a stock photographer who may not have the needed picture already in-house, to go out and take the picture if it's within a short drive, and deliver the high-res file (or a lightBOX version)to the editor by the next day.

This looks like the way of the future. Google is an easy avenue for researchers to get specialized information quickly just by typing in a few choice keywords. Photobuyers these days utilize Google to locate highly specific photos that they have experienced are not available on the trendy microstock warehouses.

In past years, photobuyers were used to putting much effort into trying to find photographs such as “University Benemerito, Puebla, Mexico,” or "Sod homes in Custer County, Nebraska." They knew in most cases it would be counter-productive for them to pursue searching for such photos, having experienced that the law of probability of finding them at a ma 'n' pa stock photo agency was not on their side. The textbooks, magazines and documentary films of the past reflect this absence of on-target suitable photos.

It's not that the photos did not exist; -- only that a workable, time-effective method of finding them wasn't available.


The “digital epoch” has solved all of this. With Google search capabilities available, more and more photobuyers are seeking highly-targeted photo needs. They know chances are good they can locate a source of such a specific photo by matching a description of their photo need with the keywords and phrases a photographer, or a tourist department, historical society, medical school, or stock agency, may have posted on their website.

We will no doubt see photobuyers of the future digging even deeper into the Internet to find sources for the pictures they need.


Again, in editorial photography, it's known that editorial buyers seldom need a picture the next day (unlike ad agencies).
This means that photographers who own a top-of-the line digital camera are in an excellent position to mesh with the way photobuyers are electronically searching for the specialized photos they need for their books, magazines and various periodicals.
Stock photographers can turn to the information in a Chamber of Commerce brochure or city website to list on their own website the local tourist highlights, public buildings, historical highlights, museums, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, restaurants, sports arenas, schools, recreation spots, nearby lakes, rivers, mountains, and so on.
This could amount to 5,000 – 6,000 words and phrases. The photographers wouldn't have to actually take the pictures, just list them on their website. Then when they get a photobuyer call for a specific photo listed, they can arrange for an assignment, or volunteer to take the picture 'for consideration', knowing they have a good chance to sell (license) the photo to the buyer, or to a buyer elsewhere on the Net. In this case, the photobuyer has served as a free marketing suggestion guide. (If one photobuyer wants the picture, no doubt the picture will sell multiple times in the future.)

Seasonal picture needs, or certain weather conditions, might prevent the photographer from taking the right photo immediately, to be sure; however, not often enough to discourage the tactic of the photographer to list picture possibilities.

For the photographer, the only effort involved is the time spent amassing a list of keywords and phrases describing area highlights within ten to twenty miles (an afternoon trip) from the photographer's headquarters. The digital photos can be taken and delivered electronically, hi-res, if need be – overnight. Another option is that the photographer can deliver a lightbox of a dozen views for consideration.

Is this sci-fi stock photography? Twenty years ago, yes. Today, Google has changed the landscape for stock photographers and photobuyers. You're at the cutting edge.

Here at PhotoSource International, back in 1999 we started the PhotoSourceBANK, a photo search site where stock photographers can listup to 6,000 keywords describing the photos they have available. The PhotoSourceBANK has grown to be a major resource used by photobuyers searching for highly specific photos they need. Visit it at . If you don't have a section on your own website for keywords, or you don't get much traffic yet, the high-traffic PhotoSourceBANK (you receive your own PhotoSourceBANK page) could be the best place to download your text descriptions of your photos, - actual and possible – to give you more sales and market contacts.

As an editorial stock photographer you are going to find much more enjoyment when you are photographing subject matter that you like to take. Learn more about how to sell those pictures at PhotoSource International and the PhotoSourceBANK, Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Rohn Engh is director of and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. E-mail: info[at]photosource[dot]com Fax: 1 715 248 3800;


17 Aug, 2011 | Posted by: st

What’s your style?

Make it real…

In 1997, I can remember talking with a California stock photo agency director who waved his hand toward his office files with the exclamation, "Editorial photos? We have plenty of those!" The pictures he referred to, of course, were of squeaky clean models in a work situation, smiling at a computer screen, or a housewife pleasantly choring away with her upscale vacuum cleaner. The viewing public in those days, it was assumed, preferred fairytale "editorial" pictures.
Catalogs of historical B&W photos from the post WWII era also reflect the aspirations of the public (or at least that's what the art directors figured) to depict a wonderland society, peaches and cream, that, however, few people would ever experience
. Times have changed. Maybe it was the shock of 9/11 or the turmoil in the Middle East; or it may be the influence of TV that can portray reality as it really is. The public is growing up and getting real. Publishers are wakening up also. We are seeing a growing willingness of publishers to tackle controversial subjects with natural lighting and hand-held camerawork. Even major Hollywood films today reflect a cultural acceptance of the "real."

Yes, the antiseptic advertising pictures we continue to see today have their place – in microstock online galleries, in travel brochures and TV advertising. Luckily, magazine and book publishers have shifted to a sense of realism in the images they choose for production. They perceive that their readership wants the "straight story."

The nominations for "The Oscars" each year also reflect this willingness to tackle gritty, topical issues head on. The top nominations range from treatment of race relations to the death penalty. Often, major nominees deal with realism and the personal cost of making life decisions based on whether to conform to social norms or not.

If you are an editorial stock photographer, you can translate this trend towards "realness" –as a marketing challenge. It means less or more sales (licensing) of your images based on your personal preferences.
Will the pendulum eventually swing back to the fairytale type of photos of the last decade? Possibly. I've watched this phenomenon over the last 40 years, and my bet is that it will continue in the pattern of shifting back and forth every ten to fifteen years or so. In either case, use Google to find your markets for your editorial style of stock photography, to begin attracting clients who will want your work.

As an editorial stock photographer you are going to find much more enjoyment when you are photographing subject matter that you like to take. Learn more about how to sell those pictures at PhotoSource International, Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Rohn Engh is director of and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. E-mail: info[at]photosource[dot]com Fax: 1 715 248 3800;


10 Aug, 2011 | Posted by: st

Are Your Photos

“Real” ?

Centuries ago, storytellers would regale villagers with tales of adventure, the glories of victory, and the horrors of defeat. The imagination of the listener was a partner in creating the depth of the emotional impact of the stories.

When motion pictures came along, the depiction of adventure, strife, and war was laid out in visual detail with the magic of cinema. Imagination no longer figured in. Hollywood directed whether we shivered with delight or closed our eyes in fright.

But motion pictures focused on fantasy, not delivering human reality to the masses. This kind of John Wayne-make-believe in tinsel-town lasted until the Vietnam War, when we were introduced to real-time TV coverage, albeit much censored by the networks.

To expect to --or try to -- depict real emotions on film in the past was the job of artful movie directors and career actors. But now comes along a new medium of motion pictures, the video format.

Back a few years, the producers of the box-office hit,” The Blair Witch Project," asked, "What if we allowed real people to video tape themselves during their own experience in a potentially near-hysteria situation?" The producers gave three pick-up actors (I'll call them participants) a professional video camera.
They pointed the participants, a female and two males in their 20's, into the woods and gave them an assignment to look into a folktale about a “witch” that legend says once frequented the forest.

The box office proved (the movie has made million$) that viewers were ready to pay for a motion picture that was void of professional actors, computer visuals, and million-dollar backdrops. Yes, to be sure,Internet hype drove many to the film out of curiosity. Word-of-mouth drove the box office receipts off the charts. Viewers were given a peeping-tom license into a storyline that strung together raw footage that laid out the three participants' internal selves as if their emotions were beef cattle parts being prepared for supermarket meat counter packaging. (Sorry, I didn't know any other way to say it.) Did the film propose some message? Since the outcome of the film wasn't predetermined, the traumatized actors were at the mercy of each sequential 3x5-file card with instructions that the producers had given them on the first day of their four-day assignment. The message of the film became as cryptic and as intriguing as a rumor –real, yet maybe unreal. Whatever.

This film is more than the raw reality of a videotaped cop chase on a Los Angeles freeway. The lighting and sound were excellent because of the professional video equipment used, much like the Star Wars weaponry that's issued to youthful U.S. Army reserves in Afghanistan or Iraq. The results can be awesome. The film tinkers with the thought processes of the zombie followers of two-dimensional Stephen King novels, and on a level that writers and cinematographers can't dip into. The maxi-movie film teases our curiosity with riveting insights into the mysteries of miracles and magic. It treats us like a kitten chasing the end of a loose ball of yarn. Frustration, yet reward. The wobbily camera work, by the way, added to this visually dizzy labyrinth. I found myself closing my eyes every now and then to keep from getting nauseous. Film students for years to come will pronounce their own assessments of The Blair Witch Project.

Did we gain a new genre of film? Is it some kind of faux snuff experience in disguise? Did we see new stalls at the video sites and stores: "B-W-P-Type Films"? No, probably because everything that followed The Blair Witch Project was tinted with the temptation to do it one better. When you pull a mask from a face at the Halloween Ball, the black cat is out of the bag. Therein lies the unique voyeurism of this film. Like the wonder of having your first child, it's impossible to repeat the primordial experience.

A funny thing happened on the way to producing, filming and editing it; no one knew just how it would come out. Art sometimes appears by accident.


Editorial photographers, by virtue of their raison d'être of photographing single pictures, have been capturing emotional subjects like those explored in The Blair Witch Project ever since the invention of the 35mm camera and even earlier. That's something American motion pictures could not do –up until it stumbled on the approach used in this film. We, as editorial photographers, have the same license as did the producers of The Blair Witch Project. We can photograph slices of life without the crutch of Hollywood props, stand-ins, and stunt men. Our editorial photographs project reality and truth. We haven’t seen any more blockbuster Blair Witch Project movies, but the success of the film is another proof to the stock photo industry that "real pictures" sell.

As an editorial stock photographer you are going to find much more enjoyment when you are photographing subject matter that you like to take. Learn more about how to sell those pictures at PhotoSource International, Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Rohn Engh is director of and publisher of ,i>PhotoStockNotes. E-mail: info[at]photosource[dot]com Fax: 1 715 248 3800;


03 Aug, 2011 | Posted by: st

Expired: Your Photo Collection

What will you do with them?

A photographer asked me, “Thirty-five years ago a museum offered to store a significant artistic/historical collection of photographs of mine.

"The museum is a small but significant private facility, and there was a social relationship between myself and the museum director. No paperwork was offered or asked for. I recently requested the collection back, and the new director of the museum indicated in a letter that the collection cannot be found, although several other interim museum directors remember the photos in the archives.

"Any suggestions for legal assistance?"

- - -

My reply to him was, an attorney would no doubt be able to help him if he can document that the museum was in possession of his photos. He needs to gather witnesses, diaries, written quotes from museum employees, and other documentation such as correspondence, or photos of his photos, etc. that record his situation.

As in all disputes, firm evidence and witnesses are paramount. Hearsay won't work in a court of law.
But his experience brings up something important as we move along in the digital age.

Photographers with an important collection of photographs, either acquired or developed by themselves over the years, no longer have to first expect to just donate their historical collection to a museum, university, or similar non-profit organization.

The new practice in our industry will be to place such a collection as an annuity, with a family member, a colleague, or an employee, as custodian of the files. The collection can begin working right away for the photographer by utilizing an on-line database such as the PhotoSourceBANK > < which photo researchers consult to locate specific pictures.


If you keyword (caption) each photo in your collection with highly specific keywords, a researcher will be able to employ the Internet to locate the source of such a photo -- you.

Your experience with the museum is not uncommon. Non-profit organizations have been known to readily accept photographic collections, only to store them away in a basement closet.
A generation later, a worker discovers the carton of photos, all damaged by humidity and neglect, trashes them, and makes room for the cycle to repeat itself.
Unless you can get a firm (in writing) commitment from an organization to protect your photo collection in storage, avoid the arrangement. Instead, market them yourself or arrange for a colleague to do it and split the profits.

It seems like the right thing to do, donate your lifelong collection of photos to a local college, university or museum, sit back, and wait for the accolades to start pouring in. While a non-profit agency or institution frequently is eager to accept your donation, too often your photos simply get stored away in a cocoon. A better alternative: advertise your collection on the Internet and set up an annuity for your heirs.


Can a donation to a non-profit organization be used as a write-off?

The IRS looks at artwork (which includes photos, both vintage and contemporary) as pieces of replaceable paper. Only if you have sold a particular photo or a similar photo(s) for a certain price and can document the sale(s) with a receipt, will the IRS usually consider a monetary value for the pictures you wish to declare as a donation.

If you are a photographer celebrity, the courts may look at your situation differently. Otherwise, they place very little value (limited to the cost to reprint the image) on a photo.

A museum or university might have a development officer able to place a value to your photo collection (a professional educated guess), but whether that value could serve as a tax write-off might be challenged by the IRS.

As an editorial stock photographer you are going to find much more enjoyment when you are photographing subject matter that you like to take. Learn more about how to sell those pictures at PhotoSource International, Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Rohn Engh is director of and publisher of ,i>PhotoStockNotes. E-mail: info[at]photosource[dot]com Fax: 1 715 248 3800;