Archive for January 2012

31 Jan, 2012 | Posted by: st

Are You Mining

The Gold?

In the early days of the California Gold Rush, the '49ers who proved most successful were those that panned the creeks first to locate the gold, but then took one more important step. They followed the gold back to the source and then spent their time in the mine.

Too often, stock photographers will sell a photo to a buyer and consider the sale and relationship done. The photographer goes on to look for "gold" elsewhere.

Photographers who succeed in editorial stock photography are those who develop long-term relationships with publishers whose subject focus, or “theme,” matches the photographer’s specialization area.


These stock photographers learn how to "mine their lode." That is, they calculate the future net worth of each photobuyer (and the market he/she represents) and put the buyer into their marketing program, which includes systematic promotion. A buyer soon passes a photographer by, unless you regularly remind the buyer of your work.

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You can ensure consistent checks
if you cultivate long-term working
relationships with photobuyers at
markets whose photo needs match your
strong coverage areas.

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Determining the future net worth of an editor or photobuyer is not difficult to do. Based on photobuyers at other, similar, markets, be it a book or magazine publisher, a corporation, etc., the photographer estimates the jobs, sales, and other revenue that can be obtained from a photobuyer over two to three years, and then projects what potential revenues will come in based on past performance.

Past experience shows that each buyer represents certain predictable variables: per-picture rate of pay, average number of pictures bought per transaction, frequency of purchases per year, spin-off to other photobuyers in the same publishing house/ad agency/ corporation. From this, it's possible for the stock photographer to determine a fairly accurate future net worth of their new photobuyer.

The future net worth over a ten year period of a typical low-budget buyer is generally in the neighborhood of $10,000 over the 10 years ($1000 in sales to such a market over the course of a year, each year). A mid-range buyer is approximately $50,000 over a ten-year period ($5,000 in sales per year), and a high-budget buyer would be about $150,000 ($15,000 in sales per year over ten years).

By the way, in the editorial stock field, ten years is the average length of time you can expect a working relationship to last with a buyer in the publishing industry. Individual situations may last even longer.


The critical factor is promotion.

If the stock photographer does not
set up a regular and consistent plan
of promotion, a photobuyer could very
easily be lost as a client...

What does it cost to promote? If your costs to promote were just 10% of the expected gross revenue from a specific buyer, it's easy to see that promotion costs are well spent. The critical factor is to know who you should spend your promotional dollars on.

Which brings us to how to get good leads worth your promotion dollars (panning for gold along the creek). Obviously, the leads in your marketletter (PhotoDaily, PhotoLetter, or PhotoStockNotes/Plus) are the most cost-effective for you.

If you spend $375 per year on a marketletter service such as PhotoDaily, and obtain 10 excellent mid-range leads during that one year, you have a gold mine: 10 x $5,000 (average sales to one mid-range market in one year) = $50,000 for one year, times ten years equals a future net worth of $500,000 for all ten mid-range markets over a ten year period. This at a cost of only $375, plus 10% to promote to the markets over a ten-year period. (And much of your promotion will be no-cost electronic communication.) There are not many businesses that can realize that kind of cost-effective marketing strategy.

Begin today. Follow up with the photobuyers you've cultivated in the past, and your leads from the PhotoDaily or PhotoLetter or PhotoStockNotes/Plus.

Start mining this hidden asset of yours.

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 Jan, 2012 | Posted by: st

Follow Your Dream

There’s A Lot Of Room For You

In the world of “art,” fads and crazes come and go. History shows us that all aspects of creative expression go through these phases as styles and public preferences change. Whether it’s in women’s fashions, men’s hairstyles, or photography, as the ability to gain new information speeds up, thanks to the Internet, we'll see art preferences change even more rapidly.
Here at Photosource International our photobuyer-customers require photos that reflect (in a real-life way) the world around us. We aren't photojournalists, whose customers are usually news blogs, TV, and websites that pay high fees for disaster pictures (the kind we see on the nightly news); nor are we paparazzi who get paid for photographing celebrities and their doings.

And especially we are not commercial stock photographers who specialize in wishful imagery (the world according to Getty, iStock, and Corbis).

The Internet is now drowning in this kind of imagery. Check out any of the on-line bright blue sky with white clouds agencies. They're all there: the generic lovely blonde with green sunglasses; a suit throwing documents into a briefcase; day-glow chartreuse tennis balls; a close-up of a wind-swept fashion model; and of course, the smartphone guy. Ho-hum, yawn.

Is this the kind of subject matter that attracts an emerging photographer to the field? In the majority of instances, people decide on a photographic career because of their love of capturing something meaningful or poetic with their camera. They win a prize, they take a photography course, and then they search for ways to make money with their talent, to provide for themselves and their family.

Eventually, they encounter a fork in the road. They learn about microstock, Royalty-Free, and Rights-Managed images. They embark on a career of supplying generic images, copying the current style and content favorites of the major stock houses.

If the photographer takes the copycat approach, most commercial stock shooters have found that the effortless way to produce a bunch of commercially-acceptable stock images is to capitalize on the ideas of the leading stock houses that have done the market research and have anticipated the trends. Are these generic stock images the easiest pictures for emerging commercial stock photographers to take? Yes, next to snapshots, they are.

This has always been the formula for the fashion industry, the music industry, and most other industries where taste and trends guide production. The recipe in the commercial stock photo industry (as opposed to editorial stock photographers) is to keep the current successful image concept the same, but add favored locations, clothing, hairstyles, etc.

Am I being too critical? I hope not. I'm asking, "Is this how you want to spend your creative life?" It seems to me that this kind of photographic activity takes not much more talent and creativity in photography awareness, than photographing fireworks, or hot air balloons, or sunsets and rainbows.

Here’s a test: check out the advertising photographic awards of the year before last, or ten years ago—this'll give you an idea of the shelf life of such commercial stock photos.

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Dig deeper. If someone can
easily copy your idea, then it's
not much of an idea.

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Don't be the stock photographer who wakes up one day and asks, "What have I been doing? Have I been shooting to please myself – or someone else?”

Sure, some of the major stock agencies call attention to real-life editorial images, or even historical images. Getty Images, for example, features the TIME-LIFE Magazine collection; Corbis features the Bettmann Archives. But these are not contemporary images.

Contemporary "editorial photographs" are usually interpreted as disaster pictures or photos that are newsworthy. This is commercial stock or journalism. Everyday-life photographs are left to be produced by individual photographers and street photographers who choose to interpret the world around them, void of any influence by art directors or monetary pressures.

Would Getty Images, in today’s stock photography climate, accept work from Margaret Bourke-White, the famed photographer of the ‘40’s? Probably not. "Too narrow, too focused in subject matter…" an art director would say. "Incapable of ‘selling product;’"
“not our market;” “too down-beat.”


Can you wear two hats? That is, take meaningful, memorable photos, and also engage in stockschlock to put bread on the table? Probably not. A few have tried, but speaking two languages at the very same time is near impossible.
dark colored cowboy hat
But you can make money in editorial stock. Worldwide, $900 million is spent annually for "editorial stock photography." Three fourths of that is actually "commercial editorial" stock, and about a quarter of that is what I define as true-life editorial stock, with around $60 million spent for it annually. That translates to about $10-$11,000 a day spent on non-commercial editorial stock.


Some publishers (of coffee table books, textbooks, etc.) spend $150,000 a month for photography. They're not interested in inexpensive microstock images. They need appropriate editorial stock that reflects the quality of the word content in their projects, and they pay the higher prices these photos demand.

In short, if you follow the big money trail in stock photography you'll find there are plenty of outlets for your kind of editorial stock photography. There are plenty of alternatives in today's visual society. The choice is yours. You can follow your original dream.

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 Jan, 2012 | Posted by: bswenson

GONE -- Eastman Kodak Files for Bankruptcy. Michael J. De La Merced: “Eastman Kodak said early Thursday, January 19th that it had filed for bankruptcy protection, as the 131-year-old film pioneer struggled to adapt to an increasingly digital world. As part of its filing, made in the federal bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York, Kodak will seek to continue selling a portfolio of 1,100 digital imaging patents to raise cash for its loss-making operations. Founded in 1880 by George Eastman, Kodak became one of America’s most notable companies, helping establish the market for camera film and then dominating the field. But it has suffered from a variety of problems over the past four decades.” SOURCE: NYTimes.
TAKEAWAY: So long, good ol’ yeller. Time marches on.

17 Jan, 2012 | Posted by: st

The Copyright Law

Does it Protect You?

One of the benefits
of producing your stock photos
for the editorial field
as opposed to the commercial field)
is that it’s rare that you’ll ever hear
of a “stolen photo"
by a magazine or book photo editor.

Photobuyers in the editorial field are a group of professionals who perform photo research and purchase either as staff members of publishing houses or as freelancers.

It’s a tight community, and “nicking” photos is not a practice that is condoned – nor would it come with any monetary reward or advantage.

In the advertising world, however, yes, the possibility of theft does exist. But again, not in the fraternity of photobuyers in the editorial field.

So how does the Copyright Law protect you?

According to the Copyright law:
Your copyright protection comes automatically when an original work of authorship (your photo) is fixed in a tangible medium of expression (i.e. you click the shutter on your camera).

That's it.
By clicking your camera shutter,
you have gained copyright on the picture
you just made.

Registration of your photo with the Copyright Office is optional (but you do have to register a photo before you file an infringement suit).

The use of a copyright notice © is optional for photos distributed after March 1, 1989. However, if you feel safer marking you photos with a copyright notice, it can take any of these three forms:

* © followed by a date and name.

* "Copyright" followed by a date and name.

* "Copr." followed by a date and name.

Although the Berne Convention no longer requires that a copyright notice appears on or in your photograph to be fully protected, here at PhotoSource International we recommend that you mark your images with a copyright notice in the photo metadata available to you. If you choose to use an alt tag to display your copyright notices, check Google to learn different opinions on this practice.

Copyright for your photos is free.

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;


10 Jan, 2012 | Posted by: st

The Arithmetic...

of Stock Photography

Editorial stock photoresearchers and photobuyers who list in and subscribe to our photo listing service...know that the fees paid for editorial photos requested on our PhotoDaily marketletter average between $100 and $300 per photo.

Using the mid-range of $200, it is interesting to compare this fee with the fee per image a commercial stock photographer ends up with from sales through agencies such as Getty Images (Getty) or Corbis Media.

These two giant companies take sometimes more than 80% of the sale price.

That’s right, for a $200 sale, the photographer with photos in these agencies receives $40. In contrast, the freelancer subscriber to our PhotoDaily, for a sale through the PhotoDaily, receives the full $200 (100% of the sale).

This low return from agency sales may be the reason why many commercial stock photographers receive most of their income from sources other than stock, such as annual reports, assignments, fashion, social media, catalogs, weddings, portraits, etc.

Pure editorial stock photographers are rarely full-time pros. Although they have what it takes to be a pro, they are frequently pros in other fields: education, medicine, sales, technology, law, transportation, etc. In their avocation or side-line business of editorial stock photography, they are able to devote their skills and talents to the select few specialty subjects of their choice, and realize the long-term promise of the extended value of their photo files.


It’s possible that a commercial stock photographer could sell three times as many photos through an agency than an editorial photographer sells directly to a select group of photobuyers within his or her editorial specialty area.

However, there is another
important factor involved here.

Placing images in a stock agency requires photographers to shoot what the agency needs (e.g. guys running while cellphoning). Working for yourself as an editorial stock photographer, you shoot what you want. As one photographer told me, "In commercial stock, the agency drives you. In editorial stock you’re the driver – of your own wishes.”

Yet another major factor: the long-term value of a photographer’s body of work. Many editorial photographers who were shooting editorial subjects back in the 80’s and 90’s, such as environmental issues, personalities, politics, schooling, social issues, etc. have told me that these pictures, for their historical value, are now making them more money than when they were originally shot.

These photos are used in books, magazine articles, CD collections, training courses, in ads, and in PBS and commercial TV series.

I haven’t heard of any commercial stock photographers who consider their commercial photos of twenty or thirty years ago to be marketable today. The “lifetime” value of a commercial stock photo is generally considered to be three to five years at most.


A testimony to the importance of editorial stock photography can be seen by browsing a special edition of Life Magazine put out several years ago that featured what they termed as the important photos of the 20th century.

All of these photos can be considered to be editorial stock. The same holds true for the photography featured in the prime PBS TV program on the impact of photography on our lives in the USA.

Editorial stock photography has
a way of significantly influencing
our lives, and has staying power.

Am I saying “Mothers, don’t let your sons and daughters grow up to be commercial stock photographers?”
No, but most photographers are attracted to the vocation by the presumed opportunity to express themselves and to share their talent and knowledge with the world.

Because of the need to earn bread for the family and pay off the mortgage, they often find themselves lured into an aspect of the profession they didn’t expect, conforming to the dictates of the commercial world.

I like to put in a plug for sticking with the editorial arena, where that original goal can be fulfilled, in spite of sometimes facing financial constraints.

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;

AN AFTER THOUGHT: Probably one of the most influencial photography magazine in the USA is PhotoDistrict News. In the upcoming issue(February 2012) the PDN's director of the pdN-sponsored PhotoPlus Expo 2011 lauds the evennt's success and its strong attendance interest in wedding, portrait, nature/landscape, and fine art photography. There was no mention of editorial photography.
I thought that to be curious because when I made an assessment of all the photographs in the current upcoming February issue, I found this. Of the photos in the February PDN magazine, 24 were portraits, 51 were for advertisements, and 81 were editorial photos. Should PhotoPlusExpo do something to attract editorial (stock, documentary, street, journalist) photographers to it? Also important to note is February was their annual portrait issue. Check it out. -RE


03 Jan, 2012 | Posted by: st

Become an...


The only interesting thing about the down economy we all...
(well, most of us) are floundering in..

is that it will be fun to tell out grandchildren about it, and how we were able to survive.

That’s the future. How ‘bout right now?

As stock photographers, there’s definitely some things we can do.

Getting a local day job isn’t the answer. But getting a global day job is.

“Global day job?” Yes, as the world is becoming flatter, and communication is becoming swifter, doors are opening for us srock photographers.

In the past, these global doors were closed. Too many roadblocks discouraged us from trying to open them:
Language barrier. You found a good prospect, but you don’t speak Japanese.
Time: The photo request was ideal, but they needed the image in two days.
Cumbersome delivery. Remember trying to send 100 transparencies to Brisbane?
Administration. Which drawer is it in? You know you have the picture but you’re behind in your filing system.
Communication. Postal mail, telephone and faxes were costly or cumbersome to use for promotion.
Legal. The art directors and graphic artists at publishing houses would lose your work. Attorneys were making the most money in stock photography in those days.

And then came along the Internet
and digital photography.

It took a decade, but thanks to the Internet the above barriers have all disappeared. If you are still trying to market your talents “the old way,” pay attention.

The new way is to consider the world as your market –but target only a few dependable markets, and they aren’t down the street. They are as close as your computer, your software, and Google. If you play your cards right, you can survive nicely.

No, you won’t be a small fish in a big pond --actually, the reverse.

Specialization is the key in the world of global markets. Someone in Lisbon needs your talents right now. Also someone in Albuquerque. And they are searching the Internet right now. If you haven’t positioned yourself correctly, they will pass you by. Just like they did yesterday.

And these “someones” aren’t necessarily everyday photobuyers. They might be a corporate assistant given the task of locating a certain kind of picture for their new office in Cleveland. Or a housewife looking for a birthday present for her husband.
But your major markets will be “theme” publishers and advertisers worldwide, who are building lists of expert photographers worldwide who “speak their language,” who can communicate in the niche area the photobuyers represent and are known for.

You see, it works the other way, too.

Customers (photobuyers) will look for companies (you) that offer the products (stock photos) they are looking for and buying. And the Internet will lead them to the right supplier. Distance, language, and all the other barriers mentioned above won’t matter.

We live in a new era.
Buyers can be coming to you. So what are you doing to position yourself to be found? (Hint: One strategy is to enter keywords that describe your specialization photos you have available, on your own website or a photo search (text-centric) website such as the PhotoSourceBANK, which gets scores of hits per day globlly from photobuyers seeking certain special photos. Check it out at

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;