The Numbers Game: Professional Photographer Magazine, December 2013

Professional Photographer Magazine, December 2013

Professional Photographer Magazine, December 2013

It’s been twelve months since my primary stock outlet – Lonely Planet Images – were acquired by Getty and it seems a good time to reflect on the change.

On the positive side, my stock income has certainly increased through Getty. Lonely Planet Images was a smaller and more specialist library catering mainly for their own travel publications, so moving that collection to Getty has obviously opened it up to a much bigger client base. So I’m happy enough to see more money coming in but its still very much a secondary stream and I suspect that’s all it will ever be.

There have been countless things written on the subject of stock photography with many coming to the conclusion that it is virtually dead; and while I’m not quite that pessimistic, the editorial side of the market does look in bad shape, where the fees really have fallen ridiculously low and often wouldn’t cover the cost of a meal in the airport let alone what you’d spend in another country shooting images.

When I first began shooting stock, I’d often read that the magical number of images you needed online before you’d see decent returns was a couple of thousand. Well I surpassed that number a while back and I suspect we might now be looking four or five times that figure, just to hazard a guess. To get that many images online is a hell of a lot of work over a number of years and once you’re there, you may need to be topping it up with a thousand images per quarter to keep up those returns. I’m only speculating there but it seems a bad investment of time and money to pursue a straight out numbers game. But what sells best anyway?

On the one hand it’s difficult to know what sorts of images will bring a good fee and which will go for very little. Often it’s disheartening to see the shots you worked much harder to get going for the least amount of money. Conversely though, the biggest stock sale I’ve had this year (if not ever) was a shot of Ipanema beach in Rio taken in mid-day sun with nothing out of the ordinary going on. The shot was so straightforward that I almost didn’t take it.

But advertising clients – and in this context I’m talking about those buying off the shelf rather than commissioning full on advertising shoots – certainly pay more than editorial, simply due to the way the traditional pricing model works when selling a product comes into play. So I’m certainly looking more closely at what I’m doing and trying to supply to that side rather than editorial wherever possible.

Professional Photographer Magazine, December 2013

Professional Photographer Magazine, December 2013

The market is obviously flooded with general travel stock but when it comes to using it for advertising purposes where ‘decent’ fees are paid, relatively little of that is model released. Getting model releases has therefore become more important for me, as has targeting locations, themes or events which might appeal to bigger budgets.

For example I’ve just returned from a lengthy client shoot in Brazil and took the chance to shoot a lot of content based around next year’s World Cup. Rather than put it all on Getty or other stock sites, I’m also targeting potential clients directly or the places where they tend to post image requests if they drew a blank on the stock sites (such as Image Brief).

The cliche I heard so many times about stock photography is that it’s just a numbers game assuming your images are good enough. Get enough images online and they’ll sell. I’m sure it once was before the market became as flooded as it is today, but now more than ever it’s important to look at where demand might come from and stop seeing stock photography purely as that numbers game.

You can see the images from Rio de Janeiro on my portfolio at

See my entire collection of stock photography at Getty Images

Find me on other channels and websites:

shootingtheworld on facebook shootingtheworld on twitter photoshelter archive for shootingtheworld shootingtheworld on vimeo  Getty images

Categories: Uncategorized

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