Thoughts on stock photography

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This is obviously not the kind of thing I usually shoot. But it does have stock value, so I go out of my way: why?

I’ve long been in two minds about the whole stock photography business, for many reasons. Today I’d like to explore some thoughts around the whole ecosystem. One thing’s for sure, though: the market for photographers is getting worse.

On one hand, stock is a very obvious way for a photographer to make money from his or her images; you sell a license to use them for whatever purpose at whatever price. An agency does the aggregation: there is benefit to scale here; a large library is more likely to be searched by potential image buyers simply because of convenience and choice. In this way, the 500-pound gorillas pretty much have the market sewn up: both the eyes of the buyers (typically, agencies, companies, creatives) and the photographers. It’s very difficult – make that nearly impossible – to make any money out of stock if you are your own agent unless you are already a famous photographer and a popular market for your images exists; the simple reason is one of visibility. Nobody is going to find you amongst the rest of the people clamouring for attention out there. And that’s not even taking into consideration the difficulty of maintaining a current, large and searchable catalog for people to find an interesting/ useful image of yours that they might want to license in the first place.

Suppose you sign up with an agency: there are two types. One which accepts any and all comers, and one that is by invitation/ or review only. The former will either price everything at a flat (read: low) fee, and leave the buyers to sort out their own QC, assuming that volume will make up for quality; the latter will charge significant amounts of money and only accept/ represent good images. Needless to say, I think the former type of agency – frequently referred to these days as ‘microstock’ – is probably best avoided by a good photographer; your images will not get the value they deserve, unless you can drive huge quantities – and if they’re that good, you can always easily find representation by one of the better agencies. The latter agency adds a certain prestige – e.g. Getty – however, is not without their drawbacks. They decide what has commercial value and what doesn’t; the upshot is that most of the images accepted are very clinical and lacking in personality or individual style. You may not get that many images in the library as a result.

I think it’s worth taking a short detour on the mechanics/ economics of how these things work, for those readers who might not have had any experience with stock in the past. Unless your images are incredibly unique, famous, or the kind of thing that involves celebrities in compromising positions, you’re almost certainly never going to get bought out directly; the agencies will represent you by putting your images in their catalog and making them available for sale. Depending on the commission structure, you will get varying amounts of money as a one-off or repeat payment for use of your images, but only when the image sells. And typically even then, there will be a significant – up to three month – delay between sale and payment to you. On top of this, the agencies all take a huge cut of the pie: up to 80%, in some cases. Even for the better ones where the images are rights-managed and the contract price depends on usage (as it should; an image that’s used exclusively for an international campaign has more commercial value than one that’s a little banner ad on an obscure website) – this is still the case.

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Here’s the paradox: you might well get invited to join – Getty has been running a program for several years now where they invite selected photographers off Flickr* – and you might be rather pleased with yourself, and rightly so. You’ll then notice they select a) your best images, and b) usually those that have people in them. The trouble with this is twofold: the people are the simple bit: for commercial use of a person’s image, you need to get a model release from them. And this isn’t going to happen in candid reportage situations. (Editorial, non-commercial use is different and you do not require a model release.) The more troubling part is that they will probably only take your best images; at this point, read the fine print carefully. Once an image is represented by an agency, you won’t be able to sell it yourself or get another agency to represent it; the simple reason is one of rights management: you wouldn’t want to see another company using an image if you supposedly paid for exclusive rights!

*I applied to join independently several times in the past, was rejected, and then suddenly invited after somebody bothered to look at my Flickr stream. Go figure.

Now I’m sure you see the problem – if you release the rights to your best images, that means you are no longer in full control. Technically, you could be sued for selling prints of your own work, depending on what licenses are active and how the prints are used. The agency will sell the image rights to a client at whatever their rates are; you might find this too low, or get a better offer, and be unable to do anything about it. I’m glad I realized this before putting too much of my A-grade material into the Getty pot; even more so considering they keep between 50 and 80% of the royalties. Of course, the paradox is that if you don’t put good images in, then you’ll never sell anything and you might as well not bother…

…or not, perhaps?

I think there is still value to stock, but like any tool, one has to be discerning in the application: either submit material shot specifically for purpose, or material that has no other artistic or commercial value; in essence, your B roll. If you’re starting out, have a more experienced eye look over your potential submissions before they go in, just in case you submit something you should really be retaining full rights to later on. Even though the rates are pretty criminal, I’d look at it this way: a small amount of something is better than the whole amount of nothing, especially on material that’s otherwise worthless. This is definitely NOT the case for your A-list images though: as with everything, if you don’t value your own work, who else will? I’m sure it’s pretty clear that stock agencies are not in business for the altruistic promotion of photographers; they’re there solely to make money, and like any business, as much of it as they feel they can get away with. We may maintain the attitude of ‘a bit of something is better than all of nothing’, but ultimately you as photographer must retain final veto over both the usage and value of your images. MT


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  1. Frank Petronio says:

    It’s a shame you work with Getty at all, they are an evil, immoral force actively working against photographers’ interests and people should shun them. Getty employees should be ashamed of themselves and Getty photographers are either ignorant or selfish. I don’t begrudge the market or capitalism but Getty goes beyond simple profit motive… they have worked towards becoming a monopoly and manipulating supply and demand, while ruining the livelihoods of many photographers who depended on stock photography for income or retirement. I don’t know if I can express my hatred for Getty strongly enough but all photographers should do everything they can within legal limits to hurt Getty in any way possible.

    There actually are a few profitable, selective, rights-managed stock photography agencies that do better than selling shots of peppers against white. You are a competent photographer and should be working with them instead of slumming with the likes of Getty. Not only would you make more money with rights-managed advertising sales but you wouldn’t have the moral angst of contributing to the destruction of your profession.

    • I’ve stopped putting images in their library, but I cannot withdraw what’s already in there and under license.

      I guess that makes me ignorant and selfish. Time to start charging for the content on this site, then…

      • Frank Petronio says:

        I know you aren’t selfish. You might try some of the unaffiliated boutique agencies like Lens Modern, Gallerystock, Trunk Archive, etc.

  2. liramusic says:

    I did mean 2k. I suppose I was connecting what I know more, music, to what we talk about here. Yes, 2k. What happens is that musicians take day jobs. I am not so sure that they are poor at business, maybe a little bit. That analysis point is one I had not observed in detail. What percentage of artists are good in some kind of business– any kind vs. ones that are struggling terribly when it comes to money. The point that would be addressed here, or brought out, is that a real artist can also be financially well off. In other words, the stereotype of the starving artist does not need to be reenforced too much. I recognize that this thread was about financially viable ways to carry forth fine art. i do understand. With the original point of mine, no. I was saying that fine orchestral musicians with years of devotion earn 2k/year.

    • It’s definitely viable to make a living off art – even in Malaysia – but a lot of the time the artists are producing a commercially geared ‘product’ to a target audience, which to me somehow lacks the purity of something done for the sake of it. There are photographers earning a decent living – but few will ever be truly wealthy, much like artists.

    • Billy Walker says:

      I would say the employer is being abusive to the musician. If the musician is only getting $2k a year for a 2nd full time gig, even part time, that is foolish. And, therein lies the problem. Because so many are willing to work for free basically it seriously harms those trying to make a living in the field. Most of the problem however lies in the fact the musician or photographer wants to pursue his or her craft and ultimately not get paid for it while allowing others such as the show producer to take in the profits should the show prove to be a success.

      How often do you see new businesses open and give their stuff away? For some odd reason photographers do this in droves. Absolutely foolish and substantially harms the profession overall. The answer is to be passionate about business and your marketing skills #1 and then your photography skills #2 and you might be lucky enough to stay in the profession for a lifetime. Skill #2 by itself is simply not enough. Ignore this at your own risk (not aimed at you personally “liramusic”) but please don’t harm the profession by pursuing your goals in such a manner.

      Yes, I know I’m wasting my breath here as the train left the station a long time ago but it makes me angry how so many are destroying what at one time was a viable business concept. The level of ignorance is incredible and the need for solid business training is still a missing piece of the puzzle.

      • My theory is that because people are uneducated they don’t know how to value their own or other people’s product; it doesn’t help either that it’s so subjective in the first place. I also think we’re going to go through a phase where professional photography effectively dies except at the high/ specialized end of the spectrum; it may or may not come back in the mid levels after some period of noticeable absence. I used to be confident that the increased saturation of images – both good and bad – would raise visual awareness to the point that it would be easier to demonstrate value, but I’m honestly no longer sure that’s still the case.

        • Billy Walker says:

          Ming, you’re sounding perhaps a bit despondent on the industry in some of these posts. The industry has gone through substantial upheaval for sure. I’m going to be somewhat blunt here but there’s never been a time such as now where so many ignorant photographers exist. And by ignorant I mean zero to little intent on skill improvement of their so-called desired trade and zero business skills and no desire to learn them because they call themselves such terms as “passionate” and “artist”. I say BS to that!! Be a professional, up your game through skill improvement. Trying learning what it takes to run a profitable business. Be passionate about both your business skills and your photography skills. And learn to believe in the fact your photography skills will not be putting food on the table or putting your kids through college if you have a poor business and marketing skill set. Until you firmly believe that down to your inner core you are not going to succeed, trust fund babies perhaps not applicable.

          I’m going to revisit your car comments a short time ago in hopes of making what I believe to be a valid point. First however, and I’ve said this before, I need to say not only is your photography superb but your blog follows suit as well. You consistently put out well written and thought provoking material. Some of the best in the business in my opinion. Your images definitely contain a style that is quite incredibly put forward.

          Having said that and to bring marketing back into the discussion again I think there is a disconnect with various comments made and reality in my opinion. Selling high end products demand the selling of a fantasy. Is a Mercedes really worth spending $80k? Is a PhaseOne really worth dropping $35k? Especially when Nikon D800/D800E’s can be had for $3k/$3.3k USD?

          For us image quality geeks in the audience the immediate answer is Yes. But for the majority of the intended advertising audience they really cannot tell the difference. An individual can work his/her skills up to perfection but sad to say it will go unappreciated by the vast majority of people. Other than our own pride in the craftsmanship of our own work it almost never matters. Most people really don’t care as most cameras put out “good enough” in the hands of a capable photographer.

          If your prospective customer isn’t thrilled with your style go with the fantasy version. As a commercial photographer it is essential to please the customer. Nothing wrong in presenting your own intelligent viewpoint but you simply must please the customer. In the “Automobile” section of today’s New York Times (Sun 05/11/2014) they have a variety of images of a BMW i8 I think it’s called. Really excellent looking stuff in my opinion but fantasy images as you are not going to look like that as you drive down the street. The illusion, the fantasy helps to sell high end product!

          By the same token, a few stories down they have an image of a Honda VT1300X (motorcycle) and the image while being very much reality is plain horrible. For the story I guess it works but there simply is no way American Honda is going to use that as a promotional image. And, we’re not talking a high end product in this example. There’s just no room for fantasy at all with this image.

          It is essential to transport the end user’s mind into seeing a visual of themselves using the advertised product. I don’t think the fantasy harms anyone and it helps to move product which is how most of us feed ourselves. For most high end product you typically don’t “have” to have it. But human nature always imagines one’s self as looking pretty darn good tooling around in that i8 with a Rolex on the wrist. Stupid? Yes! But it’s tough to go up against human nature.

          • Well, it matches the way I feel at the moment. A couple of recent jobs in the last few months have left me a bit disillusioned – I guess I expected this to happen, but the way in which it did was just rather blatant.

            There’s plausible fantasy, and there’s two suns fantasy. I’m trying to avoid the two suns, but the problem is with that many light sources…they’re everywhere!

  3. liramusic says:

    I think we as artists hand in there. We understand each other. Where music was mentioned (above) it might seem interesting to consider a case or two. case 1) the typical orchestral player employed full-time, year-round, in an average city might earn over a year’s time $2,000. Actually maybe less. That person might have several instruments but their best one (their tool) that they use in that orchestra might be worth more than a Canon 1D or D4 Nikon with a nice lens. Yet I know of a surgeon, no actually two are friends of mine who are surgeons, who do play (jazz music) and will drop almost anything they are doing to play for nothing. I think myself that part of why we do art is therapeutically for ourselves. If there is someone out there who says that “it’s all about money and nothing else,” in that case I probably would not like their art anyway. I hope this added a little to the conversation? I do art as an artist– meaning photography & music. Finally, I feel very hoo hum about all stock photography. A little bit I hate it. In music, we joke derisively of “elevator music.” Never tell a musician their work sounds like elevator music unless you want to hurt their feelings. I hope that no one ever tells me that my pictures look so good that they look good enough to be stock photography. Be well, jim

    • Billy Walker says:

      I’m not sure where $2k a year comes into play or possibly you meant $20k a year. If that truly is for full time you might as well quit because that type of wage level all but assures you can do nothing with your life and you can’t really afford a spouse (unless well paid) or a family. $20k is a waste of time as well no matter how much you enjoy what you’re doing. Especially so when rent (as you can’t afford to buy something) can easily run $750 to $2k a month depending on where you live in the USA. Here’s something I came across on the internet – – Don’t know if it’s right or wrong; I’m merely presenting it.

      The New York Times recently ran a story on pay of this nature but the wage level was substantially higher, $175k to $200k (annual) for a ball park number. But that was for employment in NYC and you would certainly be at the top of your game in this scenario.

      The business of photography has large scale serious issues. It’s as close to free to start a photography business as most businesses can be and the vast majority of businesses tend to require substantially more investment. On top of that you have all these self-described “passionate” want-to-be-a-photographer type people with quite literally zero business expertise. Most all of them have no clue as to what it takes to be profitable. These same people will proudly proclaim they think visually and that they are not a numbers person. If you intend on staying in the business with these types of thoughts going through your head be prepared for financial ruin unless you hire and listen to smart outside management. Right off the bat you have an extremely dangerous combination of facts.

      And, what’s far worse the extreme quantity of those type’s of people have pretty much decimated a reasonably intelligent pay structure. A lot because they are “passionate” or they want to see their name in print. And, for every one that gives up another 2 or 3 seem to come along. Truly insane at best. It’s extremely important to stay positive and not compete with these individuals as it is nothing but a race to the bottom.

      Photography can be a fun and challenging business. It can be quite stimulating and exciting to do on your own. Plus you have the opportunity to be part of a life-long learning experience. But never lose sight of the fact that it is a business. Don’t get confused just because you’re having fun at it and/or it’s your passion. You need to be passionate about business first and photography second if you’re going to turn this game into a lifelong career. Unless you have someone who is going to support you and your long term goals it is a requirement that you stay profitable. The alternative to that is a career change whether you want it or not.

      Now, for the believers in the aforementioned go out and drum up some profitable business! And, have fun while you’re doing it!

      • You’re going to struggle in Kuala Lumpur on 20k a year, and we’re a relative backwater.

        Being good at the skill is not the same as being good at a business. And a lot of the time clients don’t seem to understand that, either: if we don’t continue to be profitable, we won’t be there next year – simple.

    • Well, there are also postcards and wedding photographs…

  4. iskabibble says:

    Reading articles like this, and the conversations that they start, make me wonder in amazement that people still try to make money off photography in the digital world. It seems almost as bad (difficult) as trying to be a classical musician.

  5. You can still sell your own pictures once you license it to Getty. As long as you sell them yourself and considered limited addition prints (signed and labeled).

  6. For me the microstock sites have been a way to hone my skills. There are other ways to do so of course, but this held at least some small amount of hope of some payment in return for learning. From my perspective (worth as much as you might suspect 🙂 ) stock sites are part of a hobby. I think the kinds of images that make it there are, at this point, boiler plate. There is little room for personal interpretations, as Ming stated. What you have then is a library of sterile, walls-painted-white type images. Some of them are clever, but really most are straight-forward images for those without the time or the inclination to make images themselves.

    The issue for me has always been how to show the work you are really proud of and would want to sell in limited numbers. Placing a photo online is effectively handing out prints for anyone who wants one. You can of course put watermarks all over the image, but then you’ve changed it. It’s a bit of a Catch-22 isn’t it? I wonder if a small online presence coupled with a return to gallery-type showing and sales would be the way to go? I’m thinking as I type; which means it’s quite possible I’ll come back later and think this was the silliest idea I ever had.

    Interesting post Ming. You got the wheels turning on Friday, and that can be hard to do sometimes 🙂

    • Thanks Matt. I’m pretty sure galleries and limited runs are the way to go. Stock is almost never good for business at all, in my experience.

  7. Interesting article, and definitely something to mull over, when I get the chops to make sufficiently good, consistent images.
    (Off to Singapore tomorrow for the PopUP GPP seminars – won a free ticket on Zack Arias’s blog, 😉 🙂 – see what I can learn to help me along this tricky path)

  8. I gave up a long time ago and switched to Fine Art America and the like for print sales, which produce a significantly better return and encourage a more artistic interpretation which the conventional libraries bulk at.

    As far as I’m concerned “There’s no cents in shooting stock”

    • Succinctly put, and I agree. I have stopped submitting images to Getty some time ago because it occurs to me that the truly valuable ones I can market and monetize far better myself.

  9. Very good post and old responses, particularly from Thomas above. Thank you, MM 🍀

  10. Thomas says:

    Is the economic value added by the agencies truly equal to the cut they deduct for themselves? The impression I take is probably not; I wouldn’t envision a non-producer role generating 50 to 80 points of the total economic value to the buyer. What then, market inefficiency?

    I might have imagined Microstocks to have had opportunity to play the “disruptive” role of bringing greater market efficiency to the game and thus paying larger and economicallly more-realistic shares to the content owner-producers i.e. photographers. Instead, whilst they seem to have taken the low-end of the business they STILL seem to pay out abysmally low percentages of actual sales to photographers. (What, sometimes on the order of 25 US cents per download???) Instead of bringing economic improvements to the entire market they seem to have instead simply made being a photographer even poorer and less financially viable than ever.

    The above comments about the Microstocks are based in the view I took of them; perhaps I missed something.

    • It’s not. It’s because they’ve got the access by crowding out the smaller agencies; in effect, a monopoly.

      Microstock is nothing but another kind of monopoly. Unless you can generate ridiculous volume – from what I understand there are not very many people who have the number of images and the generic kind of images that are applicable to a wide variety of applications who can make a living out of it…

  11. Isn’t the internet becoming the largest source of stock imagery in the world? It is becoming easier and easier to find images, especially if you are a client that wants an alternative to the clinical depersonalised stock. Sure, for many of the big corporates that are themselves clinical, the use of large agencies through contract isn’t going to change. But what about the many other smaller creatives and their clients who can find what they need from professional and non-professional photographers on Flickr, 500px, and many other sites?

    It’s already officially happening on Flickr with their commissioned service. Yahoo is turning Flickr into a stock agency. Grass roots? Advertising and exposure for amateur photographers who want to bring buyers to their blog (not sure how it works – if buyers browse portfolios and then must approach Flickr if those images are licenced to Flickr or if the photographer has signed themselves and hence all their work). Regardless, oversupply and abundance is likely hurting established agencies and professionals alike. Except for the top end elite as usual.

    • Thomas says:

      Nick, I find the comment you made about oversupply particularly interesting.

      Content acquisition is not my day job and I’m speaking from speculation so I could be far off the mark. With that disclaimer, I suppose the notion of “many other sites” could raise a spectre of fragmentation and dissipated effort were I buying. There might not be enough time in the day for me to spread my attention, look in many places, approach many content owners or sites and negotiate licenses, follow-up on payments etc. If I were working on a commercial production myself I might start to sweat the prospect of (a) stalled production, (b) losing my shirt on excessive costs to manage, or (c) both. I *still* wouldn’t necessarily be excited about 50% to 80% of purchases being swallowed by an agency itself but I might be limited by the acquisition effort I can afford to invest.

      • Good point, Thomas. I was primarily thinking of smaller agencies or creatives that might have the flexibility to source from the internet. But, I guess they would not likely be clients of big libraries, anyway. I just had a notion that perhaps we really are seeing a shift in stock usage as a result of the internet’s ability to level a playing field and open an industry up to many new influences.

        But then, I see now that I am looking at this from the wrong perspective. Thomas, for the reasons you outlined we might not see as big a shift away from big stock library use. Instead, which might be what Ming is alluding to, we are seeing an overabundance of images being submitted or available to stock libraries. There have got to be more and more talented people entering the commercial photography field and this is diluting things a bit.

        Then again, perhaps it is just overabundance giving rise to both new libraries (like Flickr and 500px) that are undercutting the old established players, and more and more images for libraries to source from. Hence we get devaluation across the board. Availability is why corporations go to great lengths to control markets to keep prices high.

        So now we have a lot more agencies and creatives with alternative libraries to choose from, and increasing diversity and quality of images from a much larger pool of photographers. Causing everyone to be concerned. Is that correct? I mean, it sounds obvious.

        So, Ming, when a photographer doesn’t submit all of their best to the library are they indeed opening their images to be sourced independently from a library and are you suggesting that this is happening more? Especially for photographers becoming well known through their blogs? Or, are there too many variables to say for sure at this point in time of influence by the internet?

        It is a really interesting topic and I have wondered about the fate of professional photographers, and now also the influence of the amateur and semi-pro.

        • I can’t speak for other photographers, but I wised up a while back (perhaps too late for some images, but I have to believe my newer ones will always be better) and stopped submitting images to Getty. That said, blogs appeal to other photographers – not necessarily image buyers.

          The pros are being unquestionably affected not just by the agencies, but the amateurs/ semi-pros: because they don’t know how to price their services. A vast majority are not really competition, but there are some who are very good but undercutting the pros and killing the market because they don’t understand the economics of the business – to them, any income is good because it’s icing on the cake rather than survival.

    • Yes, to the point that even Getty is going royalty-free for some images. Crowdsourcing has killed a lot of businesses, but the visibility has also opened up opportunity for those who are good – or dedicated – and visible. It just means that to survive and compete you have to up your game. It’s one of the few professions which remains somewhat meritocratic, to be honest. And that’s definitely NOT something I can say about any other corporate work I’ve been involved in.

      Consider an alternative, but in the information space: people used to pay $5-10 a month for a photography magazine with perhaps one quarter of the content and images I now publish for free. I don’t even have advertising to make money from. There are thousands of photography sites, and everybody is doing it resulting in either mediocrity or a complete lack of visibility for the guy who might be good, but too little. How do I know? I used to run one…

  12. Billy Walker says:

    Although I understand your point in the middle of the last paragraph you state: “Even though the rates are pretty criminal, I’d look at it this way: a small amount of something is better than the whole amount of nothing, especially on material that’s otherwise worthless.” This very type of thought and the carrying out of the thought is the very reason photographers are in the boat they find themselves in. Willing to scrape by on what ever bones thrown to them.

    Will the photographer “industry” win by refusing to participate? At this stage of the game in all likelihood it is impossible. However, caving in ensures the continuation of the problem. I just can’t see participating as the participants become their own worst enemy. If one can’t make a realistic living with his or her skill sets why bother? Might as well look for a different career. Unless of course you prefer to feed the corporate giants while they turn you into what amounts to be a slave.

    • Yes, but if those are the only bones being thrown and you’ve got to live off them, it’s a very different situation to you just having the images in your archive not doing anything. For images that require creation – a customised product – there should be a premium proportional to the degree of complexity/ skill and customisation required, just as in any other industry.

      • Hello,

        I am not a pro. photographer. But, I can see that Billy have a really good point; and that reminded me Charlie Chaplin founding United Artist Pictures studio for exactly the same concerns.
        I can imagine a real solution for photo professionals is the same. And easier to implement. Just create a web site, arrange a roster of good photographers who will assess the submissions, let the submitting photographer decide on the license, and of course take a fair share of the pay: basically only the cost of running the web site and the cost of review. This can even be an additional and serious stream of income for the reviewer pros.

        I can imagine, the reviewers can just recommend (to be approved by the fellow reviewers) other reviewers to keep the reviewer pool at a reasonable size (or expanding) but also be selective to protect the quality level.

        This is the only solution, if you don’t want these corporate guys suck your blood.

        Just saying

        • You need connections within the industry to sell images in volume or at a decent price. And if we already have these as professionals, why would we form a group to sell other people’s images when you are selling your own images for a living? It makes no sense.

          • Hi Ming,

            It made a lot of sense for Charlie Chaplin who had no problems in marketing his own talent. It is about whether you want to improve things for you and yourself only, or for the class of people which you are a part of; in this particular case photographers.


            • I think you seem to forget the amount of knowledge, instruction, expertise and time I put into this site…there are >800 articles and 1.9 million words of content here, and I don’t charge a cent. If that’s not contributing, I’m not sure what is.

              • Billy Walker says:

                Ming, I’m thinking (hoping) that when Kemal used the word “you” he did not mean you personally. I would imagine it is crystal clear as to the value of your contributions to the photographic community. Not only are your images superb your thoughts and comments are typically excellent repeatedly. You provide far more value to this group then the vast majority of dribble found on the internet.

                It is a true pleasure to read your commentary as it is obviously written by someone who stands head and shoulders above many of us and certainly myself. I can only imagine the time and effort you put into this.

                May you keep up the outstanding work!

                • Thank you, Billy. But I would have thought it’s fairly self evident why most professional/ commercial photographers don’t go about promoting other photographers…they wouldn’t be able to remain in that business for much longer!

                  • Billy Walker says:

                    Funny thing about business… there can only be one Number “One”. That automatically implies everyone else is not as good. I love NASCAR; there can only be one champion for the season. However, there are 42 other drivers every race. 42 basically 2nd rate teams. But guess what… their still employed and profitable despite their weaknesses. Yes, some will go out of “business” and leave the racetrack but the majority of the 2nd rate people will continue to have jobs and therefore earn a living.

                    Photography on the other hand so often appears to be a collection of folks who seem to be racing toward the bottom of the barrel in terms of income; the quicker the better. The one with the lowest price wins! What an absurd race and so many don’t seem to possess the intelligence to stay clear.

                    These comments may not really apply to stock but here’s the deal: people do business with people they like. Work on your photographic skill sets, work on your personality, work on your marketing and business skill sets. I for one am not a Ming Thein; he puts out better work than I do. I will continue to work and study hard in order to get better. I will probably never equal his quality; after all I am 60 years old. But I do have excellent marketing and business skill sets. I do not destroy pricing. I have no intention of working for free. Either you like my images enough to purchase them for the quoted price or thereabouts with intelligent negotiation or you go home empty handed. I am not about to destroy a pricing schedule because someone thinks I should work for basically free.

                    In my opinion the root of the problem is a lack of business skills with so many photographers. Maybe most of them. If those folks need to be ever-present in the photography market place let them destroy themselves over a year or two. And, yes new folks will take their place. So be it. I refuse to work for what amounts to nothing. Of course I’m not starving and I’m not putting myself into a slave position. And the reason is I have worked on my business skills over the course of time in order to make sure they carry the day. Because you see despite me being a non-champion I make sure I work hard to close sales at a reasonable dollar figure. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. But negotiating forever downward will get you nowhere. If you find yourself continually having to resort to that perhaps you need to look at another career…

                    • I agree with you entirely: lack of skills isn’t the reason most photographers don’t make it; it’s cashflow and contacts. And I don’t reduce pricing, I increase it.


  1. […] more copy in the public domain that’s outside your control; worse still, at full resolution. Stock libraries and agencies will protect their copyright aggressively if your images are registered with them; however, they […]

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