Where should you sell your images?
Stock agencies form a huge part of the market where photographers can have their images licensed. You will find large differences in size among the players and huge discrepancies among the services that these agencies offer their photographers.
Ultimately, this choice is up to you. But if you are feeling confused by all of the different options, then you can consider our analysis of the players.
And, again, as the author of a photograph, you have different kind of companies offering different sales models for your images. Let us describe them by type and model and touch on the pros´s and con´s of every model:
The VERY big
Described here as the King’s of the industry. By the definition they are the biggest!! You may find that there is limited access to the King’s and that their massive control of the market allows them to dictate the terms to their photographers. However, many photographers are willing to trade off a huge percentage of earnings for the ample distribution possible when working in their kingdoms. Truth be told, King’s aren’t generally very profitable, which is why you see them selling their kingdom (their company) frequently. Selling the kingdom is in their best interest –not yours-, because it provides them with immediate value, a real cash flow provided by the buyer that replaces the trickle of their former cash flow. Usually, all that the photographers get are nightmares and changed working conditions. And what about the kingdom photographers? Not much to say, even if they are paid the lowest percentage in the industry, the final revenue for some of the big shooters is probably higher than anybody else could deliver. If your images can open the King’s gate, you should try to go in (if you don’t care that they will keep more money from your images than ever you’ll see in your pocket. And on top of that, they’ll charge you for it!).
Named here as the Queen’s of the industry. Generally speaking, they are the second largest in size. Their financial results are as hermetic as a medieval secret society, but when publicized, if ever, red (permanently losing money) is the prevalent color in the financial statements. They are creative resources while helping to bring work to life with the highest quality photography, with exceptional collections of “millions of creative” images, and the world’s deepest expertise (actually, they have been selling images very short time). Many areas of the business make them clear winners in stock photography, they say. The mystery is why with all these assets and convictions they are, in fact, so little profitable. Their gates open more easily for photographers, but again you’ll need to accept that they will keep more money from your images than ever you’ll see in your pocket.
Named here as the Photo Clerical Machines (PCM). They are differentiated from other agencies by their policy of allowing photographers to upload images on a non-exclusive basis, as many as they want. They exercise a minimal or no editing control, provided the images follow certain standards and are fully keyworded, whether good or bad, in one language or in many. This makes for large collections of images which can attract certain, well located segments of image buyers, although not everybody wants to navigate among hundreds of thousands of wrong images to find the right one. On the other hand, contributing photographers enjoy editing freedom, flexible contracts and earn a higher royalty than with more traditional stock houses. This would be surprising if you didn’t consider that photographers have to do all the work before their images are processed by the machinery. When their business figures are analyzed closely, the generosity in their percentages pays a price in their profits, or lack thereof. In this case, their gates are fully open for everyone shooting images, including photographers, because, after all, the shooter of the images does all the hard work.
Stock agencies can be really small and attract photographers by their sophistication. These are the boutique stock photo agencies that cater to a select group of creative people who are always on the lookout for distinctive imagery. They do not try to be another King, Queen or PCM stock agency. They're not knocking them, they're dedicated to difference. They are big enough to show only the best, most artful and creative work, small enough to give the care and attention that forms profound and lasting relationships with both photographers and clients. They provide, they say, their clients with the highest quality images at a fair price and the knowledge that they are dealing just as fairly with the photographers that trust them. They only accept the most inspired images with a clear commercial spark. They look for classic quality in combination with fresh vision. There is no room for dead weight there. Are you a photographer producing personal/artsy work only? Then here you have found your place, and probably money too, because in general their commission schemes are fair and they tend to sell images at good enough prices.
Microstock give photographers, pros, amateurs, and anybody that can hold and shoot a digital camera, the chance to become easily involved in some kind of photo business, big or small. They offer a simple, free access, non-exclusive commitments, and an open and non-judgmental community (forums). They don’t really license images, they sell credits for clients to download the images. They get the money first and then the photographer has to wait to be paid until his or her images reaches a certain number of downloads. Considering the number of photographers they can attract, and the volume of images they can amass, it´s clear that there is “real money” for some shooters with good imagery. Nonetheless, this unconventional model offers an interesting entry point in stock photography if you understand that the lion’s part will always be kept by the microstock model and that you will need to see your beloved images sold at even lower than “going-out-of-business” prices. In microstock, there will always be some individual photographer “winners,” but don’t forget that the true winners, the Microstocks are earning the 60, 70 or 80%.
Guerrilla means small war, the use of the diminutive evokes the differences in number, scale, and scope between the guerrilla army and the formal, big, professional army of Kings, Queens, PCMs and marginally “micros”. Fighting in small groups within all areas occupied by the enemy, the tactics of guerrilla warfare stress deception and ambush, as opposed to mass confrontation, and succeed best in an irregular, rugged, segmented markets and with a sympathetic populace, whom guerrillas often seek to win terrain over by propaganda, service reform, and clearly defined terrorist marketing. Guerrilla warfare has played a significant role in keeping many stock agencies stable and alive after many years in the business. They offer amicable, personal and close relationships while sharing the heaviest part of the work with clients and the photographer. Guerrillas create a buffer area in this industry that makes stock photography breathable. Are you ready for guerrilla action?
Now, granted, we might be a little biased, but we think that here at age fotostock we really do offer clients and photographers a fair deal. There may not be flashy forums, but we do offer an equal commission for photographers. It’s getting more and more difficult to find agencies that pay a 50% commission while working for you, since most whittle the photographer percentage down in order to provide services such as keywording or higher ranking or even to open a new office. We offer 50% to all of our photographers, new and old, regardless of whether the images are RM, RF, or our LBRF (our easyFotoStock, Low Budget Royalty Free) model. In our RM and RF collections, we still offer free professional keywording, digital retouching, and worldwide distributions service as always. We believe in steady, sustainable growth, hard work, and good service. We don’t take high percentages from the photographers, nor do we give you a higher percentage but leave the hard exhausting work for you. Obviously we are not trying to be the biggest, number one agency around. We are guerrillas. We’ve learned all of this and a lot more, from our 36 plus years of continuously licensing images and growing, despite market changes, upheavals, downturns, and more. What sets us apart, and what we offer you is still: quality of editing, a solid pre-existing structure, an excellent website, a good reputation, global distribution, and fair conditions. Is all that enough for you?