Selling Stock Photography: DIY versus Stock House (Central Illinois Photographer)

Debate continues among photographers about whether to contribute to stock houses like iStockPhoto, Getty, Shutterstock (etc.). I do not contribute to any stock houses. But, I’ve considered doing so; I have mixed feelings.

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about how important it is to blog effectively, and to make key-wording part of your workflow from the outset. As a result of those practices, I generally enjoy a decent amount of direct sales from old work every year. I like being in control of who licenses my images, and for how much. I enjoy the relatively passive income (who wouldn’t?), and it helps carry me through the slow winter months when I don’t get many new commercial assignments.

Maybe I’d make more sales – in terms of quantity – via a stock house, but I am doubtful that I’d gross more money, especially when most are non-rights managed and typically pay only a few dollars (or cents!) per sale.

Case in point: so far this year, it’s been a good year for me in terms of licensing old images, with 40% of my gross income to date coming from stock sales that I managed.

Oklahoma City / Devon Energy Tower Aerial Photography

In 2011, I shot a series of aerials of OKC when we lived there, and Nathan was helping to manage the Devon Tower construction. Those images have been licensed many times over. So far this year, I’ve sold the two files below a total of three times: 1) a printable digital file for individual use and 2) for commercial use, and 3) shipped a 24×36 canvas to a local businessman.

Downtown Oklahoma City and the Devon Energy Headquarters (under Construction), 2011

Downtown Oklahoma City and the Devon Energy Headquarters (under Construction), 2011

Downtown Oklahoma City and Devon Energy Headquarters (with I-40 relocation project underway, top left), 2011

Downtown Oklahoma City and Devon Energy Headquarters (with I-40 relocation project underway, top left), 2011

Dana Kennedy Portraits 

In 2010, Dana Kennedy hired me to make portraits for her to use in her Phoenix City Council Campaign. Now, Dana is currently working as the State Director for AARP of Arizona. Recently, the Business Journal used one of those portraits for an article in which Dana was quoted, and AARP itself licensed two of them for use in their own PR and marketing materials.

Dana Kennedy, 2010

Dana Kennedy, 2010

Camelback Mountain / Praying Monk, Phoenix, AZ

I was privately commissioned to make artistic images of this Phoenix landmark in 2010 by an old colleague. Recently, Oregon Catholic Press licensed one of the images for use on the cover of an upcoming CD release.

Praying Monk, Camelback Mountain, Phoenix, 2010

Praying Monk, Camelback Mountain, Phoenix, 2010

All of the above sales were possible because of my careful workflow, including a good archive system, and an understanding of the importance of protecting my copyrights and maintaining ownership of all of my work, key wording and watermarking every image before it goes online in any capacity, blogging every shoot, and putting all of my work out there, even when it was originally for a limited purpose. You just never know when you will make residual income down the road when you put forth these efforts.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on stock sales and stock houses, and any tips you have about how to generate residual income from your work.


About Mosaic Collective, LLC

I am Holly Baumann Ambuehl, founding member of Mosaic Collective, LLC, which was founded in early 2017 and is based in Central Illinois. I own and operate Mosaic Collective with my partner in business and life, my husband, Nathan. Mosaic Collective, LLC houses our rental property, my consulting contracts (with the nonprofit and public sectors on various work), and also my commercial and portrait photography business, which has been doing business as Holly Baumann Photography since 2008 long before the formation of our LLC. My blog posts feature client work, but I just love to write, so I also write about owning a business, food and drink, travel, and sometimes, my personal life! I am always honored when clients trust me to capture their vision, and equally so when my readers converse with me about what I've photographed or expressed here. I hope we'll have an opportunity to collaborate professionally and/or become friends. I'd love to hear what you think! - Holly
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