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.
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.
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.
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.