In the last issue, I promised I would tell you about my transition from 35mm to digital imaging, and how it was and is received by the stock photo industry.
I made the switch not too long ago. I can thank my friend Rich Wagner for that (Rich is a professional fine art photographer). When he and I talked, just before we met at one of our photo workshops in Paris early in 2005, I was still a died-in-the-wool 35mm film photographer. Never, I said, would digital photography replace film. That gave Rich a real big laugh.
He then proceeded to persuade me to make the change. So convincing was he that I did. You’ll laugh when I tell you, though, that I lugged a complete 35mm outfit all the way to Paris along with my brand new digital outfit. That 35mm camera never saw the light of day, and it hasn’t seen it since. But, again, I digress.
Digital images require no less work that do 35mm slides. In fact, they require even more work. In addition to cataloging, numbering and captioning, each image has to undergo several more processes before it can be submitted to the agency bummer.
- The images have to be shot first in RAW format (all the detail is retained, and none is lost during conversion to jpeg format. This is the largest possible file the camera can generate.)
- Next, a low resolution jpeg file must be generated from the raw image. This is the one that submitted, on CD, for consideration. This file should be no more that 250k in size.
- Once the agency has made its choices, you will be notified which of your images have been chosen for inclusion in the library.
- Now for the good stuff. Each image must be regenerated, again from the original raw file, this time in high resolution format. These new images must also be in jpeg format, but at least 50 mega-bites in size. This can only be done in Photoshop, the industry standard.
- The requested images must then be resubmitted, on CD. This is where the agency gurus take over â€“ thank god for that. They do their own cataloging, adjust the colors just a little where they think it will enhance the images, and then they upload them to their website.
- Once all this has been done they can begin marketing your work.
Whew. And then you have to do it all over again, and again, ad infinitum. Not a bad life if you don’t weaken.
So, what can you earn?
Well as a general rule of thumb, you can estimate your potential income from you stock agency files at, on average, $1 per year for every image you have on file. That, I know, doesn’t sound like a lot of money. But figure it this way, if you have 10,000 images on file, that’s $10,000 per year, every year. Very nice. Yes, it takes time. But it takes time to do all of the other things we love to do too.
I have heard there are people out there with more than 100,000 images on file. Yes, that’s a huge number, but the efforts of the past (all that work putting such a huge collection together) have made it possible for them now to do nothing else but build those collections. And they do: every month they grow exponentially. They give themselves a raise every time they submit new images: awesome.
How Much Will The Agency Earn?
You can expect the agency to take between 40% and 50% of the gross sale of your images. That may sound like a lot. It’s not. If you are lucky enough to find a good agency they will more than earn their fees. Don’t forget, they will do all the marketing for you, leaving you to do only that which love: to take photographs.
In the next issue I’ll explain how you can go about breaking into the wonderful world of stock photography.
Blair Howard is freelance photojournalist and the author of 29 books, more than 600 articles and 3,000 published photographs. His work has appeared in PHOTOgraphic Magazine, Delta Sky Magazine, Popular Woodworking, Peter’s Hunting Magazine, Country Accents, The Mail On Sunday, Golf Illustrated, The Walking Magazine, and many more.
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