Okay, in the last issue I promised to show you how it’s done how you can break into stock photography.
So, how’s it done?
Well, first you need to put together a collection of stunning photographs. I recommend that you do not approach an agency until you have at least 200. Make sure they are perfectly focused, perfectly exposed, nicely composed, and that at least half of them contain people: people sell pictures. If you have even a single doubt about any of them, discard them.
DO NOT submit even one sub-standard image. Do all the necessary work: write a caption for each of the images you intend to submit, catalog and number them (each image should be listed by category construction, sports, industry, castles, etc. – and numbered accordingly), create the low-res jpegs, and then put them on a CD ready to mail.
Next you have to find an agency. That means you’ll need to do some shopping around. Go online and Google stock photo agencies. That should bring up a list. Pick maybe three, read their guidelines, make sure you can supply what they need exactly as they need it, and then send them a query.
The query should go to a named individual (call and find out who you need to send your images to never submit images to the editor; one that has authority to make a decision. In the query, you should explain who you are and what you do. Be sure to mention that you are a professional photographer looking for an agency to represent your work. That you have images ready for them to consider, and would it be alright for you to submit them. Also, let the agency know that you are ready and able to submit images regularly. If you query by email, do not attach any files until you are given permission to do so.
If you are given the go ahead, do so quickly. You will get only one chance to make a good first impression. Don’t blow it. If you are fortunate enough to be offered a contract, be sure you are willing and able to fulfill the obligations therein.
Yep, you’ll need to get them. No image with a recognizable person or persons in it can be sold for commercial purposes without them having given permission in writing. These are not difficult to obtain. I carry a few around with me wherever I go. If I shoot what I think might be a saleable images, I simply approach the person involved and introduce myself as a professional photographer.
Then I tell them I think I’ve just shot a nice picture of them and that I would like permission to offer it to my stock agency for publication. I also tell them if they would be so good as to sign my little piece of paper (I get the name, address and signature), I will send them a copy of the image/s. Invariably, that does the trick. Just don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s not difficult.
These days there are any number of on-line stock photo agencies willing to take on new and inexperienced photographers. This is a good thing, and you should try to take advantage of the opportunity. It will give you experience in the professional world and it will provide you with a by-line: my work is represented by They will not pay you very much for your images, but when you are a beginner, who cares? It’s the thrill of knowing someone other than yourself likes your work. That’s what counts. Check them out, give them a try.
To fee or not to fee? That is the question
There are also some on-line stock photo agencies that charge an annual fee for their services. It could be as little as $50 and it could be as much as $250, maybe even more. DON’T GO THERE. These people are interested only in gathering fees. The take every photograph submitted by every poor wanna-be that ever held a camera. They do NO marketing at all, and you will sell not a single image. Be warned.
Okay, there it is then. I wish you every success in your venture into the wide and wonderful world of the stock photo industry. It’s certainly been good to me. Have fun, but above all: please continue to enjoy your 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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