Some photographers exclusively produce either stock or assignment photography; some engage in both types of production; and many photographers shoot assignments that also generate stock photographs. Deciding which path to follow is a matter of understanding the effective differences between stock and assignment photography
Covering the cost of your operation
In assignment photography you don’t make photographs until someone orders them. Consequently, someone else pays for the work that you do within a short time after completion. The commissioning party pays all direct and indirect costs of production of the photographs. Stock production photography is self-assigned work. You must cover the production costs and the related overhead. This requires having enough capital on hand to meet those costs. The only way that you can recover your costs is by the future sale of your stock images. The images must sell at high enough fees to not only cover your costs but also to make a profit so you can stay in business. It is important to understand that it can years to accumulate enough marketable stock photographs to earn an income that can pay the start up and ongoing costs of the business.
To be a successful stock producer you must have good insights into the future needs of the marketplace. You must produce trendy images before the need to assure that you have adequate time to have them visible in the marketplace when the actual need for such images arises. That is risky business. Very few photographers are successful in the stock production business. Those who are successful are so because they understand the imaging needs that drive the market.
Combining stock and assignment work
Photographers who direct some effort at assignment production and some at stock production usually want additional revenues that stock could produce but do not want the risk that the stock producer has to take. Revenues from their assignment business support their stock effort to shoot and sell stock photos.
The success of generating stock images from assignment work is dependent on the kind of assignments you shoot. Many photographs are not suitable for stock. If your assignments will expose you to subject matter that will have stock value, then you must retain the necessary rights you need to be able to market it. Your clients’ policies about rights will be varied. Most advertising and corporate clients do not want photos of their products, services, or personnel published without their approval, and they don’t want to be bothered by giving approvals. Some will allow the use of generic images taken on assignment for them. Editorial clients usually want non-exclusive usage so images on those assignments are good candidates for stock.
Since the client pays the fees and costs of assignment photography, the assignment photographer’s need for working capital can be less than the need of the stock production photographer. More capital needed to operate a business means more capital at risk. We can generalize that stock production puts more of the photographer’s capital at risk. Let’s look at the financial risks for assignment and stock photography producers.
The assignment photographers risk is that he will not be paid for an assignment. That could $200, $2,000, or much more. But the loss of capital in such a situation is limited to the production costs that had to be paid out of pocket to do the work done. That is less than the price, and not being paid can be guarded against with good business practices.
For the stock photographer the cost of making the images that end up on the market is similar to that of the assignment photographer, but the risk is greater because at the time of production there is no client to buy them. Eventually there might be assuming your photographs will appeal to a buyer.
The statistic I most hear quoted is that only 2 to 5 percent of a stock file actually ever licenses to clients. That means 100 percent of your production costs will have to be covered by 2 to 5 percent of your marketable images. If you license stock through a stock agency, you will pay a commission of 40 to 50 percent to the agency. So your images will have to earn $2.00 for each dollar of production cost to cover that expense. The stock photograph business is highly price competitive and there is an oversupply of stock images. Those conditions generally drive licensing fees down. When you add the low cost of micro stock to the mix, it makes matters worse.
Stock photography is a form of speculation. Can you afford to speculate? If you cannot, I’d suggest you stick to assignment photography and stay away from producing stock. The best solution is probably to mix your output. Shoot assignments, cull stock from those assignments that offer the opportunity, and produce stock when it is feasible and affordable to do so. That said, I think most photographers would be wise to maintain a healthy assignment business, and to continue to do so until they have a substantial understanding of the stock photography business which has undergone dramatic changes in recent years and is likely to continue to do so.
Oct 3, 2013
Mar 27, 2013
Jul 12, 2013
Jul 31, 2012
|Christine by JP Zanotti|
from Car wreck
|Fangorn Forest by cand1d|
|Yosemite Falls with Moonbow by Jonathan Shapiro|
from Best Landscape of the Week 4
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more
Sony's newest G Master telephoto zoom, announced alongside the a9, is the first of the company's FE lenses to reach 400mm natively. We had one in California and photographed horses, portraits, and landscapes - check out how it did. Read more
Garmin has entered the 360-camera market with the VIRB, which captures 5.7K video at 30p as well as 15MP stills. Read more
German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for bankruptcy at a court in Berlin. Read more
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.