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Photographer using his camera on beach Image downloaded by Dawn Bauer at 18:50 on the 19/10/16

How To Make Stock Work For You

I recently sat down with Dawn Bauer, the Director of Photography of Image Source stock agency and we talked about how stock can get your archive working for you, how Image Source works with photographers and how to make an inexpensive shoot look great.

Peter Berberian: Who buys stock images?

Dawn Bauer: There has always been a wide range of use for stock photography but it comes down to editorial, commercial or broadcast. Editorial includes magazines, newspapers, book publishers, etc. Broadcast clients will use still images for TV networks, motion pictures, and online media usage as well. Another huge client base of ours are ad agencies, major corporations, financial institutions and banks.

PB: What makes a good stock shoot?

DB: A timeless image or a modern theme-  they all tell a story. You have to be able to insert a tag line or a few key concepts – keep in mind the client when you are creating the stock image. A top selling image needs to be able to fill the creative needs of various clients at the same time, across the globe, as well as for a local/niche community. A picture speaks a thousand words, after all. That’s the basic idea here –  stock photography exists to fill many creative content needs for many clients.

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PB: How do you find new photographers?

DB: We all source work from a variety of places. We look at artist rep sites, Portfolio Reviews happening at art schools, FOUND artists, APhotoEditor with Rob Haggart, as well as VSCO.com. VSCO is great, we use their content pages to source themes and ideas for our shoot mood boards, since they have a great take on modern lighting and use of on-trend image filters. There is also a cool factor here that breeds creative and emerging talent. Also, I think that emerging photographers’ talent is the key way to focus & grow our contributors’ community. Since the work they create tends to be on trend, we look here for new shoot styles for the coming year.

Once we have a conversation with these new photographers, we have to make sure that they are able to collaborate with the Art Directors. Some folks are instantly in tune with the ins & outs of the stock industry and prefer to be more hands off. These artists are still committed to submit a certain amount of commercial content on their own, as well as staying on top of image trends for our content guidelines.

Since we no longer pay for photo shoot costs, all new shoots are self funded by the photographers. This is very typical in this age of the stock industry- our photographers are all paid with image royalty only.

We also have a yearly photographers’ seminar in Europe and the U.S., as well as sending out monthly newsletters to our community to keep them connected and engaged. We are proud to say that we have a staff that is here to support and encourage our contributors- we have a healthy and creative community. At the end of the day, we all love what we do here at Image Source and are happy to offer a personal approach to creating stock content.

There is also a “Contact us” link on the image source website – photographers can send us a link to their work, along with their email, and then we get in touch with them if their work fits our content needs.

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PB: Since Image Source doesn’t pay to produce the shoots, how can a photographer make the images look great with a minimal budget?

DB: Since quite a bit of content is based on this buzz word “authentic”, clients often want a photo that is real, of the moment, emotive and effortless. That means that there is now a particular way to create this desired look AND be a successful stock shooter. You need to be conservative with your shoot production budget since clients have moved toward more conservative budgets. This is why, now more than ever, Royalty Free sales are up over Rights Managed.

It is also important to remember to lean on your community. Reach out to family, friends, and colleagues for possible contacts, leads for talent and locations that might pertain to a particular commercial shoot idea. We suggest that folks focus on creating content around these accessible ideas that are also top sellers.

We suggest this approach because it helps to keep costs down. The least amount of money spent to create a new stock shoot, the more money you stand to make from image sales. This is all about keeping tabs on the return on investment or ROI.

That being said, we still need to come back to what sells. We comb through market information, talk to clients about their content needs, create a special needs list based on visual trend research & advertising analysis for our photographers. The creative director works with our team of global art directors to create the content plan for the year based on market trends & client needs.

Remember that if you are producing shoots for yourself, there could be an opportunity to sell the images to a stock house. Photographers will also want to collaborate on making special portfolio pieces with commercial themes that can also be used for our stock needs. These shoots have a high production value and can often require a team including talent, stylist, etc.  With this added level of production, the results look crafted and polished which makes them great for ad clients. We rely on a photographer’s style and shoot specialty to get the best results and best return on their production investment. This is a great way to have a photographer do well in two departments- they can land a job for a client that they may have been pursuing as well as incoming revenue from stock royalties from image source sales.

SHOOTING STOCK IS BEST SEEN AS AN ADDITIONAL SOURCE OF INCOME – IT CAN NOT BE YOUR MAIN REVENUE STREAM!

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PB: How does a photographer approach you about licensing their archive? For example, I shot a pic of Lou Dobbs back in ’99, I licensed it with Getty and for close to 10 years, I received a check every year for its usage.

DB: I will ask every new photographer how they want to work with me. Some prefer to collaborate on new content while some prefer to have a mix of old and new content.

We can then discuss the ideas of submitting the proper kind of content that they may have in their image archives. I sadly cannot go through someone’s entire library of hard drives. However, I can help them out by creating a “needs list” template. I will then make a mood board based on what I like from the work that I see on their website. This is how we can work together on this archive edit. They will then have a better understanding of what fits our commercial image benchmark and of course, aiming for image sales.

At the end of the day, we need to able to collaborate with photographers for the best results. This is, after all, a working, breathing, creative relationship with our Art Directors and our photographers. We are here to help our community to create content that sells- and that is from either shooting new content on spec, or past image archive submissions.

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Peter Berberian

Born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, Peter Berberian is an New York photo industry veteran. His career has run the gamut from photographer to master printer, art consultant and most recently, Director of Brand Development for Agency Access. Berberian was introduced to photography by his 60’s fashion photographer Uncle at a very young age. This is what sparked his interested and motivated him to attend the School of Visual arts. Here, he was educated on black and white printing while apprenticing under Sid Kaplan After seeing the shift from film to digital he opened up Gotham Imaging, a high end boutique print studio, specializing in ink-jet printing. In 2013, Berberian moved to Columbus Ohio to work as an art consultant to the Pizzuti Collection. He made his return to NYC in March 2015 and began his work with Agency Access in May.

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  • Catalin Anastase - 3 months ago

    Great insight about ways that stock photographers should look at their shoots and improving their professional connection with media market. Thank you