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Getting your photographs onto a stock agency can be difficult. Most have very strict technical guideline,s and very tough editing procedures. However, following these 7 tips could increase your chances of getting accepted and help you sell your images with stock photography agencies.
Stock agencies vary greatly in what they specialize in, and the type of images they are looking for. Some image libraries desire more lifestyle photographs, whereas others would prefer reportage style images. You should look at as many different agencies as you can, and see which ones suit your subject and style of work, but also which ones you would prefer to work with.
There are different types of agencies, so choosing the right one to work with is vital. For example, ones like Shutterstock and Dreamstime are what’s called Micro Stock agencies, and their sale prices tend to be lower. Whereas agencies like Corbis, Getty and Alamy will negotiate the price based on usage, so they can sometimes be higher priced. However, it isn’t unusual for even these agencies to licence images for very small amounts of money – less than one dollar. Some agencies are managed, which means an editor will look at the photos you submit, and only choose the ones that they would like to take on. Some like Alamy, are un-managed which means they will accept your entire submission dependent on meeting technical guidelines.
Stock agencies generally want a huge variety, and therefore images that are different to what they already hold in their archives. This is especially true for managed stock agencies, so study what they already have and try to take and submit photos that are different in some way. That could be the lighting, the angle, or even the composition.
Usually, in the first instance, you need to send a small selection of low resolution images to the agency, for them to review. If they are happy with your selection they will ask to see more, so you need to ensure that you are ruthless when you edit your initial submission. Don’t choose images based on sentiment – just because you waited around for two hours to get the shot, doesn’t make it a great photograph. Instead, try to detach yourself from the images and think like a picture editor who is looking at someone else’s photos.
All stock agencies have very clear guidelines on how they want images supplied such as: minimum file size, format, colour profile, etc. If you are invited to send more after your initial submission, make sure you study the submission guidelines carefully, to ensure your images are technically perfect. This means checking every single image you are sending at 100% view, because stock agencies will spot any errors, will reject the photo, and in some cases such as Alamy, that whole submission. Make sure your images are sharp, and be especially aware of chromatic aberration and excessive noise in your photos.
The stock agency is there to promote your work. So if you are accepted, try and build a relationship with them. Ask them if they have any current picture needs, or if they would like photos from a specific location. Run ideas past them, ask for their input and what their clients are asking for. For example, if I am away on a shoot, I will send an email to the picture editors of the stock agencies I work with, letting them know where I am, and asking if there are any specific photos they need from that location.
Once you have established yourself with an agency, you should start to plan your photo shoots around themes and topics that have potential for sales. For example, a new flight route to a country could mean it will become the next big tourist destination, or is there a current news, fashion, or environmental issue that you can create a photo shoot on. The key is to be informed whatever your subject is, so read magazines, trade newsletters, and newspapers to get a sense of hot topics. You’ll have a better chance of selling images that way.
With so many stock libraries out there, choosing the one that fits your style of work and also offers a good return on your photos can be tricky. Once you have signed up and submitted photos, there are usually clauses in place which state a minimum notice period to remove photos, or exclusivity rights that mean it can be difficult to move those images to another agency. The key is to make sure you do your research beforehand, choose wisely, and take your time.
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Do you sell your images as stock photography? Which agencies do you work with? Please share your experiences below in the comments.