Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part II

April 30, 2014 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in News & Events by

In comparison to the image of the Doctor that is not wearing a neck tie, thus dating the image because of the style trend, this image shows a wardrobe where the choices are deliberate and considered. The colours are neutral and very conservative, thus ensuring a healthy shelf life. In addition, the photographer has chosen to make the “messaging” easy for the art director by having the Doctor hold a blank sign, but caution should be exercised in this regard as well. Once popular with blog designers, this practise is becoming less popular as social media design matures.

In comparison to the image of the doctor who is not wearing a neck tie, which dates the image because of the style trend, this image shows a wardrobe where the choices are deliberate and considered for longevity. The colours are neutral and very conservative, thus ensuring a healthy shelf life. In addition, the photographer has chosen to make the “messaging” easy for the art director by having the doctor hold a blank sign, but caution should be exercised in this regard as well. Once popular with blog designers, this practice is becoming less popular as social media design matures.

If Business, Health and Wellness, and Lifestyle are the mainstay categories of stock photography sales, shouldn’t it stand to reason the majority of experienced stock photographers would also know this and concentrate their production efforts within these genres?

The short answer is: yes.

When you first started doing research on whether you had a place in stock photography—by doing some soul-searching to honestly discover whether you could produce material equal to, or better than, that which already exists—you most  likely sought the collections of the large agencies. Getty Images and Corbis Images immediately come to mind; however, there are also larger collections. So, looking at five of the better-known agencies, let’s see how many images they are currently marketing in these categories.

Agency Lifestyle Health/Wellness Business
Corbis 370,679 33,647 946,315
Getty 564,691 33,983 514,967
Superstock 794,733 58,594 661,779
Masterfile 989,221 64,440 630,384
Alamy 1,693,494 116,577 1,685,994
Totals 4,412,818 307,241 4,439,439

These numbers should provide an awareness of the sheer volume the stock photographer will be competing against. However, the astute student will further research the content to see who the leading sellers are, and then discover why these leaders are making the majority of sales. Once that is completed, you must learn how to take these lessons and put your own personal twist on the same concepts.

So, who are the best stock photographers working today?

This question, in and of itself, is very ambiguous—best-selling may not necessarily mean best income-earning.

For example, if I go to the blog of Yuri Arcurs, there is a claim at the top of his banner page that he is “the world’s top selling stock photographer.” Is he? (Why one would even want to publicly make that claim is another discussion.) We’ll never know since his income level is a private matter, and should stay that way, but the fact remains that he is creating some really nice stuff that is at the very top of the microstock world.

On the other hand, there is the creative genius of John Lund. Whereas Arcurs follows a clean and simple model preferred by low-budget buyers, Lund will spend an inordinate amount of time interpreting a concept that visually sells the message.  Of course, it then stands to reason that Lund’s images are not placed with micro-stock agencies, and as a consequence can cost quite a bit more to license.

So, who is the better stock photographer?  Well, to be honest, it doesn’t matter what we think, it’s what the photo buyer thinks. Each photographer has created a business model that works for them. They create images that clients want to use to visually transfer their message, and the clients are willing to pay for them. Lund works on highly visual and conceptual imagery, and Arcus works with a clean and simple image that requires volumes of output. To each their own: one is not necessarily better than the other.

Which approach you decide to take will be very much dependant on your financial resources and skill set. It’s clear that these three primary categories are here to stay, and you would be well-served to learn how to shoot these genres, should you decide to get into stock photography.

By the way, the same five agencies listed above collectively hold a total of 9,699, 514 “landscape” images. The landscape photographer will need some pretty stellar stuff and superb SEO skills to rise above that crowd.

Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part I
Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part III
Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part IV
Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part V
Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part VI