This was the title of a seminar I attended earlier this year given by stock photographer Dave Wall, and it was aimed at the topic of the rise of the micro stock sites and thus the decline in stock image prices.
No doubt many people have been approached by companies/organisations requesting the use of an image for free or for “a credit”, this along with the micro stock sites such as Shutter stock, Getty, and Istockphoto has driven the commercial value (to the photographer) of stock images to such a low point as to make it almost not worthwhile submitting images to libraries.
It was argued in the seminar that if the photographer targeted specific specialised stock agencies then there was still money to be made from submitting images to them. Although it should be looked upon as a long-term project, rather than a short-term way of making money.
Dave is a member of Arcangel Images . Arcangel supply images to the publishing industry, many of the bestselling novels seen on the newsstands and bookshops have sourced their images from Arcangel.
During the seminar Dave showed a series of images which he had produced for the agency, and I sat there thinking that some of my more unusual images had a similar narrative as his. After researching the agency and finding out what their submission criteria was, and after quickly scanning through some of my back catalogue I put together an initial submission of around 30 low res Jpeg images and sent them in via email.
A few weeks later I heard back from them, they had selected 10 of the images as suitable for their library, and were happy that I could easily adapt my work for the book trade, so they offered me a 3 year contract to become a contributor to the library. This was based on all the images being submitted were for sole usage worldwide which means I cannot submit the same or similar images to other stock agencies but I can still sell them as individual art works and can still publish online.
The cut taken by the library is 50% but considering the work they do with their clients and the promotion they give to the photographer, it seemed a good deal. The joy of Arcangel and one of the things that separates them from the large stock agencies is that they review every single image sent to them with the mark 1 human eyeball, whereas the big agencies use algorithms to filter through the images and so, many good images get rejected, also if one image from a batch of say 100 gets rejected then they all get rejected.
I didn’t think a 2/3rds rejection rate on the first submission was too bad, especially since the images came from my own stock and had not been shot specifically for the library, they give some guidance as to what they want so over time my filtering skills for what is/is not acceptable will become better, so hopefully the rejection rate will become lower.
Since the initial submission I have sent a further dozen or so submissions, mostly containing similar images to the first but also in direct response to a request for fine art landscapes and seascapes, some of my more commercial landscape images. (contributors have access to a blog where urgent or very specific requests are made). Out of the 60 or so images I sent nearly 50 were accepted.
It’s not a way of getting rich quick, but it could be a way of covering some equipment costs over time, and it’s much more likely to make some money, than leaving the images on your hard drive. As an example of prices paid a contributor I am in contact with has recently been paid £150 for an image that was used on the cover of an E book, UK territory only and £2500 for another image used in print, US territory. These images were only small parts of the book covers and incorporated with other images to create the complete cover. These fees are paid again if the book is reprinted with the same cover, or printed in another territory again with the same cover.
It’s not a quick process, especially if you’re going through a back catalogue as well as shooting specifically for the stock market. The images have to be titled and well key worded in order for them to be found on the agencies site. Many of the keywords need to be conceptual as picture editors tend to search on conceptual themes rather using standard descriptive search terms.
In the 6 months have now been with Arcangel they have accepted about 240 of mu images, and I now have a new commercial direction to take my photography, with plans to start hooting more conceptual portraits specifically for the book cover market.
The images accompanying this article have all been accepted by Arcangel.
For more help finding picture libraries there is an Association of Picture Libraries at the following address: