CHAPTER 7-: This is the seventh chapter of “The Complete Guide to Starting a Photography Business.” – Photography businesses have come a really long way since their inception. The latest developments in the field of technology and the widespread expansion of the internet along with its pawn, the social media, has added new dimensions to the field of photography that people could not have conceived a decade or two ago.
If this the year 1990, and you were to ask any professional photographer about the steps you need to follow to start your own photography business, the person would immediately ask you to find a decent place where you can set up an office and a studio. Although most photography enterprises such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and Corporations operate through a physical location, there are certain new generation photography businesses that can be run using only the internet.
Comparing Online Stock Photography with Online Content Distribution
The idea of initiating a business without acquiring a physical location in which the business can operate can be very mind boggling and puzzling for you if you are not familiar with online businesses and the mechanism which keep them running as fine as any other “real world enterprise” out there.
The most common example of a business that is run entirely through the internet and is 100% online would be a content distribution company or a freelance writing agency. Understanding the dynamics of such a company’s working mechanism will give you a clear insight into how a photography business can function in the absence of a physical location.
In the case of the content distribution company, the idea is quite simple in the sense that you provide high quality content to clients around the world in exchange of a fixed payment. The content that you are distributing can be an outcome of a specific assignment based on detailed instructions or it could simply be content that you had stored up as stock writing, that is eligible to be sold and reused by clients as they see fit. The word stock is something that you need to bear in mind due to its close association with the field of online photography businesses.
Online Stock Photography Business Vs Real World Photography Enterprise
Keeping in mind the example of the content distribution company, it is safe to say that an online stock photography business is where you can sell your digital photographs on the internet without dealing with your clients in a physical location that belongs to you. At first glimpse, the business seems quite simple, hassle free and extremely convenient.
Although a lot of people prefer to sell their photos online in the form of stock photography, there is no denying the fact that managing and running an online stock photography business is any less troublesome than running an enterprise in the real world. If you are a professional freelance photographer, you may perhaps be able to relate to the concept of an online stock photography business. If you want to truly understand the dynamic of this business and uncover the secrets to success in this field, then you need to first encapsulate the correct notion of the word stock in your mind.
Understanding the Meaning of Online Stock Photography
The word stock, in terms of stock photography, basically refers to your portfolio of photographs that you have taken on your personal photography sessions or those of the people working under your payroll. Contrary to assignment photography, which will be discussed later on in the book, stock photography gives photographers the freedom to photograph subjects of their choice, at a time of their convenience and in a fashion that they deem suitable for their work of art.
The liberty that you gain from stock photography is quickly neutralized by the uncertainty of whether or not the photos in your stock are worth of being sold to paying clients. You can compile as many stunning, breathtaking and mesmerizing photographs as you want, but unless you find people on the internet to sell these photographs too, you will not be generating an income for yourself and your business.
You Need Employees
Stock photography may sound like a one man job to you, but in reality it does not have to be one. As a matter of fact, if stock photography were to be a one man job, then it would not have been classified as a business, and would have been instead simply another doorway to earning money for a professional photographer.
The professional activities of a photographer are different from his or her business activities because a business activity requires the involvement of employees that are working for the professional photographer or under the guidance of the professional photographer in lieu of a salary.
In simple words, when you are compiling a portfolio of stock photographs for your online stock photography business, the pictures in your collection do not only belong to you, but they also belong to the employees who are working under you. This mean you will be paying people to take photographs of various subjects that you can then sell online for a sum of money, part of which will be used to pay the salary of the employees. The more employees you have, the better are your chances of succeeding in this business.
The Online Medium of Photography Exchange
Now that you have a clearer understanding of online stock photography, you may be in conciliation with the fact that online stock photography is really not too different from a real world enterprise. The two are differentiated from one another in terms of the medium of product or service exchange between the client and the service provider.
In a real world enterprise, you will have people showing up to your office, placing orders for specific assignments and then returning after the completion of the assignment to pick up the photos that you have taken for them. This entire complicated process is simply eliminated in the online stock photography business where you are simply using the internet to allow your paying clients to avail the photos from your stock.
3 Reservations about Online Photography Businesses
The reason why online stock photography is not as widespread as you may think it is, is because of the lack of expertise that many aspiring photography business owners have when it comes to using the internet as a means of making money.
There are plenty of professional photographers to this day who are not comfortable with the idea of generating income through the internet. Some may even go as far as saying that it is not a real job and is something that is only lucrative for photography geeks and nerds who are short in experience of working in the practical fields.
You may not be familiar with the big names of stock photography as much as you are familiar with the big names of assignment photography, but the fact of the matter is that online stock photography is as good a way of converting your art into a money making business as assignment photography is. If you have specific reservations about using the internet and find it very difficult to trust the online payment systems, then it high time that you should change your mentality.
As a photographer of the 21st century, you cannot have any beef with computers or the internet. You need to learn how to use them to your benefit, and you need to attain this proficiency as fast as possible to ensure that other photographers of a similar talent level do not get ahead of you in the competition curve. All you need to do to streamline the payments online is have a Paypal account and you will soon be receiving checks left, right and centre as long as the quality of your photography works is appreciated by the clients that you are targeting.
Online Stock Photography is Not a Hobby Based Business
A lot of amateur photographers who enter into the world of online stock photography make the rookie mistake of assuming that it is a place for people who are simply making a quick buck out of their hobby. If you think that the world of online stock photography is filled with hobbyist and not real professionals and entrepreneurs, then you are sadly mistaken.
If all of this is performed as a hobby, then you will hardly amount to anything in the photography industry and your earning will be nowhere near that of a photography business owner who is involved in the practical field or the real world of photography as some would like to call it.
Online stock photography is a highly competitive environment, and if you are interested in making a considerable amount of money from this business, then you need to be smart, ambitious and adaptable to survive this environment. You cannot simply relax your shoulders and simply expect people to visit your portfolio of photos and pay hundreds and thousands of dollars for it. Such an inappropriate and laid back approach towards online stock photography business is likely to put you in a world of financial troubles.
Since we are talking about finance, now would be a good time to point out the fact that an online stock photography business does require certain degrees and types of investments in order to stay afloat in the industry and stay in contention for overtaking some of the industry leaders or the more well establish online stock photography businesses.
Choosing the Best Online Stock Photography Websites
The good thing about online stock photography is that you are not required to make all the arrangements by yourself. There are plenty of other parties, in the form of websites, that you can help you achieve your goals of having your photographs sold and share the spoils with you.
In other words, they will take photographs from you and your employees, and sell it to clients who are willing to pay a good price for the photographs. You will receive a considerable percentage of the revenue that these websites will earn from selling your photos. While this may be a disadvantage for some (especially those who are proficient at finding clients for themselves), it is certainly an advantage for many.
Most of the people who start out on their online stock photography business have little to no knowledge of client acquisition and client retention. These websites can therefore me of tremendous help when it comes to finding the right clients for the sale of your precious, high quality photos.
Making Use of the Middle Man to Sell your Photos Online
Your online photography business will be doomed for extinction if you develop a habit of giving them away for a bargain. You need to put the correct price on your photos and websites such as iStockPhoto, ShutterStock, Fotolia, CanStockPhoto and BigStockPhoto will help you do just that.
These were just a few examples of the best website for online stock photography. There are plenty of other websites that you are free to seek out and avail services from. You do not have to pay any fees when registering your business a submitting photographer or photography entity in these websites.
Once the registration is complete, you can start uploading photos that belong to you and your employees to their banks or vaults. In other words, you will simply be transferring the photos from your business organization’s portfolio into the portfolio of the website.
Authentication Procedures Required to Access Online Stock Photography Websites
It is worth noting that you will come across several of these online stock photography websites which will ask you to provide in depth information about yourself including your picture identification and a passport copy. They will also require you to sign and fax them the submitter agreement. All of this may seem quite unnecessary to you in the beginning, and frankly speaking, these complicated procedures do consume a lot of precious time which you could have utilized to grow your online photography business.
However, at the end of the day, you need to realize that these sites are simply trying to eradicate the risks of fraudulent activity to as great an extent as they possibly can. Their main goal is to protect both their buyers and their submitters’ images and copyright ownership from those who are inclined towards violations of the laws. In other words, taking some additional time to fill out their paperwork will be a worthy investment for your online stock photography business.
Online Professional Photography Test
The authentication or verification procedures do not usually end there. You will often be asked to pass a professional online test before you can start availing the services of the online stock photography websites. These online proficiency or professional tests are designed to make a clear distinction between frauds who are violating copyright laws by uploading the works of other photographers and those photographers who truly have the capability to produce stock photographs that are worthy of being purchased by eager clients.
In other words, you need to prove them that you have all the required photographic skills that are needed to sustain an online stock photography business. The word of advice for you would be to not be intimidated or be deterred by the test under any circumstances. This is just one of the many obstacles that you have to overcome on your way to achieving success in the field of online photography enterprise.
As for the depth of knowledge and level of expertise that you will be required to exhibit, knowing the difference between shutter speed and aperture, and being able to what a DOF is will be enough to get you across the line in the test. It is not the most difficult test in the world, but it is surely not one that is suited for amateur photographers who have just picked up the camera. If you want to get a business up and running in this field, you need to do your homework right in the field of concentration.
5 Rules and Regulations for Selling Online Stock Photos Successfully
Just like with any other business in the real world, the realm of online stock photography has a set of rules and regulations that you need to abide by at all times to ensure that your existence is not invalidated in this online industry. The online stock photography websites that have been mentioned above are extremely particular about the rules and regulations of online stock photography. Violating or breaching any of the rules will probably cause you to be expelled from the websites and get your business blacklisted online.
You will then have an extremely difficult time getting your business back on its feet and acquiring clients who will be interested to purchase your works of photography. The following are some of the rules and regulations that you need to be wary of throughout your sting or running an online stock photography business. Needless to say, your employees who are working under you should also be aware of these rules and regulations, especially if they are given the responsibility of handling the online accounts of your business in the stock photography websites.
1) No Copyrighted Material
This is the first commandment in the world of online stock photography businesses. “Thou shall not pass on the work of photographers outside your business as the work of your own business”. It is a pretty simple rule and to follow it religiously, all you have to do is avoid photos with logos, watermarks, third part images and brands.
2) Submit a Model Release
A model release is provided for a photo when the photo contains the image of a recognizable person. The person in the picture may be a model by profession or could be any other entertainment, sports or political personality who has an acknowledgeable fan following. The standards for the model releases differ from one website to the other. It’s best to have the model release signed by the recognizable person even before the photo shoot takes place.
3) Editorial Content
Editorial content comes into play when you have photos in your stock that contain pictures of personalities that you cannot possibly get model releases from. For example, if you are taking pictures of a star studded concert, it would be quite difficult for your business to approach these celebrated musicians and ask for a model release.
Under such circumstances, you will be restricted from releasing these photographs on the websites as general photographic content. You will however have the option of submitting these works as editorial content. With that being said, do not expect too many buyers to queue up for your editorial content.
4) Format of Images-: When it comes to digital images that are up for sale in stock photography websites, the standard practice is to submit the pictures in JPG format with a file size of no bigger than 10MB.
5) Quality over Quantity
Since most stock photography websites operate on a pay-per-download basis, the initial temptation is to fill up those websites with as many stock photos as you possibly can. However, the wiser option would be to keep the number low. Instead of asking your photographers to take a plethora of random pictures, motivate them to take high quality pictures of fascinating subjects. These will yield countless downloads from which you can earn gigantic sums of money.