Getting your work onto a stock agency is a great way to make sales but also gain exposure for your work. But these agencies all have strict quality control procedures in place and some are also edited by a picture editor whom might reject your work. But the good news is that it isn’t impossible and with a bit of research and hard work you too can get your wok represented by stock agencies.
What Are You Hoping To Achieve?
Stock photography is a numbers game and most agencies will tell you that you would be looking at around 18 months from submission when you will usually start seeing a return on your images. So the first thing you need to do is decide what is right for you? The only way to do that is by working out what you are hoping to achieve. If you are hoping to earn a living from micro stock image sales (i.e. stock agencies such as Shutterstock and iStock Photos) then you will need a lot of images to sell as these agencies sell images often for less than $1. Whilst agencies that have higher average prices often don’t accept everyone. The first thing you need to do is decide what you are hoping to achieve and then start working towards that goal.
Choose The Right Agency
Stock agencies are all different and just because one has rejected you doesn’t mean they all will. Photography is subjective and different agencies cater for different markets and clients and will look for different types and styles of photography. You might find that some agencies are geared more towards lifestyle photographs whereas others would prefer reportage style images. The key is to look at as many agencies as you can so that you get a feel for which one is right for you.
Once you have decided, make sure you understand the terms and conditions regarding the exclusivity and duration that you need to let them represent your work. Sometimes this can as much as 5 years which means you cannot sell the images with that agency through others.
It’s no good having a great portfolio of landscape photos and approaching a stock agency that specializes in reportage style street photography. The answer will likely be no. So before submitting work, take time to study their work and ensure that your work falls in line with what they require. You will also be able to get a sense of what images they already have and if any of yours are likely to duplicate their work. Most agencies will have a section on their website that talks about the sort agency they are and what they look for.
Get An Awesome Portfolio Together
In most cases stock agencies will ask for an initial edit of anywhere between 10 to 20 photos as low resolution files. This is your big test and the agency will either reject your work or ask to see more. So it’s important that you ensure this initial submission is of the highest standard. Be ruthless and only send images which are stunning and are not based on the sentiment of the fact that it took you 2 hours to take the photo. If you’re unsure ask a couple of friends what they think and if there are any that they feel are weak, because they have not got the emotional attachment to the photos they may well surprise you.
Make It Right Every Time
All of these agencies have clear guidelines on how they want images supplied. They will specify file format, minimum image and file size etc. They will also usually give a clear indication of what they will reject, either in images which are not passed after quality control or subjects that they do not want. If you are invited to send more images make sure you study these guidelines and only send images which are technically perfect. Every image should be checked at 100% view for blemishes, chromatic aberration, white balance and excessive noise. Be especially aware of your highlights and shadows not being underexposed or overexposed.
Help Them, Help You
The right agency should be like working with a partner. You should be able to ask them questions, run ideas past them and together look for photographic opportunities. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their clients have been asking for or where they feel they have gaps in their collection. When you are away or on a shoot, send them an email to ask if they require any images from that location. They are there to promote and sell your work so the more you work together and collaborate the more sales they will make from your photos.
Once you have established yourself with an agency or two you should start to plan your photo shoots around themes or topics that have a potential to sell photos. Is there something happening in current news that you can foresee a requirement for photos for? Is there a potential new tourist hot spot that is going to be big next year? All of these can lead to potential sales. The key is to read and keep up to speed with your chosen industry news.
Getting the right stock agency to represent your work isn’t easy and you need to be prepared to receive rejections along the way. But finding the right agency can mean you will be earning a fair amount for the hard work that you put in. Just do your research and take your time.
Photo Credits: Kav Dadfar (All rights reserved).