“Photographer’s Market,” by Mary Burzlaff Bostic. 2014 Edition. Published by North Light Books.
It seems like this compendium has been around forever: I recall latching onto a copy when I started out as a professional photographer back in the day, and I remember being amazed and energized by the plethora of markets it contained, the vast majority of which I was unfamiliar with up to that point.
Not much has changed in the intervening years: this latest edition (which happens to be the 36th annual edition) is jammed with over 1,500 listings of magazines (some popular, some obscure, and lots in between), book publishers, greeting card & paper product producers, stock agencies and much more. For each entry, you get such valuable information as company contact details, payment rates, the types of images that are needed, and specific tips for making a good impression and getting your foot in the door.
This is not the definitive summary of every potential picture market (there are lots of potential buyers who are not included), nor is it particularly strong on commercial (advertising and design) markets, but if you want an excellent starting point for marketing your pictures to editorial and other markets at the lower end of the fee spectrum, this book is highly recommended. Further enhancing its value are the useful business information and generic tips on selling your pictures, as well as hard-to-find information about fine art photography outlets. For any photographer intending to sell his/her stock pictures directly to customers, a current copy of Photographer’s Market needs to be on your resource shelf.
reviewed by phh
“Digital Stock Photography: How to Shoot and Sell,”by Michal Heron.Publisher: Allworth Press (2007).
This is the book that I would have written about how to go about the business of stock photography if Michal Heron hadn’t saved me the time and trouble.That’s right: if I had to select just ONE book that would adequately educate someone about contemporary stock photography, this is the one and it’s the next-best thing to a personal consultation with yours truly.
his is a really an update of Heron’s earlier book on stock, “How to Shoot Stock Photos That Sell,” written back in the analog days.As the title makes clear, that older tome is now completely updated to the digital era.What’s interesting, though, is that the core ideas about stock really haven’t changed: you still need to do your “homework” before you even click off a single frame, you still need a plan of attack, you still need to think in terms of visually capturing “concepts,” and you still need to organize your images and somehow get them before picture buyers.What has changed radically, of course, is the actual execution of most of those tasks.
Heron’s book still contains especially useful chapters such as “How to Shoot for Stock: Style and Concept” (terrific stuff, especially if you intend to pursue commercial markets), “Twenty-Five Stock Assignments You Can Shoot” (lots of ideas that can stimulate you to, as Nike says, ‘Just Do It’!) and “Preparing the Shoot” (which reinforces that idea that success in stock is most often the result of what goes on BEFORE you take the pictures).Now these are augmented with such valuable sections as “Editing and Post-Production in the Digital Work Flow” (which, as many of our Stock Answers® clients have found, is the make-or-break component of a successful stock business) and “Finding a Stock Agency or Portal” (critical in determining exactly how you’re going to bring your pictures into the marketplace for buyers to view and purchase).
f I had to find fault with Heron’s book, it’s the lack of any discussion about what everyone really wants to know about stock photography: how much money can I make? How much money do other photographers make? Am I going to become a millionaire by creating stock images, or slowly but surely slide into the financial abyss? Noticeable by its absence is virtually any mention of dollars and cents, even (curiously) in the chapter titled “Negotiating Prices.”
Heron would probably argue, “But this book is really about the nuts and bolts of creating stock photos, not how much money you’re going to make.”Great, but who in their right mind would set off on such a speculative venture as creating stock images without doing a thorough analysis of their potential financial return? While stock image pricing information can be had elsewhere (including yet another book co-authored by Heron), it’s the “how much dough can I make from my pictures?” information that’s really the juicy bits you won’t find here.
That criticism aside, if you’re considering stock image production as a part of your photography business plan, or even if it’s already a part of your endeavors, I think this is a terrific book; it’s certainly a “must-read” and one that stock photographers will want to have handy on their reference shelf at all times.
reviewed by phh
“Photos That Sell,” by Lee Frost.Publisher: Watson-Guptill/Amphoto Books (2001).
Despite the fact that this book is almost a decade old and thus sorely in need of updating (Nikon had just launched the D1 when it was written!), this book has real value. In fact, that’s why I use it as one of the textbooks for my Stock 103 class, “Shooting Stock Best Sellers.”You can completely blow off Part 1, which comprises the first 64 pages and covers things like “Picture Libraries” and “The Digital Age” since almost all of that information has been totally turned upside down since publication.But Part 2, “Subjects That Sell,” is worth the price of admission.
When it comes right down to what a photographer should be shooting in order to sell stock imagery, most of Frost’s ideas, tips and recommendations are still spot-on.He covers such perennial best-selling subjects as “People and Lifestyle,” “Vacations and Travel,” “Business and Finance,” “Animals and Wildlife” and five other vital topics that can lead directly to salable pictures.And, his own observations are augmented by “Expert Views” from successful photographers from each subject sector, such as Simon Stafford for sports, Tom Mackie for nature, and Derek Croucher for business.Finally, each subject section also has a “Best Sellers” page, and many of the displayed photos look just as fresh and salable now as they did when they were produced.Yes, times have changed and in many ways it’s a lot harder now to sell stock images than when Photos That Sell first hit the market, but if you want to know which images will at least get you in the game, Lee Frost’s book is quite helpful.
reviewed by phh
“Microstock Money Shots,” by Ellen Boughn.Publisher: Amphoto Books (2010).
In any given population, there will inevitability be a sub-set made up of the vulnerable, the naive and the gullible.This is the same group that has kept snake oil salesmen employed and which made Bernie Madoff, if somewhat temporarily, enormously wealthy.They are the easy marks that grifters seek out: the often willing victims of purveyors of smoke-and-mirror solutions for what ails you, and what ails photographers these days is the general malaise within the picture industry, especially for shooters who have previously depended upon stock photography for some or all of their income.Just as air rushes in to fill a void in the atmosphere, lo and behold, presto-change-o, “microstock” hit the scene a few years ago and faster than you can say Oz, we have seen otherwise seemingly intelligent photographers doing their own interpretation of the Firesign Theaters’s classic album, Everything You Know Is Wrong.But just as surely as the emperor will generally be shown to be lacking clothes, for most photographers, whether pro or weekend warrior, microstock is nothing more than a cynical con game in which virtually the only ones making any serious money are the middlemen running the show.Millions upon millions of dollars are flowing to the technology geeks, webheads and a certain 800-pound gorilla that dominate the microstock sector, but at a royalty rate of as little as 25 or 50 cents per sale not much is going to the poor schmucks they’ve conned into actually doing the hard work of creating photographs and handing them over based upon the promise of riches to come.
et against this background we have Microstock Money Shots by picture industry veteran Ellen Boughn.In a book that’s subtitled Turning Downloads into Dollars with Microstock Photography, it is most striking to me that it includes so little discussion of money.Could this be because to do so would be to reveal the dirty little secret that for most photographers microstock will most likely be the equivalent of micro financial rewards? If this is all about making Money Shots why isn’t there some serious discussion of just how much money we’re actually talking about, what the objective financials pros and cons of micro are, and how to go about making a well-informed business decision on whether or not shooting for microstock is a wise and, ultimately, profitable choice? I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions, but understand this: with the leading micro sites stocked by literally tens of thousands of image contributors, and with millions of photos in their online databases, participating in microstock is the picture industry equivalent of playing the lottery.Yep, somebody’s going to win big but the odds are pretty good that it isn’t going to be you; just like in Vegas or Atlantic City, though, the house is still going to profit from every single transaction.
Microstock Money Shots does a decent enough job of giving the CliffsNotes version of how to create suitable imagery for stock though, at 160 pages, and with about half of that available space occupied by photos, there’s not exactly an overabundance of meat here.For stock newbies, the book certainly gives a lot of useful tips and direction on everything from composition to planning to actually getting out there and producing salable stock; for stock photography veterans, a lot of Microstock Money Shots will seem more than vaguely familiar as it describes the same time-proven strategies and techniques that have been employed for over three decades in rights managed and royalty free stock production, augmented here by insights into selling in the digital age (when discussing image composition as it relates to online search results, for example, Boughn very correctly points out that “If your photo doesn’t sell itself at the thumbnail size, it will get overlooked.You need to dominate the available ‘real estate’ on the screen.”).For those aforementioned stock newbies, and undoubtedly more than a few stock veterans who should probably know better but who are succumbing to their own desperation in an increasingly competitive industry, Microstock Money Shots will amplify the bark of the microstock carny’s siren song, “Step right this way, sonny…I’ve got just what you need!”.The book will unquestionable find its audience, just as microstock in general has attracted its legions of fans and devotees for, as the great showman P.T. Barnum famously remarked in a slightly different context, “There’s one born every minute.”
reviewed by phh
“People Shots That Sell – How to Succeed in Stock Photography,” by Tracey Tannenbaum and Kate Stevens.Published by RotoVision SA (2002).
OK, let’s be clear on something right from the get-go: this book is dated, with a 2002 copyright.Any book that says “In the future, there is likely to be a move away from the standard stock catalog” or, in reference to marketing, “E-marketing will become a much larger part of the process” is behind the times since those changes have obviously already come to pass.
However, this is still a great book to add to your reference library.Why? First of all, because it has a terrific selection of inspirational stock images within its 144 pages.Further, while the text on such topics as “Where to Start” and “Doing Your Homework” is only minimally useful, where this book DOES excel is in emphasizing the need for pre-production planning and paying attention to both trends affecting stock content & style as well as focusing on concepts when producing stock imagery.
hapter 4 really makes this book worthwhile by providing “Case Studies” that provide illuminating details on eight very different types of stock shoots: lifestyles, kids, medicine, etc.It’s really quite educational to learn about “The Brief,” “The Location,” “The Models,” “The Styling” and more for each of these “Studies” and then see some of the actual results.This section illustrates how the successful shooters rise to the top in stock through thorough planning, thus providing good lessons for every aspiring stock pro.
In Chapter 5, readers get a good feel for winning concepts to be illustrated through stock, supported by copious illustrations of these same visual ideas.
So, like many books on stock, this one is a victim of the rapidly changing landscape of the stock industry, and even one that’s “only” nine years old reads, in part, as if it was written by Nostradamus.Nonetheless, there’s some really valuable content and inspirational imagery here, so don’t pass People Shots That Sell by.