I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me “Why don’t you do stock photography?” Or for every time a new photographer told me they wanted to start selling stock photos. It’s a niche many people start with, dreaming they will just sit and do nothing while the money pours in. But is that really the case? And more importantly, is it still relevant in 2023, when the market’s oversaturated with AI-generated images? In this video, Scott Choucino discusses it, giving two cents on this topic.
Types of stock photography
Scott gives valuable insight based on his one-year deep dive into the world of stock photography. As he says, he did stock photography so you don’t have to. He divides stock sites into three main groups: generic stock sites, press photography, and syndication. And here’s some thought and explanation of each.
Generic stock sites: Low effort, low return
Most conventional stock sites are notorious for their low payouts. They range from the miserable 33 cents to $26 per photo, but they’re still often the first stop for budding photographers who dream of easy money. But how easy is it really? You still have to take and edit photos, organize the photoshoots, and whatnot.
As Scott highlights, the revenue from these platforms is hardly worth the effort. The photos are often stereotypical and generic and have a low market value as they’re neither artistic nor unique. Not to mention that you can generate them using AI software. In fact, that’s what I did for the purpose of this article and to illustrate my point.
Press photography: A step up
Scott notes that press photography is a more lucrative field, catering to clients like newspapers, magazines, and online websites. While it doesn’t demand artistic masterpieces, the images still need to be culturally relevant and newsworthy. Press photographers, positioned at the right place at the right time, often capture images that continue to generate income long after they’ve been taken. This is especially true for photos of celebrities or significant events.
Syndication: Targeted efforts, higher rewards
Syndication is the lesser-known side of stock photography. It involves archives syndicating a photographer’s work, targeting ad agencies specifically. This approach can lead to higher payouts, and I mean, much higher! Scott shares that he earned £3,000 from just two photos in a year.
But before little dollar signs appear in your eyes, keep in mind that the effort involved in preparing and uploading the images is immense. Not to mention that you need to constantly update to keep the content fresh. So, this poses the question of whether the return justifies the investment of time and resources.
What about stock video?
Interestingly, Scott reveals that stock video content is currently a profitable venture. In fact, it seems to me that it’s more profitable than stock photography. However, Scott predicts a decline due to market saturation and technological advancements. These include the high-quality video capabilities of smartphones, but also the advancement of AI videos. However, the latter still has a long way to go.
So, is stock photography still relevant?
The main takeaway from Scott’s video is the importance of evaluating the return on investment in stock photography. The low-hanging fruit of generic stock sites seems tempting, and many new photographers fall into its trap, so to speak. However, the financial return here is minimal. What’s more, the risk of devaluing your work is another serious consideration. Selling your images for peanuts and having them used everywhere can harm your professional reputation and future market value according to Scott.
Instead, Scott suggests that you should aim for sustainable income. Consider improving your skills above all, and choose syndication over stock sites. Alternatively, or simultaneously, you should consider directly approaching press and wire agencies.
In conclusion, stock photography isn’t the gold mine it used to be. In fact, I think it’s been a while. However, it still holds some opportunities. The key lies in strategic positioning, constant learning, and choosing the right platform. The platforms you choose should align with your career goals and the value you place on your work. And as the industry evolves, you need to adapt! Finally, always be mindful of the delicate balance between effort, compensation, and the inherent worth of your work. It’s not easy – but you’ll get there!