Anyone with the ability to use a camera correctly has the potential to sell their images. Picture agencies handle images of every subject and are always looking for emerging talent.
Pictures libraries or stock photography sites are in the business of selling images. The don’t give you advice on how to take better images. Their purpose is business – they sell images to magazines, book publishers, the travel industry and many other industries that use images. We talked about stock agencies briefly in our last blog post about how to make money with your photos. We are going to go into more depth in this blog post as this is a great way to start making money. Keep in mind, as with any business, the money does not come rolling in overnight. This is a time investment, so if you are looking to get rich quick, this is not for you.
How do you get started?
If you are interested in an photo library or stock agency selling your images, you must be able to produce high quality images which are suited to the agencies market. Check out their website to view samples that are currently in use. For example, if you go to sceincesource.com you notice that most of these images are science related. It would be a good idea to approach them with a portfolio of strong science related photos. It is important to note, that when work with sources like this and Getty, you will need to be able to offer complete and accurate metadata information to be accepted. If you feel your work meets their standards and suits their customers – then approach them by e-mail or many of the agencies discuss right on their websites how to submit a portfolio for review.
Before placing your work at an agency make a short-list of the agencies that seem to suit your work. Or develop a list of agencies you would like to work with and shoot a portfolio that you think would match their target market. This is a great way to test your skills and offer fresh, new content to the agency. Contact each agency outlining your work and which magazines have already published your images. If an agency is then interested they will ask you to send them samples.
If an agency accepts your work, don't take this as a guarantee that your images will sell.
You should only approach an agency until you have a large collection of images. Minimum first submissions can consist of anything from 50 images to 500 and regular submissions are normally required thereafter. Most agencies work on a commission basis – 60% 40% being the standard rate. If an image sells for 100 dollars- the photographer will receive $40 from the sale. If an agency accepts your work, don’t take this as a guarantee that your images will sell. There are alot of photographers that are using stock sites and agencies to make money off of their photography. The hard truth is this is a very competitive market as is with the photography industry as a whole. But this should not deter you from giving it ago. I have personally known photographers that do very well selling their work on stock sites.
When an agency takes on a photographer’s work, they normally will have the photography sign a contract that can extend for a length of time. Make sure to read the contract and if questions arise, you may be able to contact the PPA or Professional Photographers of America https://www.ppa.com/ for guidance. You should look for agencies that sell the reproduction rights of a pictures – the image being licensed to a buyer for a specified purpose. They should not ask you to sign over the copyright to the image.
How long can it take to make money with an agency?
It may take as long as six months before an agency sells a picture belonging to you. Why does it take so long? Once you image is available for license, they need to contact their clients and let them know that there is new material available – all of this takes time, so you must look at supplying a picture agency as a long term investment. It is only when you have several hundred images placed in a library that you’ll start to see regular sales.
Remember: agencies can’t sell images if there isn’t a market for them and placing images at an agency does not guarantee you sales.