If you talk with a lot of photographers about where to sell photographythe standard reply is usually going to be"go with one of the Microstock libraries". However, if you're serious about selling photographs online, you will usually find the best returns are made when you stop following the masses and think beyond the curve.
The demand for stock photography has increased dramatically in over the last 20 years, starting with the advent of desktop publishing and more lately with net publishing. These days pretty much every business on the planet is publisher and a potential photo-buyer.
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Not surprisingly a host of budget stock libraries"the Microstocks"have popped up to deal with those markets with gigantic picture collections at super-discount prices. Publishers can buy pohtos photos of every imaginable subject for a couple of dollars or less, with the Microstock photographers happily accepting 25-50 cents per sale.
With the developments in digital photography, just about any photographer with the most basic skills and consumer gear is able to supply photographs to the Microstocks. And for better or worse, there's plenty of photographers prepared to deal on those terms.
For a bit there were a lot of photographers swearing there was big money to be made giving their photography away for less than a dollar, but nowadays they have gone a bit quiet.
It looks like we could have come the full circle and the competition has reached a level that makes it difficult for the average photographer to generate consistent returns with Microstock.
I'm sure there are some doing pretty well with Microstock, but you may be sure they are very talented photographers with huge image collections, who are continually making fresh and new material. They're putting real effort and time into researching their markets, and they are likely investing seriously in each new shoot.
For the main part, the idea of any photographer just submitting thousands of random stock photos to a Microstock library and making serious coin are over.
Another major difficulty that is emerged in recent years with the Microstock libraries is, as fast as somebody does come up with a stock photo idea or idea that really sells well, it gets copied by tons of other Microstock photographers. The libraries themselves facilitate this, publishing live tallies of photographs that are being downloaded the most, so the less creative photographer can just throw together a copy, upload it and benefit from the other photographer's effort.
So even if you do the hard-yards and find some lucrative new market, then put in the effort and time to capture top quality original commercial content, chances are that you will not have the niche to yourself for long. If it's working, it is going to be copied
So the big question needs to be asked: if you have to put that kind of time and effort and cash into shooting new stock photographs, does it really make sense to give them away for a buck each?
Would it not make a lot more sense to sell stock photography where you are facing less competition and you get paid a fair and reasonable price, every time someone uses your images?
A increasing number of photographers are beginning to think so, buy pohtos and more often than not, when people ask where to sell you photos photography online, the answer is 'find a rights managed library'.
With rights managed you license the image for sell you photos a particular use for a specified time period. The publishers only pay for the rights they want so it's a better deal for them, and a better deal for the photographers. Instead of making 50 cents or less for somebody using your image, you make $100-$200 or more. Often a lot more!
Since you're controlling the usage as well as the sales, you can offer the top-end photo-buyers a history of the image, and offer those buyers who need it, first rights, exclusive use, and all the assurances the big budget users need for the best paying licenses.
So if you really are serious about selling photographs online, you actually need to decide what type of photography business you would like.
One where you compete with millions of other photographers to mass produce pictures for a market that expects to own your images for a few bucks each?
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Or one that caters to a market that values your skills and creativity, and is prepared to pay well for quality images that actually speak to their audience?
Either way, the business has changed and the stock photo sales are going to go to the smart photographers who research their markets and create top quality original material.
So in the end, isn't it just an issue of deciding what you want to get paid for it? Matt Brading contributes articles on how to market photography to GlobalEye Photo Stock Agency. If you're looking where to sell photography, Matt recommends the co-operative approach of GlobalEye, where like-minded photographers have been working together to increase exposure, reduce costs and sell stock photos since 1998.