Stock photography and landscapes
I shoot landscapes and submit them to three agencies. I’ve only been doing this for a short time so I am no expert but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where landscapes fit into the scheme of things.
The agencies I am with on occasion submit a list of client requests. For the shooter intent on earning an income through stock, it’s provides insight as to where their best chances for sales are.
Of the three agencies for as long as I have been with them, you know what has never once been mentioned on the list of client wants? That’s right, landscapes. Why? Landscapes do sell but with the sheer number of images submitted annually, your images are but a speck of sand on a beach.
Lifestyle sells. People. People. More people. That is what the agencies are looking for. Why is there such a demand? First of all, it’s plain and simple a pain in the butt to go around with model releases and getting them signed by anyone recognizable in your photos. If you are persistent and diligent signed releases are there to be had but then this becomes work, something that landscape shooting definitely isn’t. No don’t misunderstand, sure it takes effort to get great landscapes, but there is a difference sitting in a field snapping away at a sunrise and approaching complete strangers and trying to convince them to sign over the rights to their likeness to you for eternity.
Would you sign a release form if someone approached you, giving your address, telephone, name, age, etc? Not likely.
So when I read the want list for the Getty/Flickr stock collection, I half expected something different just because their collection is supposed to be, well, anti-stock. It turns out that their list is exactly what all the big agencies want. Lifestyle photos with people in them. Signed releases.
There is a ton of money to be made in stock photography. There isn’t a ton of money to be made shooting landscapes. To put it like one of the agency reps said, we have a million sunrises and flower photos, we don’t need any more.
I earned my full time income for many years taking pictures. The same kind of photos I took for many years, lifestyle stuff, editorial, fashion, food, etc., is what they’re looking for. I have no plans on making photography seem like work again. There are easier ways to make more money than doing it in photography. Try and make a living shooting landscapes and instead what you’ll end up having to do is what we used to call freelancing that is bits and pieces here and there. You end up supplementing your income in other ways than being outdoors and pursuing your art. It can be done if you can write, the problem being that magazine publishing is now the pits. Editorial payment for all but a few select publications is laughable. Really, when you write editorial you are writing more for name recognition than to make a good dollar. Some shooters, in fact a lot of shooters it seems now have to give workshops.
Workshops? More work. Get a great job and make a good living so you don’t have to do that kind of stuff to be able to eat.
Print sales. Self publishing. Nickel and diming. I think most wedding or portrait photographers make a better living than shooting landscapes. Sounds great doesn’t it?
These days I find it more rewarding shooting for my pleasure than I would if I was doing it for a full time pay cheque. If that’s your dream, go for it. Don’t let me dissuade you. I lived that dream and realized years ago it was time to let it go and more on to other things.
We can’t expect to be the same people early in life that we end up being later on. That goes for the whole gamut of things human.
So my advice to those youngsters who have their dreams fixated on being the next Ansel Adams? Get a great career that affords you plenty of time and money to follow your creative dreams and you’ll be happier and richer down the road.