Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Types of Photography

Image Source: Pixabay Alexas_Fotos
When someone tells me they are a photographer, I often ask what type. Photographers who have been around for a while will tell me. Most photographers specialize or focus on one or two types of photography. Newer photographers will simply say "everything", either because they haven't found what they truly enjoy or they are to new to understand that each style has it's own nuances.

It's important to know what type of photography you want to pursue so that you can focus your efforts on what you need for what you do, rather than wasting time and money on gear and advertising that will never help you achieve your goals.

Stock Photography

This is thought of as the easiest way to make money by new photographers. The process for most agencies, is to apply and, if you are accepted, to then start uploading your images. The agency handles all the licenses and payments. They take a percentage of the license amount as their payment. It sounds simple but agencies are picky about the quality and content of the images. They will only accept the images that they think buyers will want to license. 

Some popular stock agencies include:

Dreamstime (RF, microstock)
Shutterstock (RF, microstock)
Alamy (RF and RM, midstock)

You can sell stock without the use of an agency but that would make you responsible for all of the legal and finanacial interactions that are required. Licenses, fees, web hosting, and other options.

Image Source: Pixabay Alexas_Fotos
Wedding Photography

The second most popular category for new photographers, wedding photography, has the allure of high price tags. What many don't realize is that it also has some of the highest costs. Specialty lenses for low light photography are some of the most expensive lenses on the market. Some of them cost more than the camera. Portable lighting and tripods for dark reception halls or evening weddings are also costly. The biggest cost is time. Time to figure out what the bride wants, writing the contracts, prepping your gear, set up and taking down gear on the day of the wedding, shooting the wedding, editing the images, helping the couple pick the images for the album and creating the album. Some of these things can be outsourced but that will hit your bottom line. 

For those who love this style of photography, it's not an issue. For those who are doing it solely for the money, it gets very tiring, very quickly. 

Portrait Photography

Portrait photography always looks easy but many clients expect private photographers to have all the same bells and whistles as the box store photography mills, and the same pricing. Remember to never compare yourself to a company that books clients every 15 minutes. That's a reciepe for disaster. The upfront costs of portraiture usually include studio space or rental, backgrounds and props. Depending on your photographic style these things can be built up over time. 

Commercial Photography

Image Source: Pixabay Alexas_Fotos
A combination of stock and portraiture, commercial photography is the art of taking beautiful images of items. In addition to a studio or the ability to shoot on location, you will need to have model and property releases. Because the items you are photographing are proprietry to the client they often want to negotiate the copyrights for the images. The last thing your clients wants is to see their image on advertising a competitors product. Contract negotion skills come in very useful for this type of photogrpahy. 

Landscape Photography

Landscape work can be dramatic and beautiful. It's also not in high demand, which means it will bring in the least amount of money, usually. If you can get a contract with someone who needs that type of photography then you can do well, but it's rare as many photographers start with landscapes and still life work to hone their skills. 

Art Photography

Art photographers sell prints or canvases of their work through galleries. This involves a lot of calling around to see which galleries would be interested in your work, printing and prepping the art and then delivering it to the galleries. Galleries will take a commission so be sure to review the contract terms carefully. My personal expereince is that photographic works don't have as good of a showing as other forms of art but it all depends on the galleries clientele and if they are in the target market to like your work.

Printed Items

This could be anything from selling prints at an art fair, to selling mugs and t-shirts with your work printed on them. Some photographers who choose to go this route will open their own shop, others will coordinate with a shop owner to provide the images for their mugs, t-shirts and other items.


Art and Coffee Table books can be created based on a location or a theme. Books can be self-published or done through a publisher. While many books are beautiful to browse through, it can be a very tough market to break into. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Making Money with Photography

Several people have asked me recently about the best way to make money selling their pictures. The answer is that there is no "best way." Photography is more complex than simply clicking the shutter, and it's more diverse than simply "selling" the images. If you are truly looking to make money from your images then here are some tips.

Have a Plan

business plan doesn't have to be a huge undertaking. It's a roadmap to how you want your business to proceed. If you are selling or licensing, your work then you are running a business. There is no such thing as "just selling pictures." This can also put the amount of work involved with being a successful photographer into perspective. 

Learn the Lingo

Most new photographers have no idea what the words they are using mean. So here is a short glossary of the most misused:

  • Selling vs. Licensing 
    • Selling is an exchange of money for goods. In this case, it often means that the image is being permanently given to the buyer. Thus, the photographer loses the ability to re-sell the same image or any control over how the image is used. 
    • Licensing is when the photographer, or the photographer's agent, allows someone to use the image without giving up all the rights of the image. The buyer can use the image for a set number of publications or a set time frame. Specific details will depend on the contract
  • Royalty Free vs Rights Managed
    • Royalty Free (RF) images are not usually limited in the number of publications or in how the image can be modified for use. Some buyers like this type of license because it means that they can reuse the image in multiple campaigns or in several locations without a problem. 
    • Rights Managed (RM) images give the photographer and/or their agent, more control over the use. The buyer will provide details about how long they will use the image, what specific geographic area and if they want exclusive use of the image. 
  • Microstock vs. Midstock
    • Microstock is a stock photography agency that licenses images at a very low rate. Anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars. The images usually have an RF license. 
    • Midstock is a stock photography agency that licenses images at a "mid-priced" range. The images can RF or RM depending. Midstock agencies often accept editorial images in addition to commercial ones. 
  • Copyright. By default the photographer owns the copyright. However, if the image is not registered with the Copyright office then it can be almost impossible to prove. Some buyers want to purchase the copyright to an image. This means that the photographer will loose all rights to the image and will not be able to display or license the image one the sale goes through. Most clients don't actually need the copyright, what they need an exclusive license for the image to ensure that another person is not using the same image. 
  • Model/Property Release. These are required for any commercially used images. These documents are signed by the model or property owner and give you permission to use them in your image. Without these you could be sued by the model/property owner for privacy violations. If they try to sue the person that you licensed the image to, then that person may try to sue you for licensing them images of people that you didn't have a right to use. There are exceptions for editorial use of images but if you are selling images then it's best to get the release.)

Find your Niche

Knowing what type of photographer you want to be will save you time and money. There are hundreds of lenses, backdrops, lighting set ups and other gear that is designed for photographers. Knowing who your target market is will help you to find the type of photography that you are interested in persuing. 

To find out more about the various types of photography then be sure to see next weeks post