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, but not always. 
    • Midstock is a stock photography agency that licenses images at a "mid-priced" range. The images can be RF or RM. 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 once 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