NZIPP Wellington – Stock Photography as an Income Stream / A Pricing Forum

Last night I attended the talk organized by Terry Hann: On October 25th we are pleased to welcome Rob Lile, managing director of Photonewzealand. Rob started the company in 2000 and has since created the country’s most respected stock photography library based in Christchurch. Specialising in quality Kiwi imagery the library has an impressive line up of contributing photographers. And continues to flourish while other stock houses have struggled. Rob will talk to us shooting stock as an income stream.

After a short break (where you are welcome to a drink and some nibbles) we have a Pricing forum (not to be confused with price setting which is very naughty) As a panel for questions, answers and debate we have Rob Lile, Lindsay Keats, Adrian De La Fuente, Malcolm Somerville and Esther Bunning. These people are all seasoned business orientated photographers in a mix of Commercial, Portrait, Wedding and Stock, so if they can’t answer your questions I don’t know who can!

When: 25th October 2011 at 6.00pm
Where: Wellington Photographic Supplies, Vivian Street, Wellington

Here are some thoughts, notes and observations from the talks:

Robs talk on Stock: Currently there are two very distinct sources of income- editorial and commercial. The pricing and rules around model + property releases are very different. Editorial paying only somewhere between $80-600, without need for model and property releases in most cases. Commercial uses on the other hand is very sensitive to having model and property releases from the current property owners. The fees possible are much higher – $200-10,000 + being possible.

Some of the key elements of successful stock photography are Commitment, Regularity fo submission, Solid captioning and keywording, and good model releases. Regular submissions are key, as is regular communication and questioning about what is good to be shooting and planning for future shoots.

Some key areas of focus are Xmas with summer themes, Kiwi lifestyle, NZ Pure, possibly some pollution images too. Kiwis look different, with demographic, dress, place, icons and themes. The light is also different in NZ, especially without much pollution around. Outdoor adventure is also a good one – the challenge is to have the images look distinctly Kiwi – though location, style, brand etc.

Key areas of a valuable stock image come from what is unique about it. Why is this image not going to be elsewhere in cheap microstock sites for example? Also equally important, what is the value to the client in this image? This is a less tangible factor – it could be the Convenience of having found the image that works, the Certainty that it has not been used elsewhere, or Cost.

Key growth areas are – People/ lifestyle, Concepts, Buildings – houses, bungalows, restored, beach homes etc.

In the pannel – we talked about the market and how that is shaping business practices. Eg Apple has created want in the market and reshaped the buying patterns of consumers. What is needed to be like an Apple is being different, demonstrating value and innovating constantly. Convenience and ease of use is another key driving factor in purchasing. Trust/ certainty and Value also represent the key areas of exchange – Trust in exchange for Value. Valuing the Creative input is key. A simple, easy job should be charged differently from a very complex and very important job for the same client.

Another comment was that asking for payable on receipt is entirely reasonable. Often clients are only too happy to process invoices as soon as they get them. With regard to lowering of pricing, some strategies like passing on costs such as pre-production to the client were suggested. If the client provides all the talent and styling – it can be a way to lower the photography fees.

Day rates were also discussed as outmoded, rather an individual price for each usage was proposed. This in some ways is starting to sound like the trend in the US, which is now moving back to centre with the ASMP proposing bundles for digital use – which is more standardized. The key message here was to listen to the clients needs – meeting these creates real value. Pricing is easier negotiated when on the same page. Coming back to clients with a written estimate is the strongest option. Answering questions about price without knowing about the job or the client is nearly impossible to forecast.

Some discussion did arise about more open licenses that are restricted to the one client only. This is an interesting paralel to the US trend we are starting to see. Ease of use and convenience could be an important differentiator between photographers licensing terms.

The cost of doing business calculator was handed out – I did the calculations and its incredible to see how many expenses are there and how they add up over a year! Another telling element is that if you shoot on average 2-3 days a week (fairly standard) then the amount you must make on each job jumps up quite quickly.


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