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One Viewpoint - The Changing Face of Stock

Text Copyright Rohn Engh
All rights reserved.

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The other day I ran into an old friend who has been a leading stock shooter for many years. He has been represented by a top stock photo agency for over 10 years and has always been a prolific shooter. As we discussed the current condition of the stock industry, he commented, " I shot a total of only 18 rolls of film last year." This at first shocked me because I have seen this photographer shoot that much film in a day.

He went on to explain that he just could not justify making the investment to produce stock under the current conditions at his agency. To begin with, the actual terms and royalty percentages of his contract remain in question. He stressed that it doesn't take an extremely keen businessman to pass, on a partnership that asks you to put up the front end money and then produce a product on speculation without even knowing what your royalty terms will be.

Next he discussed the dilemma of what to shoot. In the past, at his former stock agency, he had a good relationship with a long-term editor and they discussed most of his shoots in advance, which resulted in a high acceptance rate of images submitted. Such a high rate of acceptance is also necessary for him, to make it feasible for him to make the investment in producing stock. He has since moved to a new agency. There, when he attempted to discuss a shoot with his editor, he felt little confidence. To begin with, his editor had little experience in stock and often gave him suggestions that he disagreed with and/or had no interest in shooting. His comment was, "either they are way off base or I am, but either way I sure am not pumped up to go out and produce after a talk with that editor."

Another thing bothering this photographer was that his agency had begun the practice of hiring young photographers to shoot stock for them. It didn't particularly endear him to this agency that they apparently were pursuing ways to replace him. I could detect the pleasure in his voice as he related that he understood that this experiment of bypassing independent stock photographers was not bringing the agency success. Apparently, they were learning the value of the veteran entrepreneurial freelance photographer.

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Rohn Engh, Photosource International.

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