Stock Photography Primer

 by William Lulow

Stock Photographs are images that a photographer might have in his/her files that were not necessarily made on any assignment. They were basically made to document a person, place, thing or lifestyle event.  Photographers then can sell them (if they wish) to be used for any purpose.

There used to be quite a number of stock photography agencies whose job it was to compile and sort through thousands upon thousands of images shot by hundreds of photographers worldwide. Now, thanks to the digital revolution, there are probably ten times the number of images, but only a few bona fide stock image houses. Many more images are available over the internet and a good many of those are in the “public domain” meaning that they are, in many cases, royalty-free. In addition,  many photographers and image makers are dealing with what is called the “orphan works” clause in the latest copyright law. Simply stated, this means that an advertising agency only needs to do perfunctory  “due diligence” in finding the copyright owner of an image it finds on the internet.  After that, it does not need to pay any royalty fees because the image is considered to be an image to which no artist can be found.

What does this mean for photographers? First, if you are serious about the stock photography business, you need to find a way to make sure that your metadata is attached to every single image you produce. This can be done with Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Bridge as well as several other image processing software programs. Second, every photographer, professional or advanced amateur, should develop a system of cataloging every image they produce. Third, if you intend to shoot for stock, treat it like you would any commercial assignment. Give your shoot a “job number.” Make sure you burn a disc with all images and that all images from a “stock assignment” are filed and categorized so that they can be retrieved from your hard disc. Even if you are shooting film, make sure that when you digitize your images, they are treated the same as your original digital images. These suggestions will help you organize your files better and ensure that your images can be protected. More information about STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY will be published in later articles.