A Look at a Stock Photographer's Photography Workflow
written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/30/2011
Here is a look at the workflow used by stock photographers.
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Stock photography is an entire industry where photos are shot out of any particular context for later sale. When people are working on different projects, such as graphic design, web development, presentations, advertising, and marketing guides, they may need to get photos to express different things without hiring a photographer and going through the expensive process of ordering high quality photos directly. Instead, they may go through web-based catalogs where they essentially purchase the rights to use high resolution versions of digital photos that have been presented by the creator for a specified price. There is a stock photographer photography workflow they use to create and sell their photos, but it depends on the photographer themselves.
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Choosing Photo Types
The first thing that a stock photographer considers is what is popular and what they have access to. A stock photographer is often just an active professional photographer that also supplements their income by selling stock photos that they can create easily or have no other use for. The exact stock photographer's photography workflow is different for each person individually, but oftentimes they will take a look at stock photography distribution locations and see what has been popular and what has been requested. From here they will begin to itemize what they can create easily with a negotiation between the work it would take to produce certain types of images and what they can be sold for. For example, if someone lives in the desert and there is a request for a lot of desert images then they can easily go out and photograph those images. If there are requests for specific types of arctic birds, however, it would take a lot of capital to actually get those images and it would not be financially worth it. The primary concern is to produce stock photography that will sell, not to be creatively expressive.
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The stock photographer's photography workflow should remain entirely digital since the new framework for the creation and dissemination of photos is entirely digital. One of the primary things that people need to remember about stock photography is that image quality and photography "production value" are going to be primary, just as with stock video. This means that putting the photos through a photo editing program like Adobe Photoshop is going to be critical, especially to do small touch ups, raise the contrast, bring out certain colors, and essentially "beautify" the image. To do this as part of the stock photographer's photography workflow they need to be able to do this on a large scale, which is where Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is ideal.
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Stock Photography Websites and Selling Stock Photography
From here you will use stock photography websites to begin the sale of your photos. There are a number of stock photography websites that allow you to become a provider, some requiring you to have credentials or just allowing anyone who wants to join. These stock photography websites will then often set a price for different photos and then take a percentage of the photos that are sold, and this will really only be lucrative if you provide a large number of photos as an influx. This will require an incredible digital workflow bringing in images on a regular basis, which is why many photographers do not use this as their primary income source and instead simply sell their extra photography here.
Once you have made a name for yourself, you can have the ability to create your own stock photography business, providing photos to a set list of clients to choose from. Stock photography does not benefit from having a name attached to them in terms of authorship, but instead you will really need to make the work stand out and meet the needs of a specific market.