The next step after serious amateur is learning how to make money
with your photographs
Publishing Your Photographs
Okay, you've done it! You've taken some really outstanding photographs that are worth sharing with the world. Your photographs are sharp, perfectly exposed and composed, and best of all, eye-catching and unique. You have filed the images in a way that makes sense to you and of course, backed up your files elsewhere, as hard drives can fail. Now what to do? In addition to making your digital files into high-quality prints for your family and for photo exhibitions, you can publish your great images. Keep in mind that the competition is stiff, but don't let that stop you. Here are a few beginning tips.
What to Photograph
Go ahead and take photos for yourself. Photograph those great sunsets, flowers and puppies, but if you want to do something with the images besides give them to a family member or hang them on your own walls, and get them to a wider audience, you must think completely differently. Nowadays, with the glut of generic subjects available on CDs or online for little cost, the only way you can succeed as a published photographer is to specialize. Do you have a career or hobby specialty, a subject you know and care about? Whether your profession is mountain climbing, child care or meat packaging, there are plenty of markets for specialty work. Once you become known in a specific area, those specialty clients will keep coming back to you.
If you like taking scenics, including people in them makes them more marketable. They add scale and often color. Take vertical photographs in addition to your horizontals in anticipation of magazine covers. Leave empty/neutral space at the top of the photograph for the magazine's masthead and sell lines, although in some cases this can be added later in Photoshop or another program. Or think in terms of a story or theme.
Shoot in color, always. You can do amazing things with digital files in terms of converting them to black and white, but you can't shoot black and white in-camera and then convert to color, as the digital information isn't there. Similarly, always shoot at the highest quality setting in your camera. And keep your ISO low, unless there's a reason to increase it.
Digital photography has changed the way we take and market photos. It really pays to be knowledgeable about this medium. Only high-quality work is used here, so you need to be aware of limitations and minimal standards, which vary according to the publication. The industry standard software is Adobe Photoshop. In addition, you should have some kind of cataloguing software as well as basic business software.
If you happen upon a great photographic situation, take lots of photos. You'll not only have similar photos of the subject ("in-camera dupes") so that you can market to several publications simultaneously, but you'll photograph the subject with different lenses and from different angles. Film and processing are cheap compared to travel expenses. Of course, with digital, it's easy to send out duplicate files of your high-quality originals.
Start small. Publishing in National Geographic magazine is like winning the lottery; the odds are against you. Start with small publications in your specialty area and you'll collect samples (known as clips or tear sheets) of your published work and slowly build your portfolio. Writers' Market and Photographers' Market each list thousands of magazines, calendar companies and other sources. Photo guidelines and rates are often available via the publishers' websites.
Maintain high quality standards of quality with the images you send to a publication. You will be judged by your worst image. All images should be sharp, well-exposed and well-composed. Scans and digital camera images should be color-balanced. Try to find fresh angles on clichés, but don't get too gimmicky; most clients don't like this.
If you want to sell a photograph of a recognizable person (or a person who can recognize himself/herself in the photo), you must have the person sign a release for advertising usage. Photos used as editorial content (to inform or educate) do not need a release. Also, get a release in questionable situations. Or if it's implied endorsement, such as the cover of an airline magazine. The same goes for property releases.
Stock Photo Agencies
These are clearing houses that will sell your images for you. Make sure the agency's reputable. Where do you find stock agencies? Check Photographer's Market for listings. Also look online for many web sites from agencies. Look at magazine credit lines. The name of the agency is often there with the photographer's name.There have been a lot of changes and consolidations in recent years in this struggling industry.
Getting represented by an agency can be difficult. Often the agency will ask for a sampling of 200 or 300 images. Remember that you are judged by your worst image. These images should be ones you can let the agency keep for a number of years, or forever. Sometimes the agency will contract with you to have reproduction-quality dupes made that they can keep on file while you keep your original.
An agency generally takes a 50% commission. The commission is well worth it. They'll find markets you never dreamed existed, and they're good at negotiating higher rates for your work.
Promotion is an ongoing task. To succeed in publishing your photos, your name and images must be regularly in front of busy photo editors. HTML email campaigns can be effective, as they contain your compelling graphics along with the written content.
The Internet is perhaps your marketing tool. Design a web site and get it out there! List your photos with an online database such as PhotoSource International or Oz Images. Many additional websites offer opportunities for high-quality, online portfolios. This medium is proving most effective for many photographers.
Getting your website noticed in these competitive times can be challenging. Let everyone know about your site. Write "alt" texts for the images that you post, so that folks can find you via an image search. Write a blog. The more you change your site, the higher it will get in the rankings. Make your content worthwhile so that people will return again and again. Longevity helps. This site, for example, has been around since the late 1990s and gets a large number of hits because of both is longevity and useful content like the material you're reading now.
A professional appearance is important. Get letterhead and business cards, and include a business card with every correspondence. Always have your business cards with you; you never know when a potential client will turn up. If you're on a budget, computers make this task fairly inexpensive. You can buy high-quality stationery paper for a fraction of the price a printer will charge you if you look for manufacturing close-outs and overstocks at paper supply companies. Also, many office supply houses and mail-order sources feature beautiful preprinted designs. Finally, you can have four-color cards that reproduce a favorite photo made fairly cheaply these days.
Carefully keyword and caption your files. In Adobe Photoshop, this process is found under File>File Info. Good captions often make the difference between an image that sells and one that doesn't. Make sure to get the names of people that figure prominently in your image.
How to file? You can use a simple chronological system if you don't have very many photos. But if you have a large collection, then file by subject, then cross-index. Each photographer's filing system will vary according to his/her specialties. For example, if you have 2,000 photos of hummingbirds, you will want to subdivide your photos into species, behaviors, etc. If you only have three photos of hummingbirds, you can lump those photos together with your other bird photos.Cataloguing programs, such as Photo Shelter, Extensis Portfolio, Microsoft Expressions Media and Lightroom, make this process much easier. These programs also make it possible to quickly generate online "lightbooxes" on your website for a client to look at.
Digital media is an entire new world when it comes to storing media. As you load your images onto your hard drive, quickly find a way to delete bad photos. Then soon, back up your images to whatever system works for you: CDs, DVDs, your computer hard drive (although this can fill up quickly, given the serious hard drive needs of most digital images) or an external hard drive. Fortunately, with digital media, we photographers can retain our original media while sending high-quality images to our clients. Always, back up as soon as possible after you've downloaded your images from your camera.
Digital photography is now a part of nearly every aspect of publishing. Because of liability issues, many publishers now ask only for digital files, which means the photographer must scan transparencies if necessary. In a typical workflow, the photographer posts a gallery of low-res images on a website and if an image is chosen, sends the high-res version via FTP or on a CD. Controlling use of digital images can be problematic as files can be easily duplicated without loss of quality. Although higher-end publishers understand the importance of copyright, this is sometimes not the case with some local or lower-end clients. Be vigilant.
Money and Photo Rights
There are two ways of selling images these days: RF and RM. RF stands for Royalty-Free, which means you sell all rights to a client. A number of companies have specialized in producing image banks of low-cost RF photos. RM stands for rights-managed, which means you are selling a specified usage to a publication. This means they lease or rent use of the image for a particular project.. Photos used for advertising purposes bring the photographer substantially more money than photos used for editorial purposes. Rates vary widely according to the size and placement of the photo, publication's circulation, whether it's part of a large photo package and how often the photo will be used. Typically, magazines pay set rates that are pretty much non-negotiable. Negotiating prices can get very complicated. ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) publishes an excellent business guide that deals with this issue. FotoQuote (bundled with FotoBiz) is a small but effective computer program that not only gives rates but coaches you on negotiating strategies. In general, common images such as flowers and sunsets command little money. Calendar and postcard companies pay notoriously poorly because of the competition.
The above image is pretty, but will it sell? See some thoughts in this article.