Nature photography is a tough business and for many the need to keep seeking new markets and revenue streams is for most, task number 1.
The traditional business model for nature photographers has always been publishing a book, teaching on the side, and licensing images to large print industry of calendars and cards, posters, magazines, and more.
None of these markets are dead, but some are just hanging on and photographers who once relied on them are challenged to find new income streams in the wake of the diminished markets, lower license fees, and fierce competition.
Some outdoor photographers have photographed assignments for magazines and businesses for decades, but have you? Here are some reasons why shooting assignments makes sense.
When you shoot assignments you don’t create a photograph or have any expenses (marketing is separate) like travel costs until you have an assignment. When you do get the assignment those expenses are covered by the client and you get paid soon after the assignment is complete. The risk is low.
Photographing stock is different in that it consumes some time and you cover all expenses out of your pocket to photograph for someone else, whom you do not yet know. They would be the buyer of your product from that stock photo shoot and in the end there is no guarantee that you will be ‘reimbursed’ for all the expense to create the images if nothing sells. The risk is higher.
On assignments, the clients generally do all the research on what type of image is needed for their product or client. Then you create the image and get paid. For stock images, you create images based on your research of what the markets want and if no client wants those images, you don’t get paid.
Depending on what you photograph, a nice supply of stock images can come from an assignment after the client is done. For example, I photographed many catalogs for a travel clothing company. We went Llama trekking, whitewater rafting, stayed in nice mountain lodges while I photographed models wearing their apparel. Six months after the catalog was mailed; I was permitted to move all the images into stock and each assignment numbered into the thousands of images. (I obtained releases for myself and the client.)
Some estimate that under 5% of stock images actually are licensed. If stock is your game this would mean that your entire business is reliant on the revenue from sales of 5% sales of the total product you produced.
For outdoor photographers it makes sense to do both to keep cash flowing into the business. Stock photography is still a viable business model but much more speculative and the question to ask yourself is “can I afford to speculate?” Assignments provide a quicker financial return which helps manage cash flow and overhead. A vibrant assignment business can help offset the costs of shooting stock.
Success in these market requires many revenue streams.
Have any thoughts, please leave a comment.