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Stock Photography Tips

By Rohn Engh on November 11, 2011


Editor's Note:

We're pleased to present the following article written by an expert in the field, Rohn Engh. For those who don't know Rohn, he's been an inspiration to stock photographers for many years based on his best-selling book, Sell & ReSell Your Photos. Because Rohn knows that captions are essential for stock purposes, he's provided his own bio at the end of this article, but we need to add a few comments. Stock photography has gone through many changes in the last several decades. Digital transmission, the rise of royalty-free stock photo options and micro-stock Web sites have changed the dynamics and economic opportunities in the field of stock photography. Ron's watched it all, and has helped many photographers find opportunities in the stock area through his Web site. And he's done it all from the quiet environs of "The Farm" in Osceola, Wisconsin that he calls home. We've always enjoyed chatting with Rohn from time to time and we're happy to provide you with his thoughts on today's opportunities in stock photography.

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Photographers have moved quietly into the Digital Information Age. It is upon us. The time it takes to deliver information has become so quick as to be almost instantaneous. This allows photographers to capitalize on opportunities with new efficiency and avoid unnecessary risks.

This speed is especially noticeable for stock photographers.

Photography technology is outdoing itself. Digital transmission of images is a reality. Printers can produce images that compete in quality with film. Digital cameras have taken over. Storing and keywording images in digital form is now de rigueur. The average photographer can provide clients with speedy on-line viewing and retrieval of selections from their on-line stock photo gallery or Web site.

"It's Still the Same Show..."

But don't let all the bells and whistles distract you. The actors, props, and settings may be different, but it's still the same show. Getting pictures that are publishable still takes creative ability — and that takes talent. And it has always taken more than talent to consistently receive checks from publications and ad agencies, and to see your credit line in national circulation. That takes marketing know-how, and always will.

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If you plan to break into stock photography along with other aspects of your photo career, a good place to start is with magazine and publishing houses. The Information Age has now expanded into the on-line world, which includes ipods, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, and who knows what around the corner.

Photos are the mainstay of books, magazines and the electronic media. One of the top budget areas for publishers is reserved for photography. A small publisher will have a $20,000 to $30,000 monthly budget for illustrations. Mid-size and large publishers expect to pay out $50,000 to $150,000 per month for art. The Law of Probability is on your side if you direct your initial marketing efforts to specialized magazines and book publishers.


Don't be tempted to be "all things to all photobuyers." This is usually the first mistake the fledgling photo illustrator makes. Photo editors recognize that one photographer can't be that versatile. Editors' primary concern is that they get material that's accurate and knowledgeable to present to their readers and advertisers. An editor would prefer to work with a photographer who already knows something about the subject area of his/her magazine. Focus on a market area that appeals to you, such as outdoor recreation, dog training, medicine, education, etc.

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Select certain publications in your interest areas. All of these publications will have a web presence. To get more information about their photo needs, find the section called, "Submission Guidelines," or "Photo Guidelines." Thanks to the Information Age and search engines like Google, it's easy to locate publishers in your specialization area who are waiting at this moment to view your collection of photos.

Here's how to find them. In the Google search bar, type in this group of keywords: Publisher [your interest area] magazine book photo guidelines [your interest area]. Where it says [your interest area], type in what you consider your specialization, e.g. antiques, gardening, aircraft, medicine, childhood education, — and so on. You'll be surprised at the number of contacts you'll make.

At this point, because your specialization matches the theme of a particular publishing house, you'll find you can send them a CD with samples of your work. CAUTION: Don't send generic photos that are outside of their interest area. You'll be wasting their time and your money.

If you zero in on just 10 specialized markets, you will have, as they say in the marketing field, found your "corner of the market." The photo editors of these markets will consider you an important resource.

Once you have made some sales to an editor, he or she will be interested in sending special assignments your way. If you engage in your photo marketing as a spare-time endeavor, you'll still be able to handle lengthier assignments by scheduling them on your vacation time (and as a result give yourself free vacations!).

Another resource for the emerging stock photographer is the 618-page directory called, "The Photographer's Market." It's available through or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Rohn Engh, veteran stock photographer and best-selling author of "Sell & ReSell Your Photos" and "" has helped scores of photographers to sell photos. For access to great information on making money from pictures you like to take, and to receive this free report: "8 Steps to Becoming a Published Photographer," visit Interested in signing up to receive specific and current photo needs from magazine and book publishers? — Call 800-624-0266. For NYIP readers and students taking our photography courses, Rohn is offering a 50% discount on his market letters and information products. To receive this special discount, mention this coupon code in your correspondence: N-Y-I-P.