Why I teach workshops on stock photography

An old friend, who runs a stock photo agency, saw that I will soon be teaching a class in stock photography near him. He wrote me a friendly but slightly incredulous note, saying “….a workshop on stock photography? Yesterday Pickerell’s advice was to ‘Find another profession.’ “ My reply was to say I am not likely to follow the advice of Jim Pickerell, arguably the longest running writer/commentator on the business of stock photography. But I did want to answer my friend in more depth. So I thought more about his question, why teach a workshop on stock photography?

Jim Pickerell, as per his site “…has been involved in the stock photography business for more than 40 years as a photographer, newsletter writer, pricing guide author, industry analysts, expert witness and co-owner of the stock agency, Stock Connection.” He also writes for the daily online newsletter, selling-stock As for the question, why I teach workshops on stock photography, the short answer is:

Roughly one third of the folks in the class decide never to do stock (a good thing.)

Roughly one third of the folks in the class decide to approach it seriously (and methodically) so they can make money.

Roughly one third of the folks in the class leave thinking they have more work to do before they decide where they will settle between those two camps.

Let me explain, in some slightly longer answers.

First, many photographers want to get paid for their work. On one level, it is obvious why. They need the money and/or they think payment validates their work. I am one of those people.

Many other people do photography purely for the love of it, for the pleasure of the process, whether their joy is found in the capture or in the post–production and the exhibitions/prints/books that are the end result of their efforts.

People in both groups see stock photography as a way to take what they love and get paid for it. The reality is rarely as simple as that, but people believe what they want to believe. Similarly, there is little that can be done to dissuade some of these same people from trying stock photography.

Keep in mind that some of the world of stock photography actually is built on a business model where agencies take in large numbers of images from photographers who do NOT critically analyze their costs of producing the images and weigh that against the resulting benefits that come in the form of image licensing fees.

That sounds a bit harsh, I know. But most people in the industry will tell you that the real problem today is the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of photographers who do not use the analytical, calculating part of their otherwise rational brains when it comes to stock photography.

That is where my classes come in. As I noted, in the best of all worlds:

Roughly one third of the folks in the class decide never to do stock (a good thing.) In the class, I walk the students through the system I use to maximize my image production and file organization. I also go into great detail about pricing, usage, etc. I teach them how using my workflow (or something like it) reduces time at the computer while maximizing licensing opportunities. Mine is an incredibly detail oriented process, I know, but it works great for me. After learning that same process and realizing that stock is serious business as well as hard work, about one third of the people in a typical class decide not to pursue stock photography.

Roughly one third of the folks in the class decide to approach it seriously (and methodically) so they can make money. These folks learn my process, or figure out how to adopt my ideas and integrate them into their own process. My ideas, by the way, are not so brilliant. They are largely derived from the work of Peter Krogh, author of the DAM book, which is a great resource on Digital Asset Management for photographers. The point is that these folks pay attention, merge my ideas, their own ideas and those of Peter Krogh to build them selves a workflow that will reduce time at the computer while maximizing licensing opportunities.

Roughly one third of the folks in the class leave thinking they have more work to do before they decide where they will settle between those two camps. These folks often had some far-fetched idea about what stock photography is, and for them, the class is a wake-up call, often in a good way. Eventually most of these people end up in one of the two groups noted above, often after further exploration of the realities of the stock photography world.

At the start of each class, I explain the notion that the group will likely divide into these three categories by the end of the class. At the end of the same classes, I poll the group and my predictions usually hold true (roughly.) No matter where an aspiring stock photographer ends up within those three categories, the class has been useful for them. Helping them figure out where to go in the world of stock photography, that is why I teach workshops on stock photography.

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