“Stock photography over the years has gotten a bad rap,” she says, “as being ‘stocky.’ That translates to cheesy, basic, uninspired and formulaic. While there is a ton of that out there, there is also a lot of stock that is unexpected, interesting and beautiful. For me, sometimes I go into meetings, I show my book at an advertising agency, and they talk about clients they have that my work fits for, but they can only afford stock. And that’s great for me, because I’m like, ‘Oh, fantastic, here’s a link to my stock.’ And they’re blown away, like, ‘Wait, this quality work is in stock?’ Absolutely. I can send them links directly to my content so they can license them. Definitely a win.”
St. Clair proves that inventory images stays a viable profession path, however the business is definitely not booming prefer it was a era in the past. The 1980s and ’90s have been, in accordance with many photographers, the golden age for inventory. However then the digital revolution occurred and all these newly minted photographers led to the introduction of filth low cost microstock, which flooded the marketplace with pictures. Photographs that when bought for a whole lot or hundreds of dollars might now be had for pennies on the greenback. Then, when the financial downturn of 2008 occurred, the inventory business all however collapsed.
“It has changed immensely, for sure,” St. Clair says. “There’s a reason that I now do a bunch of assignment work. I’ve always loved shooting stock, but when the economy took a huge dive in 2009, my stock went down about 70 percent from one year to the next. I was making a full-time living in stock, and then all of a sudden I was not. And that was industry-wide, not just me. That was a confluence of the economy taking a nosedive, everyone freezing their budgets and microstock being introduced. Pre-microstock, getting a contract was actually very difficult. As soon as microstock happened, all you needed was an email address. You could be anyone in the world, not pro, just have a camera and an email address and start submitting pictures.”
Slowly however certainly, the inventory business has rebounded. New businesses are popping up, and there’s most undoubtedly room for gifted photographers who make genuine, natural-looking imagery—like St. Clair. She says her enterprise is as soon as once more going robust, in contrast to many photographers who tried to make it work with microstock.
“I don’t shoot for it,” she says of microstock. “I never have. I do know some photographers who did both, and I think shame on me for not just jumping on the bandwagon at the beginning because if you were someone who shot microstock at the beginning and knew how to produce volume, you made a fortune. That went away, though, and now I think it’s very hard to make a full-time living in microstock at this point. There’s just so much imagery out there, so much competition.”
That’s why St. Clair as an alternative focuses on licensing photographs by way of a handful of businesses that worth high-quality work and cost affordable, sustainable charges for it. She additionally augments her backside line with the addition of task images for company shoppers, editorial and promoting. In any case, her pure type of way of life images is in vogue throughout all platforms.
St. Clair is strategic relating to balancing inventory with assignments. With inventory, she will shoot what she needs when and the way she needs. However as an alternative of a scattershot strategy, she repeatedly consults with editors at her businesses (Mix, Getty, Adobe and Cavan) to study what they’re in want of and what developments they’re recognizing. It helps her decide the place to focus her artistic power so she’s not losing time. All of it comes again to maximizing the underside line.
“I would say it’s a three-pronged approach,” she says. “Sure, I try and deliver what the agency is asking for, what they say they want. I also shoot what I know is going to sell. At the end of the day, I’m looking to make money. It’s what I know is going to sell, what I have access to because when I am self-producing, I’m looking to keep my costs as low as possible. I don’t usually even hire an assistant. It’s me, I pay for my talent, I get the location and I take pictures. It’s kind of like what can I produce that’s not going to cost me a fortune and still be saleable and worthwhile? Where do I think the holes are in my portfolio to get the assignment work I want?”
It’s an excellent strategy to each inventory images and portfolio constructing. With the ability to monetize a portfolio shoot is so easy it borders on genius.
“I make a very good return on my stock imagery,” she says, “but I also shoot a lot of stock in my downtime between assignments to drive the kind of work that I want to get for assignments. I am always striving to create the imagery that I want to create. For example, last year I didn’t have a lot of fitness in my portfolio. Can I shoot fitness? Absolutely. But nobody is going to hire me to shoot fitness if I can’t show them that I shoot fitness. You have to show the work you want to get hired to shoot. There have been periods of a few months throughout my career when I didn’t shoot stock because I was so slammed with assignments, which was amazing. But then as soon as the downtime came—and I think that most photographers have periods of downtime throughout the year—I just went, ‘Oh, hey, I don’t have anything the next couple of weeks,’ so I booked a couple of stock shoots.”
St. Clair additionally provides editorial work to the combination as a result of it comes again to assist different elements of her enterprise.
“I often do editorial that, frankly, doesn’t pay,” she says. “I mean it pays, but it’s very limited. But I do it so that I can make connections in the community. You never know who you’re going to meet who ends up having a beautiful house, a beautiful office space, whatever. Maybe they do cyclocross on the weekends, and you’re like, ‘That sounds so cool, and I’ve never shot that before.’ It’s always about making those connections because you never know where it’s going to lead you. I’m always looking to meet new people and see what they do.”
Taking a look at St. Clair’s portfolio, it’s virtually unattainable to differentiate which photographs are inventory and which have been created for a shopper. That’s the best way she needs it. Nonetheless, there are variations in the best way she approaches these shoots.
“When I’m doing an assignment,” she says, “I’m actually making an attempt to get the imagery that the shopper needs in the long run. Whereas for me, for inventory, I’m getting no matter I would like or no matter occurs. I can let it’s quite a bit looser. That stated, I’m additionally targeted on getting as a lot content material as I can as a result of that’s the way you make the most important return. It’s a quantity business. And I feel my expertise in inventory actually lends itself to me being a fantastic way of life library task shooter, which is nice as a result of there’s undoubtedly been a development in corporations wanting that over the previous few years. I’m not that photographer who says ‘Oh, we can only get 10 shots today.’ I’m like, ‘No, we can get 40, we can get 50, no problem, let’s do it.’
“Usually when I do an image library for a client,” she provides, “they come to me with the 30 shots they’re looking for. And then it’s sort of like, ‘Let’s see what you can get above and beyond that.’ So maybe in the contract negotiation, they’re actually licensing only 30 pictures, but then I’ve created all this other imagery that allows for additional potential licensing. And if the client has a low budget, sometimes they’re willing to say, ‘OK, we want the selects that we make exclusive to us, but then the outtakes you can use for stock.’ So for me, it’s always a win to create more imagery.”
The most important distinction between task work and inventory, frankly, is the manufacturing price range. The stripped-down strategy she takes with inventory means it’s necessary that she will make magic with much less, and out of less-than-ideal lighting conditions.
“Shooting for a client, you have a budget,” St. Clair says, “you have a grip truck, you have all the lighting equipment you could ever want. And it’s so funny because I often don’t use much of that. I shoot all the time for myself, and I know how to get what I want with little ‘support.’ I like to shoot natural light as much as possible. I have tons of lighting equipment and will use it depending on the aesthetic of the job, but my style is very natural-light driven, and that’s my preference.”
Within the final couple of years, like many photographers, St. Clair has branched out into video. Not solely does she encourage others to do it, however she additionally hopes extra photographers will think about capturing inventory photographs and video as a way for enhancing their enterprise’s backside line.
“It’s definitely where things are going,” St. Clair says of video. “Look, I’m a nonetheless shooter, I really like capturing stills, however as artists, we all the time have to broaden what we will do and keep present. Video is extra widespread than ever, and the market isn’t almost as saturated. Video may be actually enjoyable to shoot, too. It’s essential, although, to future-proof your video as a lot as potential. Straight HD is simply not sufficient anymore. It’s a must to shoot 4K.
“When I tell people how much money I make in stock, their jaws drop. And I know plenty of shooters who make far more than I do. Stock photography pays my baseline every single month. Period. It pays for the baseline of what it costs to run my business and to pay myself a salary. That passive income stream and security are amazing. It allows me to not be stressed out when I’m not getting assignments, and it allows me the luxury of saying no to assignments that I don’t think pay well enough or that I’m just not interested in.”
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