It sounds painful to be in the business of selling your photos, and in the current climate, it can be. The current market is both competitive and there are other challenges as well, especially when you consider that there are many more active photographers trying to sell their photos than there were a mere 10 years ago. That, combined with the fact that buyers are paying less for them than before due to shrinking budgets – does not mean that no one is buying photos. It just means you have to look in more places. One such resource is the publication “The Photographer’s Market”.
Published annually, the 2015 edition is now available through your own favorite reseller whether it be Amazon, Wal-Mart, Borders, Barnes a& Noble or where ever you prefer (I got mine for $19 from Wal-Mart, just sayin’…)
The important question that everyone always asks is “Are there really significant changes made from one year to the next?” I can tell you whole-heartedly, the answer is yes! I’ve had pages dog-eared from 2009-2014, and annually some of the buyers have changed addresses, changed their pricing, their submission guidelines, and others have gone completely gone belly-up. We all know what can happen if you don’t follow submission guidelines 😉 and getting lower prices than anticipated isn’t much fun either.
So, go out and get your 2014 edition soon…because we are nearing the halfway point and (as you all know) submissions should be put out about 3 months head of when you can really expect any kind of response/payment. So, what does this mean? It means right now, here, today…in May and June – you should be shooting pictures with autumn in mind. Think colors, places of interest, subject matter, etc. It also means that in August and September, your winter and holiday submissions should be hitting the email deliveries post haste.
Other things to consider when submitting images to buyers? Lots!
- Look for buyers in your own demographic – response times can be quicker
- Look for buyers that are interested in the subject matter you have lots of pictures in – if they want more, the last position you want to be in is one where you don’t have anything else to give…(kind of like the Boy Scounts: Be prepared!)
- Follow buyers recommendations and submission guidelines. Not following these can get your images rejected for no other reason other than “too big” or “too small”, or “wrong file type”. It’d be a shame to lose out on possible financial opportunities simply because you didn’t read the directions! 🙂
- Look for buyers that are receptive to submissions. Ones that take 8-10 images per year are much less likely to consider your portfolio of 20 images. Others that take 20-50 per month (think magazines that need lots of new content regularly) are more likely.
- Don’t forget your query letter. This is an important element of the submission process, and you need to come off with the right impression. Spelling errors, grammar errors, and other faux paux items await, so get up to speed on this as well!
- Finally, don’t put all your eggs in one basket! I know of one very successful photographer who puts out 30 query letters a month (that’s one a day!), and on average, he sells about 1/3rd of them. (And this is a really good return rate!) Normally, the response on query letters is about 1 in 10, and buyers happen about half of that time, especially for new submissions…(they tend to like repeat submitters – it shows they are serious, they are familiar with the body of work the editors are looking for, and they are regularly shooting new content).
The thing is – this is just the tip of the iceberg! There are so many more factors to consider about submitting your work to potential buyers, and this is all part of the larger business of selling photography. Most important in all of this is to remember that running a photography business is more about the business than the photography…you need to be diligent, dedicated, and always keep at it, no matter how many times you may here those hateful words, “No thanks.”
With that in mind, what other techniques do readers use to increase positive response rates to query letters? Any other tidbits, pearls of wisdom, food for thought, suggestions, or ideas that you’d like to share? Sound off in the comments! Happy shooting!