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Stock Photography and how it all began

Stock Photography and how it all began

Following on from yesterday’s post about making a really good sale, really good for just one image, I have been reminiscing….

It was quite awhile ago that I first became involved with stock photography but only really as it switched from the original physical form to digital and online. I think a lot of this was due to a convergence of interests in computing, the Internet and photography. It also looked like a good way of making some extra income. 

Out of all of my interests, photography came first. I can recall playing around with Dad’s old Polaroid, my Grandfather’s Minolta and loved flicking through slides on a magical optical viewer Grandad owned.

I was enthralled recently to see it resurface at Mums and Dads. Sadly all of my Grandparents are no longer with us but they live on as part of our make-up. Once again I was that child sat in the lounge of my Grandparent’s back in the 70’s 80’s enchanted by photos taken now some 30 plus years ago. So there I was, now a 40 something looking at a 12 year old version of myself having fun on a beach somewhere in Pembrokeshire! 

These old slides invoked memories that leapt back into life, as if I had opened an old school book decades later, I was transported back in time. Quite vivid animated memories they were too.  

So when I think of the modern forms of photography and their archival, I worry and care about it a lot. What will our grandchildren see of us in the future or indeed themselves? I hope that trough the methods of viewing and reminiscing things will be technically different but the emotional connection will still be present…… and hopefully easy to dig out of the loft as the old slides were!

….I digressed a little bit but I hope this sets the scene somewhat for why I enjoy being a photographer today and how I use these skills in term of my business, this website and a whole lot more.

Back to the stock business… I signed up with Alamy in 2003 after reading about how they could help you sell images to the World and I’d never thought of this before. I signed up, submitted some sample images and was accepted into the fold.

I can remember during the same year, Alice our daughter wanted to take part in the Great North Run, quite a trek for us but she was super keen. So with Alice enrolled on the junior race (she later did the Southern version too), I had a thought, how easy would it be to get a press pass?

I looked up the contact details, sent off an email and they replied asking me who I’d be respresenting? Hmmm, I didn’t work for a publication but suggested my photo agency and I was in! It was a total blag if I am being honest but then I was nervous as heck, I would be rubbing shoulders with guys from the nationals and the BBC. How exciting?!

I can remember the two days well, so much happened, I learnt so much, Alice loved it and became hooked on running. We even found time somehow to explore Newcastle and Gateshead a little bit. We didn’t care that on the first day it rained so hard, I got soaked, Tina had a brolly but we had to split up for awhile. We met a lot of famous people, such as Dame Kelly Holmes before she became well known. We stood side-by-side with Mark Knopfler on the bridge, the security guys allowed me and seemingly nobody else to get fairly close but just out of broadcast, as I was waving my Press Pass at everyone and it was so amazing. My first ever adventure into the World of global media, music and sporting legends.

I captured a photo of Paula Radcliffe breaking a world record on the day of the main races over in South Shields whilst crammed in with a group of other photographers and a BBC cameraman. That photo has sold through Alamy a dozen times and in fact the last time it sold was last month, well over a decade later!

That weekend 13 years ago has since been paid for a number of times over. We must have spent Ā£300 for accomodation, food and fuel altogether. One photograph has at least paid for that twice over.

I then went on to doing more of this kind of thing but had to give it in after a number of years and because I had health issues. I did try again after I recovered but what seems to have happened, is that the press photography industry became saturated, Getty purchased most London based agencies and every event would have too many photographers in attendance. Everyone now jumping on the bandwagon. 

I ended up focusing instead more on my web interests.

I used to submit images to Getty, Filmmagic, UPPA/Photoshot, Retna but now I stick solely with Alamy. I make sales through them, ok not enough to pay the mortgage and other bills. However I don’t submit enough to them – just maybe if I did, I could boost my sales?

So here begins a fresh attempt at stock photography once more, given the fact that sales are starting to pick up again šŸ™‚

I shall reveal more over the next series of posts. 



This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Very interesting and a great read.

    Why don’t you submit to Getty, Filmmagic, UPPA/Photoshot, Retna ?

  2. That is a fair question. I think the reason I have stopped providing them all is that I ceased to shoot celebrity and press on a regular basis and have over the past 5 years concentrated on my web work.

    I almost stopped being a photographer at one point because there I was supplying umpteen agencies, many people were baffled as to why I was doing that, some even advised against it and in the end I burnt myself out. I was trying to make a living out of something in the wrong way. Well it can’t have been right, as it was making diddly squat. I suspect that it was because there were too many of us jobbing togs at every event. The papers would always go for the photographs taken by the guys they’ve known for years! Most of those guys were twice my age, frankly not quite as excited by the buzz of it all anymore but they took shots that were enough to satisfy picture editors at the big papers….. remember newspapers šŸ˜‰

    I can always remember when we were photographing people such as Amy Winehouse, Jim Docherty and all of the very talented but tortuously flawed young artists, a million other guys would come swarming in with their Metz flashguns (often wrapped in gaffer tape) flashing enough to kill anyone with the slightest hint of epilepsy. I would muscle my way in but these guys were just so much more persuasive than me, they had a rapport that would make the hardest of car salesman blush with embarrassment. I also seemed to be much shorter than any of them, these guys were all 6 foot and a bit sort of chaps.

    So in the end I gave up on all of that stuff and decided to supply just Alamy and besides the others would pay you the bear minimum, Getty being the hardest of them all.

    I have a love hate relationship with Getty, they bought out Filmmagic and a number of other agencies I used to work with like some giant corporate Pacman!

    I am full of metaphors today, I drank some unusual tea earlier here in the office, not sure it was actually tea…

    Anyway, Alamy do sell stuff for me, admittedly not enough to fund my dream of living a jet-set lifestyle nor pay the bills!! That is the thing with building websites and all of that stuff, it pays me what I need and a bit more occasionally.

    Recently I have got back into the swing of photography though and absolutely live doing it again, so now bringing my passions for both the web and the image (moving or still) together much more with this site and some other potential business ventures I can build up.

    To be honest this month has really fired up my enthusiasm for being freelance and some of the stuff I could do – It is just a case of doing it all and in time I shall.

  3. Is flash allowed during the performance or do they get to mob the performer between sets?

    I only ever successfully uploaded one photo to an agency. That was back in 208 to iStockPhoto – now part of Getty. It’s been downloaded 31 times but not enough to buy me a yacht, not even a whistle.

    I tried to upload something to Alamy around that time and it was rejected for colour fringing – so I cursed the ground they walked on, picked up my marbles and went off in a huff šŸ™‚

    1. Hehe I have a nice collection of whistles now, I might trade them in for Sunseeker!

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