Sliver of Redemption? The Virtual Stock Photo Agency

I haven’t shot an image for stock photography in nearly 5 years. And I don’t plan on doing it any time soon. That sentiment governs how I’ve felt about that part of the industry for some time now.

That’s not to say there’s not some money to be made – after all, I still collect checks from old work and outtakes that would be rotting on my server – however I decided long ago not to further participate in the commodification-of-the-image race down to $1, or even Free (type that word in the search bar next to ya for more on that topic…). It’s a personal choice, a creative decision and a business decision–I’m not criticizing it as a still-viable-opportunity in the marketplace.

BUT, having said all that, here’s a little chuck of redemption: Renowned nature photographer, Art Wolfe, sent me a note yesterday…[click the ‘continue reading’ link below…]

…about a model they’ve pulled together over at Photoshelter where photographers are able to create their own virtual agency by pooling their collections. Imagine: Art Wolfe + Tom Mangelsen + David Doubilet. From Art’s piece in the most recent Outdoor Photographer Magazine:

“…PhotoShelter allows photographers to band together in a virtual agency, where the collections from two or more photographers become searchable under a virtual agency name. The images are still controlled by each individual photographer, and each sets his or her own licensing terms. The agency isn’t managed. It’s essentially a search pool, a way to make it easy for buyers to find what they need. If a client desires an image, the sale goes to that photographer…”

I like this idea. It further democratizes the space for photographers and gives them another opportunity to connect against the bigger players. Kudos to Photoshelter once again.

For the first time in years, I can actually see a handful of hot action photographers getting together, a handful of top celeb shooters getting together, or a handful of badass architectural shooters getting together–whomever–and creating their own little corner of the universe that actually takes a little bite out of the bigger marketplace. While this concept is not revolutionary, or even new, it’s remarkable that the technological infrastructure is no longer a barrier. It’s been reduced so low you could trip over it.

While it’s still not for me, this seems like some sort of redemption in the bigger scheme of plummeting options for those photographers seeking to license and develop their business around getting stock images direct to buyers.

Check out more of the discussion at Outdoor Photographer magazine.

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