Saturday, June 19, 2010

Know to click? Now, learn to sell

Amateur photographers can also get their photos published and make some good money in the process

Everyone is a photographer these days, thanks to the advent of cheap camera phones and the proliferation of even cheaper digital cameras. This, coupled with the access to blogs and websites that showcase amateur photography, is bringing to light a lot of raw talent.
Browsing through Flickr, the world’s most popular image hosting website, will give you a snapshot of this talent, untapped and waiting to be exploited. Of late Flickr, along with other popular sites like Picasa and Photobucket, has also become a catalyst for many amateurs to take the plunge to more serious behind-the-camera action. And there is good money to be made if you are creative and know how to sell.
For instance, stock photography giant Getty Images has started featuring pictures from Flickr members. To date there are nearly 100,000 photos for sale in Getty’s Flickr collection. Every picture sold fetched royalty to the contributing photographers, most of them amateur part-timers. “This trend of monetising via Flickr is opening up the world of professional photography to the photo enthusiast who may not have previously considered it as a possibility. At Flickr we see this as an incredible opportunity for our members to get more exposure for their work and make the transition from an enthusiast to a professional,” says David Fusco, Flickr’s international project manager. 
While Indian stock photo websites have not yet started scrolling photo-sharing sites for potential contributors, they have of late witnessed a surge in people enlisting on their website. But Jagdish Agarwal, founder and chairman of Dinodia, India’s pioneer stock photography picture agency, warns that its not that easy to make money. “Stock photography is serious business and photographers who want to make it a career should work accordingly. Amateur part-time photographers should only expect a part-time income, you can earn as much as you are willing to work,” he explains. Started in 1987, Dinodia now represents over 100 stock photography collections with six million images and thousands of contributing photographers., meanwhile, believes in “showcasing Indian creativity to the global audience”. “Even amateur photographers can earn 50 per cent of the amount at which their images are sold,” says relationship Manager Priyanka. The website too boasts of over 6,000 photographers with many buyers among news and advertising agencies as well as direct clients.
But unlike in the West, stock photography is still in a nascent stage in India and not many are aware of its potential. Others are apprehensive. “I have been invited to submit to stock photography websites. But, for some reason, I have been a bit apprehensive about such sites and prefer to deal with clients directly. In fact, I got some clients through Facebook and think networking sites can play a big role in this,” says Hari Menon, one of Flickr most popular members from India.
Bobinson K B, a photo enthusiast who quit an IT job to co-found a photo agency, says he too is contacted regularly by stock photo websites through Flickr. Bobinson has till now limited his contributions to non-profit organisations. “Once a newspaper took my photo without my permission. But when contacted, they accepted the mistake, published an apology note and even made a payment,” remembers the Kochi-based photographer whose photos have made it to photography magazines and exhibitions. In fact, Bobinson and others find that their photos, often those with news value, are used by publications and websites without proper attribution.
But contributing news photos can also be lucrative if you know where to go., which made a mark for itself with its coverage of the elections and subsequent demonstrations in Iran last year, for instance, gives a platform for amateur and professional photographers who can contribute photostories about news events. “Demotix is a great platform for amateur photographers to pick up the tools of the trade and find out what images sell and what does not. We have a team of editors working around the clock ensuring that the amateur photographers are there in the thick of it along with the professionals,” says Demotix Commissioning Editor Wais Bashir. “Once the story has been published on Demotix our sales team kicks in, contacting our 200-odd media clients in the US, UK and other countries. Non-exclusive rights to their photos will sell for anything between $50 to $3,000. Some photos and videos can go for six figures,” he explains.
Bashir says contributors should look for stories that constitute news. “This means grabbing a camera if they are in the proximity of a breaking news event and preparing for upcoming political, social and sports events. Originality is the secret ingredient, that is to take a photo that no one else has,” he adds. “Demotix now has 208 contributors in India and some of them, like Kolkata-based Arijit Saha, make regular sales.”

How to contribute
  • While making money might not be that easy, contributing to a stockphoto website, which sells images to those looking for specific images, is relatively simple. If you are an amateur or professional photographer with a decent camera – one with at least six mega pixels – you can register in any of the many website and upload photos. 
  •  Each website will have their own contributor guidelines, so make sure you read them carefully. Once the pics have been uploaded, they must be categorised as required by the website. It is better to give a detailed caption specifying the place, and add as many apt keywords as possible so that your photos turn up in a search. Submit photographs in vertical and horizontal orientations if possible.
  • Most websites screen your image before displaying it for potential buyers, so there could be a delay before your contributions appear on the website. Also, avoid submitting the same photographs to various websites as some might consider it a contract violation. 
  • If some of your photos are sold, the website will send a part of the revenue to you, either as cheque or electronic transfer. International websites might prefer to pay you through Paypal. Often the websites send out assignment alerts if they are looking for particular images.

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