Friday, June 5, 2015

Being a Published Photographer in Today's World

I have a Google Alert set so I am alerted whenever my name appears on the web.  For me, it's more than a vanity thing.  It lets me see where my photographs are being published these days.  I wish that Google Alerts worked more consistently -- this is the first alert I've received in several months, and I've read that many other folks have had the same experience.  When it is working, however, it's pretty cool.

Here's the link to the website that published one of my photos today:

This is all fine.  If you look closely, however, you will notice that the credit line for the photo reads like this:
Norbert Wu / Minden Pictures / Corbis

What does this mean?  It means that I took the photograph and I am correctly credited as the photographer.  However, this website found my image through Corbis' website.  Corbis is a stock photo agency that has its own collection of images that it licenses to clients.  In turn, Corbis obtained this image from one of my primary stock photo agencies, the very good and well-known Minden Pictures. 

What does this mean to professional photographers?  In the old days, photo researchers would call my office and ask me to submit images for a project, say a Microsoft Encarta CD encyclopedia project.  They'd choose some images (I submitted duplicate transparencies) and my office would bill the Microsoft Encarta folks.  We'd get 100% of the resulting fee (let's say $400).

Now, however, photo researchers go immediately to the big players in the stock photo industry.  My office rarely gets calls from clients like  Instead, looks for shark images on the Corbis website, finds what they want, and they pay perhaps $100 per image (and that is probably far more than what they actually pay -- this is just an example).  So Corbis takes a 50% cut from the sale for use of the image.  The remaining $50, or 50%, is then split between my original agency, Minden Pictures, and me.  I end up with $25, or 25% of the original sale.

Professional wildlife photographers have seen their income drop over the years, from hundreds of $400 sales per year to a few $25 sales per year.  That could be the difference between an income of $100,000 per year to $6250 per year, assuming 250 licenses of images.  Be nice to your local wildlife photographer.   He or she is hurting. 

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