Swamp Dog is often asked “What’s your best selling photograph?” This is honestly an easy question since with photography it appears common, even if you have thousands of great photographs people rave about, just a small handful of images rise to the top as images which appeal to the point they are licensed again and again. (note: I use the term “selling” loosely since photographs are rarely “sold” but, rather, are licensed much like music for TV commercials)
I have exactly three images (only) which fall into this category I thought might be interesting to those of you who are, well, interested… If you’re not familiar with “stock photography,” it is basically pre-existing photography – images I made yesterday or before – which may well have a market beyond the original purpose for which they were originally created, be the original motivation an assignment or just for fun.
(Greeting card © Hallmark Licensing, Inc)
Existing “stock” photographs are often licensed – like a TV commercial licenses a famous tune for a 30 second spot – for various client uses including advertising, websites, brochures and dozens of other scenarios where appropriate photographs are required. Licensing stock photography for your project is a bit like “renting” a photograph for a specified time frame and usage. When a photograph is licensed, specific uses are allowed or not allowed, often based on the fee.
Here at GaryParker.com and at my CatDog website, we’ve made some great stock sales but have preferred to license usage of my photographs ourselves, rather than working through the ever-changing world of worldwide stock photography agencies. Photographers who exclusively focus on stock photography can do extremely well with great talent and in knowing how to get thousands of images placed with stock agencies worldwide. However, doing so can be much like a full time job so photographers who primarily shoot assignments for clients, often lag behind full time stock photographers in stock sales.
The gold picture below is another image which has, surprisingly, proven itself valuable in the world of stock. This liquid gold photograph, one that’s a bit abstract, has literally been published dozens of times, often in surprisingly major ads and other uses.
When you’ve been in the photography business for a while and have made hundreds of photographs you honestly love, the images which rise to the top in stock photography as “best sellers”, so to speak, are sometimes baffling in the sense of “Go figure… Who would have thought THAT picture would be my best seller???” Conversely, photographs you feel represent your absolute best are, quite frequently, never licensed even once.
As part of my ongoing mission in life to convince the world to carry a camera everywhere, it might be worth mentioning the golden/liquid photograph was made after taking my camera with me to the bathroom while doing architectural photography in an amazing mansion. After washing my hands in what appeared to be a very high gold-content metal sink, I noticed water beating up on the golden basin – which looked as if it had been waxed, like a car.
Stock can be a bit puzzling… Always take a camera to the bathroom… You never know…