One of the keys to negotiation – image uniqueness.
When I first wrote fotoQuote in the early 90’s word was that stock was dead. There were a lot of changes happening in the photo industry as things shifted to digital. No one knew what the future held and photographers and agencies were in a state of shocked panic. Prices tumbled as suppliers decided that somehow images had less value. There was a belief that the “good old days” of stock were over, and no one knew what lay ahead. Digital delivery was going to change everything. In many ways it did. A golden age of stock was just starting.
Now I have a feeling of deja vu. Things are changing, rapidly, and no one knows exactly what is happening, although the trend towards online is obvious.
There is pressure on photographers to work for less than their cost of doing business – a lot of pressure not to negotiate prices. But that in itself is a negotiation.
Business will continue to be done. Profits will be made. Companies will need to stand out. Images will be at the center of this commerce.
I feel that images have been less important lately because so many companies are:
- not doing much business because of the economy or
- they don’t have a clue where they are heading.
Someone will light the way for them, and others will follow, and then they will need to start standing apart again. As magazines and advertisers sort out their new business models their need for images that will set them apart from their competitors will become more important.
In today’s world of the mega-agency, of online automated stock pricing, of microstock and other image sources it might appear negotiation is no longer an option. But, trust me, negotiation is not dead!
Image UniquenessThe same rules and factors apply that have always been around. Good old supply and demand, and image uniqueness.
Demand is actually higher than in the print-only days, but so is supply. If you are trying to license images that can easily be found on the web from dozens of other sources your negotiation options will be limited at best.
This has always been the case though; the postcard shots of the exotic locations that all photographers wanted to visit were rarely big money-makers. Add all the amateur, auto everything shots that are available today of the same subjects, and the supply becomes enormous. There is a statistic that 5,000 photos are uploaded to Flickr each minute, and I’m told that Getty has a full-time staff sorting through all of these images. It makes it difficult to get paid well for these popular, over-shot subjects.
Your unique photograph is where you will have your strongest negotiating position. But the same photograph can be unique for one sale and be just one of the crowd for another. You need to know the difference and charge accordingly.
In stock photography, the word unique does not describe your photograph as much as it describes the way your photography is being used in any given project.
Clients use your stock photographs to add value to their products. It’s that simple. Your job in negotiating a price is to convince the buyer that your image will add enough value to their product to be worth what you are charging.
Learning to judge the uniqueness of your image is one of the most important and difficult skills you must acquire to compete as a stock photographer. It is an important skill because the amount of money you make is tied directly to your ability to understand your client’s needs.
The Coach section in fotoQuote is loaded with information that will help you know what questions to ask to gauge your image’s uniqueness.
Whether your image is one that is common or highly specialized, a key factor in making the buyer aware of your image is good quality keywording. It doesn’t matter how perfect a fit your image may be for the buyer’s needs, if they can’t find it, you can’t license it.
Developing your negotiating skills and making sure that your images include words and phrases that result in your images being found are two very important ways that you can positively impact your bottom line.