Um, well, apparently I don't know better than to think of stock today, and I suppose there are at least some pros who would disagree with your outlook. This is simply a different aspect of the business that I am not familiar with. So, I would appreciate it if you would expand on your discontents with stock rather than condemning me...
And inasmuch as there are people who depend on gallery representation and selling prints, I fail to see how that is a diversion from the topic. Your disapproval seems rooted in people affecting your livelihood, is it not?
Sometimes, I feel I speak a different language to other English speakers, this is one such time.
But, to try and accommodate you: gallery and print sales are not stock library photography, which is what your post was about, non?
I was invited, and accepted the invitation to join Britain’s leading stock library, Tony Stone, which was eventually sold to Getty as, I think, their first major step into stock, at something rumoured to be around thirty million quid. During my time with Tony Stone Associates and its later iteration as Tony Stone Worldwide, the split used to be 50-50 between agency and snapper. Today, I think none of the majors offers that, and micro is a zillion times worse. Details are available online, as I’d expect anyone thinking about the business would have checked for themselves.
I gave up on stock even when the split was still 50-50 because of three or four major factors: I used to get most of my models stock material from calendar shoots, where the budget was faced by the calendar clients. The advent of political correctness killed my calendar work. I had some holiday brochure clients ranging from Thomsons to local Scottish tour operators, and there was a decent seasonal return on both holiday atmospherics as well as property shoots for them. Holiday atmospherics were also a source of income from the stock agencies, but I remember the day Tony Stone’s man was on the telephone asking that I submit no more views of the Mediterranean, because all of London was sinking with similar imagery. I finally decided that I had to face the new reality of political correctness and give it one more round on my own money. Well, it took me two years to get the investment
back, never mind even consider profit and loss of interest (yes, banks paid it then!). Around that time, The British Journal of Photography (certainly then a very respected pro publication) ran an article on the Image Bank, where they proudly claimed to have 36,000 transparencies of the Eiffel Tower. Imagine being the cat supplying tranny number 36,001.
I moved to a Spanish-based agency for a while, and in the first year they managed to bring me about twelve quid for a shot of a resort. The owner’s advice, when he came to Mallorca and we met so he could look at my stuff, was that the secret of success with stock is to do everything as cheaply as possible. That obviously included prices for work used, I later discovered. That was when I decided that it made more sense to go cruising with friends and let photography slide into memory. At about the same time, I received a call (whist moored off Formentor with one such mate, which I thought was a delightful coincidence) from a chap I’d known over the years who ran a design agency in Glasgow. He wanted me to shoot a fashion catalogue for one of his Scottish knitwear clients out here, in Mallorca. We later negotiated a price, and I agreed to put him up in my home and find a hotel for his client and the models. Just a few days later, I was told that he, my old connection, wasn’t now beng allowed on the trip, but that the client would take his place in my home. I ended the negotiation at that point.
In my view, and I hope it answers your question clearly and cleanly and, above all, honestly, stock used to be a very good business in which to dip the toes. At pennies per sale today, I think it madness for anyone other than the hobbyist with an ego problem.