AfterCapture Stock Report

by Jessica Gordon

April 01, 2012 — What are creatives’ most-sought-after photos and where are they buying them? We have your stock questions covered, as three creatives from different fields discuss where they’re shopping, what they’re looking for, and what you can shoot to sell today.

Laura Wyss
Photo Researcher
Wyssphoto, Inc.


AfterCapture: What’s your role in art purchasing?
Laura Wyss: I do photo research for clients who are book jacket designers; they’ll come to me with an idea—which is sometimes really specific or sometimes more general—and I gather as many images as I can to fit their description. I’ve done so many book covers, I know what’s going to work and they make the ultimate decision.

AC: What are the primary stock agencies you use?
LW: I try not to pick favorites; I give each agency an equal chance. However, certain collections work better for book covers. [The books I do research for] are all areas of fiction and non-fiction so I need a huge range of agencies. If the book is specifically about a historical topic, or sports, for example, I’ll go to specialty sources in those categories.  For fiction I lean toward the creative, smaller RM boutique agencies like Trevillion, Arcangel, Wildcard and Plain Picture out of Europe. And in New York, WIN-Initiative and Glasshouse are really cool. I use a lot of the big agencies too, but these are fun for fiction.

AC: How often are you making purchases and at what quantity?
LW: A couple of times of week at least; this week, I bought 120 images, but some weeks, it’s just 5 or 10. For a book cover, it’s usually one to three images total.

AC: How often are you buying stock due to timing issues versus budget restraints?  
LW:
I’m not in the position to commission photos—the art directors will do it themselves, but they’ll often call me first, see what I can find in stock, and if the solution isn’t found, they’ll take the next step to commission the photographer. They usually come to me because of budget in the first place—it’s cheaper than commissioning a photo. The budget is not a big deal, it’s more about finding the right image. The decision is based on the content far more than budget or timing issues.

AC: How much do you typically spend on a single image?
LW:
I usually quote a range of $700 to $1,200, but it can be more depending on the print run. The biggest sale I ever did was $10,000 for a Nicholas Sparks cover. Some of the publishers will do big books with a huge print run with a budget up to $5,000, but I usually quote a ballpark figure of $1,000, and we work from there.

AC: What types of images are you most-often looking for?
LW:
For fiction, there are two popular directions that I search for.  For thrillers and mysteries, art directors often use the words “dark and moody,” with a shadowy figure running in the woods, or a dark alley. I’m always telling photographers, ‘Go get a man and a woman at night in a dark alley, and shoot variations of him running after her, her running after him, etc.’

For women’s fiction, and they usually want a woman from behind, with a specific detail, like her hair in a bun, or something that suggests a certain era.  You can’t be too generic or too specific. Bound South (below) is a great example: the shoes [in the photo] were white, and the art director added red bows. It’s that kind of detail—light-hearted, pretty and colorful—that’s perfect for women’s fiction. Also, you don’t want to see the face.

For nonfiction, it has to be accurate, and if it’s history, it has to be specific. For authorized biographies of famous people, you want high-caliber portraits. With those, they’ll often end up commissioning the shoot, but if they want to show the person in their prime, they might want something older. For Bruce Springsteen’s biography, some of the old shots of when he was young are amazing and classic, and totally worth using.

AC: What types of images do you need that you have trouble finding a variety of?
LW:
Those beautiful, mysterious moody shots are not as readily available, so that’s what I’m digging for, particularly of multicultural subjects and in specific geographic locations. If it’s Paris, of course we’re going to find a scene, but if it’s a really specific location—like Cambridge University in England—it’s hard to find something moody. I always encourage travel photographers when they’re traveling and get a rainy day, go shoot for me! That’s the stuff I need.

AC: What are you sick of seeing, photo-wise?
LW:
I keep getting requests for two women—grown sisters or best friends—and what I always find is images of them sitting around having coffee, or standing around a kitchen, fake-cooking with wine glasses. I’m never going to use those. What I need is the poetic shot, but what I get are contrived poses from the front with fake smiles. No one in real life does that.

AC: Would you ever purchase a stock image directly from a photographer?
LW:
I do as often as I can; I have an e-mail list and send requests to photographers that I’ve met at portfolio reviews or that have been recommended to me. I encourage photographers to send me images because while a lot are represented by stock agencies, for instance, one photographer was telling me that she showed 150 images to an agency that only chose five. I want to see the others. Art directors are also really happy to use a new photographer who hasn’t been published before on a book cover because they feel like they’re discovering someone new.

AC: Do you use photography vs. art for certain titles?
LW:
Sometimes it’s history and historical photography, paintings or illustrations. I do work with the Art Archive, Art Resource, Bridgeman and AKG, which are really good for stuff like that.

AC: What’s been your experience with large agencies vs. small agencies?
LW:
It doesn’t matter in the end of it’s a big or small agency, I try to know everyone so we can have a relationship working together. I’m on the board of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP), so I work to build a personal relationship with people there, and also at the Visual Connections trade show. I reserve the whole day, go to every booth and say hi to everyone I work with. It’s important to meet face to face sometimes, especially in a day and age when everything is done via e-mail. If a difficult situation arises, it makes it so much easier to have that personal connection.

Kay Murphy
Assistant Art Buyer
Ogilvy & Mather


AC: What are the primary stock agencies you use?
Kay Murphy:
Getty Images, SuperStock, Corbis, Veer, Shutte Stock, Masterfile and Alamy.  Getty seems to be the most popular with the creatives, and it also helps that we have a nice discount set up with them.

AC: What types of campaigns/products do you typically purchase for?
KM:
Technology, freight and packaged goods for companies like Kimberly Clark (Huggies), American Family Insurance and SC Johnson (Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles, Glade, Off).

AC: How often are you making purchases and at what quantity?
KM:
I purchase images daily—it just depends on the needs of each individual client.

AC: How often are you buying stock due to timing issues versus budget restraints?  
KM:
I would say it’s equally divided. With quick turnaround, you have to buy stock.

AC: How much do you typically spend on a single image?  
KM:
Usually $225 for royalty-free; rights-managed images can cost anywhere from $600 to $12,000.

AC: What types of images are you most-often looking for?  
KM:
Lifestyle; For Huggies swimmers diapers, for example, we’re looking for kids in pools. For Glade, it may be a family shot in a living room; it just depends on the sorts of campaigns.

AC: What types of images do you need that you have trouble finding a variety of?
KM:
Documentary style; creatives often pick out editorial images that can’t be purchased and/or guaranteed. It’s a hassle to get the image guarantee, more costly and sometimes not available at all (because they weren’t made for our purposes, they were made for newspapers). For UPS, for example, the creatives picked an image of the Olympic Stadium in London, so we had to get permission from the stadium, and go through several hoops before we could use the image.

AC: Would you ever purchase a stock image directly from a photographer?  
KM:
Yes, we’ve done that in the past. We needed a birthday shot for SC Johnson, and someone in the office had see an image in a photographer’s portfolio. We ended up contacting the photographer, downloading the image and paying the photographer directly.

AC: What’s been your experience with large agencies vs. small agencies?
KM:
It seems the larger agencies are more willing to discount their prices. I don’t really work with that many small agencies. Getty, Corbis, Veer, iStock—we have a good connection with those people.

Sarah Sebastiano
Photo Editor Parents magazine


AC: What’s your role in the purchasing of art?
Sarah Sebastiano:
I, along with other photo editors, pull research from stock and photo Web sites, and submit them to our photo director. The art and photo departments collaborate on choices for a particular layout. For my own stories, I have a strong opinion, but ultimately it’s about choosing an image that looks best for the entire book

AC: What are the primary stock agencies you use?
SS:
Getty is No. 1 for sure, and iStock is a really good resource—they have so much quantity, from silo’d images to clean environment shots. Scope Features is one of my top go-tos, and Corbis, certainly. My new favorite is Weestock. We constantly scour promos that we are sent.

AC: How often are you making purchases and at what quantity?
SS:
In addition to buying images monthly, we have tablet editions that close after the print, so it’s a constant rolling purchase. Often for a story, we’ll pull stock first or try to research photos if we are unsure about whether to commission it. Sometimes you find everything you need in stock, it’s beautiful and you don’t need to go any further.

AC: How often are you buying stock due to timing issues versus budget restraints?
SS:
At least 10 to 20 percent of the book is considered stock because of budget and timing. Once we see what’s out there, we then make the decision. Is it worth the time and money to shoot it, or is what we’re looking for something that can be adjusted in our perception and found in stock?

AC: How much do you typically spend on a single image?
SS:
For a full page, 8.5 x 11 image, we’ll spend $600 to $800, but it depends on the stock agency or photographer. Also, if it’s something we’ve already purchased, or if it’s royalty-free versus rights-managed, that will change the price.

AC: What types of images are you most-often looking for?
SS:
A captured moment—that’s a big part of our redesign. For instance, scenes you come across as a parent: kids drawing on the walls, kids falling asleep at their high chair, or moms having a moment with their child of all ages. We really focus on the parent-children connections.

AC: What types of images do you need that you have trouble finding a variety of?
SS:
The ‘found’ moment; we sift a lot for that. Also, the hardest thing for me to find is obtainable beauty. The second hardest are images of children in safe environments; it’s really difficult to find a baby in a nursery without all kind of hazards. Also, food that’s appetizing in the children’s realm—last month we were looking for an image of child simply sipping out of a sippy straw, and you end up scratching your head saying ‘why is this so complicated?’

AC: What are you sick of seeing, photo-wise?
SS:
I’m tired of seeing bizarre scenes that make no sense or have nothing to do with my key word. Broad key words, especially ‘nursing’ and ‘breast feeding’ bring up scary naked women in weird rooms. I would say also that neutral white studios, with people wearing white or pale neutral fabrics is something I’m so sick of seeing. White on white is not real.

AC: Would you ever purchase a stock image directly from a photographer?
SS:
Absolutely, we love doing that; it’s one of our favorite ways to go about it. Every 10 minutes, I get e-mail blasts from photographers, and it’s great to come into work and quickly look at those. We did a redesign launch in February, so we’re always looking at promos and links, which are easy to click on. We also have a fantastic roster of photographers we know who will dig into their archives; Alexandra Grablewski, Lucy Schaeffer and Buff Strickland are great examples. We’ll call up and ask if they have this or that, and if they don’t, they may say, ‘no, but we’ll shoot it.’

AC: What sections of the magazine do you typically purchase for?
SS:
We’re very lifestyle-oriented, so beauty, home, living outside, winter, health and money.

AC: What’s been your experience with large agencies vs. small agencies?
SS:
The larger agencies are wonderful to be able to ask them, ‘we have this story, do you have anything you can send us?’ Sometimes they’ll send you things you didn’t know you wanted that work great, which is really nice. And large agencies sometimes have the whole series so you can use three to four images and get a feature out of it. Plus, they usually have easier downloading and billing. Small agencies are great when you can e-mail one person, and they know everything that they have and they’ll tell you straight if they do or don’t, or they are open to shooting something for you. Smaller agencies can also be really personable; when Photoshelter was a stock agency, for instance, they came to the magazine, showed us their books and it was really nice—we did everything we could to use them.

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