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Stock Photography

Lesson 16 from: Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Norah Levine

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Lesson Info

16. Stock Photography

Lesson Info

Stock Photography

We were driving back from Houston and I saw one of my images on a billboard, that was pretty cool. (audience laughs) I do stock photography. I work with an agency and it gives me the choice to do it, I choose to do it because it gives me some creative freedom, and I prioritize working with pets for the stock photography, and these images are created on "Spec", so meaning I'm creating them and then I'm gonna see if someone wants them, so the budget is on me, and the time investment, everything just happens upfront, and then we see if it sells. I see it as an opportunity to portfolio build, so it's a great way, where I can, define opportunities to get as much reach with one thing as possible. So, okay, I'm shooting for my portfolio, but I'm also maybe gonna get some money for it, and help with the income part, so that's why I choose to do it. Most of the time I do not get stock releases for imagery for stock for my clients right away. It just doesn't sit right with me be like, "Here, you...

just paid me to do this, and now you sign this so I can make some more money." Because they think I'm making tons of money, and it just feels like I'm taking advantage. I will sometimes later, if I've developed a relationship with the client, after the ordering process is over and it's kind of separate, I may ask for a release later for clients that I feel comfortable doing that, but I don't make everybody sign a release saying that I can use their images for stock work. I mean, that would be great but I just don't feel like it's a good way to do business. My goal with the stock imagery is to create images that are timeless. We'll just back up with stock photography. It's basically creating images that are put into a library, if you're not familiar with it. It puts images into a library, and there's lots of different agencies, and those images get licensed for mostly commercial work, and sometimes educational purposes, and those images can get redistributed to other agencies, and people find them and buy them, and then I get a percentage of that. I work with an editor to do that. Did you have a question? I think this is a topic that a lot of people are interested in. From Tidia Parker, how do you find a stock agency? How do they actually agree to work with you? The way I got started was that I worked with a smaller agency. I applied to it, you apply. You can look on their websites and see how you can become a contributor. They lay out the process there, so you can apply. Originally I worked with an agency called Jupiter Images that was bought out by Getty, so I kind of got into Getty that way. The industry has changed dramatically since it's heydays in the 90's. It used to be like, you were a stock photographer, you could make a full living on stock photography, and it was just a bigger, a different industry all together. Just explore the websites and find out how you can become a contributor that way. And then the other agency that I work with now, which is, actually I don't directly submit to Getty anymore, but I submit through another agency called Mint Images, and they reached out to me to work with them. I think that's again one of those things where it was saying yes to things and building relationships, and things have shown up opportunity-wise. Yes ma'am? I was contacted by Getty Images recently, about my cat images, and I know it was through my website, and I had held back from it under somebody's recommendation because they said something about people being able to modify images and I'm really unclear on what the usage is and all that kind of stuff. Yeah. That's the stuff that I'm not clear on in terms of stock photography. Right, yeah, when people buy your images, when companies buy your images, they have the right to crop and adjust, and do what they want to those images, and I can see how that would be a little bit uncomfortable, and I'm not saying it's perfect for everyone, you know? For me, the images that I'm creating are happy, positive images, and so the changes that they make, I'm not worried about them shifting it into something else. I think if you work with reputable companies, they've been around for a long time. In terms of their support to you, it's there. It's a big... Getty's a huge agency, right? So, there's less and less direct contact with people, and it's become a little more automated, so you have to decide if it's the right thing for you, because there is a loss of control there that you have to be okay with. For me, the pluses have to outweigh the minuses, and for me the pluses are opportunity to have a different call to action for me to create images for my portfolio, and also get to work with some different people that I wouldn't necessarily otherwise work with. I've even had friends where I was like, "I really wanna be friends with her. "Maybe we could do a photo shoot." It's kinda fun! Make something happen and see where it goes, but it's definitely something that you have to consider your comfort level. Thank you. When you have the intention of shooting a pet photograph for a stock agency, do you need to get a property release for the animal? Yes, you have to have property releases for animals, you have to have property releases for locations that are identifiable, and you have to have model releases for any people, and that even includes if you can't see their faces, so you have to consider all of those things, and we'll talk a little bit more about what's involved there, but yes, you do have to get releases from everybody. I set up specific shoots for stock, and so that's the acknowledgement, it's like, "Hey, this is what we're doing. "Here's the deal, do you wanna be part of this?" And then I usually trade for images, so that's how I can keep my budget down and give them something that they value too. Yeah, the release thing's kind of a bugger, but you have to do that. You can't have logos and there's a lot to think about, so in addition to all the fun stuff with animals and people you're also thinking about logos as well, and all the legal stuff. What I'm thinking about when I'm shooting stock photography is making sure that there's white space, space for type, so that's something that I'm thinking about in my head as I'm doing it, as well as really the stock... It's changed. There is still some super cheesy stuff out there where it feels forced and so my goal with the stock imagery, I almost treat it like a regular portrait session with the goal in mind of it being real moments, right? Because that's really what's gonna resonate with people anyway, so we're selling a concept, and an idea, and a feeling, rather than we're selling this cup. It's just the concept and the feeling that it gives you. It's an interesting way to approach things. These are just some images that I've done for that. We touched a little bit on that. I work with real people. I don't hire models. I don't hire trained animals. That could get really expensive really quickly. I know photographers that do that. They invest a lot of money in sessions, but they might work more directly with an editor, or have a different, not a guarantee, but they invest the money because they know it's gonna come back to them, and they have a different experience. But for me, I want to keep it pretty low key. I like the experience of not having to please a client. It's kind of refreshing in that way, so I feel like it gives me more energy for when I come back to working with clients, and I get to experiment a little bit more as well. Like I said, I trade for images, and I've done some model calls, so I'll put postcards out or things online and say I'm doing a model call here, and people can apply, and if something aligns and is appropriate for the project I will contact you, because I was stressed about saying no to people, so try to word it that way, and let them know ahead of time that they're gonna be signing model releases. I love working with people I know. This was my neighbor across the street and their dog. Stock photography and licensing options in general is that when I work with commercial clients there's a licensing component which basically means they're gonna pay you to use your images for commercial use. You may get requests if you have a website and images on there for some people wanting to use it for maybe a vet clinic or something like that, so there's definitely an opportunity to generate income from licensing your images. You can do that on your own, but through an agency they have a bigger market. They have a bigger reach to people that are interested in buying stock images and licensing, but the flip side to that is you don't get as big of a percentage of the income. If you have a way to directly license your work, I think you can make some more money that way. There's also, this is another stock image, greeting card companies, calendars, directly to the company themselves, so you can look on the back of greeting cards that you like. Look at calendars that you like and look on the back, and go to the website and all of them have submission information that you can submit to and send your portfolio. They'll have guidelines and go after that if you're interested in checking that out. It's fun to see your work published and on a billboard. It's kind of nice. I don't always know where my stock images go, so when it comes to the types of licenses they have of royalty free, and a rights managed, and the royalty free, I don't get access to the client, because then I would probably go to that client directly so they keep that to themselves, which I understand completely. The challenge for me is finding models, finding locations, and the time that it takes to find the right locations and the model and the location combination, so somebody with an animal specifically might have a really great animal and then they're not interested in modeling. I want to try to put people together that have a real relationship because that's when I'm gonna get real authentic moments. I don't feel like I can put a model together with somebody's random dog, put them together and have them really have a good sense of authentic connection. Also, just more computer time. Time it takes to connect with people, the models, that's kind of a downside for me, is that. Your images are also locked so you're committed. You can't re-license your images to other companies while your images are within an agency, so there are some limitations there to consider, and that's something that's come up for me here and there, but I feel like the benefits have outweighed the negatives.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Norah Levine Book Coupon Code
Norah Levine Resource Guide
Pet Packing List
Pre Shoot Questionnaire

Ratings and Reviews


Norah is really great and I learned a lot watching her. Even non-pet related things, like how she's continually trying to better herself were really inspiring to me. Since watching this, I've learned to take every shoot as a learning opportunity by evaluating what went right and what didn't, and thinking of what I can do next time to do better. I liked the way she showed interacting with animals in a way that doesn't stress them (well, depending on the animal there may be some level of stress anyway I guess...) too. Great class.

Chelsea Beauchamp

So inspiring! Great information on both family pet photography as a craft as well as the business side. Norah obviously knows what she's doing and has tons of experience, so it's a good chance to hear/see what it's really like to take this on as a specialty whether it's the focus of your work or one of many parts of your work. She focuses not just on the mechanics, but on the personal side of working with people and animals. You can tell she's passionate about what she does, too. It's only been one day of class and I already feel totally inspired!

Student Work