Stock Photography and the Timeless Image
I came up with what I thought was a great idea, a kind of positive spin on the old half-full, half
empty glass theme. My idea was for stock illustrations of a hand holding up a glass with a
rainbow in the background creating the illusion that the rainbow was pouring into the glass. A
timeless concept stock illustrations success, optimism, positive thinking, and the way forward.
First I put the image up on Getty. They readily accepted it into their Stone collection. Good start.
I waited for the checks to start rolling in. But nothing happened. I waited six months and finally a
sale! My share came out to $80.00. Then, after only a short nine months later, I got another sale,
this one was for the sum of $63.00.
In the nineteen years that I have been seriously producing stock I have learned, if nothing else,
that I can’t really predict what images will be the best sellers. I do know that of my concept
images only bare a handful has failed to sell to at least some extent.
Another thing I have learned is that images can be very cyclical. I have had a number of stock
illustrations fail to sell, literally for years, then all of a sudden, take off. I have images that take
off right out of the gate earning royalties like crazy, only to tail off and even eventually stop all
together. Then, sometimes they will come on again. You just never know what is going to
With this particular image of the rainbow/glass things did bump up a bit in 2007. The total
royalties for that year came to $374.60. Then in 2008 the royalties came to $1,818.18. Half way
through 2009 the image has earned $871.29. The total to date is now $3,207.07. This is getting
awfully close to being a decent selling stock image. It certainly means the afternoon I spent
making the image was well spent. The image may never be a best selling stock photo, but there
really isn’t anything to date the image, so it should continue earning, perhaps sporadically and
maybe not in huge quantities, but earning nonetheless.
I have come to the conclusion that you have to give an RM image, at least my favorite kind,
timeless conceptual ones, five years before deciding whether or not the image is successful. Sure,
some you know about right away, but my whole stock strategy is based around creating images
that will provide income for a long period time, preferably forever. Despite all the changes that
our industry is undergoing, I still see a comfortably long life-span with most of my older images.
My best three selling images last month with Getty were all created over five years ago.