Selling Images Online Has More Than Monetary Drawbacks

When the internet emerged the stock photo industry was one of the first large industries to embrace the technology and its advantage sales and distribution of digital imagery.

Photographers benefited as well from the global reach an online stock agency could have and that equaled more sales.

The best known and most widely discussed drawback to online sales was the emergence of the one price model based on resolution size over the value of the images usage. It was widely believed that photographers might make less per sale but earn more sales. But there are other drawbacks as well.

10 years ago I tired of ‘pulling’ photo requests and all the labor that went into that task.

Book and calendar submissions felt more like giant photo contests so when my stock agent said they were building a website and heading to online image sales I saw it as a wonderful opportunity.

More reach across the globe, more sales, more income, and less office work for me!  But like everything, there is always a downside.

For me it is the fact I don’t get tear sheets anymore. You know those copies of magazine and book covers, brochure and ad samples featuring your photography.

In the days of direct photographer-to-client business exchanges, we had in our sales contract that the photographer received copies of the images used in print form. If you still sell yourself then there is no problem as long as the client follows through, but for most who moved sales totally online to an agent it is much tougher when you don’t always know who the client was.

My image; lower right.

Online Sales = No Tear sheets

These are for most photographers, critical to their business and their ego. A portfolio or website with a wide variety of tear sheets shows experience and a depth of images as well as the fact the photographer has impressed other clients with their abilities and quality of work.

But for those who have moved their businesses totally online, the tear sheets are gone.

I know my work is being licensed because I get agency royalties so my images are being used and although many are probably web uses, some are being printed.

Today I get print samples from stumbling across them and that is the case here where I stumbled on a book cover containing my image on another photographer’s website.

The Book Cover

I had recently connected online with Arizona adventure and fine art photographer Cheyenne Rouse and as I often do with every photographer I connect with, I check out their website and work to see what they do. I am always seeking great photographers to blog about right here.

As I wandered through her tear sheets I stumbled on a book cover containing her images and one of mine. We had shared a cover with our adventure imagery!

The Title: Babes in The Woods. Yes, that’s right! Amused, I got in touch.

Cheyenne had the cover for years she said and had obtained a sample. For me, I had no clue. My sale had been an online one and I knew nothing about it.

So I went and found the book on Amazon and unfortunately for Cheyenne and I, the book was not on the NYT Bestseller list bringing us both fame and ideally fortune.

But I got my digital tear sheet.

This experience reminded me of some of the drawbacks to online sales. What’s missing is the chance to chat with a client, negotiate a price, and get a tear sheet.

That all important tear sheet that is so elusive for many photographers these days!

Have any ideas, please leave a comment.

Related posts: Establishing a Price Based on The Images Usage

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