Photographers may feel that they have a good stock of high-quality images, but that is a long way from getting them published. Earning money from images and image libraries is undoubtedly hard work but can also be very rewarding. Perhaps the most important starting point is to identify a market that suits the subjects you photograph, and the style of work that you prefer to do. Doing what you enjoy is the surest way of maximizing the quality of your work.
Photographers who specialize in a particular field, such as landscape, portraiture or wildlife, are generally more successful. They tend to become experts in their fields quicker than those whose work is broader-based. Their work is also more likely to be recognized if they continuously submit material of a similar nature. Most image libraries also specialize in particular fields, so it is important to ensure that you approach an appropriate organization.
Stock image libraries are very competitive, and are all looking to maximize their share of particular markets. Competition among photographers is also intense and libraries inevitably only accept work from those who offer top-quality images. They may expect to see a submission of several hundred images to assess the quality of a photographer's work before accepting material. Once accepted, the library will normally expect regular submissions of new work.
Image libraries do not normally sell images to clients outright. The images remain the property of the photographer but are leased to customers for a specific application or period of time. Consequently, a single image may attract many sales over a long period. Royalties are generally high, with a library typically taking 50% of the fee paid. However, the library also bears all the overheads, marketing expenses and other responsibilities.
It is also possible for a photographers to establish their own image libraries. The internet has made this much easier in recent years because it enables individuals to market their work successfully. Anyone setting up their own web-based library must nevertheless decide whether to market only their own images, or to a incorporate the work of other photographers. As the scope of a library increases, so inevitably does the amount of administration and paperwork. The work of other photographers may become your responsibility, so it is important to draw up proper contracts with all contributors and customers, chase late returns and organize proper accounts. The loss or damage of images is a significant consideration, as compensation for a single image may be in the region of £500.