After a relatively busy period of traveling and shooting, I’m taking a small breather to introspect how far I’ve come and how much further I intend to go. This means doing an obligatory audit of how my images are performing at some of the more specialist agencies I submit to, notably Robert Harding.
This audit comes at the back of receiving my Robert Harding quarterly sales report, which to put it gently, has been disappointing. Since I have no control over market forces, the next best strategy is to see how I can improve my own portfolio to attract buyers, while constantly diversifying into footage, fine art, travel writing, etc.
I’ve sent almost identical queries requesting tips to improve sales to REX Features and Arcangel and pending replies.
Benefits to contributing to Midstock vs Microstock
One of the major benefits to the submitting to the more specialist/boutique agencies, I find, is that, as a contributor, you can have a more direct business relationship with both the picture editor and sales team. As you’ll see in this exchange it means notifying select clients about your images via a Lightbox.
At Microstock level, my experience upon inquiring into poor sales has been poorly-written replies by someone in India directing me to a five-year old blog post on “how to increase sales in 2013”. Further inquiries means further links ad nauseum. It’s like customer service at one of the budget airliners vs traditional airliners.
Luke Nester, Account Manager at Robert Harding
I appreciate straight answers to straight questions, so today I had a pleasant and informative exchange with Luke Nester, Account Manager at Robert Harding.
Luke has kindly consented to allowing me to publish the short exchange. I trust it will useful be for you as well if you’re looking to increase sales, regardless of which agencies you contribute.
Alex: …What can I do to increase sales?…
Luke: …Some tips for boosting sales:1. Keep shooting! send us the images I know you have 346 images but the more you have with us, the better your chances of making sales.2. Take a look at our top earning photographers. Gavin Hellier and Neil Emmerson. These guys have around 5000 images on our site each. Really iconic Travel and Nature shots.In the meantime I’ll put together a lightbox of your work and send it out to a selection of our travel clients, hopefully this will boost your exposure…
Alex: …If I could ask for even more specific feedback would be, if you could point out 3 images on my port which would be standout images that you would regard as the most commercially interesting for the clients you speak to on a daily basis. This would help me to focus my energies. In addition, during the past 6 months, which European cities/countries appear to be more in-demand for content. As you can see on my port I have traveled quite extensively throughout Italy, southern France, Spain and now Portugal.Also, how often do clients buy directly from RH within the first 6 months before the content is distributed to Partners?
Luke: …It’s important to state that photography can be very subjective. What I like and think will sell may be different to the editor. I think your 3 best images are 1243-303 1243-320 and 1243-137. I also like 1243-129 [See below I have inserted them in that order]
These images tell a story, often something is happening in the shot. The first image in the list has space for copy (text in magazines/advertising etc…)
In terms of location that’s really up to you. The classic holiday destinations are great, however clients are always looking for something different. For example, there are millions of images of Paris but clients search for a side of Paris has never seen before or a Landmark from a different perspective.
I think what Gavin and Neil do really well (aside from taking technically great photos) is show variety in their work. Close ups, people, landmarks, beautiful vistas, animals, top down shots, always with great colour and lighting.
It’s all about standing out from the crowd. To summarise I’d advise any photographer trying to make money from stock to shoot something no one has shot before, shoot it differently or shoot it better.
I hope this helps and isn’t too vague.In terms of clients buying images we we make sales of images everyday,
whether that be online or via long term relationships. There is no way to
predict what will get sold or how much. All i can do is contact potential
picture buyers and introduce your work.
From 346 Images to 5,000 Images
From the exchange above, it’s clear that to make regular sales anywhere I’ll/you’ll need both quality and quantity in that order.
That’s the harsh reality and challenge I’m facing…on how to increase my portfolio 10x to become a big player without sacrificing quality (mediocre won’t get through anyway). Even though I have come very far, I still have a real long ways…this isn’t just a marathon, it’s an IRONMAN!
Challenge accepted, even if it will take me 5 years at least. Even if it takes me 10 years I refuse to work for someone else.
Bench-marking my work
Another reality check has been to see “top-earning” contributors’ work and aiming for that sort of level of quality and quantity. While at the same time, seeking a “different perspective and storytelling” to reiterate what Luke has kindly advised.
I have tried different perspectives with various levels of success. My latest has been shooting with the ultra-wide angle 10mm lens – see blog post here on this experiment.
Special thanks to Elijah Lovkoff
I accept my limitations and am fortunate to be surrounded by really great professionals that give me crucial advice when needed. Theo is a crazy Greek guy who’s really helping me with my video work…I receive a daily reminder from him to shoot in 4K, yea yea yea I know…soon!
Another person who’s helped me a lot is Elijah, who runs a website consulting business. He’s been giving me tips on everything to do with the brutally honest blog and perhaps you’ve seen a few changes here and there. I highly recommend his services as a web-designer to help you build your online portfolios/blog/website. He’s also a photographer and has some cool perspectives of Toronto…you can see his Shutterstock portfolio here.
Well I’ve discovered a cool free tool to generate some analytics for iStock/Getty earnings. I’ll publish it just after the next report comes out in 2 weeks so you can take full advantage of it…stay tuned!
About Robert Harding
Robertharding was founded in 1972 and is the largest independent global supplier of quality travel and nature images. Our collection covers subjects such as destinations, travel & tourism, people, cultures, wildlife, nature, landscapes, archaeology, architecture and the environment.
I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted five years to making it as a travel photographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.
I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography
Check out my new photo review service, where I’ll help take your images to the next level and get them sold regularly!
This is a rare opportunity we get an official answer from someone within an agency. I only hope we the rest exclusive contributors also get this personalised feedback that we seek in order to improve our sales. No one ever guaranteed sales but a point to the right direction is always welcome. It is something that you expect to happen at this level of contribution, when you feel you are giving the best of your work to an exclusive contract that lasts for years.
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I have been submitting to RH for several months maybe close to a year. I have 100+ images there, but I haven’t got a single sale yet. I like the submission process, and the approval rate is fine (~80%). But it is really unclear about the return per image per month. It would be very helpful to get some earning information from their top contributors so we can know if it is worth continuing sending pictures there (since it is exclusive). I don’t see the numbers from this post, could you provide any idea on your RPI? Btw, here is my port on RH https://www.robertharding.com/jiahe/
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Hi Jia He,
I’ve checked out your portfolio at RH and you have some great stuff! I can see you’ve traveled extensively throughout Australia, China and even to Vancouver.
I prefer not to go into detail on my returns per image because staff at RH are probably reading this but I’ll say that it’s quite superior to micros but when considering the exclusivity part, it’s been borderline interesting for me. I’ve had about 40 sales via RH in just under 2 years.
As for the top earners’ earnings, I didn’t even ask because no way they’ll tell me! 🙂 Certainly higher than the standard $1 RPI/year at micros. Probably closer to $4/5 imo.
I do like RH’s business model and they have an extensive Partner network so willing to stick with them for the longer-run. Not sure about getting to 5k images like those superstars but at least 1k then I can reassess.
All the best
Thanks for the reply Alex. For now I am trying to steer away from micro images as the RPD is disappointing. Stock footage + macro images may be the way to go. Anyway, you have a great site showing your stock journey and I will be following along. Best luck!
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If you don’t mind me asking, what do you do with your non-similar RH rejects? Alamy? Micros can bring up some surprises here and there…and even at my 74cents per download at SS, it does add up.
Stock footage is indeed the way to go!
Thanks for following my journey. As you have probably gathered by now it’s all quite experimentational but I think I’m getting more right than wrong and enjoying the adventure.
Best of luck to you too!
There are another two macros I started to experiment with. All the leftovers go to alamy/micro when I get spare time. RH does have video too, but it also requires exclusivity. Before knowing how good it is I will stick with my current sites.
Hi Jia He,
Luke here! Send an email into email@example.com and we can have a quick chat about how I can help you going forward.
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I joined RH about 18 months ago and got 400 images accepted. Being image exclusive it was a risk given them first choice of my best images.
I never got any sales reported until a little over 3 months ago. I don’t know if that is typical or not but mine were all for small amounts, so the total £ earned was pretty disappointing. My last quarterly statement had 8 sales.
I am also having trouble getting paid. Is there a dedicated email address I can send my invoice to?
Yes, sales on there take a while and can be for small amounts, frustratingly…but i have received for relatively higher amounts to. Going exclusive anywhere is always a risk.
Have you had any direct sales from RH?
One reason for the small amounts must be because they are distributor sales. If Getty pays only 20% and then RH pay 30% of what’s left, you need a very large sale to start with for there to be much left after the two agents have had their feed.
I believe I had 1 direct sale.
Yes, that’s the main reason for small amounts…If there’s a $10 sale at Alamy then $5 net to RH and only $1.50 to contributors. Getty is even lower. One of the benefits of RH is their higher placements and connections at premium image banks such as Adobe Premium and Getty, but it’s still a gamble.
HI, Ian planning to start a submission with RH. But I have a concern regarding tax form. Although my main address is in France, I am permanently travelling through Asia for ten years now and do not have any tax number or so to provide. Is it mandatory to provide a tax ID in order to receive any payment in the future ? Thank you
You will have to contact RH support with this query as I can’t answer. Best of luck with your sales and travel
Hello Alexandre, nice post. Looking at your portfolio at RH I see that only one hundred of images are in collection, not 360, and not finding the camel in Dubai beach. As I see RH ask for esclusivity and the camel is elsewhere. Are something that I miss from the time you write this article and today, one year after? Maybe you change exlusivity on some images? Thank you
Here’s a link to my full port:
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Thank you, so you continue with RH, nice to know that. Another question: Looking various portfolios, I noticed a common appearance of oversaturated image, in a way too much similar between various artists. Do you know if RH are postproducing images, or adapting their website appearance on a more impacting base?
It’s what they seem to accept. They reject on average 80% of my images and prefer this over-saturated look. I don’t believe they are postproducing.