My fellow Brazilian friend and London-based architectural/aerial photographer, Joas Souza, has recently launched his own self-hosted stock website – LondonStockPhotos. I’ve taken advantage to ask him a few questions which I trust you’ll find useful if you’re interested on venturing on your own soon. A few years ago, I interviewed Joas for my eBook, which you may find the transcript here.
Going on your own and self-hosting
Not a week goes by without someone asking me what my take is on selling images on your own site. Since it’s not something I’ve ever done, my experience is quite limited, unlike BackyardSilver’s Steve Heap who has has provided a cautionary tale on the subject:
It is the dream of every stock photographer – host your own images on your own site, set the prices you want for the licenses and cut out the ridiculous percentage that agencies take out of the payment. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, quite a lot!
– Steve Heap
Q&A with Joas Souza, Architectural/Aerial Photographer
Thanks Joas for taking part in this interview. I really love your work and you’ve been a mentor to me for a long time. Really awesome that you’ve taken the bold step to self-host and license your images on your own.
The pleasure is all mine, Alexandre and I’m glad that you like my work. I’ve been following your development over the years as a photographer and I’m pretty happy to see how successful you have become in microstock photography, now you are my mentor in this field!
May you please tell us what motivated you to license on your own and not go down the traditional route to license via stock agencies?
I tried quite a few times to use the traditional stock agencies and have a few hundred images on both Alamy and Getty images. However, I stopped uploading images because I’ve got fed up with their submission processes and ridiculous rejections after spending hours describing and keywording every single photo. Many of my shots are from aerials and the technical conditions can be extremely challenging.
To me, uploading to these agencies became a waste of time, plus, they are paying less and less royalties everyday as you often write about in your earnings reports. The value of photography is more and more devalued by the agencies, I wonder how much they will be paying in 10 years time. Probably less than a peanut for an image that was carefully composed, using an expensive equipment, by a full time photographer. It is just depressing.
So, I decided to take my own route, starting my own image bank, being the judge of my own photos and deciding how much they worth, as well as of course keeping all the royalties.
As I’ve been advised by my mentor, fellow-Brazilian photographer Nilton Souza, the stock of photographs that I have and will create along my career are my retirement/pension plans since they should keep selling for years. I just need to keep the files organized and accessible to the public to buy, normally through stock agencies, in my case, I decided to make them available from now on using my own platform.
What is the main concept behind LondonStockPhotos? How many images do you currently have for offer?
The idea behind the London Stock Photos is to become the number one stock photos for those who are looking exclusively for premium images of Greater London in one place, something nonexistent on the market today. I have painstakingly curated images about every aspect of the city, as well as the main post-codes. In addition, buyers may also order a fine art print copy of any image that they wish to hang on a wall for personal use.
I currently have around 9000 images online, the plan is to upload a few hundred new images every week targeting a minimum of 6000 new images per year.
What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of launching your own stock site?
The biggest challenge that I will surely face is to overcome the well established agencies on the market, at least in terms of London imagery. It will be a long race, but I’m confident that my stock will get there, perhaps not in the quantity, but in the number of quality images to offer about London.
I will work extremely hard to reach top-ranking keywords on Google related to my subject-matter.
Where do you host and how much do you pay?
I’m currently hosting at Photodeck, for the amount of space that is required, I’m paying £408.00 + VAT annually. They have quite a few nice templates to start a stock photo, they are a bit limited in terms of customization but enough to start the first step. I personally hired a professional web designer to tweek the chosen template customising it for my needs.
How did you arrive at selling your prices and choosing whether to license Royalty-Free or Rights-Managed?
To be competitive without devaluing the value of my images, I researched the current price charged by all sorts of stock agencies, from the most popular to the premium ones and calculated an average price, towards the premium ones.
I decided to do Royalty-Free to keep things simple and straightforward for buyers compared to Rights-Managed.
How did you draft your own licensing agreement?
The licensing agreement was drafted by the professional that I most trust on this field, the guy who is interviewing me, Alexandre Rotenberg! I knew that I can’t go wrong having him drafting my licensing agreement. The man just doesn’t just take pretty pictures!
Please share your short/medium and long-term goals, including financial, for LondonStockPhotos?
Short-term: Rank well on search engines, side by side with the stock giants, being found is key.
Medium-term: Become a reference in terms of quality London imagery. Also include more postal codes which means going out and venturing looking to capture interesting stories.
Long-term: Eventually have stock income as one of my main sources of income, enough to accomplish the original plan, which is my pension/retirement plan.
How do you hope to generate more traffic and ultimately buyers to your site?
Definitely investing in a strong SEO, running sponsored ads on Instagram and Facebook, also personally contacting the main UK publishers that regularly license London stock photos.
Would you recommend others to self-host?
I would recommend if you are specializing or dedicating your stock to something unique, it can be a city or a specific subject. For a generic portfolio I would not recommend as it would be extremely difficult to compete with the giants, especially on the search engines.
Thanks again, Joas for taking part in this interview. Wish you the best with your sales on your new site! Check out Joas’ blog here.
I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Madrid, Spain (don’t ask me why), on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage, when things go back to normal (September 2021??). I’ve devoted eight years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer (however, had recently go back into full-time office work to make ends meet). Anyway, I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.
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
Thanks Alex and thanks Joas too. Great interview. Really loved Joas your site – clean and elegant., this coming from a web designer is golden, lol.
Great interview, definitely has me wondering about self-hosting/selling myself!
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Great interview! Having tried this several times, I still don’t think it would work for me, but if you are skilled and prolific in a popular niche, and London images are such a niche, then it could work. Good luck!
What I don’t understand is how Joas is able to sell images with no property release and/or model release with no restriction on use? For example I can find images taken in Canary Wharf, of artwork, of trademarks/logos, of buildings, of recognisable people, and yet there appears to be no restriction, even for use on merchandise. They could be sold as editorial, but the ones I looked at did not have this mentioned. Most stock libraries would not accept these images without releases. Or is he just chancing it?
RESTRICTIONS ON USE OF VISUAL CONTENT – YOU MAY NOT:
“Editorial Use Only” for commercial purposes, to promote a product and/or a business service