It astonishes me that more photographers do not sell their own stock photos, or at least attempt to. With today’s technology, it is actually very simple to set up. There are services – such as Photodeck and Lattice – where you can showcase your photos, set your pricing, and keep most of the profit (or in the case of Photodeck, 100% of it).
Yes, there is a service fee for this. It’s only fair when you consider the services provided. But if, for example, you’re using Rights Ready or Rights Managed pricing for commercial licensing, then quite frankly, this shouldn’t be a concern.
Also, I really think it’s a good idea to offer your clients a good private and personalized experience. On Photodeck, you can set up private client areas where they can see proofs or final photos and clients can use Lightbox to preview watermarked photos, prior to ordering. This is good and must have stuff for independents. Photodeck does the heavy lifting in setting it up, so you can focus on the fun things.
And yes, you will have to promote your independent stock website to your clients and prospective clients. But if you’re in the photography business, then you should be doing this sort of thing anyway. If you’re an amateur with professional qualities, then why not give it a try?
Consider this… It truly takes as much time to upload and tag a photo on your own site, as the same does on someone else’s website (who will set pricing and take at least 50%-70% of the sale). Also, it takes just as much time to upload and sell microstock photos, as it does to charge real pricing on your own site. But if you really want to sell microstock, then you can do that on your own site too.
Payment solutions like Stripe make the transaction easy. You really don’t have to be a technical wizard to do any of this.
By no means is this an attack on agencies like Getty or Corbis, but there is no reason that stock photography should be an impersonal bore and rife with cookie cutter commodity. There is no reason it should make photographers poorer, financially or in spirit. And, whether you work with agencies or not, you have the legal and ethical-moral right to offer your own independent stock photos as well… unless you sign an exclusive, which is another thing…
While I can’t tell anyone exactly how to do things, and everything is contextual, I believe that photographers must take ownership of their work and offer personalized experience to their clients and audience. The rewards and benefits are good for both photographers and clients.