justsexy (a.k.a iofoto [SXP] and Ron Chapple) has been shooting stock since the mid 1980s and made the commitment to shoot stock exclusively in 1992. His client list includes Mastercard, VISA, Hilton, Microsoft, AT&T, United Airlines, Forbes and Timex. He founded Thinkstock, a royalty-free image collection, in 2000, which was subsequently acquired by Jupiterimages in 2004. Recently Ron joined SXC and SXP to test the microstock waters. We caught up with Ron via e-mail to talk about his experience so far.
What was it that drew you exclusively to stock in 1992?
Stock photography is both a business and a creative lifestyle. I
started shooting stock around 1985 back when the only option was
rights-managed. Hard to believe, but in those days, even rights-
managed stock was perceived as a "bad thing" amongst commercial
photographers. I never ever dreamed that I could make a living
shooting just stock however the market demand for stock imagery began
As both a creative and business person, stock provided the
opportunity to test new image concepts and techniques to understand
the image marketplace. The fundamental difference between assignment
work and stock is that as an assignment photographer, you provide a
service. Payment occurs only after the service has been performed. A
stock photographer is a "product" manufacturer who must research,
produce and market an image without any sure guarantee of revenue.
When I first started licensing rights-managed work, I didn't break-
even for 3-4 years. Assignment work kept the studio going. The same
was true when I started shooting royalty-free, again a 3-4 year break-
The fun creative lifestyle part of stock is the freedom to create
images non-stop! And meeting tons of fun models and all the
adventures in between. I have started a blog called Ron Shoots
(www.ronshoots.com) to chronicle our adventures.
What was it that tempted you to test the microstock waters today?
Temptation is really not the right word. I simply see microstock as
another channel to deliver images to a customer base. There's an
insatiable demand for images at all price points. I continue to
produce many images for rights-managed and royalty-free, and adding
the microstock option to the customer base is a logical business
In the short time you've been part of the SXC and SXP community, what has surprised you the most about the microstock model?
I uploaded a few test images on SXC- images that would not have
created significant revenue in traditional stock markets. I wanted to
see what would happen if I shared these images with designers. The
response was overwhelming! In 10 months, my five (5) test images have
been downloaded over 26,000 times! The really fun part has been the
designers who have simply used the images to play around with in
Adobe Photoshop to add cool work to their portfolio.
On SXP, our sales started within hours of uploading the first images.
What do you consider to be microstock's biggest obstacles?
The challenges are no different than any other stock image
distributor. Improving search to deliver the best results for
customers, driving customers to what has become a commodity business,
figuring out how create a unique experience for an image hungry
This may sound ludicrous, but I predict that within a few short
years, we will see microstock offering rights-managed work to their
clients! If you already have the clients, why not increase revenue by
offering the same pixels at a higher price?
How do you see microstock fitting into the world of stock
There are customers at all points along the price point and licensing
spectrum. Some customers need rights-managed to control their brand,
and other customers simply need an inexpensive image for a one-time
internal presentation. As a photographer, and as an industry, our
goal should be to deliver great images all along the way.
Want to talk shop with Ron? Ron will be hanging out in the SXP forums with answers to your stock photography questions.
tips & tricks
» Photography Composition Guides by Ugaldew
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» Isolating Images by t-florie
Learn how to use the pen tool for precision image isolations.
» Color Theory Fundamentals for Digital Photography
Color plays such an integral part in our emotions and in our perception of a scene that knowledge of the nature of color and how to capture it in your images will give impact and expression to your photography.
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