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Remember back when the explosion of photographer Web sites hit the online community? Nearly everyone who was trying to make a living clicking a shutter had a site. Once up and connected to the networked world, most photographers sat back and waited for the phone calls to come flooding in with assignments. After all, everyone could see them now; their ‘perpetual marketing machine’ of a Web site would do all the work for them.

Didn’t happen.

That approach back then by photographers taking their first belly-flop of a dive into the online world is not far from the current flurry of stock photography, microstock and iPhone photo sites that have seemingly saturated the photo buyer and viewing community. With low-cost alternatives and ease of use, photographers are flocking to these stock sites, salivating at the thought of potential sales.

But just as in the need to market a Web site, photographers need to take proactive steps in making sure their stock imagery is marketed to potential buyers. Sitting back in the office chair, content that your images are uploaded and available on a stock site is not going to rake in the big bucks.

Start by creating specific “Target Market Email Groups” from your mailing list that correspond to the different demographics and content of your imagery. (i.e. global news, entertainment, social justice, national news, travel, environmental.) Instead of ‘blanket emails’ to your entire mailing list, these targeted groups will be essential in making sure your imagery gets to the right buyers. More importantly, you won’t be repeatedly sending someone image samples that aren’t related to their needs. You want them to remember your images, not that you annoy them with unnecessary and irrelevant emails.

Throughout your daily routine, be it perusing the news online or watching TV or reading a magazine in the doctor’s office, take note of current events, trends or situations that are connected to your stock imagery, whether in a broad scope such as an uprising in a foreign country or an upswing in tourism to a particular region or destination. This is where there is a growing or pressing demand and where the tangible and financial value of your imagery has increased. Then, utilizing your online stock site, create a separate Web page or gallery exclusive to these related images. Most importantly, increase the licensing fee that will reflect the increased value of the photos due to the immediate need.

For example (using PhotoShelter as an online archive), say you read on Yahoo News that wolves might be removed from the U.S. endangered species list, a decision to be made within the month.  You have about a dozen photos of wolves from a trip to Yellowstone National Park last summer. In PhotoShelter, create a new gallery of just these collected images. Increase the pricing profile by a percentage you determine that reflects both the uniqueness and exclusive value of your photos. (Remember, if you have the same images available in other locations or on other Web sites or archives, you need to apply the increased pricing profile there as well or else you could potentially short-change yourself.)

Write up a quick-email summarizing the story along with a link to the gallery, stating that the images are available for immediate review, licensing, purchase and download. For an added touch, attach one of the photos of the wolves as a small thumbnail in the email to establish the caliber of the images. Then send the email off to the Target Market Email Group(s) that would be interested in U.S. news or environmental stories.

Over time, just as with any story, the interest wanes and so will that tangible and financial value of these specific images. As time moves on, be sure to keep the pricing profile reflective of the current market value of the images but leave the gallery online and available for potential sales from a buyer who might remember the email.

Regardless of where you make your stock images available online, regularly promoting a tightly edited body of relative work to your specific photo buyers not only greatly increases your potential for sales but also serves as a constant reminder to the buyers of the diversity and value of your stock archive.

At the same time, recognizing and placing a value on the ‘exclusive’ or ‘unique’ nature of your imagery is important not only in generating sales that accurately reflect the value of your work, but also lets the buyers or editors know that you are in tune with market demands and conditions.