Stock, or existing, photography is valuable to editors and art buyers, because it is a known quantity - and quality - available immediately. An image from a student photojournalist is worth the same as an image that is equally good (and/or appropriate for the use) as an image by a seasoned pro, since the quality can be seen and judged immediately - even though the assignment rates for the two might differ widely.
For independent photojournalists, stock sales of outtakes or previously published images have been a key source of income. However, contracts proffered by media companies over the past decade have restricted or eliminated photographers’ rights to relicense images to others. Moreover, large companies have gathered smaller agencies into large stock distributors, and new “microstock” and “royalty-free” licensing schemes have driven down prices dramatically. Income splits have dropped from 60 percent of sales revenues being returned as royalties to photographers to 40 percent or less. Many photographers who specialize in stock have seen their incomes drop by half or more, even as they work harder to keep their collections current.
NPPA’s expertise in these changing and specialized markets is limited. However, we can’t overemphasize that the reuse rights to your images do have value, and it’s extremely important that you embed identifying photo metadata (“File Info”) in all your images, so future buyers can find you and pay you for licenses. And we do have some solid links below to other experts in this important industry: