There is a discussion going on on a forum that I participate in on if it is a good idea for a photographer to use Photoshelter.
Why should a photographer consider such a thing as Photoshelter? Today it is more and more difficult for a photographer to work with “traditional” photo agencies. And they are paying less and less to the photographers. Alamy, for example, recently cut the payout to the photographers with around 17% (increasing their own share with 25%). Other agencies typically pay less than Alamy to the photographer.
So for a (stock) photographer it is tempting to “go it alone” with a tool like Photoshelter (see the end note for what Photoshelter is).
My short answer to the question in the heading is:
Yes! If you are prepared to do your own sales and marketing.
Here is a longer reasoning taken from my post on the forum, written as a response (slightly modified) to a question by a person on the forum (“XX”):
You ask what $ return per photo one can expect:
Your question is like “how long is a string”.
Photoshelter is not an agency. It is not like Alamy, Corbis or Getty Images. Photoshelter is a tool to allow YOU to market and sell your images. So return on investment or dollars per image etc. is entirely up to you. It solely depends on how good you are at marketing and selling your products (and of course how good your images are). No sales and marketing effort from you = no sales. That’s why you get to keep virtually all the $$.
You will sell nothing, or very little, if you hope that putting your images “out there” will generate sales. Hoping that Google searches will generate sales. Yes, it can happen that people find you through good indexing on Google, but rarely. And it is rarely buyers.
If your main objective is to sell stock and you don’t intend to put any sales and marketing effort into it yourself, then it is doubtful if it is worth while with Photoshelter.
If you ARE prepared to do your own sales and marketing then PS can be a great tool!
That’s why Alamy takes 50% (and other sales organisations even more) but on Photoshelter you get almost all of it yourself.
There can be a second reason to use Photoshelter: it is an excellent tool to deliver images to clients even if you do not sell through it. Huge time saver compared to burning and mailing DVDs or similar things. (And looks much more professional.) And there are other reasons too.
On the possibility for buyers to search over all Photoshelter users (“unified search”)
The “unified” search over all of Photoshelter is not something that is a big contributor to any sales IMO. I don’t think picture buyers use it.
And no, there is not one unified checkout.
I don’t think it would make sense either (and there’s a reason why photo buyers don’t use the “all photoshelter” search much). Photographers use PS for very many different purposes: stock, event photography, fine art, marriage photography, private photo sharing, etc etc. There is nothing “unified” in that.
Yes, they have some really excellent “reports” that will help you sell. For example on using social media, on SEO, on what photo buyers want etc etc. It is all free and even if you don’t use PS you should read it!
My advice to you, XX, is simply this:
- Try it. It’s free to try and really simple (with a little bit of IT brains)
- Decided if you DO want to do your own marketing & sales, or use some of the other nifty features (delivery…) of Photoshelter, or if you don’t.
https://www.bkwinephotography.com (which is Photoshelter based)
This site, bkwinephotography.com, is as I mention a Photoshelter site. It is actually what they would call a “manual customisation”. In my case this means that some parts of this site is pure Photoshelter functionality, primarily all that has to do with the photo library, search, ecommerce etc. The other “half” of this site is a WordPress-based site, for example the blog, the welcome page and most other pages. Both parts are “skinned” to look identical.
Note: So what is Photoshelter? It is a tool that lets photographers manage, display, sell, and deliver their images on-line. It is very important to understand that Photoshelter is a tool for the photographer. Photoshelter is not an agency or a portal. It is simply something that lets the photographer display and sell his pictures on-line. If you don’t understand this there is a great risk that you will be disappointed.
If you use it wisely it is a great tool!