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The beauty of digital transmission of photos is that one image can be seen in forty (or forty million!) different places– all at one time. I wish that I could write that all photobuyers are accepting, or are ready to accept digital images via disk or on-line. They aren’t. Even though the digital concept is sound, and the technology is available, many of your photobuyers may continue to cling to 20th century methods for accepting transparencies only.
We are all faced with the dilemma and transition that this technology presents us. Should we “wait” until the greater majority of our photobuyers are up to digital marketplaces, or should we operate as if digital photography did not exist?
My advice would be: Go at it, ‘business as usual.’ Here at PhotoSource International we find that 90% of editorial photobuyers have made the switch to digital. However, what you do about those lucrative accounts that still have not made the transition? As long as you’ve developed existing clients, you can always make the transition to digital when they are ready. Eventually, when they are ready to make the transition (it’s usually a budget decision), you’ll be able to offer advice. By helping them through the transition period you’ll have increased their dependence on you as a supplier.
In the meantime, you’ll need to wrestle with the age-long problem of sending original transparencies to those photobuyers on your Market List.
Since your images are your stock in trade, you want to have them available when you get a photo request. If some of your original transparencies are at a photobuyer’s, being held for consideration, those images are tied up and can’t be out there available for sales opportunities.
Stock photographers are put in a bind when a photobuyer holds a transparency longer than normal. (“Normal” is two to three weeks.) On the one hand, if, after three or four weeks, you ask for the transparency’s return, you might lose a possible sale. And on the other hand, if you let it remain at the publishing house, you have taken it out of circulation and others can’t see it (or buy it).
One of the answers to this dilemma is to always make “in-camera dupes” when you are photographing with film. This way you’ll always have extra “originals” and not be at a disadvantage when one buyer holds your picture(s) too long. Then you can circulate these other “similars” to buyers on your list who “don’t do digital.”
THEY’RE HOLDING YOUR IMAGES
What is an acceptable amount of time to hold an image? Magazines, with their short turn-around time, will usually hold a picture no longer than two weeks. Book publishers, in contrast, because of the complexities of putting an entire book together, will hold a transparency six to eight weeks or more, depending on the situation.
Publishers to avoid are those who by their actions show a disregard for photographers and little or no sensitivity to their need to keep pictures moving. Either because of faulty administrative practices or just plain ineptitude, these photo editors tend to hold transparencies well beyond a fair length of time. Publishers of bird, horse, and pet magazines, particularly, will often be lax and sometimes cantankerous in their attitude toward photos and photographers. (This comes from their advantage of having a huge number of photos and photographers to choose from.)
NO WORRIES: THE PERMANENT FILE
Probably the best way to solve the “holding” problem is to place your duplicate slides in a publishing house(s) that maintains a “Permanent File.” This, of course, would be publisher you’ve worked with a good while, and who has a track record for handling photographers well.
In their central art library, an administrator files your (reproduction-quality) duplicate slides or B&W prints for possible future use. When a photo researcher at the publishing house uses one of your pictures, you receive a check. After publication, the image is returned to the central file until it is re-used, and a fee again is paid to you, usually 75% of the original fee they paid you.
This no-worry method has been used for years by longtime stock photography professionals.
THE DIGITAL ADVANTAGE
Once your publishing house begins to realize the digital advantage of storing photos for reference in this manner, you will be able to scan appropriate photos in your collection and download them digitally to a publishing company’s central art library. It’s much more to your advantage to keep your digital pictures with a trusted buyer, rather than hoard them at home where no one can see them.
As far as thievery goes, yes, I have had a couple of reports where a new art director has come in and assumed that all the photos in their digital file belonged to the publishing house and therefore were accessible. However, we’re speaking of the early stages of a new technology, and a new working method, and such change is always fraught with mistakes and inconsistency. Give it a chance. You’ll find that as we progress in this new digital era, we’ll find fewer and fewer errors.