You just can't create and produce a high quality image and expect that image to sell big time over and over again like it did in the hay day of Stock Photography. Sure you might make some decent sales, but over the long run as more and more images are uploaded online, with cameras and software that allow everybody to take an ordinary picture and make it special, the return on your image is being lowered by this new competition. We all would love it if we could return to the Golden Days of Stock where RM imagery rules the landscape and a tightly edited RM collection with great designed catalogs would showcase images that would sell for years. Dream on, those days are gone forever. What can you do to survive the ravages of the economic collapse and the collapse of the Stock Photo Industry?
Be willing to try different business models in order to keep your images seen and selling. Does that mean put everything into clip/micro stock? Absolutely not but look for selling images at a lower RM price when a customer wants to license an image for personal use and where a lower asking price is appropriate given the clients request for usage rights in a local territory, short time frame, small image size, small print run etc...
Over the last 5 years if you shot imagery for a Stock Photo Agency your return on investment has gone down, down, down and that is whether you shot RM, RF, or Micro. There is just to many images out there competing for every lowering prices. Add to this the competition to get your images accepted by any agency is getting harder and harder. Of course you will here about a handful of elite studio production photographers still making mucho bucks but lets get real, the average Joe is not going to get rich shooting stock photography period. And if you upload to Flickr or one of the other social network sites you might get a few low end sales with the occasional larger sale but mostly in my experience you have people who want to use your imagery for free and give you credit, No Thanks!
Check your attitude at the door. All a photographer can do is try and be as professional as possible and not get into a blame game with what is happening in the Stock Photo Business. Consumer generated imagery is getting better and better with higher quality lower priced cameras and the ability to instantaneously upload those images to the web through Apps is mind boggling. Add in the fact that more and more advertiser and businesses are looking for video and your RM still imagery is getting less and less face time. The Internet is a free for all but if you stand your ground and respect your efforts to create great imagery you have a chance to bypass the Photo Agencies and sell direct to you targeted audience. In the web era you are not as reliant on the Stock Agency's as you once were.
You can have your own website to market direct to your client base. You have websites that can sell your imagery as prints, cards, posters, calendars, books etc...
You can decide if you are more comfortable selling your images as Rights Managed or Royalty Free.
It is a must that you Keyword and Caption your imagery well so a search engine like Google/Yahoo/Bing can find your imagery. If they are not captioned and keyworded they will never be found. Why create an image and then post it on the web and not keyword it properly. All that effort for nothing. No one can tell you what to sell your imagery for but the main thing is not to give your hard work away for nothing.
Some new hand held devices have a larger image screen and that might be an opening for photographers to charge more for an image license given the fact that the client will need a higher resolution image for displaying his ad.
You must shoot original imagery and not get caught up in a numbers game like the micro shooters do. If you try and copy that business model you will cut off your nose to spite your face. Shoot what you enjoy and that will be fulfilling. Shoot more personal work and images you want to create and subjects you want to explore. In this way you are creating imagery that means something to you even if they might not sell.
Exclusivity is a real problem in today's web image arena. If you give exclusivity to a Photo Agency then that image can only be sold through that agent. The problem now is how cheap sometimes even a exclusive image is sold for. In the old days exclusivity meant a higher return for your image because that client knew no one else had that image to compete against. Now adays with cheap the name of the game even the exclusive agencies are selling your images at ridiculously low prices. Why would you limit your images to one agent.
Non-Exclusive is the way to go. This will free up your images to be sold in different territories where your Photo Agent has in roads and knows his customer base and can sell images for you that are appropriate. Getting images out there and into as many outlets as possible is the way to protect your income from the fast paced changes that are happening it seems overnight.