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So here's a dirty little phrase in my opinion: STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY. Stock Photography is a huge market where photographers sell photos to stock companies for future advertisements. The photos generally follow a basic concept that can be plugged into any advertisement and be relevant to the product or service being sold. The stock companies sell the photos to advertising agencies, businesses or anyone willing to pay, pretty much. What's the purpose??? Companies save a significant amount of money on their marketing campaigns by using stock photos instead of hiring professional models. An example would be a cell phone company using a stock photo of a person talking on their cell phone and paying as low as $50 to use it for a specific period of time or possibly using it forever versus hiring a print model. The latter requires the company to go through the model’s agency and paying anywhere from $500-$1250 per year to use it. Therefore, stock photography is very appealing to companies looking to cut costs. There's so much more to explain about stock photography and you as the model or parent of a model should be concerned with how it impacts your career.
My biggest concerns as a working model (which should be yours too) are conflicts with competitors of projects my image is being used on and, more importantly, my image being used in ways that are compromising to my morals and beliefs. As the model, you don't have control over who purchases your image once you sign a model release form giving the photographer permission to use the photos commercially. This is different from taking photos with a photographer and giving them permission to use photos on "their" marketing projects like their website, portfolio, or printed materials. This is also different from signing a release form while on set for a specific company that hired you to be the face of their brand. The photo above was initially released from a stock photoshoot I did before I understand how it works. But now that it's online, its accessible for anyone to use and it has been used in more than 20 advertisements. Some for legit articles and companies I wouldn't oppose but others have been used in ways I would prefer not to be associated with such as controversial issues, articles with negative connotations and numerous Instagram photos with curse words and other Internet Memes. NOTE: I haven't received a single red penny for any of those advertisements, not even from the shopping center that has my picture enlarged and wrapped around their building...No Bueno!
Which brings me to the other concern...the management side of a model's career. I would hope that you all enter this industry with confidence that you will book lead roles for major campaigns, reaping the exposure and financial rewards that tag along. With that in mind, take this example to heart and mind when approached to do stock photography. Using the photo above, let's say my photo was purchased by NetZero from a stock photo website and used for their latest advertisements without my knowledge. Meanwhile, I go on an audition for Sprint and on the talent form they ask "Have you ever worked for a competitor company or cellular company within the past 5 years?" and I answer "No". Actually, this can go one of two ways, either Sprint books me and is later made aware of my face on their competitor's product and I'm found in breach of contract because they made me sign an exclusive release form stating that I cant work for any cellular products for a certain amount of time. Or, let's say I became aware of the NetZero ad prior to the audition and on the talent form I have to put "Yes" because all major companies have a PR team and they'll find out eventually. I'm then told I cant audition and lose out on the potential gig paying 1000s of dollars plus exposure on a national campaign...OUCH!!! And this is at no fault of my own or am I to blame because I signed that stock photography release form? As a working model who goes on auditions regularly this could be the case multiple times. If you have agents that send you on auditions often, you could get turned away by T-Mobile, AT&T or Verizon too. Your agent may get pretty upset with you, especially if clients continue to request you for these auditions because they like your look but you are ineligible because of that darn stock photo. Apply this example to any one of the competing products/services and you have a big mess on your hands. Once you release the rights of the photos to the photographer, your image can pop up anywhere.
Some positive sides to stock photography are: you may get some quick cash (if they're paying), great magazine tear-sheets (if your photo is used in a cool ad), billboard or web exposure and some cool professional quality photos for your portfolio (but most people can spot a stock photo from a mile away, meaning your agency wont like them). It's quite common for photographers to target inexperienced models and parents who agree to the shoot because they want new photos. It is not worth the free photoshoot in the long run, trust me. Now if you're not looking to make a career out of modeling or commercial acting than by all means go ahead and get your shoot on. But if you're in it for the long haul, STAY AWAY FROM STOCK! Don't make me say I told you so. Have faith in your career and trust that you'll get those big ticket auditions. If you're on a budget and need new photos, research local photographers and ask other model/actors for referrals on affordable photographers.
Final and Most Important Piece of Advice:You should get a clear understanding, in writing, of what a photographer will use the photos for and ask, specifically, if its for stock photography before you sign any release forms. If you hire a photographer to shoot you, its usually unspoken that the photos are for your portfolio and their marketing uses only but it doesn't hurt to ask them can you do a model release form. It doesn't have to be fancy, just needs to clearly state the intended purpose of what you both can use the photos for. New parents and models be aware of photographers at auditions soliciting stock photography masked as "We like to shoot new faces occasionally and we're doing a free photoshoot if you're interested". Always ask if it’s for stock because nothing in this industry typically comes for free.
That's all for now.
Toodles from Coach BJ
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