(The following is excerpted from 99 Ways to Make Money from Your Photos, by the editors of Photopreneur.)
Photo Researchers is a highly specialized niche stock site that has been offering scientific photos for more than 50 years. In the past, most of the images it supplied came from doctors and scientists. Today, about 80 percent of contributors are photographers.
Photo Researchers currently has more than 500 contributors who send in images covering topics that range from astronomy to zoology. Many of those images end up in textbooks.
The average price for an image is around $450, although photographs can sell for as much $7,000. The photographer receives half the sales price.
Like traditional stock companies, breaking into Photo Researchers isn’t easy. The company turns down about 75 percent of the images it receives, usually because they already have enough similar photos on the same theme.
Nonetheless, the Photo Researchers’ inventory is still growing at an impressive rate of 4,000 new images a month.
Once you’ve spent some time examining the images at www.photoresearchers.com, you’ll probably have to spend even more time examining their contributors’ guidelines. These are pretty detailed and need to be followed closely before submitting your images for review.
It’s worth noting that for the more open categories of travel, wildlife and lifestyle, Photo Researchers demands 400 images to review. For science, medicine and astronomy, they only require 100 sample images. Either way, you’ll need to start with a pretty big portfolio.
Despite its specialization, Photo Researchers has a pretty broad range of images and not all of them are as difficult to shoot as close-ups of
osteoblasts and osteoclasts.
There are also plenty of animals on the site, making Photo Researchers a possible resource for wildlife photographers. At least one highlighted
photographer has a collection of classic car images, and the company offers scenic images of cities, sites and national parks, as well as people,
rocks and holidays.
Most contributors to Photo Researchers choose to specialize in one particular category, such as insects or astronomy. Few shoot across different specializations. The rarer the image, the greater the chances that Photo Researchers will accept it.
Selling with Information
For Photo Researchers, it’s not just the image that’s important but the information that comes with it. The company does offer scenes of sunsets, white water rafting and boats, for example, but the description that accompanies the image will explain where it was shot and what that viewer can see.
Because the images are more likely to be used in textbooks than advertising, it’s the ability of the images to inform rather than promote that’s vital. General stock sites sell images of flowers, for example. Photo Researchers might offer similar images, but they’ll be close-ups of dewdrop stamen or crabapple blossoms.
So the description is an important part of creating a sellable Photo Researchers image. Marketing the image, though, doesn’t require any more than the usual strategy of leaving it to the stock site to place your picture in the hands of its customers.
As always, it does help to have a Web site that shows off the best of your niche photos, and to let buyers know that they can license them from Photo Researchers.
That will help you to build your brand, give Photo Researchers a place to go to learn more about you and make yourself available for commissions.
Tips for Success
Think Like a Scientist
OK, that’s not so easy — but knowing about a particular scientific field is always going to be the best way to make sales on Photo Researchers.
Many of the photographers who contribute to the site are professionals who also happen to be interested in a science such as botany, biology or astronomy. They have the technical skills to shoot good photos and the knowledge to explain the science.
Ideally, you’ll have access to a lab. But it is possible to have your images accepted and sold simply by picking up a scientific hobby.
Study the Site Carefully
This is always a good idea, but it’s particularly important on Photo Researchers because the subject of the images ranges so broadly from the very specific science shots to the more general images that anyone can take (even if they do require some careful describing).
It is worth spending some time to see if there is a space for an image of your own scientific interest, or whether you can supply the more general photos.
Shoot Quantity, If You Can
The subjects of the images — especially the hard science ones with the most demand — are so specific that photographers are rarely able to shoot in bulk.
However, if you can find a way to shoot many images of your choice of scientific field, and to continue creating images within that field, you should find it easier to make sales.