Stock photography seems like a good way to make some fast cash on some idle afternoon, pay some pressing bills, get your face out there and maybe walk away with some new images "for free".

However, when you do a stock photoshoot the photographer will ask you to sign a release giving the photographer and the stock photo house absolute, unrestricted, unlimited use of the photos, in perpetuity (a.k.a. "FOREVER").

This shoot can potentially affect your:

  • Relationship with your present agent/manager
  • Relationship with future representation
  • Possibilities of booking work
  • Bank account
  • Reputation

Stock photography is a thriving business. It allows small businesses and even big ones cheap access to all types of photos/scenes prominently featuring performers on stock photography or stock house websites. Businesses who use stock photography pay a mere fraction of what they normally would if they had to pay for a casting session, photographer, crew and talent fees. The images are purchased or rented and the business is good to go. 

Understand this... the stock house and photographers make great residual income every time the image is acquired by a business. However, the performers are NOT compensated on a residual basis. The money they are paid for the actual shoot is a paltry amount for what could be potentially hundreds and sometimes thousands of uses of the photos that they've signed off on.

If you do stock photography you could be:

  • Photoshopped endorsing a product you would NEVER touch
  • Associated with a socially transmitted disease/disorder
  • Unknowingly placed in an ad that could give you one (if not multiple) product/service conflicts that your representation could no longer submit you for

That last point is a HUGE problem to seriously contemplate. Would an agent or manager rather work with a client who has NEVER done stock photography? Or, would they rather represent a client who has done stock photography which comes with the never-ending potential of unknown conflicts?

An agent (who asked to remain anonymous) said, "When a performer comes into my office with their portfolio and I examine their prints, I'll immediately ask if these are tear sheets and from which photographer. If I hear the words "stock photography", or a photographer's name mentioned who I know stoops to such work, I'll simply say, 'thank you for wasting my time, we don't represent any performers who have done stock. It short changes your talent and creates a mess for our office'."

What's worse... imagine being cast in a lucrative print campaign for a major technology company only to find that as soon as you appear in their international marketing (websites, POS, print ad campaigns, etc.) you are now also appearing in ads for another technology company where you were in a stock shoot and made a few hundred bucks doing... the problem now is that you have violated your contract with the major technology company who has the resources to sue you for the conflict and quite possibly the cost of redoing the entire campaign. Thousands and thousands of dollars, if not more. YIKES!

To recap... when you do stock photography you have no control over what products you are pushing, what you are seemingly saying (as the renter or owner of these images can place you in any situation, add captions that are bubbled next to your image, etc.), what organization, disease or disorder you are representing and the contract you signed has no end.

Now that you aware of the potential risk to your agent/manager relationships, your future career successes and your valued reputation... would you still do stock photography?