Spec Photography Model

“Custom Stock’” Photography Model is Really Just “On Spec”

Graphic designers are not the only ones being plagued by requests for work on spec these days. On spec or as it’s come to be known in the photography industry “Custom Stock” is a growing trend.

Companies are trying to legitimize a business model which is based on asking multiple photographers to bid on a chance to provide what is in effect a custom assignment but at stock photography rates and royalties. Photographers who are chosen generally must also finance the production out of their own pockets with no guarantee that their images will even be chosen.

These “Custom Stock” shoots are presented to stock photographers as an enhanced “stock” opportunity. At the same time, these are presented to clients that this is an sensible business practice that will allow them to acquire professional quality assignment images, shot to their specifications at no risk to themselves and for stock photography prices.

What “Custom Stock” actually is though is “competitive spec”. Multiple photographers are asked to “bid” on a chance to provide the requested images. Out of those that provide bids, maybe up to five are chosen. From the images provided the client may then choose the image or images they want to license at the previously agreed upon fee. However, the client is under absolutely no obligation to license any of the images. If an image is licensed, the agreed upon fee for the service is then split between the company providing the service and the photographer with the commissions varying by company.

This trend was actually started by OnRequest Images who in fact, coined the term “Custom Stock” but others, including more traditional stock agencies are beginning to follow suit. Index Stock Imagery has also jumped into the pool with its Index Custom Stock service which closely follows the OnRequest model. Other are sure to follow.

The Stock Artists Alliance (SAA), an industry association which represents photographers who produce images for rights-protected license has more information on its web site concerning OnRequest Images and the “Custom Stock” model.

More information about OnRequest Images can be found on the SAA website here and here.

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