Guest post by Sheridan Stancliff
Some may argue that there is already a flood of imagery available in the stock photography market with collections such as Getty images, Corbis, and Alamy hosting millions of images. There are still, however, some topics that are not being well represented by the “big boys” for various reasons and that is where the niche agency plays such an important role.
Images that are truly specialized may not be viewed as commercially valuable to an agency that covers every general topic out there, but an art buyer who may be looking for something off the beaten path may run into some problems finding a photograph to fit their needs. An art buyer may then turn their sites from a larger house and instead contact a smaller agency that specializes in a particular type of imagery. Not only will this niche agency be more likely to have what the buyer is looking for, but they also have direct connection to photographers that specialize in those subjects.
StockFood has remained true to their specialty of food imagery around the world. I spoke with StockFood USA General Manager Shannon Mahoney about the benefit of a niche collection such as theirs. “A niche agency is a true specialist in their field making them the respected choice for end users requiring additional service. Representing niche subject matter not only sets an agency apart from the rest but allows for a level of concentration and focus. For end users with a similar focus the field experts are their go-to resource. Key-wording is highly detailed and specific to the collection. Trend scouting is high priority. Sales teams perform like service teams, offering custom support on a project-by-project basis.”
From a photographer’s perspective, Mahoney notes, “For contributors shooting targeted content, niche representation is important in order to get the content seen by the right people. The specialist agency works to get very specific subject matter in front of their very specific client base and can do so with a very specific marketing plan.”
When I decided to start Novel Expression, this very specific and targeted content was something I needed as an art buyer for authors. The lack of historical imagery that would work on a Regency romance or edgy shots that would appeal to paranormal writers were greatly missing in the space. Images that fit the bill in larger collections were being used over and over again since they were the only ones readily available. There are a few other players in the same market, and their specialization makes them appealing to the exploding ebook and print on demand market.
In both instances, an art buyer can work directly with an agency that focuses on their needs and is readily available to help them find or obtain the image they need. This personal and knowledgeable touch is invaluable. The agency understands the market: StockFood knows that something as simple as French fries are likely to be served with mayonnaise in the Netherlands, banana ketchup in the Philippines, covered in gravy and cheese curds in Canada, malt vinegar in the UK, and ketchup in the USA. If you’re an art buyer in these locations, the difference may be small, but pronounced.
Sheridan Stancliff has spent more than 15 years in marketing and marketing communications, working in all aspects of the industry, from public relations photography and event management to advertising, direct mail and sales. She opened SheridanINK, a boutique marketing company specializing in helping fiction authors, in 2011 and Novel Expression in 2014.