Joining a stock agency is a career goal
for many photographers, but it can be
almost impossible to achieve. The biggest
agencies—places like Getty and Corbis—
are extremely picky about the talent they
take on, and even seasoned professionals get rejected. Smaller agencies and
microstock sites might be easier to crack,
but this might not get you far in terms of
visibility or licensing fees.
“The big stock agencies require thousands of images, so if students try to
get in, there’s a good chance they’ll fail
because they don’t have that depth of
work yet,” says Mike Agliolo, a professor
at Butte College in Chico, California.
Yet Agliolo, who teaches a course on
stock photography, knew his students’
work could be polished and exciting. He
wished they could get some experience
in the industry.
Then two years ago, Agliolo was chatting with design professor Daniel Donnelly. The two were admiring some student work when the idea hit them: Why
not create a stock agency for students?
Excited, Agliolo and Donnelly invited
two other colleagues from the Butte
faculty to join them. The four—who
included retired photography teacher
Jeff Fricker and business professor LaRee
Hartman—created StudentStock, the
first stock agency designed exclusively to
To develop the site, Agliolo and his
partners looked at models like iStock and
Shutterstock. But they didn’t just want to
create a successful stock site. They felt it
was important for the site to be educational, with tutorials and blogs, and they
wanted it to incorporate a social media
platform so that students could tag and
comment on one another’s images. So
they looked at the art-sharing site Deviant Art and social media giant Facebook
in addition to stock sites to get ideas.
“We knew students wanted to do stock,
and we wanted to help them have their
own place for it,” says Hartman. “But
we also knew they’re social and would
welcome the opportunity to help one an-
other through peer review and ratings.”
Agliolo, Hartman and their partners
spent two years developing the site,
bringing on engineers and programmers
and then a team of students to beta-test
and give feedback. The result is unique,
a community, marketplace and online
school in one. “Lots of sites let you look
at images and comment on them,” says
Agliolo, “but they typically don’t sell the
images or offer education.”
“I was excited to try it,” says Nathan
McKeever, a Butte senior and one of the
beta testers. “All students wonder how
we’re going to start a career, and this is a
good way to get a foot in the door.”
Shannon Fuller, a part-time student at
Butte who also beta-tested the site, found
the social media aspect especially useful.
“I’ve had people make suggestions that
made me pull down one of my pictures
in a heartbeat, and I’ve learned to be
better,” she says. On the other hand,
StudentStock has boosted her confidence.
“I’ve been highly rated by talented people
and have discovered that I’m not bad at
StudentStock went live on September
19, 2013. Membership is free, getting
you access to all content and space for 50
high-res images; if you want to upload
more, a $20 premium membership gets
you space for 300 more images annually.
Sales commission is 35 percent, or 50
percent for premium members—either
way, much higher than the typical stock
commission of 15 to 20 percent.
Currently, StudentStock has 240 mem-
bers and approximately 2,000 images;
the founders expect huge growth within
a year. Once they have 100,000 images
on the site, Hartman says, they’ll start a
major marketing campaign, with rights-free image prices topping out at $19.99.
Before too long, students like Fuller and
McKeever should be drawing income
from their stock photography.
They’ve built it; now will the buyers
come? Absolutely, says Hartman. “Look
at it this way—a buyer can go to iStock
and help a big corporation, or they could
help a student,” she says. “When they
see how wonderful the work is, we think
they’ll choose us.” Check it out at <www.
Shoot, Learn, Sell
StudentStock.com Offers an Online Community and
Image Marketplace [ By Sarah Coleman ]
TOP AND RIGHT: Two photos from Student Stock’s current
collection of 2,000 images.