Process 034 ☼ How To License Older Images To Commercial Clients

Giveaway: Kosmo Foto Mono 10-Pack!

Dear friends,

Today’s letter is about licensing existing work for new clients. I also share a few test shots I did with Kosmo Foto’s new film stock Agent Shadow.

To celebrate the launch of this new Agent Shadow stock Stephen at Kosmo Foto has made available a 10-Pack of Kosmo Mono 100 film for this week’s giveaway.

The Effect of the Pandemic on the Photo Industry

It’s been a challenging year and a half for many photographers, myself included. Large parts of of the business ground to a halt, especially the commercial work which is the bread and butter of many photographers.

Industries and businesses that would usually hire photographers to help tell their story and market their products and services faced a world in locked down, with diminishing sales and no idea of when or how it would all play out.

Budgets were cut accordingly and freelance photographers, like professionals across many industries, were left wondering how to make up for this sudden loss of income. Some transitioned to documenting the pandemic for news media, others learned hot to shoot remotely. All our creativity had to come into play to keep the machine running.

Being stuck in suburban Vancouver for the first five months of the pandemic meant I didn’t have the opportunity work locally or transition to news photography. I focused on working through a backlog of administrative work to position myself well for when the world would get back to “normal” and also started a new personal project* within the limitations of lockdown life in a new city.

(* This project would turn into my first photo book NOTICE, which was printed last week. Our printer promised it’ll be bound and shipped next week! Crossing fingers. Order your copy here.)

Licensing Existing Work

Another alternate form of income for me during this challenging period has been to license existing images, mostly work that was never before used commercially. Take for exampke a recent collaboration with Riggs Partners, a wonderful creative agency based in South Carolina. They reached out about the possibility of licensing a number of existing portraits from my online portfolio for a client project.

The four images below ended up as our final selection after a few rounds of culling.

The first portrait (top left), of Fola, was taken at my favorite Brooklyn coffee shop. It was a typical stranger meeting and I asked if Fola and her friend would allow me to take their portrait. Thankfully they obliged, the light was fantastic, and the coffee shop had a freshly painted white wall as a perfect back drop.

The second portrait (top right) is of my friend Greyson in San Francisco as we were perusing a beautiful shop after a coffee hang. Again, perfect light, lovely environment, and no purpose behind taking this photo aside from the compulsion to take photos and practice always.

The third portrait (bottom left) is of my friend Lily when she sat for What We Think About Love, a collaborative project I did with my friend Mikki Brammer in 2017. This was the only portrait in this set that was taken with a specific purpose in mind.

The final image is a portrait of Paige, which was an outtake taken at a conference where Paige worked for the organizer. Her unique look and energy compelled me to ask her for a portrait during a break from shooting the event.

Below are these same portraits but in the context of their final use by the client.

Four portraits originally taken for fun or personal projects, now licensed by a client, of course with permission and a talent fee for each of the models.

Freelance photography is a challenging business to operate in even during years of general economic prosperity. Staying organized and always shooting more helped me generate some much needed income during a year where barely anyone was hiring.

Lessons Learned

  1. Stay Organized — It took me all of five minutes to locate the images in question because I keep my archives organized and my file names clean. Check out Process issue 004 where I describe my archiving system for digital files.

  2. Keep Detailed Notes — Being able to quickly find the original photo files would not have meant much if I wouldn’t have been able to get in touch with the people I photographed quickly even years after the fact. This is where my detailed roll notes were priceless, including names, contact information, and more. Check out Process issue 012 where I describe my note taking system.

  3. Keep An Online Portfolio — Social media can be a nice tool to build community and remind people of your existence and new work, but there is a lot of value in having a dedicated online portfolio aimed at decision makers who can hire you for client work. If I wouldn’t have had mine, the agency involved would not have been able to propose images from my portfolio to the client and get approval before contacting me. Check out Process issue 002 where I describe how I built my 2020 portfolio.

  4. Always Be Shooting — I always have a camera on me. I always people-watch and approach strangers to ask them if I can take their portrait. That’s how I cast the majority of my commercial work and marketing campaigns. I’m not taking portraits with the intention of casting anyone, but once I have photographed someone they become part of my community of fascinating people I’ve had the pleasure to connect with in real life and when I am in the position to cast someone for a paying job as a model I can pull from memory hundreds of people I already have photographed before who might be perfect for that job. Check out Process issue 011 where I describe my Always Be Shooting philosophy and more.

Alright that’s it for this week! Next week I hope to tell you that NOTICE was shipped!

Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.


Process Giveaway!

The good folks at Kosmo Foto recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new film stock Agent Shadow, which is advertised as “ISO-400 panchromatic black-and-white 35mm film pushable to ISO 3200 and beyond.”

I had the chance to shoot a quick test roll and since they threw down the high ISO gauntlet I decided to pick it up by shooting it at 6400 ISO. After sunset with very little available light. While on a boat. I mean, challenge accepted ok? Four test shots below.

When shot at a high ISO this film stock has lots of nice grain and grit, high contrast, and it seems to be able to find light even in very low light situations. I enjoyed shooting it and already ordered some more from the Kickstarter to keep on hand for the dark days of fall and winter when light is hard to come by this far north.

The Kickstarter campaign was already successfully funded but there are still a few days left to get your hands on the film at an early bird price.

To celebrate the release of Agent Shadow with us Stephen over at Kosmo made available a 10-pack of their most well-known stock: Kosmo Mono.

To enter email me at (please don’t reply to this note but send a separate email) before 11pm EST on July 20th and answer the following question:

It’s the year 2089, you’re still alive thanks to medical miracles but photography is outlawed by a dystopian overlord. Which other form of artistic expression you do take up instead?

One winner will be randomly drawn and notified. This giveaway is for Process subscribers only. Subscribe by clicking the button below:

Make sure to show Kosmo Foto some love on Instagram and check out their Agent Shadow Kickstarter campaign, only 3 more days left to support.

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Process is a weekly letter from me, Wesley Verhoeve. Preorder my first photo book “Notice” here.

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