The Business of Postcard Photography
Part 2 of A Conversation with
How much do postcards pay?
About $50 to $100 per images. Companies usually buy in bulk, say 6 or 12 at a time, so that’s $300 to $1,200 a sale. When you factor in travel expenses, postcards don’t pay much, but they lead to other business which does.
Which companies buy postcard photography?
There are two types of postcard companies: distributors and printers. Distributors are usually small, local companies, distributing cards to one city or region. Printers are often national companies that sell ready-made postcards — complete with photography — to the local distributors.
Tell us about distributors
I call them up and they’re always friendly and interested. I’ll sit down in their office, lay out my shots, and they’ll say “I’ll take this one and this one.” They even refer me to fellow distributors in other regions. A San Diego publisher for example referred me to a publisher in Colorado.
There may be two or three postcard distributors in a major city. A publisher in Philadelphia saw my work on a competitor’s rack and called me up to buy some photos. I always insist on a non-exclusive license so I can sell the same picture to many companies.
Tell us about printers
For four years, I worked full-time for printers.
I went all over the U.S. and they paid for helicopters, hotels, flights, everything. The printers sent me to their many local distributors, who would give me a list of sites and a map, and I shot what they needed. Sometimes the publisher would even come out with me to show me the viewpoints they wanted photographed.
That sounds fun! Who were the printers?
I was under contract for two years with Dexter Press (previously in West Nyack, New York, now in Missouri) and for another two years with H.S. Crocker Company (later Lawson Marden, in South San Francisco.)
I also worked full-time for two calendar companies, Beautiful America (Woodburn, Oregon) and LTA Publishing (Auburn, Indiana).
(For more links to printers and publishers, click here.)
Who do you work for now?
I work independently. I visit all my favorite places and take postcard shots, selling them as stock photography.
How’s the stock business?
I used to work with twelve agencies, but they’ve all been gobbled up by Getty and Corbis. FPG (a stock agency in New York) used to pay me $25,000 a year but now they’re part of Getty and It’s down to $2,000 — $3,000 a year.
Who have been your biggest customers?
Hallmark (greeting cards), Eastman Kodak, and AAA (American Automobile Association).
What was your biggest sale?
$30,000, for one picture. FPG (a stock agency in New York) licensed an image of mine of sand dunes in Death Valley to Mastercard for use on a billboard worldwide. FPG kept half and I got $15,000. That was back in 1996.
How many postcard shots do you sell?
About 200 to 300 a year.
How much of your business is postcards?
Copyright 2006 Andrew Hudson for Photo Tour Books, Inc. Written for PhotoSecrets. You may reproduce this article for personal, educational, non-commercial and non-Internet use, such as in a local photo club newsletter or school project. No Internet publishing is permitted. For commercial use, please email Andrew Hudson for permission.