The Business of Postcard Photography

Part 2 of A Conversation with
James Blank,
America’s Most Prolific
Postcard Photographer

By Andrew Hudson

( Part 1 here)

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’ve also worked for The Postcard Factory (The Weisdorf Group of Companies) in Canada; Mike Roberts Color Production (no longer in business); Colourpicture; McGrew Color Graphics; John Hinde, Kina, and Impact

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?

10%. 70% comes from direct sales of stock, and 20% comes from stock agencies Corbis (now part of Getty), Getty, and H.Armstrong Roberts.

Click here for part 3: On Being A Postcard Photographer


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.

Comments

Comments


Reply by Martin

April 21, 2016

Hey, I’m thinking of trying this out as part time and also as a hobby, I just don’t no where start. I really love taking photos and catching the moments and memories. I visit lots of places and am well travelled. I hope you can help me out.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 7, 2016

I suggest starting local. Make postcards of local places and sell them at local stores.


Reply by M Watts

February 28, 2016

I have licensed a couple of photographs that are being sold along the Gulf Coast. I also have photos from my trips to the Caribbean. However, I am having difficulty tracing companies that might be interested in licensing some of my work or allow me to shoot photos they are looking for. Can you assist with any contact information at all? My current photos are being marketed with Red Mountain and I would be glad to show you samples of that work. Please feel free to email at your convenience. Thank you in advance for any advice you can give.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 14, 2016

Hi.

I have a list of postcard publishers and a list of microstock agencies.


Reply by Anonymous

November 2, 2015

Do museums buy or license photos for unique images?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 11, 2016

I believe that museums buy photos. Photographers retain copyrights so museums likely also get licenses to reproduce the photos.


Reply by Anonymous

March 18, 2015

I have a small hobby and a dream I now make postcards and I do a photo slideshow w/music, I sell at the coop I belong to and have a personal website business. Would love to expand and make a better cash flow, as it now is almost nothing. I have read your info, but can you give me place to start and maybe some better contacts. I also do some with poems and scriptures and have been doing some as a print than a true photo, thanks to photoshop, need your help --please!


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 29, 2015

Hi. For more info, see sell and postcards.


Reply by Anonymous

October 18, 2014

I am traveling down south. just came from Gulf Shores, AL. Am now in Lillian, Alabama on Perdido Bay, and going to South Florida for winter.

Have snapped some great photos and am planning to get a lot more, I need info on how to begin selling photos or any post card companies that would be interested in buying. Thank you.


Reply by Helen

September 19, 2014

I live in the Bahamas and i have captured some of the most amazing photos from sun, sand, sea and land. I’m interested in cards or postcards, can you refer me to anyone that might show some interest?

Thank you.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

October 8, 2014

Hi Helen,

Wow, your photos sound great.

Here is my list of postcard publishers. Also read How to sell your photos as postcards.

Best wishes,

Andrew


Reply by Michael Nowotarski

January 26, 2014

I have a grate beautiful pictutes and i would like to have my pictures on travel pictures in travel stores and airports stores.


Reply by Betty Baad

August 9, 2013

I live in Fl somce 1968. 33yrs on Fl Keyes and 13yrs in Largo and have some photos I have taken that would make great post card. Could you please tell me how and who to contact about these and if possible to sell them. Thank you and await your reply. Betty Baad


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Betty:

That is a nice place to live. I have some info at How to Sell Your Photos as Postcards.

Good luck!

Andrew


Reply by Jennifer

August 3, 2013

I wanted to ask how would i start off by turning into 12 month calendar or post-card to get it going. please let me know


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Jennifer:

For postcards, see How to Sell Your Photos as Postcards. For calendars you could try the stock calendar layouts at printers such as Shutterfly.

Andrew


Reply by Kelly Martindale

June 20, 2012

What is a microstock site and why would I use that?

Thank you for your time,


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 27, 2012

Hi Kelly. See this link.


Reply by Starla

January 14, 2012

I live in beautiful Northwest Idaho, the surrounding beauty here is astounding provided you can catch the essence of its landscapes. I am interested in selling some of my work, but I am still just an amateur who is a grandma. Would you be interested in looking at some of my work?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 8, 2012

Hi Starla. Idaho sounds lovely. I do not review work, but my opinion wouldn’t matter anyway. Put your best work on a microstock site and I’m sure you’ll get some sales. Let the market decide!


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