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What Is a Licensing Mindset? (And How Do You Develop It?)

Published: 09/11/2020
By: Brandon

Author: Adam Taylor

Over the 15 years I’ve been a professional photographer across multiple industries, I’ve developed something I call a “licensing mindset”. But what exactly is this and how can you develop it so you can make more money from the work you’re doing? A licensing mindset is a way of thinking about your photography work that always keeps licensing opportunities in mind as you move about your daily operations of shooting and editing. In other words, it’s a little thing in the back of your mind that constantly tells you there may be someone else who wants to buy your photos (other than the company who hired you to shoot them). The more you re-license your photos, the more you realize how many companies are out there that need high quality images to help with their branding and marketing. And this realization is one of the first steps in developing your licensing mindset. 

Shot for a design/build firm and licensed to a cabinet company and the cabinet pulls manufacturer.

Let me back up a little and say that I know some of this is going to come across a little hokey; I totally get that. But please bear with me and try to get past the weirdness. There’s no real way of talking about a mindset and subconscious thoughts without sounding a little crazy. But these thoughts have allowed me to generate $48,000 in photo licensing sales in the past 20 months… so please keep an open mind and read on.

In a follow up article, I’ll talk about putting this mindset into motion to help you make more money but before we get there, I think it’s really important to fully understand the mindset—because the more you understand it, the easier it is to ingrain and implement it.

Shot for an interior designer and licensed to a cabinet company (different from above) and the cabinet pulls manufacturer (same as above).

I believe everything starts with a mindset. And I believe the way you live your life and run your business are both a direct result of whatever mindset you currently have. But I also know that your mindset can grow over time—especially if you set out with the intention to change it. So if you alter your mindset, you can alter your actions, and your entire reality can have a massive paradigm shift.

Every time I walk into a space that I plan to shoot, my brain immediately starts to process how I’ll photograph it. I think most of us in this industry probably do this without even really trying—it’s second nature by now. However, at the same time that I’m figuring out the angle, composition, and lighting, there’s another section of my brain that’s processing how I could potentially sell the images of the space to other companies.

This seamless integration of thought patterns is the licensing mindset at work.

Shot for an interior design firm and licensed to the brick veneer manufacturer.

At this point in my career, it’s impossible for me NOT to see licensing opportunities. Not only do I immediately see them when I walk into a residential or commercial space I’m commissioned to shoot, I notice certain brands of faucets in TV shows, and I’m subconsciously hyper-aware of wall coverings like tile and brick when I go into restaurants.

The way products jump out at me is similar to how a certain model of car might to start jumping out at you once you’ve decided that’s the kind of car you want to buy.

Shot for a tile maker and licensed to the faucet company.

When you can see potential opportunities to sell your photos to other companies without even thinking about it, you really open yourself up to a lot of possibilities to make more money from the same work you’re already doing; then, it’s just a matter of taking action.

After shooting and editing the photos, you can identify the vendors within your images, find the appropriate contacts at those companies, send them an email pitch, and start making sales. (We’ll get more into that in my next article.)

Shot for a design/build firm and licensed to the cabinet company and tile manufacturer.

I always say there’s a reason why the term “starving artist” exists. It’s because so often, artists don’t know how to actually make money from their art. I don’t want to starve (and I really love great, vegan food), so I’m always looking for new ways to make money from my artwork.

Maybe you’re not starving, but maybe you just don’t quite have enough money for dessert—or maybe you just want seconds. So let’s develop your licensing mindset so you can have your cake and eat it too.

If you want to learn how to proactively license your photos to home product vendors using my systems, techniques, and email templates, then enroll in the Learn to License Your Photos course.

*Note* PFRE is not affiliated with Learn to License Your Photos and does not collect any payment or referral fees. We believe this information is very useful and could benefit many photographers in our industry. PFRE readers can enjoy $150 off the course by using code EARLYBIRD at checkout.

Adam Taylor is an interior and architecture photographer based in Long Beach, California. Photo by Jordan Powers.

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