Last week’s article on ways that stock photographers are missing out on sales mentioned “Imagery that is not relevant” among the top 5 reasons for low sales results.  What imagery is that?  And the moment of truth…Is your photography relevant? 

Frequently, we publish 10x10 portfolios of photographers who know how to shoot relevant images and have a clear and well defined style of shooting.   Surely those photographers that still haven’t reached those shooting levels must be analyzing what differentiates their not relevant photography to those 10x10´s in order to improve their photography, right? Wrong!

Editing today is sometimes frustrating when the “point & shoot” without the backing of relevancy is repeated time after time. If there is no idea, no intention and no reason for clients to use your images, shooting is playing lottery: you’ll shoot a lot and fortune may smile once in a while.  If there is an idea, an intention and a reason for clients to use your images, shooting is making an investment:  you’ll shoot a lot and will earn more interest the more images you have in the bank.

Admittedly, many shooters today are not trying to run a business, but even if just shooting images in your free time and placing them with a stock agency one would expect some regular sales… otherwise, why shoot images anyway?  However, if you regularly shoot images with little relevancy like these below, it is clear that your photography has room for improvement.


 
Here are some solutions though, because relevancy doesn’t have to be the lost grail!

5 Steps to Relevancy

  1. Think about what your images can illustrate.

  2. Consider whether you have seen better images of the same or similar situations.

  3. Try to analyze what your images are missing compared with other, better ones, of the same subject.

  4. Find one that you like and that is clearly better than anything you have done and decide if your photography is weakened by use of the wrong lens, poor lighting of the zone you are photographing, lack of a clear point of interest, a bad camera angle in relation to the subject or bad cropping.   Now try to take your next shot “marinating in your mind” the image you like.

  5. Try not to be a combination of Ansel Adams, Henry Cartier Bresson and Richard Avedon together in one image.  Instead, focus on analyzing and practicing one distinctive style.

The lack of a purposely practiced shooting style directly impacts the quality of the images that I see daily. I know that in the end, it triggers certain shooters to take their photos on these non-exclusive pilgrimages, from RM to RF and LBRF and then finally ending at microstock, because at 14 cents, almost everything can be sold, eventually.

Now, leaving aside the question of relevancy, image editors sometimes find another problem. Indecisive individuals with good photographic practices that use their imagination, have good technique, know what can interest clients and resolve well many photographic themes, but, ooh la la, at the last moment the photographer’s dilemma appears: which one of the 20 shots below is the good one?  Maybe my agency can resolve the dilemma for me, the photographer might think.


And there is a reason for that though, because for some portals with a few more millions of images than age fotostock (and less sophisticated searching software), the good trick is to send 5 or 6 equals because among so many millions with basically the same keywords (Italy, Venetia, dusk, blue, etc., etc.) how else will the images be seen if no miracle occurs and the photographer isn’t one sending images every week?  Quantity of equals is the key.

However, at age fotostock, 20 equal images will be returned with a note saying: “edit your work tightly…”  Therefore, it becomes just another way of delaying your images appearance on the web… which is another way of losing income. Because the faster the images go live on the web, the more sale possibilities you have.


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Most photographers believe that shooting images, any images, of any subject, is enough to earn money. Many know that stock photography today is not what they knew years ago and have left the industry or will do soon, others are shooting microstock where the individual prices may not be great, but multiple 14 cents can make, if you are lucky, some money worth handling.

However, not all is as it seems and many photographers should pay attention to a number of details to see their results improve. Here are the Top 5 reasons for low sales results worth considering and putting into practice:

  1. Imagery that is not relevant is the most important reason that photographers lose business. Relevance describes how pertinent, connected, or applicable something is to a given matter.  Therefore if you go to the street and shoot images without thinking how they will be used, you are in fact wasting most of the time you are shooting. A thing is relevant if it serves a given purpose, being advertising, decorative or even editorial, but boring street scenes with little more acumen than point and shoot are for the most part a waste of digital technology and sadly many photographers shoot this way today. Who wants to spend time looking at boring, predictive, point and shoot images taken with a digital camera kit?

  2. Lack of MR/PR´s: No matter how many times it is repeated, photographers still don’t realize that shooting “editorial” (or “No MR available” in the industry terminology) is not a good idea now that stock agency websites sell images worldwide.  It’s a bad idea because (1) the editorial concept is not universal, but varies by country, so anyone can have a legal entanglement in a country where images could be published, but no “editorial protection” exists and (2) images of people without MR/PR´s can never be sold for commercial uses. In spite of all odds, there are still some lucrative advertising sales that “editorial photographers” will never see and in these moments of low prices, commercial uses supply a bit of oxygen to suffocated shooters.

  3. Bad captions and lack of good keywords is another pending matter that photographers who submit images need to overcome. It doesn’t even matter if keywords are added by the agency, because if an image of a beach only specifies in the caption “Cambodia” or “Vietnam,”  that image will have a little chance of sale or appearing on the web provided it is not uploaded to Flicker and even there the possibilities of selling it are, at best, slim. 

  4. Too few images and a lack of persistency is another revenue-eroding factor; nowadays, shooting constantly and submitting regularly to the stock agency of your choice is a must. Otherwise, you will get sporadic, lucky sales but not solid, persistent sales month after month. 

  5. Ranking, the capacity of your images of being seen in the first pages of the search results, affects those that don’t supply images regularly. Nobody wants to promote photographers who don’t submit frequently in these days when the offer of images is so vast that it makes the editing process difficult (and if the images are irrelevant, pretty tedious as well).

Take it or leave it, being a stock photographer today is hard and if on top of that, you miss the obvious, then you are severely limiting your own possibilities.


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In case we have any faithful readers out there, we apologize to you for the delay since the last post.  Age fotostock has been seeing the world, specifically travelling to Istanbul to participate in the annual Cepic conference from May 17 till 22.  This conference generates a lot of work for us, both before and after the conference, so we haven´t been able to write in the blog.

We are pleased to report that one of the reasons that Cepic creates a growing workload for age fotostock is because age fotostock director, Alfonso Gutierrez, has been serving on the Cepic Committee and was in fact, re-elected this year to continue serving on the committee.  Alfonso is the chosen representative from the Spanish Association of Stock Agencies to represent them at European level.

Although you might not know of Cepic, it is important for stock photographers and videographers.  CEPIC stands for the Coordination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage, or more commonly, Center of the Picture Industry.  The goal of CEPIC is to be a united voice for the press, stock & heritage organizations of Europe in all matters pertaining to the photographic industry.  As such, CEPIC is involved in attempting to influence the decisions of the European Union in matters such as piracy, Google books, Orphan works, and collective rights management (see more here).  Policy for these matters and others is being decided at the level of the European Union, and those decisions will affect all photographers whose photography is being licensed at some place in the European Union.  That’s why age fotostock feels it is important to be involved and is glad to have a key person close to the events. 

If you are interested in learning more about the photo industry environment in this year’s Cepic conference, take a look at this reflection on the state of the photography industry by conference attendee Liz Pepper.


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Man portrait on his head dumb stupid

From the unstructured world of licensing visual content, generally called stock photography, due to the continued prevalence of photography stills, we are entering into another era of confusing descriptions of the products we license. Video, motion and footage are adding their doses of conceptual confusion.

In the history of stock photography, there have always been surreal definitions for the different types of licenses whose origins were simply “reproduction rights licensing.” Let’s review; we use Rights Managed, Royalty Free, Low Budget Royalty Free, Low Cost images, and even the most surreal of all “microstock”. Our industry has never been fortunate enough to clearly define what it actually licenses.

Imagine that we test the validity of the nomenclature for licensing types by asking the next door neighbor, maybe a used boats salesman, to give an example of someone who is quite removed from our industry. When he asks us what we do for a living, undoubtedly, we will need to enter into lengthy explanations describing that an image could be used for certain time, geographical area, etc. and others can be licensed and used as many times the buyer wants and even all possible intermediates. The funniest of all will be describing “microstock” because our boat seller will probably imagine that it refers to a smallish stock of something, completely opposite to the reality, in which microstock photography actually manages truly huge stocks of images.

For ages, something called “footage” has existed, which was defined as the raw, unedited material as it had been originally filmed. In those days of 35mm filming, a piece of film (with no sound) had 16 frames of 4 perforations in a foot of film (35 mm film had perforations on both sides of the frame) which formed 1 second of film. Footage was an obvious way of describing moving image material. Now in our stock photography world, some companies use the word “motion” to describe the licensing of moving images. To be precise in that case, the term to use should be “motion pictures” if we want to make sense, because the word “motion” is ambiguous enough to describe concepts of a legal nature, from football and even a song by Matthew West.

Nowadays, we license video which refers to the technology to electronically capture, process, store and transmit scenes in motion. Video, “I see” from the Latin verb “videre” refers to various formats for the storage of moving pictures that goes from analogue videotapes like Betacam and VHS to more modern digital video formats like QuickTime, MPEG-4, DVD, Blue-ray. However, most video we sell on the Internet today is in fact “video clips” which are short videos, no longer than a few minutes, if not only seconds each.

Furthermore, even YouTube is a video-sharing website on which users can upload, share and view videos. If you have footage or motion pictures the point is that they will probably be digitized into video, so why not unify the names? I think it’s better to say “car” than “a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers”.


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What is one of the biggest, most important subjects in current events today?  Energy.  Making it, buying it and saving it.  And that topic, energy, is getting hotter and hotter, as the world observes the nuclear crisis in Japan and wonders about safe and sustainable energy sources for the future.

So, what is the reflection from the stock photography world on this subject?  How do stock photographers handle this subject in their imagery or as Enrique Algarra said, “express their ideas to the world with their images?”  Take a look below.  Search “saving energy” on stock photography websites and you will find these kind of images on the first page of results.  I know because I did.  Seriously, is this the best that stock photographers can do to discuss a matter as globally important and potentially commercial as saving energy?!

Is this the best that stock photographers can do?

I think that the stock photography and video community can do better than this.  And I know that advertisers are looking for better than this.  Take Carrefour, an important European supermarket chain, who sent this 2011 New Year’s greeting for Spanish clients.  Their emailer announces “Making 2011 a better year depends on the little things.”  The emailer and video (below) show a series of clips and still images of actions that save energy.  Where were these simple, elegant clips and images when I searched saving energy?  I am sure that we have images that are just as good, and even better, from photographers and providers, but they are buried by a vast majority that are trite and show no originality.

 

 

So here’s a challenge.  Think about energy.  Think about saving it and making it.  And create some worthwhile images about what you think.  And if you are ready to start with video, let yourself be inspired by the clips in this ad, and take on the same challenge.


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