Aside from the camera, one of the most useful tools in stock photography is a small but very important scrawl. This signature on a Model Release form, which states that the subject of the photograph consents to being photographed, is extremely important - it can catapault your content from just the "editorial use only" sector into the full stock market of advertising, promotion, trade or product endorsement.

If you have the relevant releases your images can be used for commercial purposes, if not, what a pity! They may be licensed as editorial use only.

Understandably, at times this signature can be difficult to obtain. Sometimes it's difficult even just asking for it.  You may be shy, you may be busy, you may be in a foreign country where language barriers mean that you can barely ask for a glass of water let alone explain what it is you will happen to your images when you get home.  But we encourage you, & you´ll see it in your sales reports at the end of the month -  it's worth making the effort!

So how should you go about it?

A few weeks ago staff at age fotostock were impressed by a submission by our photographer Jorge Fernández Garcés, which included stunning images of people in Africa with complete model releases. Here follows some words from the wise:

Approaching the model:

"How I approach the signing of a model release depends on each situation and each model. My first concern when asking for a MR is if I will somehow create an unpleasant situation or mistrust, if so, I don’t try. Otherwise, if the subject is open to listening, I attempt to have someone there who speaks their language, to explain what they're really signing.

In distant countries and cultures so different to that of Western culture, I consider it essential to bring along a local guide and translator to help me to contact with people, as it is not always easy to convince someone to let you photograph, and much less for them to sign the MR. The most important thing here is undoubtedly find a guide who understands the needs of the photographer.

In my case I always ask the models to sign a paper rather than a electronic document. That’s firstly because I do not yet have a smartphone or ipad, and second because I think it is quite difficult to get anyone to sign a paper, let alone a electronic device. Although I am aware that in some cases it may arouse the curiosity of the person and facilitate the process."

Model reactions:

"There are people who are afraid to sign a paper and there are people who really do not care at all. I think it has much to do with the cultural environment. Westerners usually distrust anyone who asks them to sign a document. Other cultures that do not have so much contact with the bureaucracy do not give signing a paper very much importance.

In regards to these model released photos that I recently took in Africa,  I was traveling with my partner, along with a guide. In addition to helping with the preparation of the scene (flash illumination, etc..) she was responsible for identifying and organizing the signed MRs. For me this was very important, because sometimes we work with several models at once and things get busy - had I been alone, as I was taking the photos, probably many of the pictures would not be accompanied by MR."

Some advice?

"If you are in a foreign country, it is important to have an assistant who is in charge of organizing the MRs once obtained, especially if you are working in the street with several different subjects. And of course it may seem silly, but always carry spare MRs and a pen, as it is not always easy to find a pen when you need one!"

- Jorge Fernández Garcés

To all our photographers out there, what are your experiences of obtaining Model Releases? Any suggestions you´d like to share?

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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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Earlier this February, when age fotostock announced the opening of video for contributors in the Photographer’s blog, we were pleased to see a lively exchange of comments and opinions on one of our video requirements, that clips must be compressed in codec H.264.  We would like to follow up that debate with a little more information about video compression in general and specifically about the required codec and format for age fotostock.  We look forward to your continued comments, questions and feedback.

Why is video compressed?

The main challenge in the development of digital video was the amount of data required to represent a moving image. A digital photograph was only a few MB, but a sequence of 25 or 30 images was much more data to represent and process.  Too much, in fact…

The compression of the image in the video was absolutely necessary for the digital video work process. Without effective compression, the volume of information to process would make it impossible to do things like post video on the web.  The compression must reduce the flow of data from a video in the least destructive way possible. The goal is to compress as much as possible with a minimal loss of quality.

So digital video is compressed to economize on space, whether it's bandwidth or media, and a codec (compressor/decompressor) does the job of encoding and decoding. By improving the techniques upon which the codec is based, we're able to transmit higher quality video using the same bandwidth as before, in other words, more bang for your buck.  There are countless codec’s in use today, some of the most common ones are: MPEG4, Photo-JPG, DivX, MPEG-2 and H.264.

What is the advantage of codec H.264?

The H.264 codec reduces the amount of information required to reproduce the input video by recognizing the redundancies in the frames of a clip in a process generically called motion compensation. This process exploits the fact that between frames is the camera or the subject is what is moving therefore in reference to a video file that means that much of the information in one frame is repeated in the next frame, so by removing redundancies the video files reduces the size. A digital video clip compressed with codec H.264 only uses half the space of MPEG-2 to deliver the same quality video. This means you can enjoy HD video without sacrificing speed or performance. 

H.264 has become a new standard for high definition video and is set to supersede some of the formats that are commonplace today such as MPEG-2, the standard for DVD video and some types of cable TV and digital broadcast.  The proof is in the use of this codec by some of the giants within the technological and multimedia world such as Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Canon, etc (and age fotostock, of course!).

Are there any disadvantages to codec H.264?

As we’ve already explained, H.264 is a very efficient codec, able to reduce the bit rate and achieve an excellent quality and compression rates. These characteristics make the codec ideal for HD video which will be distributed on internet.  In addition, nowadays all video-editing programs include the codec, which produces good results during the editing process.

Nonetheless, if you are planning to edit your audiovisual material extensively, such as retouching, subtle color adjustments, or extracting a chroma-key, than you should try to work with the minimal compression possible.   In these cases, consider converting your H.264 compressed file to a codec with almost no compression, such as Apple Pro-Res.  Once you have finished your fine adjustments, you should encode with H.264 in order to send and handle the file. 

What is the difference between a codec and a format?

A video format is the type of file used to store the information of a video clip (AVI, MPEG, MOV, WMV, FLV, etc…)  This is comparable to the file formats in images, such as JPG, TIF, GIF; BMP, etc..  Video formats are considered multimedia “containers,” because the format stores all of the information for images, audio, subtitles, etc. for a clip. 

This information within the clip must be compressed so that the clip can be easily handled.  In video, the algorithm used to generate the compression is known as the codec (ex. Photo-JPEG, H.264, MPEG, DivX, etc).  For example, a Quicktime file (abbreviation .mov) is a container for information which might be compressed with any of the following codec’s (Photo-JPEG, H.264, etc...).  This differs somewhat from the world of digital imagery, where you can choose to use formats (such as TIFF) that have no compression.  A photo format such as JPEG, on the other hand, always has some level of compression included (you can determine the degree) so it more easily comparable to a digital video format. 

So what is Quicktime?

As we already mentioned, Quicktime is a type of “container” file which is capable of storing a high quantity of multimedia information.  Currently, it is the video format most commonly used for multimedia purposes because it is compact and easy to handle and edit.  It is also multi-platform, compatible with Mac, Windows and several version of Unix.  Quicktime allows for an easy synchronization between audio and video and lastly is versatile with a number of additional technologies (3D, Virtual Reality, video-conferencing, etc) that not all video formats can handle.

Since the version 7.0, Quicktime has been implementing the codec H.264, as a standard codec which allows for a good quality of HD file and with lower bit rates, as previously stated.  age fotostock has chosen to work with Quicktime for all of the above reasons, namely because it is a multimedia system which can reproduce and transmit high quality content online.

What should you do if your clips are not in Quicktime (with H.264 codec)?

As we explain in the Road Atlas, you can convert both the codec and the format in the same operation using a software conversion tool. There are numerous convertors; we recommend a free one called Mpeg-Streamclip that you might know of.

Please feel free to write us with any other questions about creating and processing video or about the video submission processes for age fotostock.  If you have a lot of extra time on your hands or you would like to make sure that we didn’t just make this up, check out these additional resources.

Additional Resources on H.264 and Quicktime

H.264/MPEG-4 AVC

H.264 overview

Steve Jobs talking about H.264

H.264 vs MPEG-2 presentation

Quicktime features

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If someone is asking you "Do you know what the date is?" you are either:

  1. An unfortunate soul who has just bashed his or her head and is being checked out by a concerned bystander or medical professional trying to ascertain whether you’re really “with it” or not.

  2. A stock photo researcher who must provide their client with a quick and accurate response, if you want to make the sale.

At age fotostock, we find that it is becoming more and more important for clients to have access to accurate and thorough metadata information for images.  The ability to respond to these questions quickly and reliably helps ensure that the client will be satisfied and will return in the future.

As you surely know, much of this information is added to images in editing programs such as Photoshop, Bridge, Lightroom, etc.  In addition, each image has EXIF information, which is information that is automatically created and stored when the image is taken.  This includes information such as: camera make and settings, GPS information, and importantly, the date and time of capture. 

The date the photo was taken is the most frequent request that we receive from agents and clients.  In some countries, such as Brazil, publishing clients are required by law to check the date, in order to ensure up-to-date imagery.  Fortunately, nowadays virtually every existing digital camera captures that information and saves it within the EXIF file.  The information is there, all you have to do is… not strip it out! 

We receive and store EXIF information from the majority of our photographers.  However, some photographers make the poor choice (consciously or not) to eliminate that information by stripping the EXIF file.  At best, you will receive an “additional information” request from us one day for a client who needs details.  At worst, you will lose sales when the client opts for the “safer, easier” option of an image with complete EXIF information.

Please take the time to review your submission processes to ensure that you are not losing this valuable information.  If you are unsure whether your material is arriving to age fotostock with EXIF intact, please contact us and we’ll let you know.


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The number of images received from photographers the first working week of 2011 has decreased by 6.16% compared with the same week in 2010; however, the number of photographers sending images has increased by 61.61%. In other words, we see more photographers sending smaller selections of images, more frequently. Is something changing?

Our acceptance rate has also increased, growing from 36.05% to 47.17% during the same time period. Clients want to see new content everyday and among some photographers, quality is increasing. If the acceptance rate for any submission sent to us is over 47.17%, you are actually doing very well. Congratulations!!

However, one wonders, how can photographers possibly think that selections of dull and uninteresting images like these below have good sale possibilities? The old rule in stock photography has always been “Color, color, color, and more color.” Are certain photographers suffering from color blindness?

There is another kind of color blindness that we observe among other photographers. Time and time again, they send us underexposed images like the ones below.  Are they working with the correct screen gamma?

Understand that if your images don’t have well-photographed and interesting subjects with strong color and saturation, they won’t sell. A surprisingly high number of photographers don’t take the time to finish and polish their work.

I think it’s time to wake up, Friends, because I must say: many of the photographers sending images for age fotostock, and surprisingly, for easyFotostock, understand color very well. Their images are highly saturated and colorful, probably something that some of them have learned in the highly competitive microstock market. 

Coffee mill with coffee beans Healthy woman smiling Composition with raw vegetables and wicker basket Posing with a brush young woman
Figs Happy woman in sunny hotel A golden spire, at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok Thailand Fresh Sage Salvia growing

Well, Photographers, not all is lost, at least many shooters have learned to create bright and highly colorful images. Why not all of you? 

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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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