Saturday, February 28, 2015

Creating A Stand Out PR Image

Funny elephant photo of a young boy riding his bicycle down the back of a delighted elephant!
This humorous photo of a young boy riding his bicycle down an elephant's back was created to fulfill the need for a PR image for a bicycle company that would stand out from the crowd. I think we succeeded!

Just put together this image for a friend, Jeff Cleary, who has started a new bicycle company “Cleary Bikes” creating adult style bicycles for kids. He wanted an image of a youngster riding on one of his bicycles to use for multiple PR purposes, but he wanted the image to be something that was out of the ordinary and that would grab people’s attention.

Jeff is familiar with my work with funny animals and suggested that we could have a kid riding his bicycle down an elephant’s back. Hmmm…that would certainly be different! 

We had a model, a young boy who was about as cute as they come (and at first impression painfully shy) come in to my studio for the shoot. Jeff helped steady him as he balanced on the bike with it’s rear wheel up on an apple crate to approximate the correct body position. The little boy was awesome. We told him to look really excited…and he got into it immediately with a huge open-mouthed grin that was perfect.  After the first six frames or so I checked the images and realized I had inadvertently opened up the f stop and was pretty badly overexposing…so we did it again and our model continued to give us that wonderful expression.

With the photography part of the job completed I turned to the imaging. I selected an elephant from a shoot I did years ago in Thailand and combined four captures to piece together the big pachyderm into a funny pose appropriate for a kid riding a bike down it’s back.  Next I pieced together a background. The immediate foreground was from a scene I photographed in Yemen, and the distant mountains and sky from Black Rock Desert (think Burning man). I then added appropriate shadows to “ground” the elephant into the scene.

I used the pen tool to create a clipping path around the model riding the bike, made the selection, and copied and pasted it into the elephant image. A little bit of adjustment for size, angle and position (and the hardest part...removing logos from the shoes!) and (Voila!) a truly unique bicycling image!

Of course, as part of the deal I have stock photo rights, and after removing the remaining logos I submitted the image to Blend Images as a Rights Managed stock photo. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Creativity, Money And Stock Photography

A stream of images combine with light streaks in a stock photo illustrating concepts such as photo sharing, social networks, and streaming data over the Internet.
Creativity, money, and stock photography, a presentation on stock at the San Francisco Apple store by John Lund.

On Thursday the 19th of February, from 7:00pm to 8:00pm I will be giving a talk at the Apple store in San Francisco. The title of my talk is “Creativity, Money And Stock Photography”. I will be sharing my experience and approach in stock photography including tips for making stock photography profitable.

While certainly stock photography is in transition and has become a much more daunting career, it is important to remember that stock photography is a two billion dollar industry in which there are many photographers successfully navigating their way to success. 

I am going to pack as much useful information into an hour as I can including some of my actual income figures. I’ll be sharing a lot of images, so hopefully it will be entertaining as well as informative. Hope to see you there!

The presentation is free, but space is limited.

Monday, January 26, 2015

In Appreciation Of Blend Images Stock Agency

A life ring of social media portaits sales out through stormy skies in a stock photo about social networking as a resource and online communities as support groups.
This photo created for Blend Images could well be a metaphor for the support and community offered by a new breed of stock agency.

­­In Appreciation Of Blend Images
Blend has just announced their spring creative meeting that will take place in Miami this April. It will be a multi-day affair with an emphasis on motion stock, but still plenty of information on stills and the industry in general. The details are still being worked out. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to these events. It is truly wonderful to get together with my “Blend” family, catch up on everyone, and be informed and inspired about our industry.

A Photographer-Centric Stock Agency
Blend is the brainchild of Rick Leckrone (Blend’s CEO) who pulled together twenty-four top stock shooters to create a photographer-centric stock agency (disclaimer here…as one of the founding members I am biased in favor of Blend Images!). The agency began with a specialization in ethnically-diverse content, but has evolved to offer an ever increasingly wide range of material. While originally a content aggregator offering RF sales through a wide group of distributors (including Getty and Corbis), Blend went on to pioneer RM images available through numerous distributors and has also added a direct sales component.

Maximum Image Visibility
While there is no denying the dominant (if slipping) position in traditional stock of such agencies as Getty and Corbis, there is, more than ever, a strong case to be made for the importance of gaining maximum visibility for one’s images as well as the revenue potential of the countless “non-traditional” (read microstock) stock photography audience. With Blend I get far more eyeballs on my imagery than I would with just Getty or Corbis and I get market penetration into the microstock audience as well. With Blend I can upload my images once and have them seen virtually everywhere. If one of my images gets buried on a Getty search, it still has a chance to be seen on other sites and visa versa.

A Bigger Pie
Yes, the slice of the pie is smaller with a Blend/Getty, Blend/Fotolia or Blend/Whomever sale, but the pie is much larger! In the case of a Blend direct sale a Blend photographer stands to earn five times as much as a sale through most other distributors. Plus, having images at Blend provides the safety of diversity and the ability to benefit from a nimble agency that is well positioned to take advantage of changes within the industry.

Photographer Support
Photographer support is much better as well. You can actually have a relationship with your art director (I communicate with mine on almost a daily basis), you can pick up the phone and talk to a human being, you get educational webinars, creative meetings, and access to more research than I have ever experienced with any of the traditional agencies. With Blend you become part of that afore mentioned community.

The Blend Staff
I would be remiss if I did not point out that every member of the Blend staff has always been responsive, friendly and helpful to me. Hey, to be able to call Blend and have a human being on the other end alone is great...but to have a human being who is attentive and can get things done...well, that is just plain awesome!

Success In Stock Photography
After all that, do I still contribute images to Getty? Of course I do. That is a door I am not anxious to close. But the vast majority of my images go to Blend. My own personal recipe for success in stock photography includes consistent production of high-value photos with Blend Images being the cornerstone of my distribution. Whether you shoot traditional or microstock it may well be worth your while to give Blend a closer look.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is Stock Photography Dead?

A woman business executive is superimposed over a long road and looking ahead a clearing skies and an a sunrise indicating better times and success ahead.
A woman looks down a long road, under storm clouds and at clearing skies over a sunrise, towards better times and success in a stock photo that could well represent the stock photography industry.

Is Stock Photography Dead?
The death knell for stock photography is ringing loudly everywhere one turns, but is stock photography really dead… or dying? I don’t think so. Sure, the stock photography business is in transition with a lot of challenges for those attempting to make a living at it, but there are some good developments as well. With the advent of microstock, and the proliferation of imagery, prices have plummeted, but recently there has been some evidence of increasing prices for curated collections. Too, there are still plenty of examples of high prices being paid for stock photos. Agencies are springing up that are paying the content creators a larger percentage of the licensing fees as well. Finally, there are some more photography-friendly agencies coming along that are offering more guidance and support for photographers.

Sales That Pay The Bills
In my own experience I continue to see substantial sales from such venerable agencies as Getty and Corbis and some excellent sales from Blend Images as well. Just last month I had a $17,000.00 (gross) sale from Getty, a $6,000.00 sale and several sales in the $1,000.00 range, not to mention a plethora of lower priced sales. Last night I had a direct sale through Blend Images for $1308.00, and the week before I had a Blend Images sale for $3500.00 and another one for $1223.00. Two weeks ago a friend of mine had a $40,000.00 Blend sale! Those really big sales are kind of like hitting the lottery and while they certainly are fun, it is the hundreds of smaller repeat sales that pay the bills. There are still plenty of clients willing to pay a decent amount for the right image.

Photographer Friendly Agencies
Also good news for photographers is the trend of new photographer-friendly agencies. Blend (disclaimer…I am a part owner of Blend), for example, offers a ton of help for photographers from intimate art direction to market research to royalty rates to 50%. A big plus for Blend is the wide distribution they offer ranging from Getty & Corbis to Masterfile, SuperStock, Gallery Stock and many others. Gallery stock has caught my eye because of the consistently high sales they make for me (through Blend Images). Stocksy is another interesting agency that has a co-op approach, a high royalty rate, higher prices than microstock, and is off to a fast start.

Making A Living With Stock Photography
Don’t get me wrong, making a living with stock photography isn’t easy, but making a living, making a very good living, and having a wonderful lifestyle as part of the bargain is still possible. Success requires knowing what will sell, consistent and high-level production, and choosing the right distribution. Oh yeah, and a boat load of perseverance! ­

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Strategy For Success In Photography

A crowd of people press their faces against the glass of window peering in excitedly in a concept stock photo about popularity, success and ideas.
This stock image about popularity and excitement required eleven models and hours of Photoshop time, but has a high chance of success because it stands out from the crowd.

A Strategy For A Successful Photography Career
One strategy that I think is a no-brainer for photographers wishing to pursue a career in photography is to constantly shoot for your portfolio…and put those images into stock. Create imagery that speaks to you at the highest level you can, and then make those images work for you not just by helping you get assignments, but by earning income as well.

A Market Hungry For Great Imagery
Such a strategy has some pretty obvious benefits. Despite the insane over-supply of stock photography, the market is still hungry for great images…and a great image will usually find a buyer in stock. Never underestimate the creativity of art directors, designers and photo editors in utilizing imagery. While not every image is going to do well in stock I believe that if one consistently puts innovative imagery into the stock arena the rewards will be well worth the effort.

Passionate Imagery And Revenue Generation
I have learned from my own experience that some pretty “out there” images can actually generate significant revenue. If you are creating photography that you are passionate about that passion will show through and help raise your stock imagery above the vast morass of mediocrity.

Getting Noticed
Further, the more unique and exciting your images are the more likely you will be noticed, and the more those images are seen the better. Most photographers that are long-term stock shooters that I know, myself included, have had the experience of getting assignments from art buyers and such who have seen our stock images and tracked us down. It happens quite often, which by the way, is another reason you really want to just put great imagery into the stock pipelines.

Great Images, Financial Success And Creative Satisfaction
I have had great success at creating images that require either a large financial investment (renting a lion for example) or required a huge time investment in terms of post-production (happens to me all the time). At least for me, investing in creating “portfolio” images has been a smart strategy for stock. On top of that, creating top-notch images is way more satisfying creatively. I would go nuts if I just churned out the same old images day after day.

The More Great Images The More Success
Not every image shot for your book will be a commercial success in stock, but it doesn’t have to be. Like everything else in life 80% of your income will likely be generated by 20% of your imagery, but the more of those awesome and unique images you have out there being seen the more success you will have. Another thing I have learned is that I never know which of those images will fall into that 20%, so I just think up those images, do them, get them out there…then start in on the next.

Supplementary Images
Sure, I supplement those more challenging images with ones that I believe will sell and are simple and inexpensive to create…but my heart is in the images that are portfolio quality and by and large those are the images that have driven my success in stock.

Shoot For Your Book And Put Your Images To Work
To sum it up, shooting for your book or portfolio provides creative satisfaction and increases the chances of having imagery that will stand out from the crowd. Putting those images into stock increases your visibility and provides income…often for a long, long time. It is simply a no brainer for anyone pursuing a career in photography.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Six Reasons To Watermark Your Photos

A butler rolls out a red carpet in a metaphorical photo for service of the highest order.
By including a watermark on you images you are providing a service to help people find more of your work either for visual enjoyment or licensing.

1.              To make it easy for interested parties to license your imagery. 
As a matter of fact, that is what got me interested in putting together this post. Twice in the last week I have had unsolicited thanks from people who found my images on the Internet (yes, there are plenty of people and companies that would rather license images than steal them) and knew how to contact me in order to license the work. My watermark is © so ALMOST anyone can track me down. These two people who did find me were thrilled that I had watermarked my images!

2.              To make it easy for interested parties to find more of your work. Okay, so maybe someone does see an image of yours, doesn’t really need to license that particular image, but either loves it and wants to see more, or loves it and is hoping there is more work in the same style that does suit their needs…and if you watermark your images you are doing them a favor. So watermark your images as a gift to others…a gift for those who really do appreciate your work!

3.              Because you are PROUD of your work! You are proud of your work, right?

4.              If it was good enough for Picasso, Rembrandt, and Matisse it is good enough for you. It not only makes sense to watermark your work, but it has been the norm for hundreds of years! Artists have been signing their work since before the Renaissance.

5.             To discourage others from taking credit for your work.
A few weeks ago while perusing 500px I came across an image of mine that someone else was claiming credit for. Not only that, he had dozens of compliments and people giving kudos for the image.  Maybe it is just my ego, but when I see someone else getting compliments for something I have done I find it very irritating! When I sent him a notice to take the image down he told me that it wasn’t my image, that he had found it for free on the Internet. But it WAS my image…posted years ago before I started watermarking my work. This may still happen even if you do watermark your images (I have seen many of my own images with my own watermark sometimes clumsily Photoshopped out)…but it will happen less often! Come to think of it, there are a number of sites out there offering to sell my images some of which even leave my watermark on the files. Oh well….

6.              To help establish that there is VALUE to photography. Watermarking your photos doesn’t just help you, but also helps out photographers everywhere! The value of photography is under attack these days. One thing that each of us photographers can do to help people realize that photography does have value is to watermark our images. If you don’t do it for yourself, then do it for the all the other photographers who do care about the value of their work!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Latest Thoughts On Stock Photo Success

"Hey, come buy my stock photos!" I used myself as a model in this social media networking image.

A Chat With An Art Director
I had a nice chat with an Art Director friend of mine a couple of days ago. She often has to search for stock and related to me how much more difficult it is to find good material.  Considering how much “material” has been uploaded in the last few years it is very interesting to hear that.  It seems that the road to success is simply figuring out what is “good material”…and how to get it seen.

Good Material
Regarding the first part, figuring out what is “good material”…I believe that good images, even great images, have the same criteria they have always had. Some of the photographers that I am in regular touch with do report good and even increasing sales. While I am not at liberty to just say who they are and show you their work, I can tell you that the work itself can range from remarkable to actually fairly pedestrian. Even some of my unremarkable images sell well. What makes those images sell is that they solve a problem for someone in need of the right image.

Getting Your Work Seen
The second part…getting your work seen, is in my opinion is the more challenging  part of the equation.  I have to point out here that I am totally unfamiliar with how photographers can increase their visibility on the microstock sites, but I believe there things they can do within the sites themselves (maybe one of you micro guys can jump in here…). I do know that Jon Boyes has seemingly mastered the art of getting his work very visible at Alamy, but for most traditional stock agencies about all we can do is produce the best work we can, drive more traffic via our own outside efforts, and hope that the quality of those images carries them higher in the search algorithms. 

Web Sites And Social Media
As I mentioned above, we can utilize our web sites and social media to gain visibility, and to drive more traffic to our images on the agency sites thereby moving those images up in the searches. For me, at least in terms of my website, the question is whether my time is better spent working at SEO and participating in social media, or in making new images. While I can only speculate, I am guessing that in the short term I would be better off just making new images, but am becoming ever more convinced that in the long run the benefits of a website that truly generates traffic will prove to have been the smart course to take. Yesterday I got a request for four images for a calendar and today a request for an image for a mural and another request for an image for a brochure. I also had about twenty people find my images follow the links to the agencies that handle those images. How many will actually license the images I don’t know, but since I have started my efforts to drive traffic to my site I have seen a slow but steady growth in stock requests.

The Social Media Question
Then there is that social media question. Again, I have no doubt that social media can drive traffic to one’s site…in three weeks of active participation the percentage of traffic to my site coming from social media has risen from 1.2 percent to 3.3 percent.  Baby steps to be sure, but steps none-the-less. Social media can work in other ways too…such as generating assignments. But for us stock photographers it sure seems like an uphill battle! Hey, but I forgot to mention, I actually made a stock  sale through a facebook request a couple of days ago! Another plus for social media, a Getty photographer I know who has seen his income consistently grow attributes it in part to targeted facebook ads he is doing.  Food for thought!

A Consistent Long-Term Approach
I think part of the trick is to develop a routine such as allotting fifteen minutes each morning to participating. Of course, it is important to know who your audience is and which social media sites they frequent and then focus your attention on those sites. But like everything else in this business, success comes through a consistent, long-term approach. I think the whole thing is a pain in the butt, but I don’t intend to wake up one day and realize I can’t make a living with what I love to do. I always remember that I have to be willing to do whatever it takes.

Update on Agency Access E Mail Campaign
So I did a second email blast using Agency Access. I sent out 4,500 emails. Six hundred and twenty were opened, nineteen went to my website (oddly enough exactly the same number as the first time)…and it looks like I am getting an assignment out it. Cool!

Stay tuned for more!