Friday, April 29, 2016

The Power of Simple And Stock Photography Success

A simple image with a clear and strong message is one of the keys to successful stock photography.

Power In Simplicity
There has always been power in simplicity, and now more than ever, simple images are one of the keys to success in stock photography. Think about…just about every image is chosen from thumbnail sizes on an Internet site. An image must communicate a message quickly and clearly at postage stamp sizes to in order to be considered for licensing.

Simplicity, Clarity And Impact
As attentions grow ever shorter the importance of simple also increases. A simple image communicating on idea in an instant is necessary to cut through the constant media assault that competes for our attention.   An image is far more likely to be successful if it combines simplicity and clarity with impact.

Risk, Danger And Weak Links
While I do not yet know whether this image of the risk and danger of a weak link will sell well, I do believe the image is simple and clear. I also believe it has a stark beauty to it that makes it stand out among similar images. Just for fun, I did a search for “weak link” on the Getty site using the “best match” filter.  This image will stand out! 

Rust, Storms And Clearing Skies
Using a rusty chain accentuates the vulnerability of the metal. Having the weak link stretched out and with only one thin piece of steel still holding, adds to the drama. The stormy sky background indicates additional stress and turbulent times. The light on the chain is consistent with the last rays of the sun before the approaching storm, or for optimists, the sun breaking through clearing skies.

Copy Space And Cropping Options
Other attributes that I trust will make the image appropriate for as many uses as possible are that there is plenty of room for copy and that the image can be cropped to square or vertical as well as its natural horizontal format.

Blend Images And Royalty Free

I placed the shot with Blend Images as a royalty free photo. With Blend I can submit the image once and have it available through out the world. It will also be available on the Blend site as part of a highly curated collection (great for art directors and designers who don't want to waste time looking through a lot second tier imagery). Too, there are a ton of uses for it ranging from pointing out aging infrastructure to bringing attention to old and faltering paradigms. The list is really endless which favors the larger audience available for Royalty Free imagery. Oh yeah, and Royalty Free is simpler too…and there is power in simple!

Monday, April 25, 2016

5 Questions For Stock Photo Success

Connections, networking and communications technology are represented by this stock photo of a woman with streaming data engulfing her head.
Connection, networking and communications technology shown in an image that is easy to crop, has room for copy, and has visual impact results in a successful stock photo.

A Best Selling Stock Image
Since I created this image of a woman with the top of her head engulfed in streaming colored lights a couple of years ago, it has been consistently a best seller for me. When I created it I was hopeful that it would sell but I never would have guessed that it would be in my top 100 (actually it was my 16th best selling image out of about 10,000 images over the course of 2015).

Sales Reports And Trying New Things
I tend to obsessively scan my sales reports determined to glean information that will help me make images that sell well. But time and again what I come away with is that everything sells (okay not every single image sells, but pretty much every category does) and it’s impossible for me to know which images are going to be the best sellers.  That opens the door for me to keep trying new things (like combining streaks of light with models).

Five Questions About A Stock Image
There are five questions I ask myself about an image to try and insure the image has a chance to sell well:

1.              Does the image illustrate important concepts?
2.              Is the image a quick read at thumbnail sizes?
3.              Can the image be cropped to multiple formats?
4.              Is there room on the image for inclusion of headlines and/or copy?
5.              Does the image have visual impact?

Now no image needs to have all of these qualities, but the more of those questions get answered, “yes” the better chance an image has of being a successful stock image.

Concepts, thumbnails, Crops And Visual Impact
Connections, networking and communications technology are all concepts illustrated in this shot of a woman’s head intersecting with streaking lights, all important concepts in this digital age. I am pretty sure that at least one reason the image does well is because it can serve to illustrate multiple concepts. It reads quickly as a thumbnail, crops to square or vertical and it has visual impact. It really stands out on a page of thumbnails about “networking” or “connections”.

Eyeballs And Blend Images
I gave the image to Blend Images believing that is my best chance to get the most eyeballs on it. So far it has been licensed in India, The U.S., The U.K., Thailand, Germany, Slovenia, Korea, United Arab Emirates, France, Qatar, Canada, Taiwan and China…so far. And it’s a Rights Managed image…meaning it probably would have sold many more times as an RF image. But that is the subject for another time!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Anatomy of a Concept Stock Photo: Ideas

Light bulbs have been used to create a human brain that represents ideas, creativity and possibly even artificial intelligence.
This light bulb brain draws on the iconic symbol of ideas and creativity but gives it added power with the new twist of making it into a brain.

Iconic Symbols In A New Light
The tried and true symbols that have been embedded in our collective subconscious, despite their overuse and cliché stature, remain powerful tools in conceptual photography. The trick is to use those symbols in new and different ways. When you succeed at doing that you, in a way, get double or even triple your bang for the buck. You get that subconscious hit, you get the quick read from a familiar image, and then you get the appreciation and boost from using the symbol in a new incarnation.

Light Bulbs Creativity And Ideas
The light bulb brain image above is a great example of just such a reworked, iconic symbol. The light bulb is still the premier visual symbol of ideas and creativity. Even when we know it has been used to death, we still know what it means.  Create a new light bulb image that we haven’t seen before and it gains a new, even stronger power to attract our attention.

Light Bulbs Brains And Intelligence
The human brain is another iconic image representing intelligence, creativity and ideas. In the case of our light bulb brain the brain form reinforces the concepts of ideas and creativity, adds in intelligence and possibly other themes such as artificial intelligence. On the humorous side of things I can see this image as a bright idea! Sorry.

Old Concepts And Powerful Ideas
By using an old, hackneyed concept, the lowly light bulb, we are able to create a new powerful symbol that can represent a number of concepts. It is a quick read at small thumbnail sizes but still provides impact at larger sizes. It is a memorable image, versatile in how it can be used and flexible in terms of cropping.

Blend Images
I delivered the photo to Blend Images. With Blend it will be available at all the major distributors and when licensed directly through Blend I will get 50% of the revenue. I expect the image to do well.  And, because there is nothing to age the image I expect it to bring in revenue for a very long time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Creativity And New Approaches In Stock Photography

Big data,streaming data, and communications technology are all illustrated with this colorful stock photo of streaking lights and binary numbers.
Big data, communications technology, and streaming data are all illustrated by this photo of streaking lights and binary numbers.

Consistent Styles, Creativity And Fun
One of the best things about stock photography, for me, is the opportunity and rewards of trying new things. While in the assignment world there is an ongoing need to build and maintain a consistent style, but with stock there are no such barriers to creativity and, well, fun!

More Demand, Less Competition
Luckily for me I enjoy the process of coming up with commercial images of all kinds, and part of my drive to experiment is the recognition that only by venturing out into new territory can I discover images that due to their unusual nature face a healthy amount of demand and less competition than more traditional imagery.

Big Data, Information Management And Needed Concepts
A few days a go I sat down and decide to create an image about needed concepts including big data, information management, and communications technology. I decided that I would use binary numbers to start with. I created a layer of ones and zeros and began to manipulate the layer using transform and warp tools. I used a hue and saturation layer to turn the binary numbers to blue because blue is highly associated with business.

Motion, Speed And Binary Numbers
I like the flow of the binary numbers. They were starting to give me a sense of motion and speed and definitely indicated streaming data. But I wanted a more dynamic feel as well. In my library of images I have a lot of light streaks created with long exposures and camera movement. I found one such capture with mutli-colored streaks that I could align with the initial binary numbers and that would add that extra dimension of drama. Another long-exposure light capture took on an intricate net-like appearance that I added in as a background.

Thumbnail Sizes and Cropping Options
One of the challenges of this image was creating it in a way that facilitated horizontal, square, and vertical crops. Mission accomplished! It can also be used to illustrate a lot of different concepts. Besides the above-mentioned ideas it can show bandwidth, wireless communications, and even cloud computing. This big data image is also a quick read at small thumbnail sizes on the Internet…an important aspect when one realizes that virtually all stock images are now purchased over the Internet and first seen as these small thumbnail sizes.

New Styles, New Approaches And Payoffs
Now I don’t know if this will be a successful stock image. It could take me a couple of years to find out. But I did enjoy the process of putting it together, and I do believe the image will produce revenue. But hey, I’ve wrong before…. Nonetheless, I know from experience that experimenting, coming up with new styles and approaches, over the long haul, definitely pays off.

Blend Images, Royalty Free And Revenue
I have submitted the stock photo to Blend Images as a Royalty Free image. My thinking is that because the image can be used for so many different concepts with such a wide audience that it’s revenue possibilities are greater as an RF image. A final point about the revenue potential of this communications image…by submitting it to Blend Images I get the advantage of very wide distribution and, in the case of a Blend direct sale, the added bonus of a 50% royalty split.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Roller Coasters, Business And Stock Photos

A roller coster filled with screaming business people hurtles down a track in an image about the ups and downs of business.
A roller coaster filled with screaming business people hurtles down a track in a humorous business stock photo.

Roller Coasters And Business
Like roller coasters, businesses have their up and downs. The Stock market certainly has its ups and downs. Every industry goes through its cycles, and there are a lot of businesses that offer products, services and guidance to help both individuals and businesses, small and large, to either avoid, weather or even thrive on the up and down challenges they are sure to face.

The Ups And Downs of Business
It makes perfect sense then to create imagery that such businesses can use to advertise and promote those products and services, and images that magazines, blogs, and online news services can use to illustrate their offerings around such issues. It was with exactly that need to illustrate those ups and downs of business that prompted me to create an image of a rollercoaster populated with terrified, screaming executive type business people in the middle of a rapid descent.

Flexible, Timeless Stock Photos
The message is clear and a quick read even at small thumbnail sizes and the image stands up to large reproduction including billboard sizes. I composed the photo to allow for cropping to square, vertical or horizontal formats while allowing ample copy space for headlines, body copy, and even inset photos.  Part of what makes a successful image is the ease and flexibility with which it can be used by art directors, graphic designers and photo editors. Another aspect of this photo that works to its advantage as a stock image is that there really isn’t much to date it. Roller coasters will probably look like, well, roller coasters for a long time, and casual business attire doesn’t really change much either. Another important aspect of the image is fun. The inherent humor helps the image be memorable and compelling.

Creating Business Concept Images
To create this business concept image I first went to an amusement park and photographed a roller coaster, focusing in fairly tightly on the first two cars. I specifically looked for cars that were mostly empty to facilitate the Photoshop work I would have to do. The next step was to find the nine models I would need, which I did using SF I had each model come in to the studio and photographed them from a ladder to get the correct perspective. As long as I had them I also photographed each of them for a series of other images I knew I would be making…have to be efficient these days! Each model was hired for $35.00 an hour digital files for their portfolios, with a two-hour minimum. I had a list of at least a dozen scenarios for each model.

Royalty Free In Blend Images
It took about a day in total to do the Photoshop work. I stripped each of the models out by making a clipping path, turning the path into a selection, refining the selection using the refine brush on the hair. I put them into the roller coaster cars using puppet warp for small positioning adjustments. I also used a sky that I had photographed years earlier in the desert (while at Burning Man…everyone should go once).  Because it is the type of image that I think can be used by a large audience for multiple uses I put it into BlendImages as a Royalty Free image. Who the hell named RF images Royalty Free any way? But I digress.

Hanging On For Dear Life
This rapidly descending roller coaster car filled with terrified executives could be a poster image for the stock photo industry! As an aside, we stock shooters have to remember that like a roller coaster, if we hang on long enough we should be fine.
This image has been licensing well for a couple of years now (and seldom fails to sell at least once a month). Someday I will check on the revenue and be pleasantly surprised to see that it has earned many thousands of dollars…at least that is what I am planning on…in the mean time…I am hanging on for dear life!

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Changing Stock Photo Strategy For Success

A woman's head explodes in an eruption of people portraits in an image about social media overload.
In a social media overload image a woman's head explodes into individual people portraits.

The Changing Landscape Of Stock Photography
With the disappearance of Corbis, somehow being swallowed up by Getty without being bought by Getty (huh?), the continuing success of the new “tech” stock agencies like ShutterStock and Stocksy, 500px and the probable success of Adobe Stock, the landscape in our industry continues to change. For an old timer like me it is a challenge to keep up with it…but I try!

Supplemental Exposure, SEO and Social Media
More than ever, I believe, that to excel in stock photography one has to find a way to get what I call supplemental exposure for one’s work. It is a mistake to just sit back and hope/expect the agencies to garner sufficient eyeballs for your work.  It is the stock shooter’s equivalent of the assignment photographer’s necessary and constant efforts at marketing. For me that effort is coming down to SEO work on my website and the use of social media.

Participating In Social Media
I have to confess here that I have been a social media hater. I have tried, but have a hard time committing to the time it takes to engage with social networking. But that is changing. I am changing. In the past couple of weeks I have made a stronger effort to participate in social media in a several ways…and it started with Blend Images.

Enjoying Social Media
As regular readers of this blog already know, I am a part owner of Blend Images, a photographer owned stock agency. Blend Images has a great new website (check it out) that facilitates social engagement and I have started making the most of it…liking images, pinning them, tweeting them and sharing them on facebook. As much as I hate to admit it, I am starting to enjoy it!

Facebook Ads
I am also experimenting with facebook ads. They are really pretty cool. You can drill down deeply in choosing the parameters for an audience. There is great flexibility in setting up the schedule for adds, setting budgets and so forth. There are also very few options in creating the ad itself…which is wonderful! I don’t have to spend agonizing hours figuring it out. That is great because I would much rather be spending my time creating stock photos.

Website SEO
As I have done for years, I also continue to upload my images to my website with plenty of text on each page, alt text for the images and so forth. The facebook ads get my work in front of new people, the website and SEO work helps people looking for specific images find mine. Too bad so many of them are looking for free images...oh well!

A Stock Photo Strategy
At this point my stock photo strategy is to keep working on my website SEO…which is great for reaching people who are looking for an image, participate in social media which builds my brand (and that of Blend Images), and advertise on facebook…which further builds my brand and sets the stage for future stock photo sales.  Geez…I’ve been converted! Oh well…gotta go pin/share/tweet an image!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Anatomy of A Social Media Stock Image

Social Media and social networking are illustrated in this stock image combing two hundred individual portraits with a wide range of ethnic diversity, age ranges and with gender balance.
This "Social Media" stock image has over 200 individual, model release portraits montaged into one dynamic photo.

Social Media Images
Over the last several years I made quite a few “Social Media” and “Social Networking” images. This particular image is my current favorite. I believe it portrays the idea of online communities and social interactions by combining over 200 individual portraits into one image that fairly vibrates with energy. The image is quite simple, a collage of portraits, yet conveys a complexity and intricacy that is part and parcel of online communities.

Eight Years Of Shooting People
The image took me two full days to composite together…not to mention about eight years of shooting people and getting model releases. Imagine what it would cost to pull this image off from scratch! Then there is the time to upload and enter the model releases and metadata…over four hours…and that does not take into consideration all the sorting, searching and scanning time. Geez. 

Value For Art Directors
It is an image like this that REALLY offers tremendous value for art directors, designers and art buyers. Of course, just how good a value it is often makes me a little crazy. With the resources and time that go into an image like this one it is hard to see those $2.00 sales come through. Oh well….

Ethnic Diversity, Age Ranges And Gender Balance
The overlapping images with varying degrees of opacity and different layer modes, combined with the intermixed use of large and small portraits, creates a feeling of motion and energy and depth. The image crops easily to square, vertical or horizontal. Obviously there is a wealth of ethnic diversity, age ranges and gender balance. This portrait montage doesn’t just work for social networking concepts, but for a vast range of ideas from demographics to political themes to international and global business concerns.

Social Networking And Blend Images
There is an inherent interest in faces, and with over two hundred faces in this one image there is a powerful pull on viewers to spend extra time viewing. That is good news for those using the image to draw attention to their message. I placed this networking photo with Blend Images to get maximum distribution. It is a Rights Managed image because it is hard to duplicate and I have a bias for RM for images that take so much time to create! Take a moment and view all of my Social Media images on Blend’s new site!