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 ©johnlund.com 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!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Social Media Madness

A group of people climb clamor to see something on one man's smart phone in a business lobby.
The challenge of social media for me is effectively using it to get more "eyeballs" on my work.

Social Media Challenge
So I have spent the last few weeks immersing myself in Social Media. Geez, maybe I am just to old for this stuff…but I am having a challenging time figuring it all out. Here is what my experience is telling me at this point.

Participation And Time Investment
The first thing that I THINK I have learned is that the key to social media is primarily one of participation. Unfortunately, participation takes time! It takes time every day, and I believe that it requires a consistent time investment over a long period. Hmmm…kind of sounds like everything else in life, doesn’t it!

Picking Your Battles
Secondly, you have to pick your battles! There are so many social media options now that it doesn’t seem realistic to try and do them all…so you need to pick the ones that will work best for your particular business…and for your sensibilities…and good luck with that!

Google Plus
I am probably wrong about this, but it appears that Google Plus is mostly photographers looking at photography. While there are indications that being active on Google Plus will increase your SEO, who really knows outside the hallowed halls of Google?  I am, however, putting daily time in to Google Plus because, well, its Google.

Instagram
Instagram, in which I am yet to begin really posting to, appears to be an important option…a lot of people have told me I HAVE to be on it.  But I can’t seem to get started on it, and I have a hard time believing that I can get a lot of traction with my kind of work. Thomas Hawk believes it is a huge advantage to get in on the ground floor with social media sites…but the ground floor with Instagram is LOOONG gone. Oh yeah, and it is so mobile device centric that to post the kind of image I do requires a work around...and I hate work arounds!

Pinterest
Pinterest actually seems interesting to me. In the last two weeks I have seen my social media generated traffic to my website increase from 1.2% to 2.8% and that increase is pretty much due to Pinterest. I recall seeing some statistics indicating that people who hang out at Pinterest actually spend money. I can see that. You go to Pinterest to find ideas for home remodeling, wardrobe purchases and so forth…and maybe even to find photography for wall d├ęcor? If art directors and designers are looking for ideas and inspiration…I can see benefit in that. Of course, one must also take into account the demographic...and since Pinterest is heavily weighted towards women...perhaps it is a great place to promote my greeting card images! Anyway, at this point most of my efforts are going in to Pinterest…and I am even enjoying it a little bit (heaven forbid).

Twitter
With Twitter I am tweeting my blog posts…and the Blend blog when I like its material…but nothing else. I guess with Twitter I am doing the equivalent of keeping a toe in the water. Whether I will dive in any deeper remains to be seen. I seem to be close to my limit with Google Plus and Pinterest.

Facebook
Oh yeah, Facebook. Uh, you know, they are really diligent at reminding me to post on my fan pages…something I virtually never do. Oh well. I do look at my (what do you call it, my personal page?) every couple of days or so, though I also have two fan pages...the whole relationship of which I have a hard time understanding! I did check in with a photographer I know who posts a lot and has a humongous number of likes, fans and stuff…and he reports being unaware of any benefit to his business from all that (though I hear wedding and portrait photographers can do well with facebook). Then there is the fact that facebook only shows about 5% of your followers your posts unless you are greasing their palms... I do plan on "sharing" more images on my facebook pages via links from my site and Blend Images...so that will represent a small increase in efforts.

Tumbler
I did post for a while to Tumbler…but it didn’t provide me with the overnight success I needed to sustain the effort. Plus I have heard that Tumblr is not indexed by Google...and driving traffic to my website is the primary goal of all of my social media efforts.

500px
I looked at 500px but had the bad experience of seeing someone else claiming my work for his own, which kinda soured me on that. That has been pretty much my efforts over the past few weeks.

Social Media, Success And Real Life
We have all heard of the social media success stories…and they are out there just like the success stories from promo pieces, cool websites, email blasts and source books.  I think such successes are relatively rare in “real life”. I think that because success for most of us will only come with a prolonged effort, it is important to put your time into whatever avenues of visibility are most palatable for you. It would be a shame for me to bust my butt for six months really working social media and then quit (invariably just before success came).

Making Images And The Easy Way Out
Another question that comes up for me frequently is whether I wouldn’t be better off just doing my thing making images and getting them into the market. But then I keep thinking that is the easy way out and also that it is dangerous to stick you head in the sand in the face of change.  So onward I will press and experiment till I find my own “sweet spot” in social media.

What Are Your Thoughts?
And finally, I would love to hear from all of you what your thoughts and experiences are with social media in regards to your photography businesses. There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of people reading this blog will know a heck of a lot more about how to incorporate social media into a photography business and we can all learn a bit more if everyone shares their insights.




Monday, April 21, 2014

Four Common Denominators Of Successful Stock Photographers


Success, while elusive, is attainable as illustrated in this image of a businessman at the foot of an escalator leading to
One important common denominator of successful stock shooters includes the willingness to do whatever it takes....

Shooting Stock For A Living
I spend practically every waking moment, and even some non-waking moments, thinking about stock photography. I love shooting stock for a living, and I really love making a very good living at it. But as any stock shooter probably knows, our industry is under siege. There are too many of us, and we are making too many images.

The Common Denominators
In my never ending quest to figure out how to best insure that I can continue to
make a good living at stock photography, I am always trying to find out the common denominators in successful stock shooters. The primary trait that seems to be present in all of the top stock photographers I know, and even the ones I don’t know personally but do know of, is that of productivity.

1. Shooting Quality And Quantity
While the vast majority of stock photographers earn relatively small amounts, and most traditional stock shooters find themselves with declining incomes, there are still a few who are doing well, and even those who find their incomes consistently increasing. One thing these shooters all find a way to do is to produce a lot of work. This is true with micro stockers as well as traditional shooters.  I want to believe that quality trumps quantity, but that might just no longer be true. I think the new paradigm is quality and quantity…and you need both

How To Shoot Quality And Quantity
I know that about a year ago I set a goal for myself of twenty images a month. One photo a day for every weekday seemed like an impossible task for me, given the Photoshop intensive nature of my images, but by golly, I have actually exceeded that goal. But without setting that goal, and really committing to it, I probably wouldn’t be completing half that many stock photos. I certainly wasn’t before!

Understanding Strengths
I know one photographer who shoots three days a week, mostly studio work. Another stock photographer I know just shoots on location and has committed to a shoot a week. Each of us has to understand what our own strengths are and push ourselves to apply those strengths to producing images in a quantity and quality that will take us to where we want to be. 

2. Shooting For Market Needs
The stock shooters that I personally know that are doing the best are also shooting with specific market needs in mind. They are not shooting friends and neighbors on cell phones!  The agencies I work with, Blend and Getty, both offer information on what to shoot. Blend in particular (disclaimer…I am part owner) is offering a ton of guidance on what to shoot and how to shoot it. You don’t have to follow it to the letter, but I believe it is important to pay attention to their research.

Know The Competition
When I say “know the competition” I am referring to the competing images out there. I like to research what is out there before I commit to an image. If the concept is really well covered, then before I begin, if I decide to move forward with an idea, I make sure I have a twist that will make my image stand out.

3. The Extra Mile
While I have found that truly successful stock photographers all produce both quantity AND quality, and shoot for market needs, there are other factors at play as well, factors that should not be ignored. All of these shooters go the extra mile. I know one photographer, doing very well, who attributes some of his success to the use of facebook ads! In my own case I know that all my efforts at SEO play at least some role in supporting the licensing of my imagery. Yet another photographer has had stellar results from really focusing on perfecting his key wording at Alamy.  At least anecdotally, it seems to me that virtually all of the stock shooters doing well are in some way reaching beyond the conventional avenues of success.

4. Whatever It Takes
As I conclude this post it comes to me that another quality all of the stock shooters I know who are still making it are above all MOTIVATED! Because lets face it, the challenge is too difficult to overcome without one heck of a lot of effort, effort that can only come with a tremendous amount of desire. We all have to ask ourselves one big question: Are we willing to do whatever it takes to succeed?


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Watermarks, Theft And Visibility

A giraffe stands on a cliff with his head above the clouds in an image about visibility, risk and awareness.
A giraffe stands on the edge of a cliff, his head above low lying clouds in an image illustrating concepts such as vision, risk and danger. I feel like this giraffe, embarking on a journey the outcome of which I cannot see clearly.

Watermarks And Theft
A few days ago I decided to check out 500 pix. Unfortunately, within the first five minutes of looking at 500 pix I came across an image that was doing rather well (a ranking of 97.5) that was, in effect, my image. That is, someone had stripped out an elephant sitting on a bench from one of my images and stripped it in to a room. There were quite a few comments congratulating the photographer on his creativity and so forth. I added a comment…that the image was my copyrighted photo and that he should take the image down immediately. A few minutes later he replied that the image was not mine and that he had downloaded the image for free off of the Internet.  I have seen the image floating around the net with a clumsy job of cloning out my watermark, but by stripping the elephant out of its original background the watermark, or area where it once was, was not included. BTW, the image was clearly mine with every wrinkle in the elephant’s skin matching my elephant.

Stock Photo Licensing And “Policing” Images
I clicked on the “Report This Image” button and fairly quickly 500 pix removed the offending page. 500 Pix is now selling stock photos. It strikes me that they may have their hands full policing the site…and dealing with model releases. I guess we shall see. In the meantime, aside from being steamed, I am wrestling with this whole Internet theft and watermarking issue.

Visibility Or Recognition?
In this new world of social media and sharing photos we can garner much more attention with minimal or no watermarks, but it sure opens up our imagery to theft. So what is better, to go for visibility and recognition, or try to maximize the protection of your imagery with large and intrusive watermarks? Emotionally I want to try and stop the theft, but logically I think it is probably better for one’s career to go for the visibility. If you take it to the extreme, you can totally prevent theft by never showing your work at all. And when your images are stolen, I suspect there really isn’t that much damage done financially to individual photographers (hey…don’t flame me for saying that), though collectively there sure is a lot of money being left on the table! Ultimately, if someone steals the image I get nothing, if they don’t steal I get nothing, but it they share it there may be profit for me in increased links, web traffic and visibility.

Benefits Of Recognition
Recognition works for us in multiple ways. With sufficient visibility it makes it much more likely your work will find those legitimate users with the money to license imagery, it certainly increases the odds of getting assignments, and it helps insure that you get the proper credit for your style or treatment of photography. When an art director or designer sees your portfolio, if they are already aware of you from other sources (think Internet), then they are much more likely to be appreciative and receptive to your book. If you are trying to earn money it is better to be known than unknown. So for now, I am going to reduce the size of my watermarks (I use ©johnlund.com so that people know where to go to license the image if they are legitimate licensors) and see what happens.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stock Photo Showcase: Melting Pot to Patriotism to Immigration Issues

This image of the American Flag combined with a background of faces is great for illustrating concepts such as social media connections, demographics and immigration issues.
This versatile image illustrates concepts ranging from social media to immigration issues, to the U. S. as a melting pot.

America As A Melting Pot
An American Flag is juxtaposed over a sea of faces in this stock photo I just created. I like it so much I just had to share it on my blog! If there ever was an image that says the “melting pot” of the United States, this is it! The composite montage of faces includes approximately 250 model-released portraits. While the ethnic diversity says melting pot, the image also can illustrate a wide range of concepts.

Social Media And Networking Photos
This is definitely a social media image and it is showing the “tribe” or “community” that is America. These Americans are linked to each other in a variety of ways and certainly social networking across the Internet is an important part of the linking. Too bad this image wasn’t around when AOL got started…it would have been perfect!

Diversity
As previously mentioned, this is an image about diversity. But it is more than just ethnic diversity, the populace pictured has a wide range of ages and, of course, is fairly well gender balanced (though I actually didn’t count…I am just assuming).

Demographics, Immigration and Politics
This can also be used to indicate demographics both for advertisements and editorial uses.  I can see the image being used by political parties and politicians as well as by any company that wants to indicate the wide acceptance of their products and services across America. Using the American flag with a wide and diverse range of people certainly makes the image a great one for issues around patriotism, immigration and even voter registration!

Creating A Social Media Photo
It took me at least a day’s worth of work just moving the individual portraits around in Photoshop to create the background montage. I then photographed an American Flag in my studio and used Photoshop to lay it over the portrait background. I spent at least another hour trying different things from opacity changes, to mode changes, to mask versions and finally settled on this. At this point I don’t remember exactly what the solution was. I could go back and look at the layered file, but naw, I’m just too lazy to do that now!

Blend Images And A Ton Of Work!

I have uploaded the image to Blend Images, a process that actually took longer than it does for me to create most of my montage images! I spent six hours uploading and editing model releases…arrgh! Blend has a very easy and efficient upload portal, but just doing the repetitive work of finding all the releases (another couple of hours work) scattered over several hard drives, and then uploading them one by one and so forth, was taxing to say the least. But hay, I have a good feeling about this image and I think it will all have been worth it!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Getty Images Free Photos With A Catch!

Sea monster tentacles reach out of a computer monitor attempting to snare a businessman seated at his computer.
Getty Images' new embed program offers free photos but with a catch!

Getty Images “Embed” Program
I have had a number of requests to comment on Getty’s “Embed Program”, and while I am no expert, I will at least share a few thoughts. The gist of the program is that people are now free to use most of the photos handled by Getty Images for non-commercial use by using provided embed code. The photos remain on the Getty servers (an important aspect as we shall see).

Getty, ShutterStock And Perceived Value
Who knows what all is behind this decision, but I think a big part of it may be motivated by Getty’s need to increase it’s perceived value to investors. The Carlyle Group paid over 3 billion dollars for Getty just to see Getty’s market share continually loose ground to ShutterStock. From what I hear, the only way for the Carlyle group to get their money back (let alone make a profit) is to take Getty public, and for that to happen Getty has to look good to investors. This program takes Getty beyond just selling stock and into the realms of advertising media, target advertising and data mining.

Getty, Data Mining, And Targeted Advertising
Getty, through this program, will have the ability to track the images putting them into the “Data Mining” business. They can also push out advertising into the images an ability that puts them into the business of selling advertising…specifically targeted advertising. Obviously this business model looks a lot more promising to investors than just selling stock photos does. It is  also important to realize that with the push of a button Getty Images can delete all those images from where ever they have been embedded, or even switch the photos!

Logos, Credit Lines And Image Theft
Some of the problems I am hearing about the program seem pretty legitimate. The pictures cannot be resized and come with a pretty large Getty logo and credit lines. It seems to me that bloggers and others who are used to stealing images will just keep on doing that. It is still easier to do a right click and steal the image…and by stealing the photos instead of using the embed code, the infringer has the ability to resize the images, avoid being tracked by Getty, and avoid having to display Getty logos and credit lines. There is also the unpleasant possibility that Getty could eliminate the photos showing up that would then leave broken links on the user’s site…not pretty! In fact, I had planned to use the Getty imbed code on one of my own images for this blog, but I realized that using a photo that way would not be as good for my own blog traffic as using an image that I in fact host. Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

Non-Commercial Use Licenses
I personally would much rather that Getty offer “Non Commercial Use” licenses for small fees in the neighborhood of a dollar or so, and only for RF images, something like what apple has done for music. That would reinforce the idea that images are meant to be paid for and to add at least some revenue to photographer’s pockets!

Revenue Sharing
Yes, if Getty manages to get revenue through pushing ads out onto embedded content we photographers get to share in that, and from what I can understand it will be at the same royalty rates indicated in our contracts (disclaimer…I am not a lawyer and that is just my opinion). However, I really can’t see that amount being significant for individual photographers. Then there is the question of whether photographers would share in the revenue made by Getty if they sell the results of their data mining.

Impact On Photographers
In fact, I can’t really see how this development has much impact at all on photographers. Everyone is already stealing our images like crazy with little or no consequences, and I can’t see why anyone would use the Getty embed program.  My biggest takeaway is that it is one more step in the perception of photography being free for anyone to steal and use as they wish.

Links To More Information:

Sean Locke has a very in depth analysis.


Like