Monday, March 9, 2009

The case for quality

The case for Quality

At the User Generated Content Expo there was one common theme that kept coming through no matter who the speaker was. That theme was that quality content is key to success. I believe this is an especially important point for stock photographers. Further, that is true whether you are shooting for Rights Managed, Royalty Free or Microstock.

Quality images will rise to the top

The internet has leveled the playing field. It has leveled the playing field in a number of ways. No longer is the world of stock photography open to the few with contracts with the major stock agencies; now anyone can participate. Too, buyers can now compare, instantly, images and prices from across the world. It doesn’t make a difference whether you are competing in Macrostock or Microstock. Sooner, rather than later, the quality images will rise to the top and the lesser images will disappear into the darkness of the seldom or never seen. And that darkness is growing. As the number of images available increases, the chances of anyone seeing any one image decreases. The fundamental problem in selling stock on the internet is rapidly becoming one of being seen. And one answer to that problem is in offering quality work. That is true both for the individual photographer and the agency.

Quality images don’t have to be expensive to produce. You can spend thousands of dollars on a single image, or nothing at all. It isn’t about what it cost to make the image, or what you hoops you jumped through; it is all about the image. A great image can be a grab shot, or an elaborate production, or anything in between.

Your images represent you

Be proud of each and every image you submit. If you aren’t proud of it, don’t submit it. Just as important as creating great imagery is that you don’t dilute your work with the mediocre. It is difficult to be a good judge of your own work, but it is important to constantly work at building your discipline, at being your own harshest critic. Your images are more than just images; they also represent you.

Any resources you utilize to create less than great work is going to be increasingly wasted as those images become more and more eclipsed by better ones. But more importantly, as the distributors struggle to find ways to cut through the clutter and offer their clients more efficient searches and more relevant material, it is quite likely that your body of work will be taken into consideration as well. We can already see that happening at Alamy and iStockphotos, and probably others that I am not familiar with as well.

It will be important to build your own brand, if you will. I think it is a mistake to sit back and rely on the agencies to market your stock. Be proactive. Build your brand. Make your life about quality.

If you make your life about quality, your work will certainly follow. If you make images that you are proud of, images that will solve the problems of others, and if you are proactive in building your brand and insuring that your images are seen, you will be successful.---

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