Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The biggest Challenge For Photographers And One Possible Answer

The ability to write is an important skill for helping get your photography seen by potential buyers.

Imagination, Execution and A Level Playing Field
When Photoshop first came out I was fond of saying that it eliminated the barriers between imagination and execution, and that it would level the playing field in photography as never before. Fast forward almost twenty years and we see the playing field has been leveled again. The Gate Keepers are gone, swept away by microstock and flickr. Microstock eliminate the barriers to participating in stock by allowing anyone to submit images. Now Getty has opened the doors to the “biggest” and “badest” traditional stock agency in town (OK, in the world). In just the last few weeks Getty has accepted over 50,000 images from 11,000 flickr photographers.

Flickr And Microstock Opening The Doors
Back in 1990 when I first began using Photoshop I believed that it would make photography skills less important and imagination and creativity much more important. Even though pretty much every image we see these days has been run through Photoshop, I wasn’t really very accurate with my predictions. Digital capture has perhaps been an even greater force for change, making photography easier, cheaper and quicker. And now we have flickr and Microstock and all the other similar entities all opening the doors to photographers everywhere.

The Biggest Challenge

As a stock photographer you are not just competing with other photographers, you are competing with the best individual images of dedicated photographers through out the world. But that is only one way in which the creativity bar has been raised. The biggest challenge facing us is that of being seen among the mountains of images out there.  That is where our creativity is again challenged. How do we get our work seen by those who will license it?

Words And Images

There are numerous answers to that question. Writing is one answer.  Adding words to your images can provide a huge boost in getting your work seen. There is, ahem, blogging, but there is also article writing, both for the Internet and for the printed page. Yesterday I ran across the most recent copy of Shutterbug magazine. The image on the cover, a shot of a Burmese fisherman on Inle Lake, caught my eye. I have been to Inle Lake several times, and have photographed some of those fishermen myself. It turns out that the cover photo was shot by a friend of mine, Maynard Switzer. As a matter of fact, I think I was in the boat next to his when he photographed that fisherman! But it is Maynard’s image on the cover of the magazine, not mine. He doesn’t just have the cover either. Maynard has three more pages in the magazine in an article he wrote about his transition from fashion shooter to travel photographer. Maynard's ability to write gets his work seen by a huge audience.

Blogs, Articles And Comments

There is no question that the ability to write well is a huge advantage for photographers right now. Writing gets you found in search engines, can get your images on the covers of magazines, and can make your proposals and estimates more effective. Writing can take the form of magazine articles, photography blogs and e-zine articles, but it can also be effective as well-thought out and informative comments on other people’s blogs. But whatever form your writing takes, the key is to actually do it. So what are you waiting for?


Patrick Smith said...

I completely agree. Writing brings an unfamiliar place to life and people like stories. And as you mentioned, detailed explanations help you get found on Flickr. It has definitely worked for me.


John Lund said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Lund said...


Great to hear that it is working for you...I'd love to hear more!


The n00bwife said...

Good point re: writing being a really good way to get more exposure. I think using Twitter for microblogging is a good starting point for those photographers who are unsure about their ability to write and want to start small by trying it out in small doses.

I also wanted to add FocalPop to your list of new services bringing buyers and photographers together in a new way: www.focalpop.com