Monday, December 21, 2009

Photography And The Future: Advice For The Road Ahead

The road ahead for stock photographers lies under storm clouds, but are those rays of optimsim and future success awaiting us?

I have compiled the advice offered to photographers from the photographers, CEOs, agency owners, art directors, designers, photo researchers and others who I have interviewed over the last year:

Jack Hollingsworth, Stock Photographer, Blend Images Co-Founder, Social Media & Photography Consultant

The money is in getting the photography in front of the consumer.

Marc Romanelli, Stock Photographer (Stills And Motion)

I choose to shoot what I know, shoot what feels right, diversify by shooting motion, as well as stills, finding new agencies that want to build their collections quickly as Workbook did, loading them up with images but not forgetting the "girl that brought you to the dance" in the first place...that would be your bread and butter agency. In my case that agency is Getty.

Ellen Boughn, Stock Industry Consultant and Pundit
Think of your business as a multi-layered cake. Get your work into all the layers of the business. DEVELOP a specialty and be the best at it in the world. Even photographers on microstock sites need to build their brands within the site in order to get maximum downloads.

Colin Anderson, Stock and Assignment Photographer and Co-Founder, Blend Images
Shoot work that is unique and hard to copy, and keep expenses down to a minimum.

Jonathan Ross, Stock Photographer and Co-Founder, Blend Images

I would say keep costs down. Don’t buy that new camera this year unless it makes you more money. Research is a bigger part of the game, more then ever before. Do your homework and get your ducks in a row before you spend your money on a shoot. Invest in R & D and try to stay true to your vision instead of just copying what you see working for others or that you have already shot yourself. Most of all have as much fun as possible, that always brings the largest rewards, financially and personally.

Rick Becker-Leckrone, Stock Shooter, Co-Founder & CEO Blend Images stock agency
One thing is especially important to keep in mind – now is not the time for a shotgun approach to production. The last decade was about creating massive amounts of RF imagery. Now there’s too much similar content. RM has been underserved with new imagery, but it’s a relatively small market. Micro is interesting, but a lot of hard work and not completely clear one can generate the same returns as in traditional stock. (Yes, some do, but very few.) Chill out in 2009. Figure out what you’re truly good at shooting, figure out what the market is missing and make fewer, but better targeted content. Don’t count the success of your 2009 in the number of images you produce.

Shalom Ormsby, Assignment and Stock Shooter Stills And Motion, Co-Founder Blend Images

A short story, since I’ve been so long-winded. At the end of a talk the Dalai Lama was giving about true happiness, he was asked what was the happiest day of his life. The Dalai Lama smiled and said softly, “That would be today.” May today be the happiest day of your life.

Tom Joyce, Owner/Creative Director Creativewerks

Do whatever you do with great passion and make it as perfect as you can. Then let go of it and grab a beer.

Lanny Ziering, CEO SuperStock, Co-Founder Blend Images

Talk to people who buy pictures, find out what they want, go and shoot it.

Trevor Lush, Stock and Assignment Photographer

I see me moving away from the high-volume work I've been doing in the past, towards a much more targeted approach. Fewer images with more added value.

Patty Meyers, Owner, Bloodhound Stock Photo Research

I find more and more art buyers are going to these alternative sites for innovative work. Basically, my advice is to get your images out to as many traditional and alternative image sources as possible, watch the trends and keep your work contemporary, and try and find a niche which needs filled. That and find a partner with a real job.

Inti St. Clair, Assignment and Stock Stills and Video
Shoot what you love. There is not a lot that’s easy about being a pro photographer, and the sad reality is that very little time is spent actually shooting, but as long as you’re loving it, it’s all worth while.

Collette Kulak, Art Director, Marian Heath Greeting Cards

Shoot what you love. There is not a lot that’s easy about being a pro photographer, and the sad reality is that very little time is spent actually shooting, but as long as you’re loving it, it’s all worth while.

Tom Grill, Stock Shooter, Agency Owner (Tetra), Blend Co-Founder

With declining RPI’s it’s becoming more difficult to earn a substantial living from stock photography. Now is a good time to honestly access your talents and resources relative to what it will take to make a go in the tougher times ahead. Follow the old stock market adage of getting out when the market is high and jumping in when the market is low. NOW – in this time of severe economic downturn -- is the time to buy stocks in the stock market as well as pour images into the stock photo market.

Lance Lee, Stock and Assignment Photographer, Mentor, Entrepreneur

For our stock photography projects, I'm encouraging our photographers and production team to work as if they are working in a film production. The process is pretty much the same - creative story telling translated into pictures.

Dan Heller, Stock Photographer And Stock Industry Analyst

Photographers are going to have to get behind initiatives that encourage openness, distribution, and wider-scale adoption of intellectual property. This is the one and only path that will help bring order to the chaos of images on the Internet. And with that comes ranking and prioritization, much like how Google ranks websites.
And when that happens, “quality” images will percolate to the top, and reward those photographers who truly are better than others. If one assumes that most “pros” are better photographers than consumers, the only way pros’ images will be found and licensed by buyers of any sort, will be when there are business incentives for companies to build those technology solutions.

Sarah Fix, Creative Director, Blend Images
A photographer’s greatest assets are their creativity and ability to speak to the market. What is your creative advantage? What do you do better than most?
There is always opportunity during challenging times. Right now in our industry there are fewer images being created, fewer shoots with higher production value, social networking is making it easier to give and receive information, the rights managed licensing model is in need of new content, motion is gaining momentum with affordable cameras that capture both stills and motion – how do you plan on taking advantage of this moment? Adapt as the market changes.

Jeremy Woodhouse, Stock Photographer and Educator (Photography Workshops), Blend Images Co-Founder

Take time to get grounded in a location, check out the bookstores, post card racks, see where the “hot spots” are and work around them. Look for new ideas; introduce some of your own technique/style into a location. Use the light, not only the edge of the daylight but even midday light can work, especially with HDR. You can beat the contrast big time. Revisit the same locations several times in different light.

John Feingersh, Stock Photographer, Co Founder Blend Images
Hold on, keep your chins up, find those holes in the files and fill them with great imagery.

Charlie Holland, Stock Shooter, Former Director of Photography, Getty Images

Be smart, direct your efforts. Spread your submissions out over collections, over time and over business models. Do not overspend on your productions.

Sarah Golonka, Stock Shooter, Stock Photography Consultant, Art Director/Editor

Keep your head up and look back to help prepare yourself for the future. Be aware of and open to change and work with it vs. against it. Analyze your sales history and draw your own conclusions as to why your images did and did not sell, then apply that information to your future shoots. Keep taking creative risks and stick to shooting what you are good at vs. trying to reinvent the wheel.

Trinette Reed And Chris Gramly, Stock and Assignment Stills And Motion (Trinette is a Cofounder of Blend Images)
Trinette: Be open minded and open to change, experiment, use the downturn to focus on what you really want to be doing, stay connected.
Chris: Stay open to the changes and open to learning; don’t pretend to know what you don’t know.

Don Farrall, Stock and Assignment Photographer

I used to counsel photographers about getting into stock and can be credited for bringing a handful of photographers, and even a few illustrators, through the process of securing a contract with Getty; back in the days when that was a Golden ticket. I would have to say that I am much less “Bullish” about it now. These are difficult times to be encouraging, so I suppose I would want to see someone’s work first before I answered that question for them.

Offir Gutelzon, CEO PicScout

Making content available for more marketing applications and promotional use, while selling content as RF, is essential. Photographers should follow your actions, like those you’ve taken that improve rankings on search engines, and promote themselves in new ways, even at the risk of image infringements.

Hope that helps! Look for more interviews in the coming year. BTW, I predict that 2010 is going to be a good year...based on the fact that it rolls off the tongue nicely!

To see the entire interview with any of the above people go to my Interiview Index.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Plenty of wise nuggets in there John. I especially like the shoot less but better and keep costs down by resisting new gear temptations trends.