Saturday, March 21, 2009

Careful What You Ask For

An email inquiry

I received an email a couple of days ago from an Italian magazine that found my work via a Google search. They asked how much for four of my Animal Antics photos. I replied $250.00 per image per 1/4 page and $350.00 for 1/2 page of use. They wrote back that they had a low budget. Could I do the whole thing for $600.00, and they needed the images right away. Their English wasn’t the best, and I got the feeling they also wanted some of the original images used to create a couple of the composites. I inquired about that and they said yes, they needed the original files for two of the images.

OK, I began looking through my archives. Six hours later I had found and un-archived a few of the original files, but most were either missing or corrupted. The images had actually been composited using Live Picture, a photo manipulation program which went out of business over a decade ago, and which I no longer had on my computer, so I also spent some time tracking down an archived copy. I needed Live Picture to convert Ivue files back in to a format that Photoshop could read. In addition, they also asked for a fifth image to be included at that original price.

Careful what you ask for

The message here is that I am clearly not ready for a lot of traffic! I started this journey four months ago with an average of one person per week. I am now averaging over 200 a day, which is still insignificant, but already starting to be a drain on my time. I have made two print sales, sold about one mug a week, licensed a couple of stock images, and seen quite a few people directed on to stock sites handling my work. I have received one phone call regarding licensing of an image (I directed him to the appropriate agency), and had two email inquiries, both of which required some back-and-forth communications and neither of which resulted in licensing, but did take up a fair amount of my time.

Automation and procedures

I can see that I need a greater degree of automation and or a better set of procedures for dealing with prospective clients. I wasted far too much time in the last effort, probably too much time even if I had succeeded in licensing the image. I not used to dealing with such inquiries as virtually all of my work is handled through stock agencies. Six or seven years ago, when I was doing assignment work, I had all of my negotiating and licensing handled by a rep. Negotiating has never been my strong suit and for this effort to work for me I will need to have mechanisms in place to prevent my having to interact with those interested in using my work. I plan on getting thousands of people a day to my site and having to deal with even a small fraction of those people could bring my business to a stand still.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Art Directors, Editors and Stock

Art Directors, Editors and Stock

A woman and a barrel

About a month ago I submitted a stock photo of a woman wearing nothing but a barrel, a modern take-off of an old image for having lost everything, to Getty Images.
They turned it down because they didn’t think it would sell. OK, I next sent the image to Corbis. They turned it down because it was “an old idea”. A few minutes ago I was in the grocery store and there, on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, was a shot of several movie stars wearing nothing but barrels.

Photographer’s Choice…an option at a price

Whether or not my image will sell will be eventually answered because when Corbis turned the shot down I re-submitted it to Getty as a “Photographer’s Choice” submission. Getty, in response to numerous complaints over a protracted period of time by their photographers, came up with Photographer’s Choice brand. It is a program in which an image can only be rejected for technical reasons (though “sisters” are not allowed either). Of course, the photographer then has to pay a fee to have the image put into the system.

What is the value of an editor or art director?

This all brings up a couple of questions. First, what is the value of an editor or art director, and what recourse do we have if we believe an editor to be mistaken? I know that in my own case it does seem to be a conundrum. I have certainly have had the experience of having an art director offer criticism and art direction that has enhanced my images, sometimes by a huge margin. Editors have given me some awesome ideas as well. I have also had them make changes that I believe were actually to the detriment of a given image. Then there are the editing choices. I am sure that any photographer who actively submits images to stock agencies has had the experience of bewilderment in reaction to photos that editors have rejected.

Among my favorites: An image turned down by Getty was then used as a catalog cover for The Stock Market and the first sale was for $17,000.00. Another image turned down by Getty was used by The Stock Market to represent the agency in trade shows. An image turned down by Corbis has generated $2,000.00+ in the six months it has been for sale on the Getty site! An image of a young girl dressed as an astronaut, turned down by both Getty and Corbis, and then put into Getty’s Photographer’s Choice program, is my fifth best selling stock photo for 2008! I could go on and on with examples of images being rejected by one agent and taken by another; and examples of rejected images that eventually get placed and subsequently earn excellent revenue.

Now I no longer have an editor at Getty. Instead I submit via their portal and I never know which individual will be doing the editing. I love their portal, I don’t miss the art direction, and I occasionally wish there was someone I could turn to at Getty to bounce ideas off of, get feedback from, and help me decide wither an image belongs in RM or RF. I also know that their choices sometimes make me crazy! At least Getty has that Photographer’s Choice mechanism to provide some remedy for the stock images that I believe strongly about. BTW, virtually every photographer I know who participates in Photographer’s Choice tells me that they earn more per image with PC than with the regular brands. I don’t know if everyone is being truthful, but that is what I am hearing!

Optimization for distribution and licensing

Now in Micro stock, if you are not “exclusive”, you can always submit the images to another agency. For me though, since I do not participate in Micro, I now have a new option, adding rejected images that I believe in to my own web site. It is yet another way in which having a web site can pay off. I recently read that over half of all art directors are willing to search individual photographer’s sites for stock images. I’ll bet that percentage just keeps going up as Art Directors get more and more tired of the same old images and photographers get smarter and smarter about optimizing their sites for distribution and licensing over the net.

Getting back to art directors and editors. There is no doubt that they provide a valuable service; and equally in doubt is that due to the subjective and arbitrary nature of photography, they are not always right. In those cases where you can actually correspond with an editor, fight for the images you believe in. I find that in those cases I usually prevail about half the time. In those cases where you don't have that opportunity to correspond, send that image to another outlet or put it up on your own site. If you believe in your image someone else well too; you just have to get that image in front of those other believers!