Friday, July 10, 2009

Of Editing And Rejection

Today I received an e-mail from Getty basically saying that we should aim to get at least 50% of submitted images accepted, and that our acceptance rate will be taken into consideration when our submissions are edited. I guess they want us to edit our work a bit tighter…OK, a LOT tighter.

This helps validate my belief that tighter editing is better editing. It also seems, in effect, that we need to brand ourselves for and to the Getty editors. Part of what I used to find desirable about stock was that it was all about the image and not the photographer. But change just keeps happening and now branding for stock photographers has truly become important.

If you want to make a good living at stock, making great images simply may not be enough. Getting those images in front of their audience just keeps getting more difficult and more important. To do that, I believe, is going to require branding, marketing and a lot of strategic planning. Your body of work is going to have an impact on how many images you get into agencies and how quickly those images come up in searches.Your body of work is a key part of your branding. Your reputation, your branding, and your marketing (for me "marketing" means a solid web site with great SEO) will help you get your images seen, whether they are seen through agencies or your own site, or both.

Just for fun, above, I have included a couple recently rejected images: The “brain” image was rejected by Getty for being “too complex” and the stairway image for being “oversubscribed”. Oh well….

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Collaboration And Strategic Alliances

Exploding light bulb stock photo still from slow motion video shoot
Young boy joyfully shaking water out of his hair

I have written before about the importance for me of collaborating with others and developing strategic allies. Well, I have just finished two weeks of shooting with a Phantom HD video camera. This amazing camera shoots 1280x720 HD (720p) at 1,000 frames per second! The reason I got this opportunity was because I have developed a strategic alliance with my main supplier of computer and networking solutions, Grande Vitesse Systems.

I agreed to help them test a software solution they have developed for the Phantom Video Camera that greatly speeds up the efficiency and use of said camera. But the strategic alliance didn’t stop with Grand Vitesse Systems (GVS). The shoot took place with the help of another photographer friend of mine, David Fischer. We collaborated on our ideas and execution and used his much larger and better-equipped studio. Unlike me, David has lots of hot lights, large camera stands, and some custom made lighting gear. Having the use of such resources for two weeks of shooting made a huge difference.

Now we have two terrabytes of digital assets (video) to edit. As we complete the edit I will make the videos available for viewing through my website (above are two of the stills we shot during the filming). We shot some pretty interesting stuff. As we put the software through its paces we tried to shoot footage that would have a market, and that would provide a revelation, a glimpse into things that happen so quickly that viewing them in slow motion reveals the unexpected, reveals something we have never seen before.

We couldn’t resist doing the old “Dart into a Water Balloon”, and I have to say I think we captured the best version I have ever seen. Among the other things we shot were flowing hair, bouncing dice, falling coffee beans, raining money, fire, water, flying food, a dove release, flying insects and more. The right subject matter, shot in super slow motion, is truly entrancing.

One side benefit for me in shooting video for two weeks straight is that I began to see how I could work more video into my stock photo business. I have become much more comfortable with working in motion and with using hot lights. I am also about to get a whole lot more experience with editing. As I get more experience with the entire video process I will be a lot less resistant to incorporating motion into my stock mix. The increasing use of video is definitely part of the change that is going on around us, and as Sarah Fix, creative director for Blend Images commented (see her interview here:, “It is exhausting, and ultimately self-defeating if one doesn’t see change as opportunity”.

So I have just had a great and productive time diving into change and opportunity. In the long run that will prove more valuable than all of the videos David and I shot in the last two weeks. But without cultivating those collaborative and strategic relationships, none of it would have happened at all.