Saturday, July 25, 2009
Several months ago some friends of mine, veteran and successful stock shooters, planned and carried out a fairly ambitious stock shoot, in Tahiti. They decided that they would like to include some stock footage in addition to their stills. They looked into renting a video camera, but in the end chose instead to hire a Director of Photography and fly him and a moderate amount of equipment (he did own his own camera) to Tahiti. I don’t know exactly what they paid, but it wasn’t cheap. However, stepping back and looking at the whole picture, the bulk of the expense for the shoot was already in place for the stills. Adding video to the mix, even if it wasn’t cheap, spreads out the financial risk of the whole shoot, adds the potential marketing point of having both stills and motion of the same material, and provides a relatively smooth avenue of learning the ropes of video.
My friends came back with great material, both stills and motion, and were very positive about the experience. Their still images are excellent, but that is expected. I have seen some of the footage and it is very good too. They are using the footage not just for stock, but also to promote their photography business as well. Having an experienced DP handle the technical side of shooting the video freed them up to explore their creativity and, in addition, enabled them to enjoy the experience more. The DP was also able to add to their vision with suggestions drawn from his own years of experience. The question now is whether their investment will pay off. Time will tell, and I suspect that the answer will be a resounding yes.
In seeking advice from photographers who have successfully incorporated motion into their businesses I have found that most recommend hiring a DP as my friends did. I also have encountered several who have taken it upon themselves to jump right in and shoot film or video themselves. I have taken the latter approach. About two years ago I bought a Panasonic HVX-200, an HD capable video cam. By the time I had bought the various accoutrements I needed (tripod, fluid head, P2 Card, case, basic lights etc.) I had about $12,000.00 invested. Here it is two years later and I personally have never shot with it!
I have, however, made the camera available to several of my “associates” in exchange for a percentage of the royalties. We now have about 50 clips online with Getty from these efforts. Those clips are bringing in about $1,000.00 per month average for the first six months they have been available. Interestingly enough, of all my stock photo sales for the first quarter of this year, four of my twenty best selling images are motion clips! My investment is a long ways from being recouped, but the results up this point are very intriguing.
The best selling clips I have so far were shot as an adjunct to a still shoot in which I rented a theater in Buenos Aires, and put on a mock rock concert. My friend and colleague Drew Kelly shot the video. Since the motion was piggybacked onto a still shoot you might say it didn’t cost anything. But the point is that the clips that are selling the best did have quite a bit of production behind them. Investing in stock shoots does have risk. You can lower that risk by combining motion and stills.
In another case of combining stills with motion I joined forces with fellow photographer David Fischer, and shot extensively with a Phantom HD High Speed camera. We shot stills as we could, but our primary efforts went into the motion. One of the still images, a dove being released by a magician, is posted above. Again, I believe the stills will pay for the effort regardless of whether our video is successful or not.
Combining stills with video adds to the difficulty of doing each well and thoroughly, but it spreads the risk. I also believe that it will become increasingly important to advertisers to be able to access both stills and motion from the same shoot. Right now agencies are not geared up to promote this advantage, but eventually I believe they will. It only makes sense. Even more importantly, I am comfortable with the still end of things. I know those stills will make me money even if I totally blow it with the motion and because of my comfort with stills I am much more likely to actually plan and carry out video shoots. And I am learning. Perhaps, in these times, that is the most important thing of all….
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sometimes thinking inside the box can work extremely well for stock photographers. After all, most of us think inside the box most of the time, and if we, as stock photographers, can create images that take advantage of that thinking, then we have a good chance for a great selling image. A good example of this is seen in the case of clichés.
A cliché is something that is very familiar to all of us, so familiar that it must have some basis in truth, or perceived truth, and, like going into Starbucks, can have that comforting feeling of the familiar. If you can find the right cliché and illustrate it in a new and interesting way, then thinking inside the box can really pay off.
In the example I have here, we have all seen cartoons of patients in a body cast and traction. We all have a mental picture in our minds from those cartoons, a stereotypical image that probably doesn’t actually exist in real life. I did a search on the major stock sites and found only a smattering of body cast images, none of which matched that ubiquitous cartoon version that resides in our heads.
I arranged for permission to shoot in a surgery center. My associate, Stephanie Roeser, created a body in a plaster cast using pipe insulation and, plaster impregnated gauze purchased from a medical supply company. I photographed the body cast prop in position on a hospital bed in the recovery room. Next I lay down on the bed and had Stephanie photograph me. Then it was a simple matter to use Photoshop to add my fingers, toes, eyes and nose to the cast double.
The finished image works for a wide variety of concepts in business to business (B2B), consumer advertising, and even editorial use. This “traction” image even goes beyond medical and pharmaceutical categories one would expect. It can be used to illustrate themes such as dependency, catastrophe, and risk. Creative art directors will no doubt be able to find yet other uses for the image (one of the fun things about shooting stock is seeing the cool ways other creatives use your work).
Thinking outside the box is a great goal, but sometimes thinking inside the box can produce some pretty good results. Learn to leverage those visuals that are familiar to your potential audience and your stock photos will be in demand for a very long time.