Thursday, August 6, 2009

Service As A Guide To Stock Photo Success

Rolling Out The Red Carpet means exceptional service
An elephant in the room refers to an unacknowledged truth
If I had to use one word to describe my strategy for success in the stock photo world it would be service. Service isn’t necessarily a word that you might associate with success in stock photography, but hopefully I can present a convincing case for it. Business Gurus often say that service paves the road to riches. I think it is true. Let me explain.

Service as a stock photographer reveals itself in several ways. As an example let’s look at an experience I had yesterday. A doctor on the east coast emailed me asking if she could use one of my photos in a power point presentation. The image was of a patient and doctor consulting in a recovery room…with an elephant standing in the background. The doctor is presenting to a group of her peers. It is very important to her to give a powerful, interesting and effective presentation.

The first way that I was in service to this doctor was by creating an image that goes beyond your normal everyday image. The photograph is not just out of the ordinary, but it is also relevant with a quick, clear message. When you create images that stand out from the crowd, have a strong message and are needed in the marketplace, you are in service to your clients.

But how can you take that service even further? By making it as easy and efficient as possible for potential clients to find your images. When the doctor was looking for an image, she typed into Google “elephant in the recovery room”. I just did the same thing to check and see how quickly that image would show up. My image came up first on the Google search. Now that is service! As they say, time is money. If you can save a client time and effort your images can command a higher price point, and if it takes too long to find that image it dosen’t matter what price you charge, you aren’t going to make that sale (yes, I know, we license the images rather than sell them).

I believe in agencies; they do have the “eyeballs”, the traffic if you will. But I also believe in supplementing those agencies by putting your images online and making them easy for people to find. In the above example the doctor contacted me because the image in question has not yet been accepted by an agency. Once it is with an agency collection, my site will direct people interested in licensing it to that agency. BTW, the “elephant in the recovery room” image was submitted to Getty two weeks ago but has not yet been edited (accepted or rejected). Another "aside", I am the patient in that image:).

Being in service to your stock photo clients means getting your images up online with a search capability, great key wording and a large enough image for a client to easily see details and quality. It also means serious SEO (search engine optimization). Without the SEO component, all that work you put into creating great images might go to waste.

Service is rewarded. Keeping in mind how you can be of service to your clients will keep you on the right path. Service to your fellow photographers will also find its reward. You can’t always tell how or in what form that reward will come, but I have seen it happen too often to not understand the truth of it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Creating A Social Media Stock Photo

Social media and social networking are huge topics right now and there is a need for images representing them. They are also, in my opinion, difficult to create images for. That is a good thing. If I am correct it means there will be inherently less competition for the images that I come up with. In this environment of image over supply that is a critical criteria for me.

I don’t remember exactly what sparked this latest idea, but it was centered on the intention of coming up with those “social media” themes. Oh, I do remember! It was those “flickr photo clouds” that Getty is promoting. I thought, geez, I should do my own photo clouds. Somehow, when I see Getty, with whom I have such a large image investment, promoting their flickr collection so prominently, I tend to feel a tad anxious and resentful. The trick is to channel that hit of energy into creativity and productivity. Then it occurred to me that I could have a “photo” cloud around a person’s head indicating their “connections” on social media sites. The image could also work for networking, business connections, even communications in general.

I got pretty excited. Over the last few years I have shot plenty of images of people that I can pull the “cloud images” from. I browsed through some of my recent shoots to see if I could find a “base” image, one with a model in a situation and pose that would work. I needed an image with a fairly plain background. With all those smaller images floating around, the picture could get too busy very quickly. It is important that an image remain simple enough to be a quick read at thumbnail size, since virtually all images are first seen by prospective licensors as thumbnails. The photo should be a positive image with the primary model looking happy and confident. If the model was in a business environment it might help broaden the potential market for the image, expanding it into the realm of business networking.

It didn’t take long to find what seemed like the right image to work with. From an office shoot I did a little over a year ago, I came across an unused out take that in no way was a similar to any accepted shots. Once I had that image I just started looking through the numerous shoots that were readily available on my archive drives. Every time I found a likely shot for the cloud I just opened it, copied the portion I wanted, then pasted it into the base image.

It only took me a couple of hours and my image was done. Sort of. I sent the composite to my editor at Blend Images. He loved it. Hmmm, now the realization sets in. With so many pictures around the model's head, and some of them groups, I am going to have to come up with over a hundred model releases stretching back over five years! I wouldn’t be surprised if it took me two days to accomplish it! Well, guess I better quit blogging and get down to tracking down those releases!