Saturday, October 3, 2009

Funny Animal Stock Photo To The Rescue!

Cats And Dogs With Paintbrushes

A friend of mine owns a painting company and asked me to create an image to help him promote his business as he enters the slow winter months. In the past I have helped him with images of dogs holding paintbrushes and so forth. The animal-centered promotions have worked extremely well for him. After the first mailing he remarked to me that it was the first time ever that no one had contacted him wanting to be taken off the mailing list.

Funny Cats And Dogs Doing Human Activities

The first thing I did was to go through my Animal Antics images, a collection of funny cat and dog pictures, in which these pets are doing human activities, that I created for a greeting card line. If I could find the right image to start with it would save me the work and expense of shooting animals, locations, props and of all the stripping out of hair and fur that would be necessary. To charge adequately for putting together such a photo would take it far out of my friends price-range.

A Weimaraner, A Beagle And Two Cats
I found a likely candidate in a get well greeting card featuring a Weimaraner, a Beagle, and two cats, all waiting at a front door and holding soup, flowers and accessories for someone feeling “under the weather”. My friend, (we’ll call him Greg since his name is Greg), had asked me to create an image that included a stormy environment and the pets safe inside their home. I wasn’t coming up with a way to effectively show the pets inside and a storm outside. But when I saw the get-well card photo I realized I could drop a storm scene behind the pets and put various painting tools in their arms and come up with a great image to fit Greg’s needs. And I wouldn’t have to re-invent the wheel either. A great headline for the resulting image would be “We Are Here To Help!”

A Paint Brush, Masking Tape, And A Ninety-Seven-Layer Photoshop File

I gathered up some painting supplies and photographed each item separately. I pulled up my original layered Photoshop file for the greeting card. I used a clipping path to create a selection around each object: a paint can, a paint brush, a roller, some sand paper, a putty knife and a roll of blue masking tape. I copied and pasted each of the items into place in the layered file (after eliminating the layers containing the original get-well objects). Then it was just a matter of adding some shadows and dropping a stormy sky into the background. When I was finished I had a nice little, ninety-seven layer, Photoshop file!

Royalty Free, Micro Stock Or Rights Managed
What I now have is a humorous image that can be easily used by any painting contractor, distributor of painting supplies, or related business, to promote and advertise their enterprises. Now Greg certainly isn’t going to want someone else from his area using that image. If this stock photo is released as a royalty free or micro stock image, then there would be no control over that. You can see how the effectiveness of such a compelling image would be dramatically curtailed if more than one painting business were to use the image in any given client base. As a Rights Managed image, this picture can be used by many, many clients, with each one able to insure that they can get the exclusivity they want and need, and I, as the creator of the image, can get a premium for the imagination, creativity and plain old work that goes into such images.

A Key To Success

Choosing whether an image belongs in Royalty Free (includes Micro stock), or Rights Managed is one of my hardest tasks and one of the keys to optimizing your stock income. Ultimately I believe the success of a stock photo depends more on the photo and less on whether it is RM or RF. However, it can make a big difference and so I believe it is important to carefully weigh the criteria and try to make an informed choice. Oddly enough, in the case of this funny pet picture, I believe that by putting the image in an RM collection I am being of the most service to the client. It is hard to go wrong if you are putting the client first.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Value Added Stock Photos And The Way Forward

The Way Forward,Success,African American Businessman

Value Added Stock Photography
After a couple of unexpected and rather invasive abdominal surgeries in the last year-and-a-half, four months ago I had a plastic surgeon perform an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) on me, to clean-up the scars and give me a new navel. Fun stuff! Anyway, the surgeon asked me to shoot a picture of one of his new laser tools in action. I did the shoot this afternoon.

A Beautiful Woman And Credibility
As I was packing up the old ProFoto 7bs, he mentioned to me that he needed to redo the picture on the cover of his brochure. The shot was of a beautiful woman in a nature setting. He said it cost him a fortune, but now another surgeon was also using it, so he needed a new one. I was a bit confused. I asked him where he got the picture from and he told me iStock. “But you said it cost you a fortune”, I said. “No,” he replied, “Not the picture, the printing for the brochures, the flyers and the advertising”. Ah ha! In a lot of cases, maybe in most cases, it doesn’t really matter if someone else is using the same picture…but if you are a plastic surgeon you sure don’t want the same picture being used by anyone else. That damages the credibility of your whole operation!

Stock Photography And Trust
As someone who has actually gone through the process of finding a plastic surgeon, I can attest that if more than one surgeon in the same geographical region is using the same stock photo, your going to see it. As you peruse the before and after pictures you can’t help but wonder if they are real. If you see the same face on more than one site…well, how are you going to trust anything else about the surgeon? In this case Rights Managed stock photography is definitely a value added proposition!

Power Point Presentations And Getty Images
Also of interest in regards to Rights Managed stock imagery, a couple of days ago I was contacted by a doctor who found one of my images through Google Image search and wanted to use it in a power point presentation to a group of his peers. The image in question is a Getty picture and I had neglected to link Getty from the photo on my web site. I sent the doctor the link and told him he needed to license the image from Getty. I wasn’t going to hold my breath. I figured that the process would be too daunting and the price too high. Oh well….

Licensing Stock Isn’t Brain Surgery
Surprise! He emailed me, said he licensed it, and thanked me for making the image available. I emailed him back asking how the process was and if he had ever licensed stock before. He told me that no, he had never licensed stock before and that it was no harder than ordering anything else on line. It wasn’t exactly brain surgery (turns out he is a vascular surgeon). He also told me it only cost him $15.00. Take that micro stock! Rights Managed is value added and economical as well!

Stock Photos And The Way Forward

As iStock and other micro agencies add higher priced collections, and mid-stock evolves, it becomes ever more apparent that micro is really simply an ultra low-priced RF product. There is a place for all price ranges of RF (micro included), and yes there is a place for RM, and yes, the road to success in the future, the way forward for stock shooters, will be paved with creative, dynamic, market-relevant photography no matter what the category.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stock Photos, Shipping, And Royalty Checks

business man throwing paper airplanes
Organizing, Editing and Cleaning
It has been a while since I made a stock photo.  Today I spent my time organizing and cleaning up my studio.  I have spent most of the last month editing the slow motion video that I spent the previous month shooting. Things have kind of backed up and gotten a little overwhelming…hence the day of organizing. Actually, I never do get quite caught up on my organization efforts. And if I am smart I never will.  You see, organizing is something you can do forever.  I have known more than one aspiring photographer who has spent years getting ready to shoot.

The Most Important Thing Is Shipping
I saw a video presentation a while ago in which Seth Godin pointed out that the most important thing is shipping. I don’t think he had stock photography in mind, but it is probably as true of stock photos as of anything. If nothing ships…nothing sells. If you are anything like me, the closer you get to “shipping” the harder it is to get that last bit done. I was ready to enter the metadata for my third submission of footage last Thursday, and here I am cleaning my studio today (five days later)…instead of completing that submission!

Pulling It Together And Setting Goals
I have to pull it together tomorrow morning, remember what is really important to my career, and get that submission out. The junk mail piled on my desk is not as important. The emails waiting to be answered are not as important. The clutter in my shoot area, the card board boxes waiting to be broken down for recycling, and the dust bunnies camping out everywhere are not as important. You can spend your whole life getting ready, doing legitimate tasks, instead of doing critical tasks. Set a goal for shipping your work and reward yourself AFTER you met that goal, by letting yourself do at least some of that not-so-critical work.

Blend, Getty, Corbis, Super Stock And Kimball Stock

In a way you can say that everything else I do is in support of shipping. The ideas, the shooting, the Photoshop work is all in support of shipping my product.  Once I ship, that is upload the images to Blend, Getty, Corbis, Super Stock or Kimball Stock, then the agencies can do their thing, and I can get my royalty check. No “shipping”, no check.

Preparing For The Future Of Stock

I am supporting the stock images, and preparing for the future of my stock photography, by working on my SEO, by showcasing my stock pictures on my web site, and even by writing this blog. But all of that is secondary to shipping. Now I have to go, I have metadata to enter!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

iStock, Logos, And Deja Vu All Over Again

businessman pushing a boulder uphill

iStockphoto has announced their intention to sell logos and it is causing quite a stir in the design community. I guess a lot of designers think that the low price of logos on iStock demeans their profession and threatens their livelihood. There are warnings of infringement issues, calls for a boycott of iStockphoto and dire predictions of the demise of the design profession. While many iStock contributors are excited about the prospect, others are citing the necessity of the design community to band together to stop offering their work so cheaply, and of educating the young designers on the necessity of stopping the race to the bottom.

Commodification And Access To Cool Logos

Deja all sounds pretty familiar to any of us photographers who have been around for at least the last dozen years. Should designers be so concerned? Of course they should be. Their profession is starting to undergo the same thing ours has…commodification. They won’t be able to stop it anymore than we did. Some designers will be hurt, some will prosper, and a whole lot of small business owners will have access to cool logos, for far less money than before.

The Reality Has Changed

Just like for us photographers, the reality has changed. The photography profession is more difficult than ever before to make a living at, while making some money from photography is far easier than ever before. It isn’t good or bad, it just is. Mom and pop grocery stories now have to compete with Costco. Everyone has to compete with Walmart. If you think we have it bad, remember typesetters? Many of you may not. Typesetting was big business until the Macintosh changed everything practically overnight. Do they still even have typesetters? The question we photographers need to ask ourselves is whether we want to continue to pursue photography as a profession, and if so what is the best way for each of us to thrive.

Stock Agencies, The Web, And Thriving

I still make very good money through stock agencies. Sure, I make less per image. No, I don’t like the change. Yes, I will find ways to continue to thrive. I am making more images more efficiently and paying much more attention to whether an image is relevant to the market before I make it. I am focusing on timeless images that are, at least in my opinion, aimed at the high end of the market. I am working on both branding myself and building up my web traffic. I am keeping an eye out for expanding the ways in which my photography can earn me money. I am trying out motion footage, keeping a close eye on micro, and experimenting with retail products (i.e. coffee mugs, calendars, greeting cards etc. at I am even starting to make some print sales through

Direct Sales, Micro and Traditional Agencies

I believe that some photographers will do great with direct sales, some with micro, and some through traditional agencies. There will be fewer photographers who make great money in stock imagery, and many more photographers than ever before who will make some money. For all of us it will be more challenging in the future than it is now. But hey, it could be a lot worse…I could have been a typesetter!