Friday, October 16, 2009

Maximize Your Stock Photo Income: Making Your Photos Flexible

The Challenges That Art Directors And Designers Face
One way to help maximize your income from stock photos is to remember the challenges that art directors and designers face when using your images. In short, make your images as flexible as possible. Things to keep in mind are cropping, room for copy space, and readability at thumbnail size.

Billboards, Transit Posters And Campaigns
In the process of creating my concept stock shots I do my best to create them in such a way that they can be cropped both vertically and horizontally, which of course usually means every other crop can be achieved as well. This can be particularly important if the image needs to be used in a variety of media and formats, such as billboards, transit posters and brochure covers. Providing this cropping versatility means less chance of having your picture eliminated from those high-paying (at least in RM) campaigns.

Thumbnails, Square Crops and The Ideal Image
Another similar concern is to create images that read well in thumbnail size. That insures the image can also be used extensively for web uses. The “thumbnail test”, whether the image reads easily and quickly at thumbnail size, is important for anther reason as well. Virtually all images are now found on the web, and they have to be readable at thumbnail size, or even stand out at thumbnail size, in order to be selected in the first place. There is something to be said, as well, for square crops, which are even more visible as thumbnails since they fill up more “real estate”. I actually think the ideal image is a square image that is easily and effectively used as either a horizontal or vertical.

Headlines, Body Copy And A Balancing Act
Another plus to incorporate into your stock pictures is copy space; areas for putting headlines and body copy. All of this attention to cropping, to readability and to copy space, becomes a balancing act with cropping for impact. When I was shooting assignment work I would often have art directors remind me that cropping was their job, and that I should give them more room to work with. It took me a while to learn that lesson, and it is a lesson we should all keep in mind when making stock images. You want your image to have impact, but flexibility as well. I recall seeing a complaint from an art director on twitter complaining “so many stock shots have the heads cropped off”. Something to think about as we make our images!

The Integrity Of The Image

Now I am not saying I always succeed at these efforts, but I try my best to incorporate them. Ultimately the integrity of the image is the most important thing, but if you can massage it in these directions you are maximizing your income potential from stock photography.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Connecting The Dots: Writing A Photo Estimate That Gets You The Job

Invest In Yourself
An estimate offers you a unique opportunity to secure an assignment. Many photographers try to get the job by focusing on saving the client money, and yet that should never be your focus. Look at the estimate as an investment in yourself and your photography business. Prepare your estimate as a thorough plan that gives you the resources to do the best possible work. Your job is not to save the client money; your job is to provide the best possible photography.

What Label Do You Want?
Keep in mind that the photography you produce will reflect directly on the art director or art buyer who hires you. Their job could even be at stake. The job you produce will label you and possibly them as well. Do you want the label as “will work cheap” or “delivers great work”? Your long-term career depends on a reputation for delivering quality work. To do quality work you need the resources and time to do the job well. You also need clients that understand that. You are better off letting go of the jobs in which the resources you need are not available. Besides, low ball jobs take up your valuable time and in the long run will cost you money.

An Estimate That Gets You The Job
To create an estimate that gets you the job, and the resources to do that job well, requires detailing out how you will approach the job. It means thinking through each step and understanding the real costs involved. Include visuals and detailed written descriptions to insure that you and the client are on the same page.

A Detailed Plan And Twice The Money
I once bid on a job that required showing a businessman listening in on a conversation as he clung to the outside of a skyscraper using suction cups. I don’t recall the exact figures, but my estimate came in at about $30,000.00. That seemed like a very healthy amount and I was a little concerned that it might be too much for the client. I wasn’t all that surprised when I didn’t get the job. It turns out I knew the photographer who did get the job. I gave him a call and asked what he was getting for the job. He was getting more than twice the money I had estimated! Turned out his detailed plan was less risky than mine. Mine required shooting an actual building. It was in the winter and the weather could be a problem. His approach required a model maker to create the building…more expensive but less risk. He also provided for a set for the interior as opposed to my shooting in an existing office. Again, he would have more control with his approach.

The Clients You Want, Want the Best Job
My point here is that the clients you want are the ones that want the best job, not the lowest cost. I have had many experiences over the years that reinforce the wisdom of this approach. In your estimate, spell out exactly how you plan to do the job and your reasoning for that approach. Be as detailed as possible. Be specific about your expenses. It is hard to argue over costs when they are spelled out. Even your presentation is important. Your estimate gives the potential client a look at how you operate. Think back to an estimate that you have been given that impressed you. What worked for you? What was it about that estimate that influenced you to give someone the job? Use your estimate to build confidence with the client, confidence that you have thought the job through, have a good creative plan with necessary contingencies, and have spelled out all the terms and conditions. Unless it is a birthday party, in business, nobody likes surprises.

Make Your Estimate A Work Of Art
Your estimate speaks volumes about you and how you do business. It offers a great opportunity to instill confidence in a potential client and to help insure that you have quality clients and produce quality work. You are in the business of commercial art, make your estimate a work of art, and in the long run, you can’t lose.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Odds, Ends And The Long Haul

An Interview, Imagekind and CafePess.
Had a nice interview by Marc Silber Marc Silber Interview go online.
Sold a print on Imagekind this week.  That makes about one print a month since I started this concerted Internet effort, which while is still paltry, it’s a whole lot more than the zero prints I sold before I started the effort. I have doubled my sales.  OK, doubling isn’t all that impressive when I tell you it has gone from an average of one sale a week, a coffee mug, calendar, or piece of apparel, to two sales a week. I have made a smattering of sales (licensing) of various images and have confirmed that people are going from my site to the agencies that handle my work (Blend Images, Getty, Corbis and Kimball Stock).

Quality Content And A Long Term Project
One thing is for sure, this SEO (search engine optimization) process is a lengthy one. Getting visitors to your site is a long-term project! It is a lot of work too. My twin brother is my web master and very adept at this. He says if you want Google to see your site as an important one, make your site important. That means quality content and lots of it. I now have over 2000 images uploaded, but at the rate I am going it will take several more years to get all of my stock photos online. One possible way to speed the process up is to hire a developer to create a robot that will harvest my Getty, Corbis and Blend images, and put them on my site.  I have a friend who has gone that route and I have to admit there is a certain appeal to it!  But for now I will just continue my snails pace of uploading.

Climbing Traffic And Click Through Ads
Traffic is slowly climbing.  Last week, according to Google Analytics, I averaged over 500 unique visitors a day. That is up from a one visit per week average ten months ago. My click through ad revenue ranges from $20.00 per day to about 32 cents a day (last Thursday). My average seems to have edged up to about $6.00 a day.  Hey, it pays for my coffee habit!

A Balancing Act And Making Images
One thing I constantly wrestle with is where to put my time. Making images and getting them up online is the fastest way to increase my income. On the other hand, I remain convinced that it is extremely important for long term success to increase my ranking with Google, and other search engines, through SEO and online content. It is a constant balancing act. Luckily I find myself enjoying this SEO process (other than the repetitive and sleep inducing meta data entry).

A Photography Blog And Building Community
A key part of my web efforts include writing this photography blog. It has actually turned out to be a fun challenge. I used to be a columnist for Digital Imaging magazine and for Picture magazine.  I would make myself crazy trying to come up with article ideas.  But with the Blog, it is more like sharing things and less like work. My goal and hope is that the blog is entertaining and informative. It is a key component of providing quality content and, I hope, of building community within both the creators and users of stock photography.