Thursday, November 5, 2009

Traffic, The New Currency For Photographers

Traffic Is The New Currency
I am not sure if the above phrase is entirely accurate, but it sounds catchy and it does convey my point that traffic is rapidly becoming the most important thing. That is especially true if you are a photographer and are involved in stock photography production. If you want to get an assignment you need to have your work seen. If you want to license stock you need to have your work seen. If you want to sell picture-imprinted products you need to have your work seen. In short, you need traffic.

Traffic Provides Alternative Income Sources

Not only that, but traffic provides you with alternative income sources. If you have traffic you can earn money from advertising. The light bulb for this first came on in my head when my brother told me he was earning $3,000.00 per month from Google Adwords on a couple of trivia sites he created. Now I don't know about you, but for me an extra $3,000.00 a month is nothing to sneeze at!

Someone Is Looking For You

Let's get back to the issue of having your work seen. You can print promo pieces and mail them out, enter contests, send e-mail blasts, make cold calls and all of the rest of the tactics that as photographers we have all employed to drum up work. But if you aren't optimizing your site you are, in effect, leaving a lot of money on the table. Let's say you are an assignment photographer specializing in executive portraits. Wouldn't you want anyone who is in need of your services to know you exist, to find your work? Who is most likely to be searching for "executive portrait photographer"? A motivated buyer! Someone who isn't locked-in to a favorite photographer, someone who has a need, someone who is exactly the person you want to reach, and someone who is looking for you! Can they find you?

More Eyeballs Equals More Money
The same is true, perhaps even more so with stock photography. We all have images that agencies have rejected, images that didn’t happen to fit the requirements of the moment, or didn’t suit a given editor’s sensibilities, but that are still good images and can be earning revenue for you. And even with the images that the agencies are handling, getting more eyeballs on them, and linking buyers to those images on the agencies site, will result in more dollars for you. People, all kinds of people, are out there looking for images. Are they finding yours?

Photography, Creating Content And Drawing Traffic
As a photographer you are already in the business of creating content, and content is the primary tool of drawing traffic. Search Engine Optimization is the process of adding quality content and making sure that Google knows it is there. There are photographers out there who are getting massive amounts of traffic and converting that traffic into income. If they can do it, I can do it, and you can do it.

Long Tailed Keywords And Building Traffic
I have been working on optimizing my site for approximately one year now. I have gone from an average of one person a week in traffic to between four and five hundred visitors a day. Oddly enough, I really haven’t increased my rankings in the search engines; I am just getting more and more long-tailed keyword results. I believe that I am in what is called the “sandbox”.  Apparently Google will sit on your site for up to a year, to make sure the site is legitimate, before moving it up in the rankings. I keep thinking “any day now”, but who knows. At least my traffic is building and is leading to more licensing, more opportunities and to more community. And that isn’t a bad thing!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Golf Greens, Key Words And Challenges

Key Word Suggestions And Getting It right
Key words make me crazy! They make me crazy and I don’t even have to do them. While the agencies that carry my work ask for suggestions (at least Getty Images and Blend Images do), you can only give them a total of 5 such suggestions and those are limited to concept key words. So it isn’t coming up with and entering the key words that is the problem, the problems, there are two of them for me, are that agencies can’t be trusted to get it right, and that, at least out in the non-agency world, very few people search for the concepts that my images illustrate.

An Impossible Golf Green And Key Word Omissions

Take the above image for example. I created an impossible golf green atop a rock outcropping alongside an ocean cliff. This image was created to illustrate the concepts of Challenge, Difficulties, Problems, Risk and so forth. Now it is bad enough that at thumbnail size you cannot see the flag in the hole (a violation of my own rule of thumbnail "readability"), but to make matters much worse, Getty’s key words do not mention golf or any of the above concept key words. In fact, the only concept key words that are mentioned are “tranquil scene” and “absence”! My “challenging golf green” might as well not even be in their collection.

Check Your Key Words

This not an isolated incident either. In one of my early photography blog postings I discussed how images, such as one I created of a Chakra, and named “Chakra”, didn’t have the word chakra in the key wording. Since, in my humble opinion the key wording is at least as important as the image, it is very important that, from time to time, you check the key words on your images and make whatever corrections and additions that are appropriate.

Searching For Concepts

The other problem I have is that people searching for images on the Internet aren’t searching for concepts. Since the main thrust of my photography is in creating concept stock photos, that makes me crazy too! All I can do is get my images up, get concept and descriptive key words up with them, and hope that with time, concept keyword image searching becomes more common.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Of Elephants, Associates And Ego

A Journey Towards Success
The image above, of a huge elephant lumbering down a long road on a journey requiring perseverance and determination, is a great example of a slightly unusual way of adding to your productivity, your income and your success in stock photography. How is that? To begin with, while I photographed the elephant in Thailand, and the road in Arizona, I did not create the composite picture. This elephant stock photo was created by my associate, Stephanie Roeser. She is not an employee, and she doesn’t work for me. She is one of several individuals whom I have opened up my files to as raw material for stock picture creations.

New Ideas And Royalty Splits

Opening up your files in this way works on several levels. First, it can bring in all the new and fresh ways of seeing things, and of new ideas, that another individual brings to the table. While I had the images for this new composite, Stephanie came up with the idea and sorted through my files to find the pieces to make it work. In short, she came up with the idea, she put the time in to sort through my files, and she did the Photoshop work. We then divide the royalties on a case-by-case basis. The split can by eighty percent to her or as much as eighty percent to me. It depends on the particulars of any given project. Stephanie consults with me on possible ideas. I give some guidance and suggestions, but what she does is her show; she works at her own pace and on her own schedule.

Credit Lines, Copyright Issues And Other Problems
While I have found this arrangement to work very well for me, it is not a step to take lightly. It is essential to work out all those difficult details such as royalty splits, credit lines, copyright issues and so forth. It is also important to make sure that problems do not arise around similars since the person you decide to work with may not be familiar with the images you have already submitted to various stock agencies.  There is also the ongoing royalty split to contend with. I have a File Maker program that I put all my sales into and that automatically breaks out the royalties that I owe the photographers who work with me.  Keep in mind; ideally the images that are made will bring in income indefinitely, which means you will have to pay royalties indefinitely. This is a lot of responsibility, so you have to be sure you really want to undertake it.

Assistants, Retouchers, And Fellow Photographers
A great candidate for someone who can enhance the value of your files might be an assistant who is good with Photoshop, or perhaps a retoucher you respect, maybe even a fellow photographer who likes digital manipulation as much as, or even more, than he or she likes shooting.  If you have files that can be used to create new images, or can be enhanced to create outstanding stock images, then your partnership can be extremely rewarding for both of you.

Images, Ego And Royalty Checks
I have a number of such relationships. For me the most difficult part actually surrounds my ego. I want credit for the images I do, and I prefer not to have my name on images I didn’t do. But sometimes it just isn’t possible to keep things so separate. In the case of this elephant image, submitted to Getty, it goes under my contract and needs to be my copyright. Sometimes, as with the image Stephanie has created here, it is particularly hard because I wish I had created it!  Oh well, the royalty checks will help.