Friday, October 22, 2010

Image Theft, Copyright Registration and Growing Your Income

Whether you are communicating about Spam, Fraud, image theft and infringement or some other sort of unwanted Internet contact, this stock photo of numerous hands reaching out of a businessman's computer monitor, can help add impact and attention to your message.
Online theft is rampant...what are you doing to combat it?

Image Theft As An Income Source
I came across an interesting post today by photographer Thomas Hawke in which he views image theft as a potential source of revenue. That ties in with a “success story” circulated in the PicScout newsletter in which one of their clients, a niche stock photo agency, is deriving 50% of their income from tracking down infringers. They take the high road by viewing infringers as a possible long-term clients and attempting to convert infringers into licensors…an interesting approach!

Something You Can Do To Help Stop Infringement
As we all know, image theft has become huge and hurts all of us attempting to support ourselves with our photography. It is disheartening, at least for me, to see all of the appropriated images of mine circulating on the Internet, attributed to others, sometimes offered for sale by others and so on. I hate having to put watermarks on them as well. It is in the interest of all of us, professionals and non-professionals alike, to see progress made in stopping, or at least slowing down, infringement. One simple thing you can do, right now, is to take a minute of your time and send a letter to your congressional representatives to support S. 3804, the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act,”. The whole process took me less than two minutes. 

Register Your Images!
After years of neglecting to register my copyrights I am now a convert. It really is pretty easy to register your images online. I think it is important that all of us put out that little bit of extra effort to watermark our images, register the copyrights, be proactive in promoting efforts to control infringement, and to help educate people about copyright matters. In the years to come this is come to become more and more important if we are to continue to reap the rewards of our own creative efforts.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What Makes You a Special Photographer?

Multi-racial composite photo of a ethnically and gender diverse person.
To succeed in making a good living as a photographer requires being special as a photogapher...and perhaps as a person as well.
A Tough Competitive World of Photography
It used to be that if you could actually make a decent living as a professional photographer you were kind of special. It was a tough competitive world, a world of film testing, strobe meters, gel filters. You’d shoot Polaroid’s till you got it right, and then shoot of a ton of film hoping that you would come close that Polaroid that the client signed off on.

Making Good Money In Stock Photography
If you were a stock shooter you had to get into the club, find an agency that would represent you, and get enough images accepted that you could actually make good money knowing that the “average” stock photo brought in one dollar per year. You prayed that your work would get selected for the big, lavish catalogs that agencies produced. Get your images in the catalog and you had a much better chance at making significant sales.

Photographers Who Come to the Forefront
Of course, there were those photographers who then came to the forefront by embracing the changing technology…and some stock photographers who feasted on the early days of Royalty Free. Now we have photographers who are combining their talents with social networking like Chase Jarvis and Jack Hollingsworth. Others have leveraged their transition to video like Vincent Lafloret.

Photographers Who Make Themselves Special
Colin Anderson is a great example of a photographer who has made himself special creating a body of highly stylized, conceptual and unique work. He has set himself apart. If you want a Colin Anderson style image you go to Colin Anderson.  Yuri Arcurs has made himself special by creating a machine that spits out a seemingly endless stream of beautifully executed on-target images. Tom Grill has made himself special with his in-depth understanding of the industry and well-organized thorough approach to filling the holes in agency collections (as well as creating his own agencies…).

Combining Talents and Expanding Skills
Photographers like Dan Heller and Rolf Hicker have made themselves special through combining their talents with a mastery of the Internet, while Jonathan Ross is building on his early RF success with a thorough understanding of stock from RM to Micro to motion.  Some photographers are using their skills to expand into workshops while I have seen others expand into consultancy on SEO and digital workflow.

A Plan, Strategies, and a Broad Revenue Base
Tom Grill once told me that “Whatever your plan is…stick to it”. I think that was good advice. My plan to “be special” has both a short-term strategy and a longer-term strategy. In the short term I am producing, or at least attempting to produce, exceptional concept stock photos that fill a definite need in the market place. My longer-term strategy is to gain exposure for that work through a website that generates significant traffic and broadens my revenue base into online advertising.  I think it is vital not just to think in terms of the next year to two…but to also think in terms of ten years from now. Besides, I figure it might take ten years to get my traffic up where I want it!

Billions of Photos and the Need to be Special
In the coming years, with the proliferation of photographers and literally billions of photos to choose from, there will be so many options for those who need photography that the slices of the pie will be cut increasingly small. To get a significant slice of the photography pie, to be able to make a good living, you will need to be special. How are you going to be special?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Putting Out Fires in Stock Photography

Funny photo of a businessman putting out a fire at his desk.
Don't try this at home! OMG what a mess putting out a fire makes!
Put the Fires Out Last
Put the fires out Last. I know, seems kind of backwards. But I think as a stock photographer it is an important point to at least consider. There are so many “fires” or “sparks” that can turn into fires, that if you put them out first you won’t have much time left to do the really important things. As a photographer, for me at least, the really important thing is to make images (OK...equally important as a stock shooter is to get the files into distribution).  But as a business owner it feels like all I have time to do is to put out fires.

High Res Files, Print Donations and Unread Books
I came in this morning to an e-mail from a company needing a hi res file, another company checking to see if one of my images was available, a call from my accountant (probably wanting to get paid), a request from a teacher about advice for a student on how to become a professional photographer (arrrgh!), and a message from a charity asking for a print donation.  On top of that, I am preparing for a trip to Thailand, have a growing stack of bills on my desk, two unread books and one that has been started, a huge file of images to be uploaded to my online database (including key wording and all that craziness), and an intern who needs help.

Images In The Morning; Fires In The Afternoon
All those little distractions never go away either. My preferred method of operating is to get rid of all those little things, put out all the fires, clear the decks and get down to the fun part of making images. But that is backwards…leaving very little time to do that all-important task of making my photos. Sometime ago I altered my routine to one in which I spent the morning making images or getting them out the door (portal?) to the agencies that represent them. That resulted in a significant increase in my productivity. But every once in a while I suddenly realize that I have fallen in to my old habits and am busy running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get all of the minutiae out of the way…an not “gettying” (intentional misspelling) to my real work.

Spontaneously Generating Administrative Tasks
So, it is back to dedicating the mornings to making stock images and getting them out the door…then the afternoons I take a break to put out fires and so forth, and offer my self the hope of doing it quickly enough that I can be rewarded by getting back to the images.  There is actually plenty of time to take care of all the pressing (and largely irrelevant) issues if I start each afternoon by dealing with them. And if I do have a lull in all the necessary administrative tasks that seem to spontaneously generate each day, then I can happily work right through from morning to evening
Getting home just in time to write these blogs or upload and key word some more images.

The Fires Will Still Be There....
At any rate, if you find yourself constantly putting out fires and not creating enough images, you might try coming up with your own version of a schedule that places first things first…you might just be surprised at how well that can work. I guarantee you that all those little fires will still be there when you get to them!

About the Image: Putting Out Fires
To create the photo of a businessman putting out a fire in his cubicle I first set up the cubicle walls in my studio (I purchased a set of cubicle walls at a used furniture store in order to have the flexibility to create this kind of set at will).  The portion of desk that is visible is a desktop I purchased a Ikea for a similar reason. For the extinguisher I just grabbed the fire extinguisher from my studio kitchen…this was a spur-of-the-moment idea.  I gave the model a count down to set off the extinguisher, “Three, two, one, go” and started shooting. I got exactly three frames off before I could no longer see the model. Who knew how much crap could come out of one of those little extinguishers? Geez! I don’t think we ever did get every surface of that studio cleaned after that shoot. For those of you who shoot out of your own living rooms and garages…that old adage of “don’t do this at home” couldn’t be more true!