Monday, March 28, 2011

A Look At The Blend Images 2011 Spring Creative Meeting

A theater audience in a balcony gives an enthusiastic standing ovation.
Blend Images 2011 Spring Creative Meeting deserves a standing ovation!

The Blend Images 2011 Spring Creative Meeting
I just came back from attending the Blend Images 2011 Spring Creative Meeting. Each year Blend Images holds a meeting for its contributing photographers focusing on creative issues. There is generally a quick look at what is new with Blend Images, presentations on where Blend thinks the market will be heading, and presentations to help its’ members hone their own creativity and find more direction in their production of stock imagery. Presentations were made by Blend CEO Rick Becker-Leckrone, Director of Sales at Blend Images, Robert Henson, and by Blend Creative Director Sarah Fix.

Stock Photo Needs, Motion for Still Photographers and Stock Production
This year Blend also arranged for presentations by advertising, editorial and fine art photographer Jill Greenberg, CEO and Founder of LookStat Rahul Pathak (sharing insight on the value of analyzing sales data), Freelance Art Buyer Jessica Mirolla (discussing commercial stock photo needs), and Freelance Cinematographer and former motion editor for Getty Images Tim Sutton (discussing approaches to motion capture for still photographers). There was also a panel discussion featuring photographers Andres Rodriquez, Patrik Giardino, Jamie Grill, Jose Pelaez and Ariel Skelly who gave us insights in to how they approach stock photo production. All-in-all, one Saturday packed with information, not to mention socializing, making connections, and sharing information with numerous fellow shooters. I had a great time, and learned quite a few things as well.

The Right Image and Cautious Optimism
I left the meeting with a sense of cautious optimism. There is still a huge demand for imagery despite the ever-growing glut of photos. The opportunities lie in not in madly pumping out pictures, but rather in making smart images, the “right” images. There is opportunity for those of us who are thinking strategically about what we produce. I heard from photographers who are doing well with Rights Managed stock photos, and I heard from other photographers who are experiencing growth with their Royalty Free photos. We were presented with expensive video shoots that are earning the big bucks…yes, they do exist, and small ones as well. There are still success stories in stock, but they are coming from those who are bringing not just photography talent, but brains to their shoots as well.

My own personal highlights (at least what I can remember at this moment):
  • There is no doubt that analyzing sales (and acting on that information) will improve your earnings.
  • When shooting motion (video) think in terms of a telling a story. For me this was huge. I can get way more excited about creating a short film that results in clips rather than going out and filling a  “clip list”. Telling a story can get everyone from talent to crew far more into it…and that is essential for great work.
  • Art Directors do search Google for stock imagery (and art buyers struggle to find the copyright holders).
  • At least one art buyer is yearning for more great images than she can find on the agency sites (and for those of you seeking assignment photography…this art buyer still prefers a portfolio of prints).
  • There may be a trend away from “stylized” images…and there is always a demand for “authentic” images.
  • The importance of “Talent” can’t be overstated. More than one of the top photographers tracks their sales by model, and at least one such photographer even provides the models with a percentage of the royalties…that is how important he deems the models to be!
  • Make your images 2% better than the competition and the benefits are enormous. More than ever before creating quality imagery is vital.
  • When combining a motion shoot with a still shoot a good starting strategy is to first shoot the motion, then, when energy starts to lag, switch to stills. 
Success In Stock Photography: Passion and Thought
My overriding take-away is that there are still photographers finding success in stock photography in a wide variety of ways. What the successful photographers take to the party is passion combined with a thorough and thoughtful approach. They photographers aren’t flailing about, they are combining research and preparation to produce images that stand out from the competition and are filling a need in the marketplace. In addition, each photographer (or photography studio) was given a thumb drive with Blend specific tutorials as well as several creative reports (which I haven't had a chance to look at yet).

Coming Interviews
In the coming weeks and months I will be publishing interviews from a number of the featured participants of the meeting including Rahul Pathak, Jose Pelaez, Andres Rodriguez, Jessica Mirolla and Tim Sutton. Stay tuned!

A Shout Out For Blend Images
I think Blend Images deserves a shout out for continuing to provide these yearly get togethers.  Many of us agreed that we'd like to see two days next year. In addition to getting valuable information and insights into this ever changing world of photography and stock photography, getting the chance to hang with each other, compare notes and just plain socialize with our peers is an awesome thing!


Jaak Nilson said...

Finding and shooting "right" images is a real challenge. Who could suggest it. Who knows how to create a "right photos" is winner. And it means an income:)

carlosrestrepofoto said...

Thanks for the great content.....You should get into making your interviews with video

Rahul Pathak said...


Thanks for this writeup. I had a fantastic time and really enjoyed our conversation about analytics. Looking forward to chatting more.


CEO, LookStat

Jaak Nilson said...

Video, please no. A people can read too.
It is a some kind of weird habit to expose all stuff in video:)))

jon feingersh said...

Hey John-- Go shoot some good pictures and forget this social networking thing. It never produces any good results.... Whoops, I mean, thanks for the great precis of the Blend meeting. You hit the top points on the head, and I look forward to your coming interviews. All the Best, Jon F