Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Thousand Visitors a Day: Taking Stock

A one man band stands exhausted from the effort to keep up with it all in a humorous stock photo.
Keeping up with SEO, social media, and creating images can be overwhelming, but in the long run will, I believe, be worth it!

A Thousand Unique Visitors a Day
I reached a sort of milestone last week. For the first time I had over 1000 unique visitors to my site in one day. My site had 1,041 unique visitors to be exact (though it seems that you have to take any of these figures with a grain of salt.).  It took me 26 months from the time I started my web efforts until I reached that thousand mark. But a thousand unique visitors a day is only a small stepping-stone, only a tenth of the traffic I am aiming for.

The Monetization of Web Traffic
What kind of monetization am I getting from this traffic? Two of those visitors yesterday e-mailed me with requests for licensing information on my images. Twenty-seven people reached my site and then went to the agencies carrying the stock photos they had searched for…though what happened then I don’t know.  I sold one coffee mug on That was good for $1.50 profit. I also sold a meditating-dog T-shirt and made about $2.00. My advertising revenue came in at $7.56  for that day. That was about it.

Long Term Relationships
The “daily” benefits of increased traffic, however, are not as great as those occasional larger connections. I have secured three important long-term relationships by being found easily on the web…and each of those relationships represents a potentially quite significant amount of money. I have also had a smattering of print sales the occasional direct licensing of a stock image and so forth.

Encouragement and Disappointment
Overall, I am both encouraged and disappointed by my progress. Encouraged, tantalized even, by the results of my increased traffic, but disappointed by how much work it has taken, and by the fact that after all this time I have only just reached the thousand mark.

The Social Media Quandary
Then there is what I call the social media quandary. As facebook grows ever more pervasive I feel compelled to explore that avenue of connecting with prospects as well. But is the time well spent? My tactic at this point is to spend a bit of time each day, or nearly each day, and slowly understand how to utilize the medium. For me facebook is more of a way to create a fan base around my animal images than as a way to promote my traditional stock photos.

Creating New Stock Images and Staying Successful
As I have said before, if I had put all the work that I have put into my site into creating new stock images, I would definitely be earning more money at this point. But I still believe that in the long term the rewards for my web efforts will be much greater. An increased web is the best way I can think of to prepare for the changes that are happening, and that will continue to happen in ways we cannot know at this time. Finally, increasing my web traffic at helps gives me a sense of control over my own destiny…something very important in helping me keep a positive attitude that is vital for continuing to take the steps necessary to stay successful.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Motion Stock, An Exploding Piggy Bank, and An Important Lesson

 An Exploding Piggy Bank shot at 1000 frames per second.

Shooting Motion Stock
I recently completed a second round of shooting motion stock clips with a Phantom HD camera at frame rates of up to 1900 per second! I would not have gotten involved with this project was it not for the fact that I was given access to this rather expensive piece of equipment (to rent the set-up we used, the Phantom Camera with a GVS 9000 VTR computer and raid array, would have been in the neighborhood of $5,000.00 a day) in exchange for a percentage of the royalties. But even with the overhead of the camera taken care of, the time I put into the effort may not be worth it.  Luckily I enjoyed the process.

A Slow Motion Clips With Getty
The thing is that my previous set of slow-motion-clips is not earning that much money. Approximately a hundred clips with Getty are bringing in an average of maybe seven hundred dollars a month. On the surface that seems pretty good…but those clips took me two months worth of work. Now I saved something like $70,000.00 over what it would have cost me to rent the equipment…but I still have expenses including lighting, models, props and so forth. Most of that will be paid back in the first year. So for two months of my time I will be earning, after I divide the royalties, maybe three thousand a year…an amount that will, no doubt, decrease each year. For two months of work?

A Murky Profit Potential
Of course, like many photographers, I tend to forget a lot of the expenses involved. Like buying Final Cut Pro, hiring a guy to teach me to use FCP, hiring him again a few weeks later after I forget what he teaches me, buying a new hard drive to send the images in on, hiring a File Maker Pro expert to amend my database program to be able to split the royalties appropriately and so forth and so on! So the profit potential gets even murkier….

Extreme Slow Motion Clips and An Advantage
I thought that the extreme slow motion aspect of the clips would give me an advantage over others involved in creating stock footage, but apparently not. I even found a guy on iStockphoto who has shot pretty much everything we did, with the same camera and the same level of quality. On iStockphoto! Geez!

Shooting Means Editing
However, being the extreme optimist that I am, when the opportunity presented itself again, I dived in. I did come up with some pretty cool stuff and will be sharing some of it here on this blog (see above). But again, shooting for a couple of weeks means editing for a couple of weeks, and I am so slammed right now, particularly producing a new round of images for greeting cards, that I am only getting an hour or so of editing in every few days…this may take a while!

An Exploding Piggy Bank and The Value of Imagery
 One of the clips we produced, the above example of an exploding piggy bank, shot at 1000 frames per second, did produce a valuable insight for me, one that I suspect many of us photographers need to remind ourselves. As a photographer I love cool visuals, and I love to see that bursting piggy bank disintegrate in slow motion. I have watched it dozens of times, mesmerized by the flying coins and falling debris. But when I showed it to my brother he commented “Yeah, its OK to watch…once.”  So the problem here is that I may not have, probably don’t have, a realistic idea of the value of my imagery. Seems like an exploding piggy bank might be an apt metaphor!

Success In Commercial Photography and Understanding Reality
To succeed in the world of photography, of commercial and visual art, it is imperative that we have an accurate idea of the value of what we are offering. Without a firm grasp on the realities of our market, we will continue to make bad decisions, which will ultimately lead to our failure as businesses. If I really get it, really do understand the true value of what I am offering, which can be equally problematic in either overvaluing or undervaluing, then all the time I put into that latest motion stock effort will have been worthwhile!