Saturday, February 19, 2011

Super Slow Motion Clips, Creative Souls and Best Sellers

A Cool Video And A Supernatural Force
I just had to share this cool video! It looks to me like some kind of science fiction scene, or maybe some horror flick where some supernatural being or force is about to erupt from the depths.  Some mysterious force is causing a void in the water. The edges bubble and froth sending out ever widening ripples in the otherwise placid water.  Of course the reality is rather tame. I held a can of air just out of the frame and shot the air down into the water.

Super Slow Motion Video and Compelling Clips
The burst of air into water was only a couple of seconds, but shot at 1000 frames per second (and played back at 30 frames per second), this HD video turns the scene into something otherworldly.  In a second version I tilted the canned air in order to have the propellant visible…which adds yet another dimension to the visual. This time it looks like smoke, mist or vapor is bellowing up from the depths. Each clip is compelling in its own way. I have to give a nod here to GVS Systems, my main computer and related equipment supplier...their GVS 9000 hardware and software set-up allowed us to be efficient enough with the Phantom HD camera to be able to "play around" with trying out these oddball ideas.

Slow Motion Videos, Creative Souls and Best Sellers
Perhaps these clips can be used in a title sequence, or for some science fiction short, or as part of an advertisement. I actually have no idea of what either of these super slow motion videos can be used for, but I am sure some creative soul will find a use and will therefore, in some small measure contribute to my financial well being.  One thing I do know…often my stock materials are used in ways I could never have imagined, and even images that I doubted would ever be used have sometimes turned into best sellers.

A Questionable Image And A $17,000.00 Sale
One good example of that happened many years ago when I created an image on a whim (see below), then began to second guess myself. What could anyone use it for? Should I even bother submitting it? Finally, I did submit the image, and the first sale was for a gross of $17,000.00! It continued to sell well for many years, though now it only occasionally licenses for a small amount here or there. But the lesson has stayed with just never know which image, or which clip, will become one of your hottest (no pun intended)!
Picture of a man, with his head on fire, looking wide-eyed with downward cast eyes.
I almost didn't send this image in to the stock agency (Corbis), but when I did the first sale was for $17,000.00!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Interviewed: Jerry Tavin, Young Photographers Alliance Co-Founder

Two hands reach for each other through a dramatic sky with the sun positioned behind in an image about connection, teamwork and offering a helping hand.
Young Photographers Alliance offers a helping hand to emerging photographers.

You have a long history in the photography business. Can you share with us some highlights of your photography career?
I founded a company called nonstock with Janou Pakter, who was also my co-partner in Janou Pakter, Inc., a prestigious, worldwide recruitment agency based in New York. Our involvement with worldwide design and advertising agencies, as well as with photographers, was the catalyst for the creation of nonstock.  At the time, the name and the idea behind the name were not readily accepted by the stock photo industry. We chose to take a different road than most traditional stock companies. We edited the work of well-known and emerging photographers, which was, at that time, closely edited rights-managed images. Nonstock was highly successful in its approach and soon became a model for many other stock agencies.  Another highlight of my career was receiving the ASPP Photography Professional of the Year award in 2008, which made me extremely proud, as this was an award voted by my industry peers.

Additionally, in April 2009, I founded the Young Photographers Alliance with Deborah Free, Edward Leigh and Janou Pakter, which is an educational foundation providing scholarships, internships, mentorships and business education to deserving and talented young photographers worldwide.

Finally, as co-partner with Spencer Jones of Glasshouse Images, we continue to follow the path of high-quality and creative stock photography.

What led you to become a Founder of YPA?
My association with young photographers through the years was always important and exciting to me. Their obstacles and difficulties in getting a foothold in the industry were always part of our discussions. It was natural for me after much success to want to do something to help them in any way. At this point, in my career, it was an important time for me to start a foundation which would achieve those goals.

Can you bring us up to speed on YPA?
We have awarded 11 scholarships to date, in addition to completing our first mentoring program, Answering Adversity, which was generously funded by the ASMP foundation. This program includes 12 mentors and 38 mentees in 11 cities in the US, Canada and UK. We recently exhibited our full program, which includes 114 prints and accompanying student essays, at the Calumet Gallery in New York City. We are currently exploring new initiatives for our scholarship, and mentoring programs for 2011 and beyond. We have an active website and Facebook at: that updates our progress.

What are some of the problems facing beginning photographers today that YPA is helping with?
In our focus groups with young photography students, they indicated that their lack of strong business knowledge was an obstacle. They also did not have networking opportunities with business professionals. They needed financial support and additional educational opportunities for their growth. Basically, it is a question of guidance and support in order to sustain their careers, which is our foundation’s mission.

How exactly does YPA help young photographers?
We help young photographers with financial support through our scholarship programs, with networking opportunities via our mentors and other experienced professionals in the field. We offer one-on-one guidance through the review of their portfolios. Many of our scholarship winners and our mentees remain involved with YPA as committee members and volunteers. Hopefully, they will become mentors to the next generation of young photographers. We hope to implement internships and business education programs in the future. And provide a global network of opportunities for emerging artists. 

How can individual photographers best contribute to YPA?
Individual photographers can best contribute to YPA by becoming members of YPA. They can directly contribute to future educational programs. They can provide images for our silent and online auctions, as these funds go directly to YPA programs. They can join our database of mentors, so that we may call upon them to provide leadership and guidance in future mentoring programs. They can provide internships and they can volunteer their services in many different ways to YPA. Each year prestigious photographers present the awards to our scholarships winners at our October event. Many photographers can assist in our future internship programs and educational seminars.

Do you believe that on a practical level helping aspiring photographers will also benefit established pros as well and how?
Most photographers know how difficult it was to get opportunities in our industry when they started out. They know that having support may have changed or accelerated their goals and careers. In many cases, this support kept them in their careers. We want to sustain young photographers in our industry. How can you keep an industry moving forward and remaining relevant without the help and support of the young photographers? Established photographers will certainly benefit from their fresh creativity and the perpetuation of our art through their support of aspiring artists.

There are doubtless pros out there that wonder "why bother?" when our industry appears headed for doom anyway.  What would you say to them?
“Doom and gloom” have been words used to describe our industry for the longest times. And every creative field echoes the same sentiment. We have been and still are a huge financial industry in all areas of photography and we will continue. I believe that photography, as an art form, will never die. As technology advances in our industry, new opportunities are being created. More people enjoy photography and more institutions display photography. As for all creative fields, it is a difficult road, but we should be optimistic that we are in such a great profession. Our artists should remain enthusiastic and optimistic because they are doing what they love, which to is the essence of life.

What is currently the biggest need or challenge that YPA has?
As with many foundations during these difficult economic times, we need financial support. We need sponsors who are as passionate as we are about photography and about its artists. Without financial support and in-kind services, grassroots foundations cannot survive. Of course, our existence depends on funding in order to maintain significant programs.

Does YPA cover all the various sub categories of photography including everything from events to advertising to stock (too many to list here!)?
It is YPA's goal to encourage young photographers to explore all opportunities within the industry that would include all the subcategories of photography. Our education programs will include relevant information on all facets of our industry. We try to be relevant and coordinate activities with all the different areas of our industry that involve professional expertise for young photographers.

How would you answer the objection that there are already too many photographers and too few opportunities?
We have to encourage the young talent to pursue their dreams and goals within our industry, as it is these young photographers who will create new business opportunities and re-invent our industry. Can you ever have too many creative people in any creative field? Are there too many dancers, too many fine artists, too many musicians, too many actors? Well, there are certainly not too many photographers.

How has the response to YPA been in the photographic community?
The response has been incredible during our short tenure. There has been great voluntary support from many segments of the industry, as well as some much needed donations, especially support of our mentoring program through the ASMP foundation. While we still need funding to succeed, we are encouraged by the overwhelming support of the international community to our goals. This enthusiasm has really kept us going for the past two years.

Who are some of the Organizations that are sponsoring YPA?
Organizations such as APA, ASMP, ASPP, BAPLA, CEPIC, PACA, SPE, have been extremely supportive of YPA, as well as companies such as Alamy and Photolibrary have been equally as supportive, but we would certainly welcome many more organizations and companies in support of our goals.

Can you share any anecdotes about how YPA has helped young shooters?
Our anecdotes are in the dozens of letters from young artists, scholarship winners and mentees that have talked about their experiences and thanked YPA for its support. Our website has a few of the testimonials, which are quite uplifting and rewarding. Our focus groups of young photographers provide us with great insights, and sometimes great laughs, into what their needs and their desires consist of. We have some prestigious photographers internships and the mentees work on the program has yielded some interesting anecdotal stories.

How are you getting the word out to young photographers, and how can they approach YPA for assistance?
We reach out to many schools regarding our scholarships and mentoring programs. Students can find us on various social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as relevant blogs. We also have reached out to students via advertising, public relations efforts and through our website. Our advisory board is also doing great outreach. Also, SPE has greatly helped with our outreach program. Developing future programs to connect with young photographers is one of our priorities.

You have had a long and varied career in photography. What have you learned over the years that would be important for young photographers to know?
I've told my photographers to "follow your heart", if you persist in doing the things you love, and try to endure through the difficulties and challenges, the personal rewards are wonderful. Setting an example of giving back something to their profession can help make their lives more interesting and more exciting. As a photographer, you can make a substantial different in enriching the lives of other people. Your work is meaningful, your art is monumental and you are important in your contributions to society. Photography is a special art form.  Those who are blessed with that talent should count themselves as being fortunate.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Traffic and The Future of Photography

A shopping mall is full of traffic in a metaphor for everything from web traffic to business success.

Building traffic is a long term endeavor that may hold the key for continued success in the photography market.

An Unpleasant Truth For Photographers
The recent sale of The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million dollars underscores an unpleasant truth for us photographers, for us “content producers”. That unpleasant truth is that traffic is valued more than content; that the distribution of our images is, in a significant way, more important than the images themselves. After all, the greatest photo in the world, unseen, will return less revenue, and have less impact, than a mediocre or poor image that is seen by everyone.

Great Content Is A Building Block of Traffic and Distribution
Of course, it isn’t quite as simple as I just indicated above. After all, distribution requires content and great content is a building block of great distribution. But as we have all witnessed, great photography content is significantly easier to produce than ever before, and mediocre and poor content is, well, shall we say abundant?  But the question remains: With the knowledge of how important distribution, and traffic is, how do we photographers proceed?

Where We Want To Go, And Reality
In order to understand where we go from here it is essential that we understand where we want to go. It is also imperative that we have a relatively firm grasp on reality as well. One reality is that the price of photography has been and is continuing to drop.  Another reality is that the competition continues to explode both in the form of stock images and in the form of newcomers to the industry.

Making A Living With Stock Photography, And Building Traffic
In my own case, I want to continue to make a good living creating stock photography. Right now, as far as I can determine, the fastest route to earning money in stock photography is by creating exceptional images and getting them in to distribution through top agencies.  But taking a longer view I think it is important to utilize my content to create my own traffic. And for that endeavor you really do need a long view. After two years of diligent work towards that end, and getting 4,600 well key worded images up on my site, I am generating around a thousand visitors a day. I want at least ten times that number, and I will get it. It will probably take me three to five more years.  One day I will wake up and say to myself, “Man, I am glad I did that!”

Traffic And Success With Photography
The traffic I build will include visitors that will license stock (primarily by being routed to one of my agencies), generate revenue by clicking on ads, purchase photo imprinted merchandise, buy prints and provide me with a market for whatever else I might dream up. Hopefully I can build enough traffic to insure success with my photography over the long term. It used to be that photographers looked at stock photos as a source of retirement income. That view seems to have evaporated. Perhaps traffic will be the new replacement for that strategy. It seems to have worked for Arianna Huffington!

Traffic and A Base For The Future
I believe it will behoove all of us photographers to understand how to build traffic that will help us achieve our goals, and traffic that will provide a base for all the unknown twists and turns in the photography business that no doubt await us in the years ahead.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Online Security-Behind A Stock Photo Concept

Binary numbers, 1s and 0s, pour out, or tumble in, to a Bank Vault in a stock photo about online security and the protection of digital assets.
Creating concept stock photos about online security, digital asset protection and computer viruses.

Internet and Online Security, Computer Viruses and Identity Theft
Internet and online security is obviously a hot topic and a growing problem as more and more of our lives, financial and otherwise, are conducted through our computers, our mobile phones, our tablets and so forth. The more we conduct business over the Internet the more our fear of problems such as identity theft, asset theft, computer viruses and worms, and the disruption of our financial lives beset us. That, in turn, creates both opportunity and need, the need for products and services that protect our online presence and the opportunity for those who provide such products and services to market themselves as such. 

Digital Asset Protection and Stock Photo Opportunities
This also brings up opportunities for content producers, stock photographers if you will, to create images that can be used for those marketing and advertising efforts. There is obviously a need for images that can serve to promote digital asset protection. But how do you show the concept of “digital asset security” in an image?
How do you create an image with the ambiguity necessary to provide for a large range of applications, but also has both the attributes for specific messages and the visual appeal to capture a viewer’s attention?

Online Protection, Bank Vaults, and Making Icons Your Own
One process I use for coming up with stock photos for popular or needed concepts by looking at the traditional iconic markers that apply. For example, if you are looking for concepts based around security I would begin with things like locks, chains, guards, and, yes, bank vault doors. Next, ask yourself what you can add to that icon that will take it the next step. How can you make it your own and add even more ambiguity and impact and still retain a strong concept specific message? How can you make the safe door of a bank visually compelling and applicable to digital assets, online applications, and Internet security?

Digital Assets, Binary Numbers and Online Security
In this case, for me, binary numbers is one possible answer. I think it is pretty universal that people now know that computers speak with 1s and 0s. Binary numbers are the language of the Internet, of digital assets, and of the online world. By combining two iconic symbols, binary numbers and a steel bank vault door, an image that speaks of online security, Internet theft prevention, and digital asset protection is created.

Binary Numbers, Iconic Visuals and Online Security
By having a mass of binary numbers, 1s and 0s, tumbling past the open door of a bank vault the headline or copy can use the image to describe moving one assets to a secure place, or the siphoning off or loss of such assets with inadequate safeguards. Because the image utilizes familiar iconic visuals a target audience immediately grasps that online security is the subject of the message, and if it is a message they are concerned about they will look further, the desired goal of any stock visual. This photograph of numbers and a bank vault can be used to advertise or promote a wide range of services and products for computer security, for online transactions and even for the secure content of social media and networks.

Digital Asset Protection, Stock Photos, and Maximizing Revenue
Because there are so many potential users of this stock picture of digital asset protection, including the editorial and corporate markets as well as advertising, I believe the revenue potential is best maximized by placing it as a Royalty Free image. I am always faced with my bias towards Rights Managed, and yet in examining my history of stock photo sales I have found that in many cases the right image in RF distribution will out perform an RM image in terms of total revenue.  I certainly hope that is the case here as I have somewhere between two and three days of work tied up in this one photograph…and that doesn’t even take into account the original photography of the bank vault (thought that was done ages ago for a paid assignment). To further insure that I get a sufficient return on my investment I went on to create several more versions of the bank safe for other uses including monetary security (the protection of cash and other liquid assets), and asset loss in general both with and without a “management” element.

Ambiguity, Specificity, and Multiple Concepts: A Stock Photo Strategy That Is Paying Off
This series of “security” images is a good reflection of my approach to stock photography. Find a need, create a visually interesting and compelling image that has the desired qualities of ambiguity and specificity, and place it in the appropriate distribution channels. In the last couple of years I have also payed a lot more attention to creating multiple concepts rather than focusing on just one concept image. This is a strategy that is definitely paying off for me.