Thursday, May 10, 2012

Creating Stock Photos: Weakness Into Strength

A Cheetah racing across desert sands is a metaphor for speed and quickness for both business and life.  
To speed up my career I need to speed up my production by turning weaknesses into strengths.

Increase Earnings And Continuing Challenges
There was a time; a few years ago, when it was pretty easy for me to just cruise along at half speed in my stock photography career.  But those years have passed and my desire to continue having what I consider to be adequate financial success requires that I step things up a bit. Actually, in 2011 I earned more in stock income than in 2010, and that is a good sign, but in the face of all the continuing challenges to the stock photography industry, I feel a need to grow my business even more.

Turn Weaknesses Into Strengths
One way that seems to me to be a foolproof way to boost any career is to determine what your biggest weakness is and turn that weakness into a strength. When I look at my own situation it seems to me that my biggest weakness, at least as far as stock photography is concerned, is a lack of production. That is, I simply don’t produce enough images.

Unproductive Time And Scheduling Shoots
Early in my stock photo career I used to think of a single idea and execute it. When the recession hit, and teamed up with the digital effects of oversupply and dropping prices, I began to shoot the raw materials for multiple images and then get to work creating my concept stock photos. While an improvement, I still end up with too much unproductive time, time that is unproductive because I am working with the "dregs" of a given photo shoot with the least exciting ideas and a shortage of quality raw material (images) for my composites. What I finally realized is that I need to start scheduling my next shoot before I finish creating the images from the last shoot.

Troublesome Ideas And More Enjoyment
Tom Grill and his staff plan out his shoots up to a year in advance…and now I am starting to realize why he is so successful. In my own case, having a constant supply of raw materials for the creation of my images will allow me to skip over ideas that are turning out to be troublesome and time-wasting, and will allow me to not only increase my production, but actually enjoy my work more.

More And Better Stock Photos
Right now, despite all the industry problems, I am having more fun making images than I ever have, and I am now additionally fired-up to turn that weakness, an ill-organized and almost reticent approach to shooting, into a strength through improved planning and scheduling. Again, that will give me a more continuous stream of high-quality raw materials from which to make more and better stock photos. Now excuse me, I have a shoot to plan!


Jan Scherders said...

great blog post, John !!

Harrogate Wedding Photographer said...

I think I struggle (especially as I have such a small stock portfolio at the moment) seeing the return on my time investment.

It makes it difficult to motivate yourself to shoot new stuff when there's such a little payoff. Obviously stock is a volume game these days so I know the more I shoot the better.

BackyardProductions said...

The comment about return on time investment is an interesting one, but the answer depends on the type of stock you take and whether that counts as "work". I've been at the stock game for 4 years now, mainly taking travel and nature images, but adding in still life and studio shots as I think of some new concept. The travel ones are normally because I am in a city or location for some other purpose and so that doesn't really count as work. The still life ones - well I enjoy the challenge of getting a good image, and I am endlessly thinking of new subjects to try to take.

After 4 years I now have 2700 images on line and have got to around $15K a year - not great, but it does continue even if I stop taking more (at least for a while!). I regularly blog about my challenges and successes if anyone wants to follow in my footsteps...


John Lund said...

Steve, have more images than I do after twenty-two years of shooting stock!

Checked out your blog...quite informative. Thanks for reading my blog!


Personalised photo puzzles said...

I agree with one of the previous comments that it is very hard to motivate yourself if you get little payout. But for me it's not about the money, it's about spreading out my idea how I see the world :)