Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Challenge Of Getting Photos Seen

A menacing gorilla stands behind a help desk daring you to ring the service bell in this funny ape picture. 
Who would ever think to search for a gorilla standing behind the help desk? 

Pigs Flying, Stampeding Longhorns, and Fire Breathing Dragons
Way back, over twenty years ago, when I first started making stock photos using Photoshop, pictures of pigs flying, stampeding longhorn cattle and fire breathing dragons, stock photos were marketed in catalogs. If your image made it into the catalog it got seen and it sold. My biggest fear when the industry began to transition out of catalogs and onto the Internet was that if my pictures weren’t seen they wouldn’t be licensed…and who would search for flying pigs? Especially twenty years ago when Photoshop was still new. 

Gorillas In The Office
That fear is still with me…and possibly still legitimate. When I created this Gorilla picture it brought that concern back to me. Out of curiosity I did a little keyword research. Do you know how many searches there are for “Gorilla in the office”? None.  Uh, who is going to search for “Gorilla at the help desk”? Or, “gorilla symbolizing poor service”? You see my problem. I have that issue with many of my images…maybe most of them! Frankly, sometimes I am surprised I make any sales at all!

Images That Depart From The Norm
Luckily people do search for “service desk” and  “help desk”, so it is important to make sure those keywords are emphasized on my website page that features that image. Of course, what is far more important for my own situation is getting images into the appropriate stock agencies. In the case of images that are a departure from the norm, and that may be difficult to find when searching for, it can be very important to have an agency with a sales staff that is familiar with their images and can help direct clients to my images…er I mean the appropriate imagery.

A Strong Brand And People Searching The Internet
Establishing a strong brand could possibly help, but again, with my core collection of only a thousand images the odds of my having the right image for any one client are pretty small. Further, the vast, vast majority of people searching for images on the Internet will never be aware of a given photographer’s “brand”. I believe the best strategy for increasing my sales is still getting the rankings high for each individual image on my site and hope for as much exposure as possible. If enough people see the image there will be a small percentage that will license it. Indeed, that does appear to happening.

Generating Traffic Through Relevant Keywords
In terms of getting the most visibility for my individual photos, SEO for Google search still appears to be the best route to go. I can see how social media such as facebook can work well for portrait or wedding photographers, but who searches for stock photos on facebook or twitter? Of course “likes”, “Tweets”, “Pins” and “+1”s can, at least in theory, add to the rankings of a page or site, but when I look at my analytics none of my top ranking pages, in terms of traffic generation, have any significant number of “likes” and such. Most have none.  I do engage in a smattering of social media efforts to keep my foot in the door, but IMHO there isn’t any better way of generating traffic for stock sales than through lots of relevant keywords worked into the text of an image page.

Do The Hard Work And Keep The Faith
Where was I…oh yeah, gorillas behind the help counter. Anyway, there doesn’t seem to be a perfect solution…heck, even decent solution.  And yet some of these “hard to search for” images are my best sellers. Despite all my misgivings people are finding them and are licensing them. If there is a moral here it is to do the hard work and keep the faith.


Jaak Nilson said...


I agree. A social media for stock photographers is pretty pointless.
Serious photo buyer does not use a Google search for images.
They are using a large stock houses mostly.
A people who using Google search wants photos for low fee or free.

So a Facebook and +1 simply rise our
self-concept that people can Like our images.
Social media really works for wedding and events photographers.

But there are some exceptions too. Dan Heller sells directly very well a stock material from his own site.

donfarrall said...

Hay, John. I have the same issue that you do with unusual imagery that can be very hard to find with keyword searches only. Most recently I sought some exposure for a series of unusual images by entering them in the Communication Arts Photo Annual. My motivation was not fame, or notoriety, but fortune, hopefully by seeing an increase in sales of those and similar images via their representation by Getty Images. So as a shameless plug, check out the current issue of CA, yep the cover is one of those unusual images, as are five more inside. Time will tell what the effect of this extra exposure will have on the sale of these images.

John Lund said...


The cover of the CA Photo Annual! Five more inside. Awesome! Hmmm, don't think I haven't entered that damn contest every year...largely to no avail. But that is pretty exciting...keep me posted as to whether that success makes a further impact!



Anonymous said...

The pics look great. I think some company or somebody would buy them.
stock picks

Anonymous said...

Helleo John: I see that you have a few videos on Getty but you don't seem to be adding videos not pay as good as stills in terms of royalities?

John Lund said...


I just had another 89 video clips go up on Getty through Blend Images...which means they do not show up under my name.

I am not real big on video because it takes more work and I don't seem to earn quite as much. If I were really into video I would do a lot more...though I am not convinced that video is ever going to match the opportunity of stills. Time will tell!


Tim Cray said...

patience is the key to become a good photographer b which is shown in your work awesome work dude

John Lund said...

Thanks Tim!