Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Stock Photo Strategy

A pair of hands reach for each other against a mosaic background made up of hundreds of portraits in an image about social media issues.  
This "Social Media" image of two hands reaching for each other against a backdrop of hundreds of individual portraits is the result of setting aside time for experimentation.
A Strategy For Stock Photographers
One of the strategies for stock photographers that I firmly believe in is to continually stretch yourself in new directions by experimenting with no specific final image in mind. This is important for several reasons. First, only by experimenting and pushing yourself into new territory can you continue to grow as an artist, and experimenting without a hard and fast image in mind can open you up to new unexpected results. Secondly, copying your own best selling images is a questionable strategy because even if you are successful with your new versions, which in my own experience is highly doubtful, you will be cannibalizing your own work. Thirdly, by continually adding new directions to your stock photo collection you will be able to keep tabs on what type of treatments, subject matter, and style are good earners. And fourth, having a diverse body of work in your stock photos, like diversity in the world of investing, helps insure against the vagaries of the marketplace.

New Ideas And Directions
I spend a lot of time experimenting with combining various images from my archives.  Often these efforts result in new ideas that then give me direction for future shoots. In the case of my “social media out reach” above, I wanted to come up with a way to utilize my portrait mosaic in new ways. In the mosaic portraits I have over two hundred model released photos…and it represents a ton of work in both putting the mosaic together and in uploading releases to the stock agencies!

Experimenting  And Success
Experimenting does take time and doesn’t always yield immediate results. For this particular image I spent two days experimenting before the idea was fully formed. Then I had to photograph the hands and do the actual composite work. That was another half day. Finding, organizing and uploading the model releases took almost an entire day by itself! Not fun work either…. But like any investment, it is the continuing practice of experimentation that leads to success.

A Mosaic Portrait And Multiple Concepts
However, I did manage to come up with eight different images that share the mosaic portrait background so the effort is “amortized” sufficiently to insure that the effort was worthwhile…uh, I think. I will know in six months to a year when I see some the sales reports for a period of time.  Sometimes it takes several years for my images to reach a level of income that I regard as appropriate and successful.  In the case of this image of two hands reaching towards each other, there are many concepts that can be illustrated from social media connections, to social media as a charitable tool, to social networking friendships. There is no doubt that creative art directors and designers will figure out many other ways to use the image…er…at least I think they will!

Experimentation, Fun And A Pay Off
One final reason, at least for me, to experiment with my image making is that it is just plain fun…and fun is one of the reasons I was so drawn to stock photography in the first place! So whether you experiment in capture, or in post, go out, try something new and have some fun. In the long run it will really pay off.