Friday, November 2, 2012

Making Money With Cell Phone Pictures

A hand holds a color sample card in front of a color display in a photo about home improvement and decor. 
 My first cell phone stock photo! I just uploaded this image into Blend Images' New MEMENTO collection.
Making Money With Cell Phone Pictures
While there is much I don’t like about cell phone photography (see my previous blog post “Why I Hate Instagram”), I cannot deny that there is commercial potential. Heck, Time magazine just ran a cover shot with a cell phone photos! Stories are beginning to abound about the success of photographers using cell phones as their cameras.  But most importantly for me is the announcement by Blend Images of their new MEMENTO collection, a collection of commercially relevant images shot on cell phone cameras. With this new collection there is no doubt in my mind that I can be making money with my cell phone pictures.

A shout out to Blend's Jasmine Hartsook who designed the new logo!

My First Cell Phone Stock Photo
As a matter of fact, I just finished my first upload to Memento. My very first cell phone stock photo is that of the hand of my girl friend holding a color sample card in front of a color display for paints. It is a great example of one kind of image that is greatly facilitated by cell phone cameras…being there!  I had my cell phone in my hand, the color display was sitting there…and within a minute or two, with no fuss, muss or unwanted attention, I got the shot. Uh, I should mention that I used Photoshop to eliminate all the little logos on each card...but it didn't really take much time, and I used my laptop while watching mindless TV. BTW, so far I am avoiding the filtration apps and just using the standard iPhone camera. I am such a luddite that trying to figure out the ins and outs of the apps and so forth...well...I just don't have the patience for it. Maybe in the future....

A walk across the Golden Gate Bridge...and a stock photo!

The Best Camera Is The One You Have With You
As they say, the best camera is the one you have with you. Today I walked across the Golden Gate bridge with my fiance. I didn't have my regular cameras with me...but I did have my cell phone and managed to get this image (I did remove the ship's name from the stern). This is probably how the iPhone camera will most affect my own stock production...shots of opportunity...rather than pre-planned shoots.

A Supplement For Stock Imagery Production
I don’t see this kind of imagery really supplanting what I normally do, but I can see how it could supplement my stock imagery production. And you know what…it was kind of fun to do! Give it a shot…if it works out great…if not, no big loss.

A Collection For All Photographers
Back to Blend for a moment. Blend is opening up their Memento collection to everyone. This is a bold step for a “traditional” stock agency. But unlike many collections MEMENTO will be edited to insure that it is commercially relevant. It won’t be a fine art collection and won’t be a waste of time for people looking for cell phone type images to utilize in their advertisements, blog posts, editorial offerings… or whatever other need they have for photography. 

Blend’s List Of Content Needs
MEMENTO images need to be jpg files great than 10MB when open and can be either 72 or 300 dpi.  The color profiles can be either sRGB or Adobe RGB. And hey, you microstockers, Blend does the key wording (gotta like that!). Unlike other Blend collections this is not limited to multi-cultural business and lifestyle imagery…but does need to be commercially applicable and must have releases where required just as with traditional stock photos. Here is a list of Blend’s list of content needs for, as they put it, “pocket camera photographs”:

Quirky, humorous
Voyeur approach to lifestyle
Regional Interest (*see separate creative brief from 2011)
A day in the life of a person, couple, or group
Adventures - Road trip, urban, exotic, iconic, recreational sports, vacation
Celebrations & holidays
Being social with loved ones
All 4 seasons / day & night
Multicultural, traditions, and cultures
Nature – environmental concepts, weather (4 seasons, natural disasters, etc.)

The Occasional Image or A Body of Work
Again, for most us shooters this represents a chance to add the occasional image to our output. For some, however, this could be a bigger opportunity. If you have a love affair with your cell phone camera or  “pocket camera” and are constantly shooting I can see how a sizable body of work could be produced that might just result in a significant amount of revenue.  Only time well tell….

Great Money In Stock Photography
Those who jumped into Stock Photography in the early 90s made some great money. Those who jumped early into RF made some great money. Those who jumped into microstock early made some great money (okay...not All of them). For me, it just makes sense to at least test the waters in this latest direction of the stock photo industry.

To find out more shoot an email off to Blend’s Creative Director Sarah Fix. Her email is her first name 


Anonymous said...

Hi John: Don't you think microstock is a waste of time. Selling images for 1,2,3,4 or 5 bucks. I guess if you have 10,000 images on say, istock, you can make some $, but wouldn't those images be better served as traditional RF? Most stock shooters (except a select few) dont have those kind of large image #'s. Your thoughts? I have 1,500 images on Getty and 1,800 images with a much lesser known agency. I make thousands a month with Getty, but almost nothing with the other.

John Lund said...


It isn't that easy. In my recent interview with Christian Baitg you will find a photographer who has decided microstock works better for him than Getty. So it depends on what you shoot, how you shoot, and how much you shoot...and probably other stuff as well.

For me it has become a Getty or Blend...I submit to both but more to Blend. I don't yet know what the price point of the MEMENTO collection will be, but since that is more of a grab shot scenario with little time and resources involved I think it will be worth what I put into it. Each photographer has to look carefully at each model and make intelligent decisions as to what works best for him or her. I think it unwise to automatically and categorically eliminate a business model without careful consideration.

As to Getty and other agencies...Getty still has the lion's share of the traditional market...but the non-traditional market served by iStockphoto, Shutterstock and others is a force to be reckoned with...or tapped into!