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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Cannibal Cow And A Rights Managed Image

In this funny cow picture a Holstein dairy cow stands behind a barbecue with fork in hand while in the background two of his bovine friends graze in the pasture. 
 This is not an easy image to use, probably won't generate frequent sales, and as such is better suited to a Rights Managed licensing model.
Cannibal Cows
A cannibal cow? This humorous Holstein could be saying “It’s an acquired taste…”, or “Chicken or Fish?”. Whatever the caption, I just love the image (of course, it could be that I am just too “close” to the image to get an accurate take on it). It did take me two days of Photoshop to complete, which is a lot longer than I am used to. Cows are hard!

A Rights Managed Image
This is one of those images that has been on my mind to do for some time…like about two years. It isn’t one that I have an easy time figuring out who could use it and for what. I do feel confident that creative art directors and designers will find a way to use it. But again, it probably isn’t going to be the kind of image that generates a lot of sales, and with a lot of production involved, I will be submitting this as a Rights Managed image.

Shooting The Components
As for shooting the components, I originally photographed the Holstein dairy cow for a humorous greeting card image.  I no longer remember when or why I shot the grass. The sky I shot in New Mexico for my archives, the grill fork I manufactured from a carving fork I had in my prop collection and the barbecue normally sits in my side yard at home but got a good cleaning for this shoot.

Cropping Formats, Copy Space And Extra Cows
In an attempt to make the image as easy to use as possible for potential users I composed it to work with any cropping format and included plenty of copy space. I felt like placing the two cows in the background added a sense of depth and a little complexity. The risk is that someone might want to use the image without them. I tried to place the cows where they could be cropped out for a vertical use of the image, say for a magazine cover.  I also had mixed emotions about the cloudy sky. The clouds make it more difficult to read any type that might be placed over the image, but every sky I tried without clouds just lacked pizzazz.

Digital Composites, Change, And Breathing
By the way, as much as I like this image, it may yet change. One of the good things, and the bad things, about digital composites is that you can keep changing them forever. As a matter of fact, I have found that anybody I ask about my images can almost always find something to change…that old “yes but…” thing. So if I get enough negative feedback I may modify it again. With that in mind I wont rush to get the image in to an agency…I’ll give it a little time to “breathe”, which is actually a good policy in general.