Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fear and Motivation In Photography

The concept of business gloom and doom, and potential failure, is illustrated by this photo of a woman working in her office while vultures sit above her on the cubicle walls.
Fear can be healthy if you harness the energy for motivation rather than letting it freeze you into inaction.

Tech Developments and Fear
I just watched an interview with Marc Andreesson in which he said (my paraphrasing) that all CEOs are scared…scared of the possibility that the next tech development will render their companies obsolete. Hmmm, sound familiar? I don’t think it is a bad time to be scared right now either. I use that fear as a motivator to keep my productivity high and to keep asking what it is that I am not seeing…and where my particular skill sets can work to my advantage. The skill sets I refer to are in the field of photography, and stock photography in particular. And as any photographer ought to know by now, there is plenty to be scared of!

Fear, Paralysis and Complacency
Fear is a fine line to walk. Too much fear can paralyze you into inaction and have you hiding your head in the sand. Not enough fear might lead to complacency and the slow death of your business.  I use fear to keep setting my goals to a sufficiently high level. What is a sufficiently high level? One in which significant progress is made by attempting to reach the goal, but also in a goal that is perhaps just a bit beyond one’s reach. If you are always achieving your goals then you are probably setting them too low. Sheryl Sandberg (again my paraphrasing) pointed out, in the same interview, that many companies reach goal after goal until they are no longer in business.

Blend Images and Impossible Goals
Way back in time, about eight years ago, I was invited to help found Blend Images. In addition to putting up our initial round of funding, we were also required to commit to upload 1500 images…I think it was over a period of five or six months. Whatever it was, at the time I had produced something like 200 stock photos in about a decade. 1500 images in that short a period just boggled my mind. I almost didn’t participate in the Blend effort for that reason…it seemed like far too ambitious a goal for me. Thanks largely to Trinette Reed and Shalom Ormsby I went for it. The rest, as they say, is history. I managed to come up with the necessary imagery…largely be enlisting the help of some additional shooters.

Re-examining Goals
Earlier this year I set the goal of creating an average of 4 concept stock images per week.  That too seemed like an impossible goal, and yet to my amazement, I am reaching that goal.  It isn’t easy, but I am doing it. If I had set the goal lower I don’t think I would be producing as much imagery either. Should I reset my goal higher? Not ready to do that yet but I will certainly be re-examining all of my goals at the end of the year.

Fear, Motivation and Productivity
Getting back to that fear for a moment, fear produces energy. Put that energy to good use by using it to motivate you to try new things, to keep learning as much as you can about our industry and where it is headed, and to keep producing more and better imagery.   

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Case For Watermarks

An endless sea of bunny rabbits are a perfect metaphor for reproduction and distribution in the digital age.
In an age of digital reproduction and distribution watermarking your images only makes sense!

Watermarks, Copyright and Monetary Value
Imagine if all photographers had highly visible watermarks on every image that they have online.  The message that photographs are copyrighted would become universal. The concept that images have a monetary value would be advanced immeasurably. Further, if those watermarks also showed a viewer where that image could be licensed, there is no doubt that at least some amount of additional revenue would be in the hands of content creators (photographers).

Watermarks And Legitimate Licensing
I understand the argument against watermarks, that they interrupt the beauty of an image and may result in less “sharing” of an image.  But if you are seeking to earn revenue through photography, putting a watermark on your image is a no brainer!  If someone who actually has a budget to license an image, and is on the Internet looking for images, a watermark isn’t going to prevent them from using one of my images if it suits their needs.  Rather, it makes it far easier for them to legitimately license the image and far less likely that they will merely steal it.  In fact, I have heard from some art directors that they won’t use an image if they cannot easily find the creator or copyright holder of an image…it is just too big a risk.

Watermarks and Credit
With a watermark on your photo anyone who sees that image will know who created it. It won’t simply be another anonymous creation that does me absolutely no good for people to share and see. If you are afraid of ruining the beauty of your imagery make the watermarks on the smaller, less obtrusive side. As for me, I want my watermarks to be big enough to get the copyright message across quickly, to make it less optimal for Photoshop knowledgeable people to remove the watermark, and to get credit where credit is due. Sure, watermarks can be removed and people are going to infringe…but with watermarked imagery those infringers will be far fewer.

Dollars And Cents
Actually, even if you are just sharing images you are proud of, and are not attempting to earn money with them, you still should be putting watermarks on them. If you are proud of your images then take credit for them! Fine artists working in mediums from oil pants to watercolors don’t hesitate to sign their work! Do yourself and all photographers a favor and put an easy-to-read watermark on your photos and preferably with your website address included. It just makes sense (and it makes dollars and cents as well).