Friday, June 20, 2014

Latest Thoughts On Stock Photo Success

"Hey, come buy my stock photos!" I used myself as a model in this social media networking image.

A Chat With An Art Director
I had a nice chat with an Art Director friend of mine a couple of days ago. She often has to search for stock and related to me how much more difficult it is to find good material.  Considering how much “material” has been uploaded in the last few years it is very interesting to hear that.  It seems that the road to success is simply figuring out what is “good material”…and how to get it seen.

Good Material
Regarding the first part, figuring out what is “good material”…I believe that good images, even great images, have the same criteria they have always had. Some of the photographers that I am in regular touch with do report good and even increasing sales. While I am not at liberty to just say who they are and show you their work, I can tell you that the work itself can range from remarkable to actually fairly pedestrian. Even some of my unremarkable images sell well. What makes those images sell is that they solve a problem for someone in need of the right image.

Getting Your Work Seen
The second part…getting your work seen, is in my opinion is the more challenging  part of the equation.  I have to point out here that I am totally unfamiliar with how photographers can increase their visibility on the microstock sites, but I believe there things they can do within the sites themselves (maybe one of you micro guys can jump in here…). I do know that Jon Boyes has seemingly mastered the art of getting his work very visible at Alamy, but for most traditional stock agencies about all we can do is produce the best work we can, drive more traffic via our own outside efforts, and hope that the quality of those images carries them higher in the search algorithms. 

Web Sites And Social Media
As I mentioned above, we can utilize our web sites and social media to gain visibility, and to drive more traffic to our images on the agency sites thereby moving those images up in the searches. For me, at least in terms of my website, the question is whether my time is better spent working at SEO and participating in social media, or in making new images. While I can only speculate, I am guessing that in the short term I would be better off just making new images, but am becoming ever more convinced that in the long run the benefits of a website that truly generates traffic will prove to have been the smart course to take. Yesterday I got a request for four images for a calendar and today a request for an image for a mural and another request for an image for a brochure. I also had about twenty people find my images follow the links to the agencies that handle those images. How many will actually license the images I don’t know, but since I have started my efforts to drive traffic to my site I have seen a slow but steady growth in stock requests.

The Social Media Question
Then there is that social media question. Again, I have no doubt that social media can drive traffic to one’s site…in three weeks of active participation the percentage of traffic to my site coming from social media has risen from 1.2 percent to 3.3 percent.  Baby steps to be sure, but steps none-the-less. Social media can work in other ways too…such as generating assignments. But for us stock photographers it sure seems like an uphill battle! Hey, but I forgot to mention, I actually made a stock  sale through a facebook request a couple of days ago! Another plus for social media, a Getty photographer I know who has seen his income consistently grow attributes it in part to targeted facebook ads he is doing.  Food for thought!

A Consistent Long-Term Approach
I think part of the trick is to develop a routine such as allotting fifteen minutes each morning to participating. Of course, it is important to know who your audience is and which social media sites they frequent and then focus your attention on those sites. But like everything else in this business, success comes through a consistent, long-term approach. I think the whole thing is a pain in the butt, but I don’t intend to wake up one day and realize I can’t make a living with what I love to do. I always remember that I have to be willing to do whatever it takes.

Update on Agency Access E Mail Campaign
So I did a second email blast using Agency Access. I sent out 4,500 emails. Six hundred and twenty were opened, nineteen went to my website (oddly enough exactly the same number as the first time)…and it looks like I am getting an assignment out it. Cool!

Stay tuned for more!