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Author Topic: A bit OT: RF Stock Photography...  (Read 7513 times)
lonna.tucker
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« Reply #20 on: March 31, 2006, 11:14:32 AM »
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Mark,

We all know (or should know) where this is heading. Today royalty free or giving in to micro-stock, tomorrow work-for-hire to produce "wholly owned content" (at dismal rates) for the stock industry.
The pressure will be on year after year to make photographers accept less and less. A downward spiral.

Meanwhile the cost of doing business is climbing. A new digital system every 2 years, new computers, upgrading software, not to mention the cost of insurance to keep your business protected.

Where does it all end?

Lonna
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #21 on: April 01, 2006, 07:35:21 AM »
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I think I know how you must feel. I used to work for economists and they would call this state of affairs, "restructuring".

The competition, which you and others are experiencing, that of part-timers willing to sell their photos for low amounts, was always theoretically there. But access to easily digitized photos, either scanned or shot with digicams, and access to web selling sites makes it almost trivially easy for them (me?) to get access to image-buyers.

I am no expert, in fact, given my level of photographic expertise, you could say that, rounded down, I know nothing. But, using an example that I have used before, on a thread here I think, if a tourist pamphlet publisher needs a 1.5 inch square photo of a rustic barn to decorate a brochure they are printing, buying a high-rez, high-priced photo makes no sense. His nephew could take the picture he needs with a 2 mpix digicam. Or he could buy one from me for $1 on a micro-payment site. And he would not necessarily be giving anything up in terms of quality.

If established photographers used to get that business at $50 a photo (making that number up, btw) and now they don't get it anymore, that is not a different situation than in any other business. People used to make shirts in North America but now they buy them at discount stores for $5, because someone, somewhere in the world is willing to sow a shirt for pocket change.

I wrote software for a living for 25 years and spent the last 3 years unemployed. I am completely mysitifed by people who write software and give it away, as if they were on some kind of altruistic mission from god. Can you imagine machinists building cars for free?  When is the last time your mechanic fixed your engine for the price of shareware? Yet, in software, it happens. I never thought of computers and programming as anything other than a professional service provided to others in exchange for money. But some people think it's religion. Go figure.

The upside is that most people are not nuts and will eventually stop doing things that do them no good. Low-rez micro-payment work is a volume business. You need lots of photos selling for low amounts to make real money. For some that model will work. It won't take away business from photographers doing custom work, although it might have the effect of decreasing the value of what they do. There are a lot of people in a lot of industries in that boat. We all expect to buy digicams, inkjets, computers at rock bottom prices from high-volume web-based superstores because we don't want to spend much. Everyone else feels the same and some of them feel the same about photographs.

If people start uploading 48 mpix photos to sites to sell for $5, royalty-free, then the sky might truly be falling. I can't imagine why anyone would do that. I don't mind selling low-rez shots for $1, but I would not submit anything of higher resolution than that to micro-payment sites because I think that's ridiculous. But I think it's nuts to spend hours writing and debugging software to then give away, but there are people who do that.

The other side of the coin is that what might happen to a lot of folks is that once they see that they CAN sell their 4 mpix photos for a $1, they will automatically start to think in terms of increasing their margins. That is a natural thing for sane humans to do. Then they end up having to buy better equipment, learn new techniques, look for different markets, in other words, build a business. At that point, priorities change.
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Robert
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Gary Ferguson
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« Reply #22 on: April 01, 2006, 01:58:35 PM »
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It's not easy, but I think it's still possible to be reasonably successful with stock photography. I don't have a huge amount of free time but I just about make my photography pay for itself,  

It's not rocket science but there's a few guiding principles that can make a difference.

Firstly, you'll fare better if you stick to a subject where you have some expertise, and the more obscure the subject the better. If you happen to know something about say tyre retailing then you've an immediate advantage over me and 99.99% of other photographers. Presumably there's trade magazines, annual reports, and manufacturer's brochures all crying out for tyre retailing photography, but how often have you grabbed your Cannon and spent the afternoon at your local Kwik Fit? If I went I wouldn't know what's significant and what's not, but if you have that specialist knowledge then use it. I work in the movie industry and know a fair amount about the DVD business, on trips to China and Russia I've photographed the reality of DVD piracy in these countries. These shots have sold very well, and been used all around the world to illustrate news articles regarding copyright theft and intellectual property.

Secondly, topicality always sells. Scour the newspapers and think of ways you can illustrate building news stories. Ten years ago there was a huge demand for shots illustrating environmental issues but not many photographers were actively shooting to this brief. Over the last decade that demand has grown still further, but supply has absolutely mushroomed. So today it's extremely difficult to sell environmantal shots unless your work is eye-poppingly special, ten years ago even indifferent environmental photography could find a buyer. Comb the press though and you'll find lots of themes that are still growing in relevance. What about the impact of healthy eating on the fast food industry? Or road use congestion charging? Or stress in the workplace? Or the effects of an ageing population?

Thirdly, quality is important, and the more hopefulls there are offering average work at discount prices the more you have to excell. But quality doesn't have to be about pixels or even originality. I specialise in architectural photography. It's a bouyant market but an extremely competitive one. I think the reason my shots sell isn't because they're particularly brilliant. They're not, but I invest many hours in meticulous Photoshop work cleaning up the scaffolding, delivery vans, tourists, and street signs that clutter up all city centre scenes. I've developed a reasonable level of expertise in these techniques, and it's enough to distinguish my work from my competitors.

Fourthly, unless you've some kind of advantage (knowledge, access, expertise) then avoid areas where the competition's just too stiff. Unfortunately landscape photography (plus cute kittens, Scottish castles, and still life shots of anything and everything that's lying around in your home) are all done to death. It's an uncomfortable truth, but what sells may not be what you want to photograph. You may gain enormous personal satisfaction from a shot of a Grand Canyon sunset, but let that be its own reward. The steady money's in tyre retailing photography!
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #23 on: April 02, 2006, 05:34:52 AM »
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I would re-enforce what Gary has just stated - getting the marketing right (target who you are going to sell, with what, and how you are going to get it to them) is as important as the actual process of taking pictures.

To go back to one of the earlier themes that there is a lot more competition now that digital has made it easier to take pictures. Yes, that is true, but only up to an extent. Where there is a great volume of pictures is around the 'average' and 'common' subjects. From a purchasing point of view we have looked at some of the 'low' cost sites  but more often than not end up purchasing from Getty or other niche providers. Why? Because we are looking for distinctive, clear pictures that articulate a concept clearly. This has nothing to do with film or digital and everything to do with the quality of the photographer - i.e. Digital has brought nothing new to the party in terms of number of people producing high quality images, though it has increased market access for people pushing out dross.

Second issue is that usage habits have changed for images with the advent of digital reproduction (and particular Word and Powerpoint). The plus point from a photographers point of view is that there is an ever increasing demand for clip art and illustrative photography for powerpoint slides and word documents. The downside is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage (or restrict) distribution of licensed images. It is now far to easy for people to copy images from one document to another, and whilst we try to make people aware that this is 'theft' it still goes on. From a corporate compliance point of vew is it easier to use royalty free images rather than rights managed to mitigate some of this problem. Perhaps more people in the photographic community could come up with a licensing model which would enable a balance between payment per usage (fair to the photographer) and freedom to use (easier to manage).

To answer Mark Tomalty's question - it can vary widely, which is perhaps not much help, and quite often a case of you kow it when you see the picture. This really is why a good photographer with a well and tightly composed image will have the advantage. If you are asking what do you need to do to have a successful image then focus on clear simple composition, make sure that all distracting elements are cloned or cropped out, and make sure that it is technically perfect. There is no magic formula for defining these images, however, some people do seem to have the skill and others (the majority) don't.
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David Plummer    http://photo.tanzo.org/
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« Reply #24 on: April 03, 2006, 11:16:44 AM »
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Quote
To answer Mark Tomalty's question - it can vary widely, which is perhaps not much help, and quite often a case of you kow it when you see the picture. If you are asking what do you need to do to have a successful image.........

David,

I wasn't asking about a recipe for creating a successfull stock image but rather I was
curious as to whether you had any preconceived ideas about what you were looking for
concerning the images you were searching for that you referenced in your earlier post.

As a career stock photographer it caught my attention because I couldn't immediately
think of an image that would fullfill your needs in an 'obvious' and effective fashion.

Were you searching visually through collections or using keywords?

Mark
www.marktomalty.com
www.masterfile.com
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #25 on: April 03, 2006, 06:44:49 PM »
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David,

I wasn't asking about a recipe for creating a successfull stock image but rather I was
curious as to whether you had any preconceived ideas about what you were looking for
concerning the images you were searching for that you referenced in your earlier post.

As a career stock photographer it caught my attention because I couldn't immediately
think of an image that would fullfill your needs in an 'obvious' and effective fashion.

Were you searching visually through collections or using keywords?

Mark
www.marktomalty.com
www.masterfile.com
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=61665\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

We do both, as you are probably aware keywording can be a hit and miss afair depending upon (a) who does the keywording and ( who does the searching - can get you close but even the slightest misapplication of semantics can miss a whole bunch of images. This is Getty images great advantage as their search tool is one of the best around and why we often end up using their site and images over anyone elses.

Getting back to the specific requirements in hand, there are images out on the market place that do meet our requirements though it is often the case that they where not created with our specific purpose in mind. By and large, the images we tend to favour are not the typical stock photography (which tends to be a lot of staged tightly (ish) cropped shots in business settings). Ideally we prefer images set against a natural background with people undertaking action/sports/leisure pursuits demonstrating some elements of teamworking - good examples are walkers helping each other cross a river, climbers helping each other up a cliff, perhaps people working together to build a house. If it gives anyone inspiration then the idea is to get away from teamwork being demonstrated in a business context to teamwork being expressed in different environments. Photographic style would by sharp natural colours with good compositional styling - either tight cropped on the action or with a good background and the 'teamwork' set within it.

For those who believe that stock image market is too competitive and everything has been done before I can state that there is plenty of scope to innovate and produce fresh and creative images.
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David Plummer    http://photo.tanzo.org/
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