February 16th, 2010 by Ellen Boughn
February 8th, 2010 by Ellen Boughn
It is too limiting a characterization to call David Sanger simply a travel photographer. Yes, he travels a great deal and the majority of his photos fall into that genre. Even though travel photography can be one of the most conservative genres within stock, his work often displays unique points of view and his ideas about the future are positive and innovative. Even in a brief conversation with David, it is clear that his creativity isn’t limited to photography. He expresses wide-ranging and imaginative ideas in response to questions about the changing stock photo marketplace, copyright issues and the future of the business.
He has said, “Old markets are drying up but new opportunities are emerging, communicating with communities of consumers, photo aficionados, travel readers, citizens. The economics are completely different, but the possibilities tremendous. The key is providing something of value”.
David recognizes that stock photography ‘doesn’t say anything’ in the same way that photojournalism or editorial photos do. He speaks of disintermediation (elimination of the stock distribution company) as a road to more personal communication between photographers and the audience for the work:
“When images are distributed via middlemen, it is usually someone else’s message that is communicated. Disintermediation opens up the possibility, the responsibility, for a more personal communication. The focus then shifts to the personality, trustworthiness, authority, point of view and voice of the photographer, whether fine artist or journalist. …Those who are successful will be those who are the most compelling, engaging or insightful.”
Surprisingly, Sanger hasn’t found that eliminating the middleman from his own licensing model to be as successful as he first expected three or four years ago. In addition to his primary outlet at Getty Images, he licenses his images direct to buyers using the PhotoShelter platform. For now, though, Sanger suggests that the major buyers of rights managed still rely mainly on account people at the large stock agencies to provide images to them. Of course, buyers come directly to David Sanger because they like to work with him … and they do … or for unique destinations and images.
He has used the experience gained from direct licensing and his past life in corporate computer systems to analyze user behavior on his personal stock site. He found over 10,000 (mainly blogger) domains linking to his photos. These users weren’t likely to pay for Sanger’s rights managed images. In light of the fact that copyright is not reasonably enforceable against a blogger, Sanger takes the high road, “It is not how to stop them but how to turn them into revenue paying customers. There is a huge appetite for images. Providing people with what they want has to be a good thing … but we have to find how to monetize it.”
“The Internet of people, social media, is a natural outlet for images. The sheer energy of Flickr conversations, the abundance of images that decorate MySpace and Tumblr pages, reveal people’s fascination with and devotion to images. Rather than fight the people who are interested in their images, photographers would do well to embrace them, engage them and discover how to transform that interest into viable economic support.”
While the industry attempts to solve the revenue conundrum, David, is bullish about photographers creating value by ‘saying something.’ “Stock photography itself doesn’t really say anything on its own. We provide images to serve someone else’s message. No one is interested in my message [when I’m shooting stock].” Sanger suggests that photographers enter the creative conversation on a more personal level. “Find your voice,” is his closing advice.
About David Sanger: Sanger has traveled to over 100 countries. In addition to the travel work he shoots for corporate, shipping and non-profit clients including Bank of America, Exxon, the National Park Service, Clorox and Interorient. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Stock Artists Alliance and a former president of the organization. “I’m fascinated by technology, web design, data, communications and social media, especially how these offer photographers’ new opportunities for expression and for business”.
More about David and some of the best advice I’ve seen for travel photographers can be found at Photomedia Online.
David’s blog and website are at www.davidsanger.com
February 3rd, 2010 by Ellen Boughn
The photo below is an almost perfect stock photo. It’s not cutting edge; it’s not trendy. It’s not hip or cool. What it IS is a photo that will license again and again for years…extending its revenue stream long after its production costs have been recouped even with today’s lower fees. This is a photo with a very long tail.
I first analyzed the image for my blog on Dreamstime when it showed up as one of the best sellers two years ago this month. I have also discussed it in my upcoming book. Initially the image seemed a very simple and easy photo to plan and take. But once I deconstructed it, I understood the amount of thought, research, experience and planning that went into the creation of this clean and versatile photo and its variations. I’m reminded of what the IT guys always say when a seemingly trivial request is made for a programming change, “Simple doesn’t mean easy.”
A 'perfect' stock photo. ©Iofoto
The image is a subject-based winner. Among the most consistently popular stock photo subjects are family related. When photos with these themes also spell “happiness/love/caring”, the image has a lead over all others. Images of families are used for financial services, vacation and hotel packages, for religious publications and a myriad of editorial uses on websites on a zillion topics.
A beach location is a great choice. Stock photo buyers often want ‘aspirational’ images that show an idealized place or situation. The beach is such a place in all societies. It is a place we vacation; go for weekend relaxation, education and fun. The exact geographical location is not identifiable. The location is non-specific geographically and yet still shows a top vacation spot: the beach.
Seasonality. Because of wardrobe choices and the quality of the light, the photo could have been shot in spring, summer or early fall adding to the versatility of the image.
Style. Both the photographic style and the models/wardrobe/scene are relatively timeless. There is no skyline to go out of date; the clothing is non-specific and not tied to any fashion.
Palette/Wardrobe: The model’s clothing compliments the colors in the scene. Because there are blues, pinks, tans and yellows in the palette almost any color typeface could coordinate with the image. Shirts lack logos and the fabrics are all solid colors.
Casting: The models form the perfect, idealized family and yet they aren’t so beautiful as to look unauthentic. Their pose is relaxed and happy. (Just the way we all imagine the perfect family vacation.) Even the preteen girl appears to be pleased to be with her parents. (Anyone who has attempted to take a daughter of this age on a family vacation knows that IS really an idealized image.) The image depicts the vacation every family aspires to have.
Similars of popular photos can also be top sellers. ©Iofoto
Composition: Dad is at the top of a pyramid, representing a conservative (and thus good for middle of the road adverts) family relationships and the models are posed off center to leave lots of space for type. The background is clean and simple. In both photos, the photographer for Iofoto, Ron Chapple, has left ample space for insertion of a product shot, headline or copy. He has also offered the stock photo user several formats. Here we show the vertical and the image that he has prepared as a square.
Good keywording has also contributed to the success of these two images. Look up the keywords by clicking on the photos and you’ll see what I mean.
Taylor Davidson finds himself at the intersection of photography, social media, business development and economics. His thoughts on where the stock photography business might be going and how to stay around for the ride:
Social Media Expert/Photography Geek Taylor Davidson
Taylor began our recent conversation, “All businesses have a life cycle, including creative businesses. There is the building or construction of the business, growth and what I like to call ‘creative reconstruction’ rather than deconstruction. Companies go from cottage businesses to being consumed by large companies (aggregators of content, in our case). The latest changes in stock photography are merely the latest cycle of industry upheaval. The technology required to create, distribute, promote and use stock images (like all creative content) changed everything”.
“The bigger question is what happens from here?”
“The economics of new technologies gave anyone the tools to create, but didn’t guarantee that they would profit from creating. While the activity is in the long tail, profits flow to the aggregators in the tail.” (Taylor refers to the
aggregator as the ‘hub’. Getty Images is the big wheel around the stock photo hub.)
Taylor points out that the economics of the hub have been changed by many factors, one of which is social media. He explains that electronic word of mouth has given power to smaller hubs. By being a specialty destination, your website/blog can become the hub for that subject or story. You can operate in smaller niches but you MUST be the hub in the niche. You must be really good at (your niche). You must be the top choice in the subject.
He says, “Be a hub. Find a niche, and be the hub in that niche. This advice applies to broader issues: how can you expand your scope? How can you create ancillary products; do other types of photography? How can you be a different kind of hub? Be a hub for information, for knowledge. Teach other people how to be a hub for their own niches. Bring other photographers together to create a hub.
I asked Taylor if he had suggestions for how a photographer could become a sought after hub of information/activity/engagement. After humbly explaining that he was very good at asking questions but not so great at coming up with answers (I disagree), Taylor added:
“I have a strong belief that successful businesses need to be more like people. Individuals want to connect to the people behind a business.” He suggests that a photographer that only shows photos on his/her website is missing opportunities to connect with their audience. People want to see more than a series of images. Photographers should use all the tools available to them to tell a story. Be a hub of information about not just yourself and your work but about a story that you have created.”
Santa Cruz Fog©Taylor Davidson
I asked Taylor what I should say to the photographer that is already overwhelmed with keeping a business going, faced with the need to post to a blog, create another story, learn FinalCutPro, or build a movement. Taylor is an optimist…but even so he and I agree:
“If you are blind to change, you aren’t going to make it in today’s market [for stock or assignment photography].” The photographer has to DO THE WORK. One task at a time, keep learning.
Davidson suggests, “One secret to continued growth in creative endeavors is to retain or recapture youthful curiosity. Young and emerging photographers are free to try all manner of things; part of the excitement is not knowing what the long-term impact of the experiment will be. Could be a career changer or a dud. The cost of failure when you are young is much less than at mid-career.”
“Even in mid-career, you must be willing to open yourself to serendipity. Don’t put yourself in a situation where the only experiments you try
are the ones that could wipe you out.” Try little experiments. Try one a day, one a week even if the burden of mid-career responsibilities keep you focused on getting through the demands of running an established business. These small experiences will sometimes create opportunities. (But don’t expect them all to.)”
(In a continuation of my conversation with Taylor in a future post, I discuss how photographers can embed humanity into their businesses and to break down the barriers between the message and the person. Taylor then discusses ‘the story’ and authentic marketing for photographers).
Taylor Davidson is a Business Designer and a photography geek who lives in New Orleans, LA. He focuses on evaluating and structuring business and financial plans to help launch new products, services and companies. He creates on the web at http://www.taylordavidson.com/writing