September 28th, 2010 by Ellen Boughn
September 8th, 2010 by Ellen Boughn
A better question might be, “What’s NOT up with stock photography?” Answer? Royalties, number of paid productions, royalty free and rights managed revenues and photographer satisfaction.
A few points on the graph are on the upswing: number of people submitting photos, number of photos being used, number of photos submitted, growth of the microstock agencies’ revenue and the quality of images available to buyers from microstock.
The scales are overloaded with bad news for professional photographers that have depended on stock sales as their major source of revenue over the past few decades. Hand wringing, doomsday predictions and misplaced insults only create the illusion that one is doing something about the situation.
It's not the end of the world, photographers! © Liliya Abdullina | Dreamstime.com
The industry has radically changed. It is not likely to ever return to its glory days. What to do about the current state of affairs?
1. If stock makes up your sole income and your work is so specialized that only a few could fill your niche; congratulations, you are safe for now.
2. If not, develop alternative income and soon. What can you do with your skill set outside of stock? The hard fact is that some of you will choose to leave the industry. You will trade places with the amateurs that left their day jobs to become serious about stock. Those of you who make that decision are not failing but growing.
3. Create innovative images that will satisfy the most discriminating art buyer and place them in rights managed collections. (The revenues may be in decline but millions are still generated with these licenses)
The recession has contributed something to the decline in stock photo reviews.© Stephen Vanhorn | Dreamstime.com
4. Shrink your overheads to match your declining stock revenues. You can do it; most of America has figured out how in the last two years. Start with reviewing renegotiating charges for insurance, products and services.
5. Develop as many revenue streams as possible. That will include participating in microstock for some.
6. Revitalize your assignment business. Only a few have the talent, equipment, business skills and eye to consistently bring back the money shot. Make certain that that person is you by constantly improving and updating your skills and business sense. You may be an artist but you must be a savvy business person to succeed.
Part II What’s up with microstock? To follow
This post first appeared in slightly different form on the ASMP Strictly Business Blog
March 2nd, 2010 by Ellen Boughn
A question that is inevitably asked when I’m speaking to photographers, whether they are inexperienced or long time professionals, is, “When do my photos need a model release?” My answer is always the same, “It’s not the photo that determines whether or not a release is required but how the image is used.” One of the topics I cover in Chapter 12-”Legalese” in my book, Microstock Money Shots, concerns model releases.
Here are the key facts:
Even though the model's face isn't recognizable, some agencies might want a release since the dress, necklace and ring taken together are--at least by the person wearing them. © Shevelev Vladimir | Dreamstime.com
- Each distributor has rules about accepting images with people. These include whether a person is recognizable. The standard for recognizable goes from rejecting photos where no one but the individual themselves could know who it was to some companies that won’t accept an image of a hand holding a glass without a release. I had an image of a pair of feet in non-descript black shoes rejected by a rights managed stock agency’s legal department because the ankle attached to the foot was wearing an ankle bracelet. OK, so the jewelry may have been recognizable. We photoshopped the ankle. Still a no-go as the policy of that company was that even isolated body parts had to have releases.
- A photo that can seems that it can be used with impunity within the context of an editorial piece can turn around and bite the photographer. Example: you take a photo of a recognizable person sitting on a bench as they watch their child at a public playground. The photo is downloaded online for editorial use with either a micro or a macro license. The end user is a parenting magazine. All sounds on the up and up until the article comes out and is about predators that hang out around playgrounds. Even if the photographer had obtained a model release, it is possible that the model could sue if the photo didn’t carry a notice such as ‘posed by professional model”. I leave it to the lawyers and the courts to come down with definitive opinions about whether such a suit has validity and that will have something to do with the wording in the model release. But I would think htat the outcome will generally be in the photographer/agency’s favor because of the EULA (end user licensing agreement) that prohibits using photos that imply that the subject is engaged in something illegal.
The model in this image appears to be unrecognizable but Tracy from the3dstudio.com noticed that lightening the image renders the model more recognizable. See the comments sections for more on this. The3dStudio.com. © Petesaloutos | Dreamstime.com
- Editorial vs Promotional. Both Dreamstime and Shutterstock accept images of non-released people for editorial use only. (Dreamstime carries it a bit far into property release land by requiring that all city skylines that show business signage go into the editorial only slot. Most companies agree that a skyline with bank logos and other business ID’s on many buildings are not problematic and they accept them for use in popular travel ads and brochures.)
- What is the best release? That would be the one that you can get signed but, again, I say that the lawyers can best weight in. I recommend the Getty release as they have the most to lose. Thus I’m betting that they have all the bases covered. They have made all their releases in multiple languages freely available for download to all.
It's important that you explain what stock photos are to your models, especially to friends and family that pose for you © Galina Barskaya | Dreamstime.com
- What are your other responsibilities to the model? You need to make it clear that you will have little control over the end use of the photo. If an amateur model sees their photo on a big billboard, they might come dialing for dollars on your line even though you don’t owe them anything. You can give them a copy of a site’s EULA to help with fears.
As promised: Here are the photo credits for Chapter 12 of Microstock Money Shots:
Aleskey Oleynikov/Shutterstock-Young couple on stone wall at sunset. Chapter Opener
Vling/Shutterstock-Woman in hammock on tropical beach.
Pete Saloutos-Rowing at sunset.
Wojciech Gajda/Dreamstime-Girl in yellow bathing cap at side of pool
January 25th, 2010 by Ellen Boughn
I received several emails from discouraged photographers after they read Shannon Fagan’s guest post about the re-positioning of the stock photography business. One asked, “So why is it exactly that you (Ellen) are still telling me to spend time and money to upload stock photos?” My reply was a recommendation that this photographer remain in all of the possible revenue streams. A photographer should seek diversity in pursuit of multiple areas of income as, after all, stock photography is still a big business in terms of global distribution.
Plus photography continues to offer many of us a lifestyle rich with experiences. It’s about travel and the people we meet along the way. It has given myself and my colleagues, editors and photographers, one of the best rewards that money can’t often buy: an interesting life.
Portrait of Peggy's granddaughter. ©ShannonFagan/Getty Images
Shannon’s experience described in an email to me last week underlines how photography connects us. It highlights the value of those connections to our lives and the lives of others.
Shannon wrote: “Here is a story that is a reminder of why I love shooting stock photography. It has given me experiences like these, though bittersweet, that I doubt I would have had the time to develop had I focused on a career of strictly assignment work”.
“In the spring of 2005, I traveled to New Mexico to shoot an advertisement for Nikon cameras. A few months later, I returned to photograph in and around Santa Fe as a self initiated shoot follow-up to that trip. The resulting personal project photographs were accepted into Getty Images’ Rights Managed collections and one of them appeared on the walls of Getty’s Beijing sales office this past November. The photograph was of a child with a magic wand situated upon the wallpaper background of a kitchen breakfast nook. This was the granddaughter of Peggy, a wonderfully lively New Mexico actress and travel agent who had found her way into my casting folder by way of the New Mexico Film Board website.”
“Peggy had been taking acting classes in the Santa Fe area and it was natural that she might respond to my posting for lifestyle stock photography models. Peggy called herself “grand-meow” and certainly there was a purrrr of harmony between her and her family, and amongst herself and her neighbors. She was the perfect real life model; inviting, and resourceful. When I approached her to participate in a series of images about senior lifestyles, she aptly recommended her friends next door.”
Shannon Fagan's photo of Peggy's granddaughter hanging in the Getty Images Beijing office
“Peggy had told me in Santa Fe that she’d be headed to New York in two months with her girlfriends. And thus she did. In early October 2005, I got an email. Riding atop a Manhattan sightseeing bus down Broadway near the Brooklyn Bridge, Peggy saw a photographer gathered with his crew on the sidewalk. She knew him from his knee pads. They were the same knee pads that he wore at her house just a couple months prior. She told me that she shouted my name and waved until the tour bus operator told her to sit down.”
“I sent her an email this week telling her about her granddaughter’s photo hanging in the office in Beijing. I was a little surprised when her email bounced back just a couple minutes later. I Googled her name and Albuquerque (where she moved in 2006). I was shocked at what appeared at the top of the search field. (link below).”
“I have been lucky in this profession to touch people’s lives, and they in turn, have touched mine. It is these connections that explain why I have enjoyed the profession of photography. Had I not seen her granddaughter’s photo in China, I likely would not have thought to contact her, though Peggy certainly was a standout from my trip there to New Mexico.”
“These random things are not so random when you simply pay attention to all of the connectedness around us. It is a reminder to live each day to the fullest and never give up. Keep searching. Even when the truth hurts. I leave you with the news from Albuquerque, New Mexico on Aug 31, 2009. There is video coverage in the link.”
Peggy and her granddaughter©ShannonFagan/Getty Images
writing from New York City, February 22, 2010
Can you increase your Income from Rights Managed Stock Photography?
The rights managed stock photo business is in great flux due to the explosion of easy access to user-generated photos on microstock sites and Flickr as well as expanded search. You need a strategy to create rights managed images to compete with the hundreds of thousands of images licensed for a dime on the dollar.
Become known for a specialized style or subject. Gain access to a unique location or group that is unattainable for others. Work and work until your images are at the top of the list for your niche in technical quality, originality and marketability.
Photography may seem to some to be a passive activity; photographers survive by being observers from behind the lens. To succeed in today’s marketplace you must get out from behind the camera to build a following:
- Don’t depend exclusively upon a stock agency to distribute your work especially if you have a strong niche. Consider licensing your niche stock photography direct to buyers.
Fortunately now there are tools to enable photographers to build a unique stock photo collection and to license it directly
- Some say that direct mail for photographers is dead. Not according to art buyers that I’ve heard from. Remember you are there to provide an answer to a visual question. Those who need your specialization want to hear from you if you can help them look better in their job. Use the most creative designer you can afford to ensure that your DM pieces stand out creatively.
- Connect electronically. Make your email blasts informative…. provide data, antidotes, statistics that will help your users in their work. Don’t simply sell yourself. That’s spam
- Know your audience. Who are the people most likely to license your work? What are their job challenges? You can’t provide answers unless you know the questions.
Be wary of following the urge to SHOOT only what sells. Part of what has harmed the stock photo business over the last few years is in an overabundance of photos all of the same subjects/styles. Originality has diminished and frustration has grown. As one photographer recently asked me, “How many pictures does the world need of happy people jumping on a trampoline?”
Most photographers began their career with a love both of photography and a certain subject. As their careers develop, many chase the market and lose sight of what gave them creative kicks in the first place. This is especially true for those that put their hat into the stock photography ring and followed the demands of stock companies requests to the exclusion of the vision that brought them to photography. Regain it.