September 28th, 2010 by Ellen Boughn
June 1st, 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
Next week I will be joining colleagues Cathy Yeulet (MonkeyBusinessImages), Shannon Fagan (photographer), Taylor Davidson (business strategies), and Kelly Thompson (iStockphoto) in Dublin, Ireland as I host a panel entitled, The Future, at the New Media Conference. This crystal ball event (not of the disco type but more the fortune teller type of thing) will examine a central issue in the working lives of professional, stock photographers now in mid-2010: What’s next?
New Media Conference June 9, Dublin Ireland
Stock photographers worldwide are ringing their hands. They are seemingly in the midst of a perfect storm of events: relatively cheap digital cameras with decent resolution; a thundering crowd rushing toward microstock and helping turn the best of them into serious pros; established microstock photographers seeing declines in revenue as traditional stock photographers jump on that bandwagon; an Internet that sucks up photos by the billions; advertising budgets in the tank and magazines dropping dead. Some say revenues are falling like birds from the sky but overheads are still flying high.
Assigning blame for shifts in the industry is as silly as blaming the Internet for the fact that our way of life has been fundamentally changed forever. We are living through a period of unprecedented change and you as a photographer may get flattened as it rolls through the industry. What will you do to adapt; to stay on your feet?
Join us at the New Media Conference for ideas. You as a photographer are going to have to think your way out of the present into a productive future and here is a chance to bounce your thoughts off others who have been spending a great deal of time pondering the issues. Will Google Image search become monetized? Will Flicker, Creative Commons and Plus get together to organize another third party to issue image licenses…bypassing the Getty gatekeepers? What’s next?
Taylor wrote about one of the events that will happen around CEPIC and the New Media Conference:
“Before the Future”, June 8th
Ellen, Shannon, Lee Torrens and I will be hosting an invite-only social mixer called “Before the Future” on the night of June 8th before the New Media Conference kicks off the next day. Our goal is to bring together a diverse set of thinkers in the photography industry and create thoughtful and valuable conversations and connections between people driving the future of the photography industry. And, well, have a good time.
Thank you to Jonathan Ross and Space Images for sponsoring the mixer.
A sad but true fact is that many photographers will leave professional photography behind and seek new challenges over the next months and years. Some will go completely broke while they wait for the business to return to previous levels. But others, and I hope you are one of them, will discover how they can use their skill and expertise in a related field. (I don’t think salvation for most lies in transitioning to video.)
What new ventures will appear? Will the time come that finally buries the stock photographer for good or will this be a time of energized regrouping and give us new businesses where the skills and talents of photographers/photoeditors/producers/stylists/etc are again valued? I hope for the latter but know that the rewards of recovery will be going to a much smaller set of photographers.
Join us at the New Media Conference next week to listen and learn while adding your voice to the discussion about what’s next. Want even more information…illustrated? Lee Torrens has it all mapped out for you.
And if you are there, stop by and say Hello and thanks to the New Media Conference sponsor JaincoTech.
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.