New Source, Photography Inspiration

This week I’ve found a new source of photography inspiration, and it’s not in a place I expected. I read and research extensively about photography – not just the business side of photography, but about a much wider range of topics – interesting projects people are shooting, how they are shooting them, what they are shooting them with, new technology, old technology. Almost whatever the topic, I’m a consumer for reading about it. This week my new source is not where I expected. It’s a new source, photography inspiration.

Hipster

I found key learnings applicable to my Melbourne lifestyle project

When I’m looking for information on post production techniques I have one go to source. It’s at lynda.com There you can find a massive range of training materials on almost any topic, and it’s the first place I head to when I want to learn something about Photoshop, or more recently Lightroom. There I can learn from experts, quickly and easily, with videos to show me exactly what they are doing. What I didn’t realize is that it has a range of other material which is much more inspirational than factual. So what have I been checking out?


This week I’ve watched a cool piece called “The Creative Spark: Nick Onken, Travel and Lifestyle Photographer”. It was inspirational to watch Nick work and to see how he managed his shoot and promoted his work. It was especially interesting to me as I’m currently shooting a series on Melbourne lifestyle, and I could see a direct correlation between watching him and applying the learnings to my project.

MelbourneSo what did I learn? There is lots to learn but my main take outs were:

Lesson 1 – People skills are key. Nick demonstrated how important his people skills were to get his subject to be at ease. He showed it in a lifestyle shoot with a model, and again in a shoot involving kids for a not for profit organisation. It reinforced what I already knew – people skills are key. And I also know some of it is a natural talent, and some of it comes with practice.

Lesson 2 – Knowing your camera let’s you focus on being creative not being technical. Years of shooting wildlife and weddings has taught me to know my camera really well and be able to intuitively make changes to settings. I really don’t think about it much. I just change them because experience has taught me what works. Nick summed it up, by knowing his camera well it allows him to focus on being creative. I’m going to push myself to be more creative on my next shoot.

MelbourneLesson 3 – There’s lots of ways to monetise photography projects. Nick goes into some detail about a book he has had published of his travel photography. He didn’t shoot with the book in mind, but had a strong collection of images he was subsequently able to turn into a book. There are lots and lots and lots of ways to monetise good images. Have you considered a book for your own work?

Lesson 4 – the value of strong images. There is a section in the video where Nick speaks with the guy running the not for profit Nick has done extensive work for. He outlines the power of Nick’s images and how it has helped their organisation grow. I have no idea if Nick was paid for this work or not, but it was clear the growth in the organisation was influenced heavily by the strength of the images and how they were used.

Lesson 5 – not everything works, that’s how we learn. We all love to show our very strongest work. In one brief moment Nick talked about trying new things, then reviewing and being ok when things don’t work out. What felt like a great idea just didn’t translate into a great image. It happens. It’s normal. It’s not failure, it’s part of success. I liked the reminder – keep trying new things, keep learning.

They are the top 5 lessons I took. Now I’m going to find some more inspiration. Check out lynda.com for a huge range of training and inspiration videos.

(Note: Lynda.com offers a free trial period but then a subscription is required.)

 

Thoughts on iStock Exclusivity in 2017

Last week I was asked by a photographer who is new to iStock what my thoughts were on becoming an exclusive photographer. Regular readers of Beyond Here would know that I have been contributing to iStock since 2008, and have been an exclusive photographer since 2010. A lot has changed in stock photography since 2010, and his question forced me to reconsider the issue. Here are my thoughts on iStock exclusivity in 2017.

Firstly, what is iStock? iStock is one of the leading microstock photography agencies. A photographer can submit images, and will receive a royalty each time one of their images is downloaded.

Money

Stock photography can generate a significant ongoing income

So, what is exclusivity on iStock? As a contributor you can choose whether you only upload your images to iStock (this is called being an Exclusive Contributor), or to submit your images to a range of different stock agencies (this is called being an Independent Contributor). Back in 2010 there were minimum criteria to meet before you could become exclusive, but today there are no minimum criteria. It’s just a matter of choosing exclusive or independent.

Why would you choose to be exclusive? For iStock, being able to promote that they have content which is only available on their site is a major selling point. To make that attractive to photographers, iStock offers a high royalty payment if your content is exclusive. For the photographer who asked me the question, he had just been approved as a contributor and so would earn 15% as an independent contributor. If he chose to become an Exclusive Contributor his royalty rate would increase to 25%. (Higher percentages are available as you become more successful up to a maximum of 45%).

Why wouldn’t you choose the higher royalty rate? You wouldn’t choose to become exclusive and earn the higher royalty rate if you were prepared to upload your content to a range of microstock sites, and if you felt this would produce a better financial outcome. While I have chosen to be an exclusive contributor at iStock, thousands of photographers choose to remain independent and submit their content to other sites as well. iStock is not the only game in town.

strategy

I suggested he upload to several sites and rethink his strategy in 6-12 months

After some deliberation, my suggestion to this photographer was that he remain independent and contribute to three other sites in the short term.

Why did I make this suggestion?

  • iStock was a dominant player in the market back in the early 2000’s. It had first mover advantage and rode the success from a large group of loyal contributors many of whom were also buyers. Since iStock was sold to Getty Images there have been numerous changes to the site and the people running iStock. While some changes are for the better, the army of loyal contributors has reduced in size. The roar of the crowd has become more of a whimper, and when the voices do rise in unison it is more often to raise concerns than to cheer for team iStock. While I don’t have market information, I expect iStock is not the major player it was 10 or more years ago.
  • Using different sites will enable him to judge what is best for him. Without knowing exactly what content he was planning to upload, I suggested he remain independent and upload to other sites too. This would enable him to figure out what is going to be the best path for him. He could reassess exclusivity in 6-12 months based on facts from his own performance on different sites.
  • One of the major benefits of iStock exclusivity in years gone by was the preferential treatment exclusive files were given in the search results. The iStock site and back end systems have gone through major changes in 2017 and it appears that exclusive content no longer gets as well placed. That reduces the benefit of being exclusive, and is reflected in my own earnings which are down from recent years.
plan

Many iStock exclusive contributors have had to rethink their plan

While my current year earnings are down, for now I’m choosing to remain an exclusive contributor at iStock. Why? It’s partly my loyalty to iStock after nearly 10 years as a contributor, and it’s definitely because I remain hopeful that iStock and Getty Images will not only realise that exclusive content is the key to their success but that they will also deliver benefits for exclusive contributors. They are my thoughts on iStock exclusivity in 2017. I hope I’m right and iStock can return to its leadership position on the back of the success of it’s exclusive contributors.

I hope “My Thoughts on iStock Exclusivity in 2017” has been useful to you. Best wishes with your stock photography journey.

City Stock Photo Shoot Explained

I am shooting an extended stock photography series on Melbourne lifestyle. This is a project that I have been running for 2 years now, and is work that I fit in around client projects. With winter looming my client work slows down, allowing me to shoot more stock.

I’m always surprised when other photographers ask me about how I organise and complete these shoots. So here it is – a city stock photo shoot explained.

Step 1 – Finding Models. I enjoy meeting and shooting with new models. I wrote this post about finding models using ModelMayhem, StarNow, or Facebook groups. For this particular shoot I used StarNow (I wrote about that in StarNow My First Experience) where in excess of 200 models applied to be involved.

Serious hipsterStep 2 – Finding the Right Look. With each application on StarNow comes a link to the models portfolio. While I had a large number of applicants, the StarNow website makes it easy to work through portfolios to decide on the right look for the shoot. In this case, I went for a young, male, hipster look.

Step 3 – Helping the Model Understand the Style of Image. Step 3 involves helping the model understand what type of images I am trying to create and what they should expect in a stock photography shoot. On StarNow there is a messaging service where you can contact the model. I used this to contact some of the shortlisted models and provided links to a lightbox of similar images and a link to a post I wrote called What Models Should Know About Stock Photography Shoots. I also asked the model to get back to me to let me know if they are interested in the shoot now that they have more information.

Step 4 – Organising Shoot Logistics. For this shoot I exchanged messages with the model both on StarNow and via text message. We organised the shoot to be in Melbourne CBD and met at Flinders Street Station – a destination easily accessible by public transport. I planned the locations we would shoot in advance so that we could get variety in the images we produced during this 2 hour shoot.

Man and ParliamentStep 5 – Meeting and Confirming Details. When I first meet the model I like to confirm that the model understands the type of images we are aiming to produce. I often shoot to a brief from iStock and Getty Images, and in this case I went through the brief with the model when we first met. We then completed the model release and sorted out payment. With payment made, model release completed, and a common understanding of the types of images we planned to shoot – we were ready to get started.

Step 6 – Conducting the Shoot. When I do stock photo shoots I like to work closely with the model and to discuss what is, and what isn’t, working. I like to start the discussion and feedback early. So I find a location near where we meet to begin shooting. That enables us to get started promptly and for the model to relax. At this first point I review the images with the model and we discuss what we like and don’t like. This helps create a common understanding and sense of teamwork in the images we produce. From there, we work our way around the different shoot locations, reviewing images together, and re-shooting where necessary. After 2 hours we were done, and another enjoyable stock photo shoot was done.

Step 7 – Post Production and Uploading. I like to download all the images on the same day as the shoot. I then make minor post production edits in Lightroom and upload a handful of images to iStockphoto. This is primarily to make sure I haven’t missed anything on the model release and so I know that the image library will accept both the release and the images.

I have never had a problem with my model releases, but if I do, I’m confident I could go back to the model promptly if I need any further information from them.

This shoot was done on a Saturday. I uploaded 5 images that evening, and they were approved overnight. They were available in my portfolio on the Monday morning. I expect to have between 80 and 120 images in total from this shoot for my stock portfolio. I will edit and upload the remaining images over the next few weeks.

Step 8 – Follow Up with the Model. I like to follow up with the model to thank them for their time and expertise, and for them to be able to see some of the final images. In this case, I text messaged three images to the model the day after the shoot, and posted several to my Instagram account where he could also see them. When the entire shoot is available in my stock photo portfolio I will send him a link so that he can see the final images.

And that is a wrap on this stock photo shoot.

I hope ‘City Stock Photo Shoot Explained’ helps you understand the process I use, and will be useful in planning your own stock photo shoots.

 

StarNow My First Experience

It’s leading into winter here in Melbourne, Australia which is a period where my wedding photography slows down and I spend more time shooting images for my stock portfolio with iStockphoto and Getty Images. In this post I wrote about how to find models for this type of project. In the past I have used ModelMayhem for most of my castings and Facebook groups for others, but I have found them increasingly difficult to get reliable models. For the first time I have posted a casting on StarNow and so this post is to share – StarNow my first experience.

Melbourne tram

I found the listing process challenging but have had a strong response

What is StarNow?

From their website StarNow’s goal is to “connect talent with casting professionals”. It was started by 3 New Zealanders who were living in London, and today their website has a leading position in UK, Australia and New Zealand, and a growing presence in USA, Canada, Ireland and South Africa.

How did the listing go?

In my previous experience with listings on ModelMayhem the process of getting your casting live is intuitive and straight forward. With StarNow it wasn’t – and I should say, that this was the only part of the process which hasn’t been smooth. Everything except this step has been great.

With the casting, the process is not entirely intuitive (at least not for me!) and I didn’t provide all of the information they required. I then received an email from StarNow explaining this, but it wasn’t clear what I needed to do to meet their requirements and get the casting live.

After several emails over 5 days, the issues were resolved and the casting went live. This casting was for a Melbourne lifestyle photo shoot – I plan to do 20 of these shoots over the winter months.

Melbourne

I have had a very positive response with StarNow my first experience

What has the response been?

The response using StarNow has been very strong. After 3 days I have 193 applications giving me a very large selection of models to work with. This is a much stronger response than I have received with my previous listings on ModelMayhem.

With such a large number of good quality applicants the challenge is going to be to select who to work with! This is a really good problem to have and I’m glad I put this listing on StarNow. So that has been StarNow my first experience. If you are looking for models or actors to work with on your next shoot I’d recommend investigating StarNow.

Two Great Sayings Photography Business Owners Should Know

This week I attended a workshop run by a business development expert. He was helping one person businesses put together a plan to grow their business. He had a lot of content and some useful exercises to take the participants through. Among the gems of wisdom were two great sayings photography business owners should know. So what were these two pearls of wisdom?

Juggling

Juggling a lot this week? See if these business insights can help you.

Insight #1 – It’s About Progress, Not Perfection

This saying came from an example being given by the presenter. The business owner was producing active wear for everyday people trying to get fit – not for elite athletes like Nike and Adidas present in their advertising. As soon as the presenter shared this saying I knew it could be powerful for one person photography businesses. Many of the photographers I work with seem to expect it to be easy and get frustrated that either their images are not winning awards, or their business is not as profitable as they hope (and sometimes it’s both). Patience and perseverance are key.

If I use a photography business example, if you are trying to generate a $100,000 per annum profit in your photography business this can seem overwhelming when your current profit is $20,000 per annum. Rather than focus on the $80,000 shortfall – can you see the power in focusing on progress not perfection? Increasing business profits to $40,000 the following year is a 100% improvement and a huge accomplishment – not a $60,000 failure.

Money

Business success rarely happens overnight. It’s about progress and taking steps forward.

And if we use a photographic image example, mastering a new post production skill and being able to produce a wider variety of images is a major step forward. You don’t go from being a novice to being an expert in one week, or one month, or one year. Again it’s about progress, not perfection.

Be kind to yourself. Focus on making progress this week.

Insight #2 – If You Don’t Have a Marketing Budget You’re Not Really in Business

This insight was a wake up call to the participants at the workshop and will be a wake up call to many of the photographers I talk to and work with. The presenter outlined that word of mouth is the very best form of advertising you can have, but expecting that to fill a pipeline of work – particularly if you are relatively new in business – is not realistic.

His point was you have to be deliberate about your marketing and set aside a budget for it, if you are serious about business success.

He went on to explain that your budget could be in time or money. For example, if you have no money, you can invest time in marketing. You can contact 5 possible new business clients per day to see how your business could serve them. You can spend 2 hours per day researching stock photography trends so you can better meet the market demand. To be successful with this strategy you have to be deliberate, and invest the time if you expect the return.

Plan

Make a marketing plan and commit time or money or both to grow your business.

Once your business is established hopefully you will be busy servicing your clients. While you do that your advertising can help attract new clients (remember, don’t just rely on word of mouth no matter how busy you are). In this scenario you need to set aside a monetary budget each month to keep driving your pipeline of future clients. While you look after your clients, your advertising attracts new inquiries.

I got a lot out of the workshop. I hope these two great sayings photography business owners should know are helpful to you and will help you challenge and develop your current marketing approach. Thanks for reading two great sayings photography business owners should know. Let’s focus on progress in business and in photography this week!

Why Visit Wedding Venues Beforehand

This week I visited the venue for a function I will be shooting in 2 weeks time. I’m really looking forward to the function. It is for a lovely couple at a beautiful location on the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. The venue is a vineyard which has a well presented functions area, lots of grape vines, a rural outlook, and 4 wheel drive access to a private beach. It was a long drive for me to visit so, why visit wedding venues beforehand? The answer is obvious – to get the best result for my client!

Wedding photography

This venue had a private beach with 4WD only access. It was great to visit and plan shots here.

But when I am visiting, what am I looking for? Here’s the top 5 things I want to achieve:

  1. To know where the best shots will be made. I don’t make it up as I go when shooting weddings or events. I like to visit beforehand to understand what the possibilities at the venue are, and to develop a shot plan. To do this, I walk around the venue, both indoor and outdoor areas, and imagine the possibilities. I also ask the people at the venue where they think the best photo spots are, and then I ask ‘what are the undiscovered photo opportunities here?’. It’s amazing the insight the venue’s staff can give you.
  2. To develop a wet weather plan. Most of the weddings I shoot are in spring, summer and autumn and are likely to have outdoor opportunities for making images. I plan for both good and bad weather. When the weather is bad, you will see how well prepared the photographer is!

    outdoor function area

    All function spaces are different and visiting in advance lets me plan.

  3. To check out the function area. When it comes to functions and speeches I like to know how the room will be laid out and any strengths or limitations of the space. From this I will develop a plan for where I intend to operate from, and where I would like my second shooter positioned.
  4. To best prepare myself for the day. This only comes with experience, but I have learnt that I work best when I am working to a plan. I like to think through the photographic options and plan the timings. Knowing I have that plan in my head let’s me relax and enjoy the time with my clients and their guests. So, one of the key reasons for why visit wedding venues beforehand is actually for me. I know that I will do a better job for my client if I’ve visited and planned.
  5. To meet the venue staff. Staff at venues are a wealth of information. They can make suggestions, tell you about images previously made at their venue, show you shots made there, and add their own suggestions. I take the time to listen to their input as I’m planning the day. In the event of bad weather, having an existing relationship with the staff can be a huge help. They will often go out of their way to help show off their venue in the best possible way even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Beach

I take images on my smart phone to help with planning each shot and thinking through the timings.

They are the top 5 reasons for me as to why visit wedding venues beforehand. And so when do I visit? I know lots of photographers who wait until the day before the wedding or event. To me this is a risky option. You never know if you are going to be unwell, have an urgent last minute job to do, or have another emergency come up. I like to visit the venue 2 weeks before the wedding or event. And I try to visit at the same time of day that I’ll be shooting the key images. That gives me a better understanding of exactly where the sun will be, and how I can make best use of the natural light.

I hope Why Visit Wedding Venues Beforehand has been helpful to you. Best wishes with your weddings and events.

Delivering More Products Per Customer

Running a successful photography business is not easy. It’s hard when you are getting started and you struggle to find your next client. And it’s hard when you have worked hard for 2 years and find you need to spend all your accumulated profits to upgrade your equipment. And I’m seeing more and more photographers who have been operating for years but are struggling to make the profits they feel they should be making. This post looks at how to help them increase margins by delivering more products per customer.

Australian money

Delivering more products per customer will help grow profits

Before we look at delivering more products per customer, let’s consider the options open to the photographer who has been in business for several years. They have plenty of work, but are not making the profits they think they should be making. While they love the work they do, they resent that they are working very long hours, juggling multiple different clients at a single time, and every time they feel like they are getting ahead financially, another bill arrives.

Our photographer has several options. They could:

  1. Do nothing, and continue to work long hours and make sub standard profits. Unfortunately a lot of photographers choose this option, and complain all the way.
  2. Increase their number of clients. This option isn’t very appealing to the already tired photographer but it is what they have done for years. Some choose this path, and work harder and harder. Unfortunately, this often produces more and more resentment and only slightly more profit to the photographer’s business.
  3. Increase their prices. In this scenario our photographer can continue to shoot the same number of jobs per year but charge more per job. This is a legitimate strategy and one that many successful photography businesses choose. They know how many jobs they plan to shoot in a year, and continue to lift their prices year on year.
  4. Increase their profit per job by delivering more products per customer. In this case our photographer looks to increase their profits not by doing more jobs, or raising prices, but by delivering more products per customer. Think about the profit made by the ‘shoot and burn’ wedding photographer provide electronic images only to the customer. Now, compare that the the photographer who is providing electronic images, prints, canvas prints, thank you cards, and albums to their wedding clients. Who do you think makes the most profit? It’s the photographer who provides more products.

There are other options a photographer could use to increase their profit, but these are the basic choices. As you consider what is best for your business, keep in mind it’s not a matter of choosing one strategy or another. To really turbo charge the profitability you could do several of these strategies at once. This year I’m aiming to use options 3 and 4 at the same time. Many photographers will use options 2, 3 and 4 all at once.

Pile of canvas prints

Canvas prints are popular with my family and wedding photography clients

So how do we go about delivering more products per customer.

For regular readers of Beyond Here you will know that I don’t believe in a formula – but that each photographer needs to find methods which suit them. That’s the case here too. That said, here are some strategies for you to consider while you decide what is right for you.

Strategy 1 – Make samples of the products you wish to sell and show them to clients when they are booking. I used to take 40x60cm canvas prints with me to clients meetings. Guess what product was really popular? Yes, the 40x60cm canvas print. Now days I’m taking 60x90cm canvas prints. Guess which product is really popular? Yes, 60x90cm canvas prints and that is great because the margin is about 50% more than on the smaller print. Make some samples and take them to show clients. You’ll be amazed how clients choose the exact product you’ve shown them.

Strategy 2 – Provide ideas and options for your clients. Today I delivered 3 8×6 inch leather bound wedding albums to one of my clients. They plan to keep one for themselves and gift one to each set of parents. What a lovely idea. It’s an idea that came from my suggestion in one of our early meetings. They saw great value in a priceless gift for their family, and I managed to increase my profit on that job. Win, win.

wedding album

I always show sample albums to potential wedding clients

Strategy 3 – Make suggestions at key times of the year. How much additional profit do you think you could generate by contacting all of your clients in September each year suggesting products they might to use as Christmas gifts? From my experience, simple ideas like this are gold. They solve a problem for my client – for example, getting a present for their spouse – while increasing the profits of my business.

Why do I choose September to do this? It leaves me a few months to make sure I can deliver the products in December, and every year I have at least one client who wants to do another shoot before Christmas.

canvas print

Birthdays and anniversaries are great times to contact previous clients

Strategy 4 – Contact your client on important dates for them. Here’s a recent email I sent to one of my clients. It uses the same strategy as number 3, but uses events which are unique to my customers. “Dear XXXX, I’ve just realized that YYYY’s birthday is just a few weeks away. At the time of your shoot I know you loved this image (image attached to email). I have a special deal with my canvas print supplier and can get you a 60x90cm print for $ZZ. Would you like to get one for YYYY’s birthday? I’ll be placing the order next Wednesday, so appreciate if you can let me know before then. Thanks, Craig”. This type of offer generally does well and takes just a few days to go from email to order to delivery.

There are 4 simple strategies to help you in delivering more products per customer. As you review the profitability of your business, is this a strategy that can benefit you?

Developing Multiple Photography Income Streams

Reflecting on the week that has just passed, I’m feeling grateful for the range and variety of activities my photography business offers. I don’t like shooting the same type of thing all the time, and this week confirmed for me that I’m making strong progress in developing multiple photography income streams. Let me tell you about that range of activities and see if it is relevant to your own photography business.

So, here it is – the week that was – and the 7 different income streams it produced.

Income Stream 1 – Wedding album. Just before Christmas I shot a lovely church wedding for a couple in Melbourne, Australia. Since then I have delivered their images and canvas prints, and this week I designed their wedding album. I’m pleased to say that this couple are doing it right – they have ordered an album for themselves, and one for each of their families. That’s three albums in total. I’m looking forward to delivering them soon. Developing multiple photography income streams takes time, but this type of printed product (wedding albums) is an obvious extension to my core activity of wedding photography. Do you have the opportunity to add printed products for your existing clients?

(To see more images from this wedding please visit my website at Craig Dingle Photography.)

Bride

Can you create an additional income stream by providing printed products for existing clients?

Income Stream 2 – Corporate Portraits. This week I shot corporate portraits for a local businessman. He is starting a new role and needed images to be added to the company website. I shoot these in my home studio which makes it an easy and convenient job. Does your business come up early in the Google search results for photographers in your area? Do you have resources (like a home studio) that can be used for extra shoots like this? Can you make yourself available at short notice to meet the needs of a client like this?

(If you are interested in creating a shooting space at home, please read How To Build a Home Photography Studio).

Home studio

I shoot both corporate portraits and product shots in my home studio.

Income Stream 3 – Product Photography shoot. I don’t do many product photography shoots, but I have one client (who I met at a wedding) who regularly asks me to shoot images for their website or for advertising purposes. Often it is a short notice request – like this week’s shoot. They needed a small range of images for an advertisement they are preparing. I don’t get a lot of excitement from shooting products, but I like this client a lot, and I appreciate the regular work which comes from them. Are you cultivating regular clients who know they can rely on you?

Income Stream 4 – Uploading Stock Images. I shoot and upload stock images on a regular basis, and although this has been a quiet week, I have been uploading images from a recent shoot. This doesn’t produce any income today, but builds my stock portfolio which will produce an income for years into the future. Can stock photography form part of your business income? Can you utilize down time to build your portfolio and generate a future income?

(I am a strong believer in stock photography to produce a regular income for photography businesses. Read more about that in Why I Shoot Stock).

Businesswoman sitting on the ground

Adding to my stock portfolio helps create a future income stream

Income Stream 5 – Editing Images. This week I was asked by another photographer (and reader of Beyond Here!) to assist with editing her images. It was in a style, and with a tool, which she was not familiar with, and so I have edited the images for her. This is the first time I’ve generated income by editing images for another photographer. I don’t see myself doing this often, but I appreciated the chance to help another photographer deliver a quality outcome for her client.

Income Stream 6 – Selling an E-book. If you are a regular reader of Beyond Here you will know that stock photography makes up a significant part of my photography business income. I wrote an e-book called Build a Five Figure Income in Your Spare Time to encourage photographers to get into stock photography. I have priced this very affordably, and it is regularly downloaded by people wanting to generate an income from stock photography. I had one sale this week, which made a small contribution to the week’s income.

Income Stream 7 – Selling Stock Images. In Income Stream 4 I covered the work I did this week uploading new stock images. They are unlikely to be downloaded immediately but will produce an income in the future. In the meantime, the 8500+ older images in my stock portfolio will continue to be downloaded and produce an income today. While the income per download is small, it is encouraging to know that buyers are purchasing my stock images every day.

So that is ‘the week that was’ in my photography business. It produced 7 different income streams. I hope that reading Developing Multiple Photography Income Streams has given you some ideas for your own photography business. Happy shooting!

Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional

As I’m writing this post for Beyond Here, iStock is going through some ‘teething’ pain in its unification with the Getty Images enterprise submission platform (ESP). The long awaited first lot of stats were delayed, were then ‘under-whelming’, and then needed clarification. What is an iStock exclusive photographer to do? I’ve decided to focus on something more positive and share a recent studio shoot. It was a shoot which went really well and so I’ve called it – Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional.

I have worked in corporate environments for more than twenty years and have developed a good sense for the type of image which will be useful in a corporate environment. For that reason, I regularly shoot business themed stock images.

Business frustration

There is strong demand for business themed images which communicate a clear message

From time to time I look for new models to work with – as was the case in this shoot. I generally do my first shoot with a new model in the studio so I can assess whether the images will be popular, and whether there is a good working relationship. That leads to knowing whether it will be worthwhile to progress to a shoot which involves higher cost (like hiring a specific venue).

For this shoot we worked in my small studio.

So what goes into making good stock photo shoots exceptional? An exceptional stock photo shoot for me is when you can produce a wide variety of effective images in a short space of time. And how many images is that? This will vary by photographer but for me, an average shoot of this type will produce 60-70 images for my stock portfolio. This specific shoot produced more than 120 – making it exceptional. Here are 5 tips to fast track you from good to exceptional.

Tip #1. Use changes of wardrobe to create different looking images. In this shoot we used 2 simple wardrobe outfits – one dark suit and one light suit. As you’ll see from the images on this post, a very simple change of wardrobe can create very different images.

Whistleblower

A simple prop like a whistle can be used to produce specific messages in your stock images

Tip #2. Use simple props to create variety and communicate a message. There are a limited number of images you can produce if you are just relying on changed facial expressions to communicate a message. Simple props can enhance the theme you are going to create. I have a range of them on hand, and generally use the props the model feels most comfortable with. You can see them in the images on this page – my glasses even suited her nicely!

Confused

I expect this type of image to do well as stock. It communicates a message and can be used in a wide variety of situations.

Tip #3. Real emotions make strong stock images. This tip comes down to the ability of the model, and the ability of the photographer to help the model express genuine emotions.

In this shoot, both the photographer and the model liked to work quite quickly. We went through a series of poses and props before we started working on images expressing frustration and confusion.

This model was really good at expressing those emotions, and so we spent a little longer than usual shooting this type of image. I expect images like these to do well as stock, as they effectively communicate a message and will be relevant for a wide variety of situations.

Inspiration

Black backgrounds can help an image stand out on a white website

Tip #4. Use Different Backgrounds to Create Variety. I shoot the majority of my studio stock images against a white background as that gives a designer the most flexibility in how they use the image. Greater flexibility means greater potential uses, and that means more downloads.

But I also shoot on different backgrounds to create different looks. In years gone by stock images were mainly being used in print and usually on near white backgrounds (the page).

Today, stock images and most extensively used online, and specifically on websites which can be any color background.

To meet this need, I’m shooting more images on black backgrounds as well, which often help the image stand out on a white website.

Tip #5. Very literal messages do work in stock photography. In the past it was often images which were subtle in communicating a message which did the best as stock images. That was mainly because they could be used in a wide variety of situations. Today, there is a growing trend for stock images which communicate a very literal message doing well. I see these used most commonly as the lead image on blog posts where the author is trying to grab a readers attention with the image so that they will continue and read the text. So, I have started to shoot stock images with very literal messages as well.

Decisions

She’s choosing love over career, a very literal message

This was a really fun, enjoyable shoot which produced a large number of images for my stock portfolio and helped me demonstrate these 5 tips. I hope these tips will help with your own stock photography projects.

If you are new to stock photography, there is an extensive number of posts on Beyond Here to help you. Here’s one to begin with, Starting in Stock Photography. Thanks for reading Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional. Happy shooting!

iStock Unification One Week Along

Photographers who contribute to the microstock site, iStock, have been going through weeks  and months of change. This culminated at the beginning of February 2017 with the ‘turning off’ of the old methods for uploading still images as part of the unification with the Getty Images site. I outlined those changes in this post. So, how is iStock unification one week along? And what do we think the future holds?

money

Contributors are all hoping these changes generate more income for the artist.

Gaining Access. As an exclusive contributor I was in the first group who were to be sent emails to gain access to ESP (Enterprise Submission Platform). Unfortunately my email didn’t arrive when promised, but I knew why. Four years ago I experimented with video, and have the grand total of 50 video clips in my portfolio. Video contributors were invited to join ESP approximately 2 years ago. (I can’t remember the exact date as I was no longer contributing videos). So Getty Images figured I already had access to ESP, when in fact I had deleted their email without ever using it.

Getting Help. So, what did I do to get help? And what can you do if you need help? There is a Facebook group for ‘iStock Exclusive Contributors’ where Brenda and Chris (who work for iStock) are actively helping contributors. I posted a note in there, and within a few hours Brenda had me sorted out and able to use ESP. What if you are non exclusive? There is another active Facebook group called ‘iStockphoto’ only. I’d recommend posting any issues in there and seeing if iStock staff or other contributors can assist.

Help

If you need Help, try the Facebook groups for iStock contributors

Uploading in the New World. There are now 3 options for uploading still images to iStock. They are to use ESP itself, to upload through Deepmeta, or to use qHero. I had always uploaded to the site directly, so in preparation for the change I researched qHero. It seemed to be a simple tool to use, and I have begun uploading using qHero.

Changes in the Upload Process. qHero is a straightforward tool to upload, keyword, and submit images. I find it easy to use and quite different to uploading to the site itself. Key benefits I see are – you only need to upload the model release once and can use it on multiple files, and you can keyword multiple files at the same time. Both these changes will save me time in the uploading process. They make it particularly easy to upload and keyword multiple files from the same shoot.

File inspection. So far 5 of the 10 batches of files I have submitted have been reviewed. The review times have been approximately 48 hours for each of these batches. This is slightly slower than the norm for exclusive contributors but has been explained by iStock as due to training needs for image inspectors.

File display. Of those 5 inspected batches none are yet visible in my portfolio. I am not alarmed by this (yet!) as the files were approved in the last 48 hours, and iStock have indicated it might be slightly longer than usual for files to become ‘live’ in portfolios. Hopefully that starts to happen late this week.

File Editing. For one of my batches the inspector asked me to update keywords. I was able to edit that detail easily within ESP itself. I’m glad to say that was a simple process. I found that at first ESP looked a bit daunting, but after some time exploring it, the tool is logical and simple to use. So don’t be overawed – once your files are within ESP, editing and updating is straightforward.

sale

I’m hopeful that the changes will bring real benefits to buyers and sellers, and iStock won’t have to resort to sales to drive traffic

What’s Next? Within ESP there is currently no download or royalty detail. The first time this data will be available is due around 20 February 2017. While you can’t see any data at the moment, you can see the framework for more detailed information than has been available in the past. That’s encouraging and I’m looking forward to that data being available.

Other comments. Overall my transition and experience of iStock Unification One Week Along has been positive. I see real benefits in the improved functionality of being able to upload and keyword batches of files from the same shoot. I typically upload about 100 files per month. In the last week I have uploaded more than 100 files for the week alone. The new tools are definitely going to make submitting and keywording content simpler.

Concerns? While it’s nice that images submitted in the ESP world have been approved already, that’s meaningless until they are available to be downloaded. I’m waiting to see how long it takes from image acceptance to image display. On a separate note, I’m optimistic about what the reporting will bring come 20 February 2017.

That’s my experience of iStock Unification One Week Along. How is your experience? Which tools are you using? Are they helping your workflow?