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?

8 Steps to Start Your Freelance Photography Business

Today’s post comes from guest poster Kylie Glover. Connect with Kylie on Twitter. Kylie is based in Sydney, Australia and writes about small business for Authorflair from her personal experience. She has been part of successful start ups in Australia and New Zealand and is motivated to share her insights and writes for several publications in Australia and abroad. Thanks for your contribution to Beyond Here Kylie. Here are 8 Steps to Start Your Freelance Photography Business.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to freelance photography, it couldn’t be more true. It’s easy to forget that behind every stunning shot of the sunset washing over the Golden Gate Bridge, there’s a shutter, lens and focus working in synergy to faithfully capture the moment. One photo could be the difference between whether someone decides to jet set halfway across the world to one destination or to another.

SunriseHere are eight considerations that will help you get your feet off the ground when it comes to kick-starting your freelance career.

Step 1 – Start Planning Your Business

“by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

Before your photos feature on the front of Lonely Planet, it’s important to visualise the steps you’ll need to take to get there. In other words, planning is a must. To make sure you’re thoroughly prepared, consider things like basic start-up costs, and scope out the market to check how much other photographers typically charge so you can set competitive pricing.

Will you give clients the option of giving deposits, or will you expect a full upfront payment? Will you deal in cash, or accept credit card payments? What are the risks associated with each of these decisions?

Step 2 – Establish Start Up Funds

Unless you’ve a hidden pool of money ala Scrooge McDuck, it is a wise idea to make a small investment. This usually occurs when small businesses set up bank loans, but let’s say your application with the bank is rejected, or you want to explore the market. There are plenty of other methods to kick-starting your dream.

One increasingly popular method of fundraising in today’s digital world is online crowdfunding, through platforms such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo. The idea behind these services is pitching your project to the public, and placing your trust in them to determine whether it is something worth paying for.

Step 3 – Figure Out What Tools You Need

Pro photography gear is a substantial investment, to create high quality shots that stand out from the crowd, you’re going to need some high end equipment and a good basic knowledge of photography. An artist is only as good his tools, so break down all the essentials from tripods, lenses, and filters to top editing software. Sometimes it might be tempting to go for lower price range equipment, but in the long run it could very well end up costing you more. The most important thing of course is the camera itself. Check out travel blogs, books and magazines, and decide which style suits you best. Then hunt down the camera used to take those pictures, and get snapping.

BridgeStep 4 – Editing Your Shots

So you’ve taken that perfect shot of the Eiffel, and it’s ready for publication. Well, almost. The next steps include enhancing the photograph by warming/cooling the image, sharpening/blurring key areas, heightening the intensity of various colours and whatever final touches you feel give your work an edge. You might already be familiar with some basic editing techniques, or even the majority, but newer versions of favourite software programs release almost every year, offering updated versions with more powerful editing abilities. Well known photo editing software programs like Adobe Photoshop or Corel’s PaintShop Pro have affordable one-time purchases that are great for when you’re starting out.

Step 5 – Legal Lingo

One of the most important things to get on top of well before you’re in operation is safely navigating through any legal requirements first. After you’ve finalised your business plan, it’s time to pick your business structure. Are you a sole proprietor, or a corporation? Do have a partner going into this business? Next, come up with an available business name and register it. Lastly, don’t forget about tax obligations! Your accountant is your best bet for assisting you with that and making sure you don’t attract any unwanted fees.

Step 6 – Getting the Right Insurance

Photography is an art form, so naturally, you must organise insurance for both your product and equipment, but make sure you also insure for any unforeseeable/accidental injuries. These are generally covered under general/public liability insurance, which will act as your legal buffer when things go wrong. If you’re thinking of handing over the business somewhere along the line, you might want to consider life insurance, too.

SunriseStep 7 – Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Rule of thumb says most businesses won’t really take off until the three-month mark. Within that timeframe, you’ll need to spread the word about your product and convince the world about why it’s so great. Should you immediately lower your pricing if clients don’t bite?

Absolutely not. Apart from web and radio ads, a tried and true method for boosting sales is incredibly basic: word of mouth. Establish meaningful relationships with your clients, and show them you are very passionate about delivering the best quality photos. Finally, believe in your product.

“What a man thinks of himself, that is what determines, or rather indicates his fate “- Henry David Thoreau

Step 8 – Be Inspired

Inspiration is often depicted as a fleeting, curious phenomenon and has become the subject of many books and presentations over the years. The truth is, there’s no secret, everlasting well of inspiration that somehow runs dry. Inspiration for the perfect shot can be found anywhere, anytime.

As humans, we place a lot of undue pressure on ourselves to achieve constant perfection, and thus may not take risks because we are afraid of ‘failing’. When you feel seeds of doubt start blossoming.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” – Picasso

Launching a new business can be a frightening prospect, especially when it centres around your greatest passion. But with the proper legal and financial planning, adequate preparation of equipment, and enough self-belief that your product is worthy, the road to success is well within reach.

Thank you again Kylie for your contribution to Beyond Here. These 8 Steps to Start Your Freelance Photography Business will set people off on the right foot!

iStock New Beginnings Week

This week marks the end of an era and new beginnings in the stock photography world. iStock, one of the original microstock sites, is changing the back-end technology used to run its site. What does this mean for iStock contributors? Read more about the iStock new beginnings week.

If you are an active contributor to iStock you will be well aware of the changes going on with the site. You should have received several emails over the last 6 months explaining the changes, the implications, and the timelines. If you are an occasional uploader, then this brief summary might be useful.

plan

iStock changes in February 2017 mean contributors will need to re-plan how they upload and track performance of their files

What’s changing? iStock is ‘retiring’ its legacy uploading system and replacing it with the system used by Getty Images (and also currently used for iStock video contributors).

So what does that mean? It means that – if you have been uploading directly to the iStock site – the way you do that will change from February 2017. You will no longer upload directly to the iStock site, but instead through a Getty Images application called ESP (or Deepmeta or Qhero, more on those in the next paragraph). Between 1 and 3 February 2017 you will receive an email from iStock / Getty Images which provides details for ESP.

What if you currently upload using Deepmeta or Qhero? Many contributors use Deepmeta as their way to upload and track their files. More recently Qhero has been available as a tool to upload your images. The upload process remains unchanged for Deepmeta and Qhero.

Do you really need to know about ESP? Yes, as a contributor you do need to know about ESP. As well as being a tool to upload images, it will also be the place where you find data about downloads and royalties. So, look out for the that email this week, and make yourself familiar with the ESP tool.

What else? If, like me, you are an active iStock contributor the past month has been very frustrating. During the current changes, stats about downloads and royalties have not been available. To a degree contributors have been ‘flying blind’ in January 2017. That all ends in February 2017 when details will be available in ESP. Here’s hoping it is a smooth transition and a success.

Thanks for reading iStock new beginnings week. I hope it goes smoothly for you and that the new world is an improvement for both contributors and buyers.

Five Reasons to Start Your Photography Blog Now

As photographers we’ve all heard that writing a blog is an excellent way to promote our work and connect with potential clients. Yet many photographers have put off starting their blog, finding all sorts of excuses and other priorities. We are all busy and it is easy to fill the day with editing images, contacting clients, and updating our social media profiles. If you know that a blog would benefit your business but have been putting it off – read here for five reasons to start your photography blog now.

Before we start, let’s clarify. I’m not going to tell you why blogging will be good for search engine optimization or where your business appears in Google searches. I’ll leave that to the online marketing experts. I’m going to give you five reasons to start your photography blog now which are good for you, the photographer.

Reason 1 – A Photography Blog Brings Focus to Your Online Activity

In today’s online, connected world it is very easy to spend hours online on a range of different activities which really don’t do much for your photography business. Think about it, how much time have you spent updating images on your facebook profile, adding images to your Instagram account, and otherwise just browsing what other people are doing online?

Writing a photography blog can transform the time you spend online by bringing focus to your activity. If you are wedding photographer writing a blog about wedding photography, you are likely to waste less time online and spend more time writing about wedding photography. There’s a benefit for you! You will spend more time focused on your area of expertise by writing a photography blog. Winner!

bird

A photography blog will help bring focus to your online activity

Reason 2 – A Photography Blog Provides You a Target Audience

The second of the five reasons to start your photography blog now is that writing a blog means you have a target audience.

If we use the wedding photographer example again the blog is likely to be targeted towards engaged couples or other wedding photographers. Each would produce a different focus and a different approach to writing. In the case of engaged couples, a photographer might share key insights for brides and favorite images of each wedding. This will be useful for potential brides as they get to learn from the photographer’s experience and see how other brides approached their wedding day. In the case of other photographers, the blog might discuss overcoming lighting challenges in candlelit churches or tips for managing workflow to ensure images are delivered on time.

The blog content will be very different depending on which target audience you choose – but like the first reason – having a target audience will bring you focus. And having focus means your online presence will, in time, produce content which benefits your business.

puzzle

Is a blog the missing piece in the puzzle for your photography business?

Reason 3 – Writing for Your Blog Forces You to Learn Lessons

Reason 3 is self explanatory. Since starting my own blog, each time I have something go right or wrong I am very conscious of the lesson which comes from the experience.

Why is that? Well, if I am going to share it with the readers of Beyond Here, I will need to describe what happened as well as how it might be a learning for my readers. And why is that good for me? It’s good for me because it forces me to learn the lesson and apply it to my own photography business. Let me give you an example. I wrote a blog post for Beyond Here called Tips for Building a Strong Stock Photography Portfolio. Just the act of writing that post forced me to assess how good a job I was doing implementing the tips. And that will lead to different content being added to my stock photography portfolio in the year ahead. Writing the blog post helped me to learn the lesson and apply it in my own business.

Reason 4 – Producing Images for Your Blog Can Super Charge Your Creativity

Reason number 4 is something I learned from another photographer. She is a long term, successful wedding photographer with a large number of happy clients.

She found that when she started posting images to her wedding photography blog that many of her key images were very similar to images she had produced in the past. She had taken her successful formula and was repeating it. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but she found that she was in a creative rut where she was reproducing successful images rather than finding new and creative ways to shoot. Interestingly, she never got this feedback from her clients – she discovered it herself by looking at the images she was posting to her blog. Fascinating!

Reason 4 to start your photography blog now is that you will get feedback from your readers, and from yourself, which can super charge your creativity. No more shooting similar images, now there is a challenge to produce better, more creative work.

variety

A photography blog can help you break out of a creative rut

Reason 5 – Writing a Blog Drives You to be Productive

The final of the five reasons to start your photography blog now is that writing a blog drives you to be productive. Nothing is more depressing than reading a blog and suddenly realizing it hasn’t been updated for a year. A commitment to a photography blog is a commitment to your readers to add content regularly. That commitment drives you to be productive. It drives you to produce content for your target audience when it would be easier to browse online. Writing a blog drives you to be productive and that’s good for you personally, and will ultimately be good for your business.

Thanks for reading five reasons to start your photography blog now. Happy blogging!

Great Reads – Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

When I started Beyond Here in 2014, I developed a series of posts called Great Reads. The idea was to put together a series of posts which would provide recommended reading for photographers. This initially focused on books, and particularly books about the business side of photography. In this post Great Reads – Backyard Silver I expanded the scope of Great Reads to include online resources. Backyard Silver is an excellent blog detailing the experiences of US stock photographer Steve Heap. Today’s post Great Reads – Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin looks at another excellent online resource.

BooksI should start by saying that I’ve never met Michael, and possibly never will given that we live on opposite sides of the world. That said, you can read about Michael and his background on the ‘about’ section in his blog.

He has a very interesting history – both as a photographer and as a person with a technology background. He chose to be an exclusive contributor with iStockphoto for 6 years, and also worked for iStockphoto and Getty Images promoting their business in Europe. More recently Michael has chosen to drop his exclusivity with iStockphoto and become an independent contributor.

Like Steve Heap’s blog Backyard Silver, Michael’s independent contributor status means he has a wealth of knowledge about the broader stock photography market which he can share. This is a key difference to Beyond Here. I am the primary writer for Beyond Here and as an exclusive contributor to iStockphoto I can only bring you my experience with the one agency I work with. So I encourage you to check out both Backyard Silver and Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin to read about their experiences with a wide variety of agencies.

I particularly encourage you to check out Michael’s three recent posts:

If you are already a stock photographer or are considering stock photography for your business check out Michael’s blog. Please also see the Stock Photography section on this blog. It has a wide variety of posts explaining stock photography and how it works from a contributors point of view.

Thanks for reading Great Reads – Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin.

Four Year End Ideas to Make Your Photography Business Stronger

As we approach the end of the calendar year I am coming to the end of a busy three months. Normally in the week before Christmas things start to slow down. Prints and products have all been delivered well in time for Christmas, and my wedding work takes a break for a few weeks.

This year I’m shooting a wedding on Christmas Eve, which is unusual, but with all of my client Christmas orders delivered I am starting to unwind and expecting to have a quieter few weeks. This time of year is ideal for assessing what your business has achieved for the year, and to plan for next year. To help with this, here are four year end ideas to make your photography business stronger.

Chess

Is your first move of the new year to renegotiate with suppliers and immediately boost profitability?

Business Improvement Idea #1 – Analyse and Negotiate with Suppliers

In the majority of photography business tips I read there is a never ending debate about photographers needing to raise their prices. Then there is the inevitable push back from some photographers who fear their work is not worth the higher prices, or that their clients will suddenly vanish. In 20+ years in the business world, I’ve learnt that the quickest and most effective way to increase business profitability is to reduce expenses.

Looking at my own expenses this year I see I have ordered 65 canvas prints for the year from 3 different suppliers. I’m currently paying the same price per canvas print as someone who only orders only 1. In January I will be speaking to my preferred supplier (of the 3) to see if they can offer me a special rate, fixed for the year, to reflect the volume of canvas prints I plan to do with them. The savings will be an immediate benefit to the profitability of my business.

Have you looked at your expenses and found areas for savings? Can you negotiate with a supplier for a better deal?

Business Improvement Idea #2 – Invite a Trusted Friend to Review Your Business Operations

One challenge in running a photography business is that you can be so close to the operations that you can no longer see the strengths and weaknesses. By inviting a trusted friend to review your business operations you have the potential to see things more objectively than you can on your own.

Don’t ask them to review the quality of your work – just ask them to look at the business operations and offer feedback for improvement. It could be as simple as them saying – “I see expenses have increased 8% while you revenues have only increased 2%” to focus you on addressing issues you couldn’t see yourself.

help

A trusted friend can help see your business in a new way

Business Improvement Idea #3 – Killers not Fillers

There are only 2 key criteria your potential clients will assess you on when considering which photographer to hire. The first is your reputation, and the second is your portfolio.

It is the portfolio which is easiest to influence and is worth continually assessing. We all like to include work in our portfolios which is meaningful to us or comes attached to special memories. But a potential client is not aware of this. They are only assessing what they see. Make sure your portfolio is the strongest it can be. Display only your strongest images. Ensure your portfolio is full of killers not fillers.

(If you are reading this and expecting to see price as a key consideration from a client – price is an important consideration, but not as important as reputation and portfolio. If it was, the cheapest photographer would get all the work.)

Showing only your best work is very important. Please see this post on Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer.

bird

A potential client’s decision will be driven by your reputation and the quality of your portfolio

Business Improvement Idea #4 – Streamline Paperwork Which Slows You Down

It seems incredible in today’s digital world that there can still be any paperwork! My business still has plenty and it has the potential to distract you from your main purpose – meeting the needs of your clients.

As we come to the end of one calendar year and the beginning of a new one – consider, are there any paper based processes which you can streamline? The objective is to create more time for client related activities, and to spend less time on administration.

Thanks for reading four year end ideas to make your photography business stronger. I hope they have been useful to you, and will give you something to consider over the holiday period. Merry Christmas!

Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer

I have the good fortune to speak with a large number of pro photographers. Sometimes it’s helping with the business side of their photography, sometimes it’s at industry events, and often it is simply in a social setting. Those discussions give me a lot of content to share on Beyond Here, and in this post I share the doctrine of a successful pro photographer. If you are a pro photographer or an aspiring pro, these points should give you goalposts to measure your progress and assess the next step forward.

Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer

  1. Know Your Gear. Put very simply, pro photographers have the equipment for the job and know how to use it. This knowledge means they know they can get the job done, and even if something goes wrong on shoot day – they know their gear well enough to be able to meet the client’s needs.

    bird

    The successful pro photographer shows only their best work

  2. Aim for Genius. Here’s an ambition! Successful pro photographers don’t just want to grind out another job and get paid. They want to exceed the clients needs and break new ground themselves. Every shoot is another opportunity for their best shoot ever. The doctrine of the successful pro photographer means they must keep pushing forward. Ok is not good enough. Raise your standards. Aim for genius.
  3. Be Ethical. The successful pro photographer knows that life as a photographer is both a career option and part of their being. By default, they plan to be in this business a long time. This is not a summer job, this is their life. They know they need to deal ethically with everyone they come in contact with. Always.
  4. Back Up. The successful pro photographer knows that shooting, producing and delivering great images is part of the job. There will be times when clients lose files and need help. Living the doctrine of a successful pro photographer means organizing files and backing up so they can be found when they are needed.
  5. Show Only Your Best Work. If you are aiming for genius you will show only your best work. Being a successful pro photographer is not about sharing the most work, it’s about sharing only your best work and showing potential clients what you are capable of. Don’t be tempted to share anything less than your best.

    Money

    Doctrine of the successful pro photographer. Know your worth. Every job has a price you won’t go below.

  6. Know Your Worth. Number 6 is what sets the successful pro apart from the successful non pro. Pro photographers know what their time and skills are worth. Often that is built on having dealt with a lot of clients over a period of time. Successful pro photographers typically have some flexibility in their pricing structure to meet their clients needs – and they all have a clear picture about the price they will not go below. Know your worth.
  7. Know Your Client. Successful pro photographers know their worth and they also know their client. More importantly they know who is not their client. A high end wedding shooter knows that if a potential client’s first question is about budget they are unlikely to be a suitable client for them. boy
  8. Stand Out. Successful pro photographers are not run of the mill. They stand out. They build a reputation. They continue to work on their art and evolve over time. What was excellent this year, will be so-so next year. The doctrine of a successful pro photographer is continuing to strive to stand out. This process never ends.
  9. Keep Learning and Evolving. To aim for genius and to stand out mean the successful pro photographer must keep learning and evolving. Photography is an art that is never mastered. There is always something new to learn or a new piece of equipment to master. There is a new way to see and to express. Keep learning and evolving. Keep shooting. Keep breaking new personal frontiers.
  10. Be Authentic. Successful pro photographers know that their business is about producing great images and experiences for their clients. It is not about the photographers ego or desire to look good. To that end, successful pro photographers are authentic. There is no pretense. They are genuine and authentic in their desire to serve their customer and at the same time express their artistic vision.

Thanks for reading the doctrine of the successful pro photographer. How are you measuring up to these 10 points?

 

How Not to Run Your Small Business

I love to share good news stories and experiences to help us run our businesses better. This week I’ve got a bad news story to share. There are lots of lessons to learn from this one – and they are all about how not to run your small business. (I’ll try to focus on the lessons and avoid a rant!)

I am currently planning a stock photo shoot where I need an environment that looks like a shared working space or creative collaboration area. (It’s a concept shoot for my stock portfolio with iStockphoto and Getty Images). I have researched possible locations and have found a venue which looks suitable. It is a studio space in downtown Melbourne, Australia which has two large studio areas and a rooftop outdoor space. It looks very cool and I could imagine it as a creative collaboration area or even as a workspace for a funky advertising agency. I was impressed that they also have a range of tables and chairs and props which could make it look like an active work space, and flexible enough to look like a café.

Here’s where my problems started and the lessons for how not to run your small business begin.

customer service

In small business, you are at the center of customer service

My first step was to call the studio to arrange a time to view the space. I was going to be in the area last Friday and wanted to visit. So on Tuesday I gave them a call. The only contact number on the website is a mobile number. I called. There was no answer. There was no option to leave a message. I thought that was odd, but I pressed on. I went back to the website and got the email address. On Tuesday afternoon, I sent an email to the only email address listed on the website.

I didn’t expect an instant reply to my email, but by Wednesday night I was wondering if they had received it and if they were going to reply before Friday.

I have been following this studios posts on Instagram for several months and was encouraged when they added a new post on Thursday. I sent them a private message on Instagram asking if it would be possible for me to visit them on Friday.

By Friday, I hadn’t received a reply to my email or Instagram message, but I was in the area and decided to visit them. Again I drew a blank. At 10.30am the studio roller door was down and there appeared to be nobody around.

As I’m writing this post it is Tuesday afternoon, one week after my first attempt to contact the studio. I haven’t had a reply to my email or Instagram message.

So, what could possibly explain what’s going on for this studio? I’m assuming it can only be one of two things. First, is that business is so good and they are so busy that they have not got back to potential clients. It is a busy time of year and it is possible that they have lots of bookings prior to Christmas. The second possibility is that business is terrible and they have more pressing issues than getting back to a potential client. Who knows, they could be in financial trouble? Or be about to shut down? Or a key person may have health issues? Or there may be other issues that I know nothing about which means they haven’t got back to me? Who knows.

serviceSo, what are the lessons we might learn from this? I’ve come up with five. If you have some to add, or want to share your own experience please add some thoughts in the comments section below.

  1. Make sure website details are correct and up to date. I wondered if they had mis-typed their own phone number and email address? That sure would have an impact on the number of bookings they get.
  2. If there are special circumstances, let your clients and potential clients know. I assumed this was a poorly run business with no focus on responding to clients. But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe it’s a one person business and they have a sick child? or a major health issue? To avoid clients thinking the worst – keep them informed. Let them know via your website or phone message or auto reply from your email that they are currently experiencing special circumstances.
  3. Clients expect you to respond promptly. Make doing this a priority. I thought the idea of contacting the studio on Tuesday and visiting on Friday was giving them lots of time. (I have some clients contact me today and want to visit same day!) Given the ease of electronic communication clients expect a prompt reply. Set aside time in your day to get back to people.
  4. Word of mouth is a big influencer. Unfortunately I’ve already told this story to several people. It’s annoyed me that I thought I’d found a great location and I haven’t heard back from them. The studio might be getting an unfair wrap, but I’ve shared my experience with other photographers and I know it will influence their choice of studios in the future. Reputation is important. Word of mouth – good or bad – is influential. Do everything to make the word of mouth feedback for your own business positive.
  5. Doing the basics well is important. Many, many small businesses are built on providing excellent customer service. Excellent customer service does not have to be fancy or special. Often it is about doing the basics very well, every day of the year.

Thanks for taking the time to read how not to run your small business. If you have an experience to add for other readers, please use the comments section below. And to finish this post on a high, please read this post about a great customer experience I had.

Changes to iStock Royalty Payments

iStock is one of the large players in the microstock photography market, an industry where thousands of photographers are earning an income from their images. During October 2016, iStock announced changes to iStock royalty payments most of which come into effect in 2017. (At the same time, iStock are making changes to the technology they use and the tools and reporting they provide to contributors). In this post, I look at the changes to iStock royalty payments.

man with piggy bank

iStock royalty changes need to reflect the growth of subscriptions in microstock

Why Change? The microstock photography market has changed very significantly in the last 5 years, which has meant iStock needs to change it’s royalty payment structure to reflect the industry’s new realities. For iStock itself, the biggest change has been a movement away from ‘credit downloads’ to the ‘subscription’ model.

iStock was initially built on the credit download model – where a customer would purchase credits and then redeem those credits when they bought images. The subscription model has superseded the credit model for most frequent customers.

Under the subscription model, a customer purchases a monthly subscription with a limit on the number of images that can be downloaded in that month. For example, a customer purchases a subscription which allows them to download 100 images per month.

Until now, iStock’s royalty system for paying contributors has not kept pace with the change in the industry.

So what’s changing and what does it mean? The changes are in four different areas.

Change 1 – Redeemed Credits. The redeemed credit system was introduced to encourage contributors to continue to upload fresh, relevant content. It was based only on ‘credit downloads’ and so has not been effective in recent years (if ever!) The redeemed credit system is being replaced by a revised system which recognizes all types of sales, not just credit sales. The good news is – all sales will be recognized. The bad news is the system and targets have not been announced yet. iStock have advised that contributors will start 2017 on the same royalty level as they finish 2016, and that the targets will be announced before the end of the year.

In summary, we will have to wait and see what the system and targets look like.

Change 2 – Exclusive Royalty Rates. This is a change without much change. Exclusive contributors currently earn between 25% and 45% royalty rate depending on which tier they have achieved under the redeemed credits system.

This royalty structure stays the same. The change is that all downloads will be recognized and that Signature+ collection downloads will count double. The impact for an exclusive contributor will depend on the system that replaces redeemed credits – so again, this is a case of wait and see.

After these changes, all downloads will be recognized (good), and it will be helpful to have files in the Signature+ collection.

quit

Non exclusive contributors will not like the 15% flat royalty rate

Change 3 – Non Exclusive Royalty Rates. From later this week (25 November 2016) royalty rates for non exclusive contributors move to a flat 15%. Previously the minimum you could earn was 15% – and you could earn more by meeting the redeemed credit targets.

This change will be negative for non exclusive contributors – 15% is less than many were previously receiving, and is less than is available on other microstock sites. I would expect that some non exclusive contributors will stop contributing new images to iStock – and I expect this is an outcome iStock is happy with.

They are looking to encourage exclusive content so that they can compete with other agencies based on the content they provide (in addition to the functionality of the site and price).

For non exclusive contributors – since I published this post iStock have changed the implementation dates. The move to 15% flat commission for non exclusive contributors will now happen on 23 December 2016 for subscription downloads, and 1 January 2017 for credit downloads. (Edited by Craig Dingle on 24 November 2016).

Change 4 – Subscription Download Rates. Until now, subscription downloads have paid a flat fee to the contributor. For me as an exclusive contributor, that has been predominantly US$0.75 for files in the Signature collection and US$2.50 for files in the Signature+ collection.

This flat fee is being replaced by a ‘price per file’ system where the exact amount will vary based on the number of downloads a client makes and the price they paid for the subscription. In some ways, this makes it less transparent but I like that the contributors interests and iStock’s interests become aligned in this process. The contributor will share in the rewards with iStock. The exact impact on a contributors income will be seen in the next few months.

So what does this all mean? The changes to iStock royalty payments are recognition that the current system is not working effectively given the industry move to a subscription driven model. In that sense, change is good.

The changes announced significantly favor exclusive contributors over non-exclusives which will force some contributors to make a choice which camp they would like to be in.

Overall, I am encouraged that iStock are adjusting their royalty structures to reflect the new realities of the industry. If anything, it is a bit late, but I am optimistic that 2017 will bring stronger returns from iStock.