Category Archives: Business Tips

Tips for your photography business

7 Early Lessons Building an Image Library

Over the last 6 months I’ve had a dramatic change in my approach to stock photography. I had been an exclusive contributor to iStock since 2010 and had a portfolio of over 10,000 images producing a steady income. The problem was, the income was steady but not growing in line with my portfolio. I wrote about some of those issues in Why I Dropped iStock Exclusivity. At that time most of my stock photography friends were expecting me to spread my portfolio among the other major stock sites. I saw that being a very similar road to being with iStock, and instead focused on building an image library.

I can probably fill many posts with things I’ve learned on the journey so far – but for this post I have limited it to 7 Early Lessons Building an Image Library.


Lesson 1 – It Can be Done!

The most important point first – it can be done! Selling images via microstock sites is not the only option. Building an image library is an option and can be done.

Encourage

Building an image library can be done!

I went from committing to building it, to having a working website in 10 weeks. I’ve learned a lot on the way and could do it faster and more effectively if I was doing it again. But, coming back to lesson 1, if you are considering an alternative to microstock – building an image library can be done.

Lesson 2 – You Don’t Have to Build from Scratch

When I started seriously considering building an image library I had assumed I would have to build the website functionality from scratch. I assumed I would need to write a brief and have a web developer write the code. Good news, I was wrong!

There are several places where you can buy pre-existing capability which is proven in running other image libraries. So it was not a case of wondering if it would work, but buying the capability and tailoring it to my image library.

It was a big short cut and time saver to find that purchasing existing capability was going to be cheaper and easier than starting from scratch.

Lesson 3 – Knowledge of Hosting and Servers will Help

I had assumed that with some common sense and patience I’d be able to work out what was needed regarding servers and hosting for the new site.

On reflection I would say that is true. I also believe I caused myself unnecessary anxiety and worry by not talking to an expert before I started! My recommendation is to find an expert in this space. They will advise what you need.

Time saver

Getting expert help on the technical side will ultimately save you time and help you sleep better!

Save yourself some sleepless nights by asking an expert about hosting and servers.

Lesson 4 – There’s Value in Taking Time to Set Up Correctly

I decided to create a new company to keep the image library business separate from my photography business. If you haven’t done this before, setting up a new company is a relatively straight forward process which an accountant can help with.

Where’s the lesson here? In my desire to get moving I bought the domain name and registered it under my photography company (not the image library company). My speed in doing that then managed to slow me down. I had to subsequently transfer the web address to the new company, and wait several days for that to happen.

In hindsight it was not a big deal. But next time I would establish the new company first and then purchase the web address.

Lesson 5 – Things Take Time

In lesson 1 I outlined that I went from concept to working website in 10 weeks. Some might think 10 weeks is fast, and others will think it is slow. During this process I have learned that things which I assumed would move very quickly can take time.

Specifically I was surprised that setting up payment functionality through the bank would take time. There was plenty of paperwork involved, followed by review from the bank. There must be processes in the background for a bank to make sure everything is legitimate, but I hadn’t expected it to take several weeks. That’s worth knowing if you are setting up payment functionality on your own website or image library.

The second area which took longer than I expected was the legal agreements. The main ones I needed were a licence agreement for the image buyer, and a photographer agreement for contributing photographers. While from a legal point of view this is fairly straightforward, lawyers are not just waiting around for customers like me. They have a range of (mostly larger) projects on the go, and mine was not the A priority. In future I’ll allow more time for the legals to be completed.

Lesson 6 – User Experience of the Website is Key

I made a mistake in launching too soon without properly considering the user experience on the website. I was anxious to move from “build phase” to “proof of concept” on my business plan, and went live as soon as possible.

Puzzle

User experience is a very important piece of the puzzle

I’ve learned that having a working website is one thing. And having a website which is appealing and intuitive to customers is another. Unfortunately that meant that the first 1000 visitors to the site had a “less than ideal” experience.

Both the look of the site and the functionality are now much improved. This will be something we continue to develop. My recommendation is don’t be too anxious to launch. Invest time in making sure your site looks great and is intuitive for your user.

Lesson 7 –  Find a Web Developer You Trust

I have complete trust and faith in my web developer. It is so reassuring to know that the person on the other end of many emails and text messages is completely trust worthy and working to make the website a success. Nothing seems to have been too much of a problem despite there being lots of things to work on some weeks, and nothing to work on in others (thanks Alison!). Having a web expert you completely trust is great for peace of mind.

I have lots more lessons learned on this journey already which I will save for other posts. Thanks for reading 7 Early Lessons Building an Image Library. If you’d like to check out progress, please head over to Melbourne Stock Photos.

 

Potential Markets When You Are Starting a Photography Business

Last week I was contacted by a photographer who had been reading Beyond Here. She had received some inquiries in her local community, and had local businesses re-sharing her social media content. We had a brief exchange of emails which has led to this post – Potential Markets When You Are Starting a Photography Business.

The photographer who contacted me was doing some studies to help her with the business side of photography (great idea!). Her initial question for me was about pricing.

That’s a very broad question as there are all sorts of different customers with different budgets (I wrote a post about this called Find The Right Clients). It’s also a hard question to answer without really knowing the photographer, her work, or the market she hopes to address.

Southbank

There is opportunity in the faces and the places of your region

Let’s look at what I do know. The photographer lives outside a main city in an attractive coastal location. She has a diverse and interesting range of landscape and lifestyle images from her local area. She has done some work for a local luxury accommodation provider. Given that information, here are some potential business opportunities for this situation.

Business Opportunities

There are lots of potential markets when you are starting a photography business. Below are some immediate ideas. My suggestion would be to experiment with several and decide what suits you and your work. Not everything will be a success, but finding your own way forward is part of the excitement of running a successful photography business.

Opportunity 1 – Sell Prints to the Luxury Accommodation Provider.

Accommodation businesses are great to speak to about prints. They need prints for their rooms, and having a range of local images can enhance their guests experience. As a photographer it is attractive as the luxury accommodation provider will likely order at least one for each room plus more for their shared spaces. Keep in mind they won’t order 40 of the same print. Make sure you have a range of images of the local environment.

Opportunity 2 – Talk to the Accommodation Provider about online images.

Nearly all businesses need quality images for their online use. I would start by researching the accommodation providers website and social media accounts. Then I would approach them to shoot images of the property for use in both. Website images is often a once a year job. Images for social media can be ongoing regular work.

Couple

Businesses, as well as individuals, can be your clients. The costs are going to be an expense to the business, so likely can be offset against their income for tax purposes

Opportunity 3 – Shoot images for Local Tourism Body.

Tourism bodies need a regular supply of high quality images to help them promote the region. In my experience, big organisations promoting tourism for big cities or large regions are less inclined to engage with an individual photographer. Smaller regional tourism bodies on the other hand love to deal with local people. Local people know the area and can be relied on. I’d suggest she gets her current portfolio in front of the local tourism body. From there she can start a conversation about helping to promote the local area.

Opportunity 4 – Shoot Images for other Businesses

Again, because nearly all businesses need images for their websites and social media use, there is lots of opportunity to shoot images for businesses. Local people like dealing with other local people, particularly in regional communities. I’d suggest this photographer has the potential to approach other businesses and see if she can help them with their image needs.

Sale

Pricing can be tricky. Have you considered deciding on your price and then looking for customers in that price range?

Opportunity 5 – Sell Images as Stock

The photographer who contacted me appeared to have a relatively large existing portfolio. If that is the case she could upload several hundred images to micro stock sites to get started in stock photography. Keep in mind that stock images of a major city are going to have a bigger market than a regional town. She lives in a regional area so her stock portfolio is likely to have a limited market unless she can produce generic images.

There are 5 immediate business opportunities for this photographer as she starts out in business.

For more resources for starting a photography business please see:

Thanks for reading Potential Markets When You Are Starting a Photography Business. There are lots and lots of potential markets when you are starting a photography business so don’t be limited to just these five! Happy shooting!

Use Events to Drive Business

I often hear photographers discussing (or complaining!) that they don’t have enough paying clients. My response is to ask what they are doing to generate more business. And generally the response is a blank stare which implies ‘isn’t my website and social media presence enough to have people knocking down the door?’ No, it’s not. People have lots of pressures on their time and money – and will only shoot with you if you give them a compelling reason to do it now. There are many ways to drive additional business. One way is to use events to drive business. Read on!

Australia Day

Special events drive sales of stock images

What do you mean events?

By events, I mean special occasions. Demand for a range of products and services picks up very predictably when these events occur. Let’s take an example. What do you think happens for sales of chocolates and roses every February? They boom just before Valentine’s Day! And they boom just before Valentine’s Day every year! It’s predictable.

How can you take advantage of that? Have you considered offering a couples shoot before Valentine’s Day? Or sell a gift voucher for the couple to shoot with you after Valentine’s Day? Do you get the idea? You use the event to create a reason for the shoot to happen now.

Want More Examples?

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know I shoot a lot of stock photography. Do events help sales of stock images? Yes! A resounding yes! Here in Australia there is a peak in sales of Australian themed images just before Australia Day at the end of January.

How do I capitalize on this? I shoot Australia Day themed images in October and November, and have them available in my stock portfolio by early December. That’s almost 2 months before Australia Day and ready for the increase in demand.

And there are lots more events during the year which drive similar spikes in demand. Think about Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, and your national holidays. Could you use events to drive business? I’m sure you could. It just requires a little planning and a compelling reason for clients to have the shoot now.

How can family photographers take advantage of this?

Lots of photographers specialize in families and portraits. Here’s how I recommend you make the most of events.

Australia Day

Got a national holiday coming up. Can you use events to drive business?

Events Specific to Your Clients

Once you have a client base you can generate your own ‘events’ by focusing on key moments for your clients. What are some examples? Your clients anniversaries and birthdays are obvious places to start! If you have a gap in your shooting schedule, contact a client who has a birthday next month and offer them a special for a shoot plus prints in time for their birthday.

Even better is when you have remembered your clients children’s birthdays. Offering a tailored shoot on the kids birthdays will show your clients you care (and really listened!) and can offer something unique to them.

Events Which Apply to ‘the Market’

If you don’t have an existing client base to tap into, use events which have broad appeal.

How about special family packages:

  • for families right before school starts
  • during the school holidays
  • for kids birthdays
  • before Christmas

These are all straightforward ways to use events to drive business. If you are waiting for clients to contact you because you have a great website and post regularly to social media – you may be waiting a long time. Grab the initiative and use events to drive business.

Sneak Preview New Stock Photography Site

Happy 2018 to all Beyond Here readers! I hope you’ve had an enjoyable time over Christmas and New Year and are ready for the photography year ahead. Let’s start 2018 with a sneak preview of a new stock photography site.

What’s this all about?

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know I am a big fan of the stock photography model. A well planned and executed shoot can generate the photographer an income for many years into the future (read Why I Shoot Stock to catch up on some of this thinking). But stock photography has changed. I was an exclusive contributor with iStockphoto for nearly 8 years before deciding that the exclusive model was not working for me (see Why I Dropped iStock Exclusivity). I was investing more into each shoot, and seeing lower royalties per download. That’s not a recipe for success unless your download numbers are growing very strongly.

Woman and tram

Melbourne Stock Photos is a niche site providing specific content

So Where to From Here?

As part of my decision to drop iStock exclusivity I considered where iStock seemed to be heading. Quality standards have dropped. Large numbers of files are coming in. High quality images are getting lost among thousands of low quality images.

That strikes me as providing a great opportunity for an image library that goes in the opposite direction, swims against the tide of low quality images, and instead maintains high quality standards. (It makes me think of the success that Stocksy is having with a high quality model.)

What does the current state mean for microstock photography customers?

Microstock customers are spending a long time searching through thousands of images to find the ones they need. They are swamped with low quality images. Image buyers are spending more time looking for what seems like the needle in the haystack. They can’t be sure the image is of good quality or even in focus.

So what about the new stock photography site?

The points above have prompted me to build an image library.

We’ve been working on it for the last quarter and will launch in the next few weeks. You can find it at Melbourne Stock Photos. It is a niche site specializing in lifestyle images of Melbourne, Australia. We are aiming for it to be the high quality source of Melbourne lifestyle images. It will save customers time searching through thousands of images at microstock sites.

Customers will be able to request specific content. In a radical, old fashioned way, they can email or call with content requests. They can have a relationship with Melbourne Stock Photos and not just a transaction. We’re going to partner with our customers to provide the content they need, and save them hours hunting around on microstock sites.

Our launch content has a small number of images. We have a small team of photographers shooting new material and will build our content month by month. Melbourne Stock Photos will never compete on scale or breadth with the large stock photo sites, but it will provide a specialist site with high quality content.

Melbourne is a fabulous city and it should have a fabulous image library to help promote it to the world. Melbourne Stock Photos is aiming to be that library.

Thanks

Thanks to Nicola, Tim, Teri, Julie, CK, and Greg for the skills and experience they’ve brought to this adventure already. Special thanks to Alison for leading the IT work – she’s been critical to getting us this far!

Your Sneak Preview

We will be launching the site in the next few weeks. I wanted to give Beyond Here readers a sneak preview of the new stock photography site. Go ahead and check out Melbourne Stock Photos. I’d welcome any comments, feedback, or suggestions. Here’s to a great 2018!

A New Way to Boost Productivity

Many of us are running micro and small businesses. There is a constant challenge in this type of operation to be making the most of the available hours. Some people are excellent at this and always seem to have spare time, while others seem to work endlessly without ever really getting ahead. I pride myself on running a healthy business which leaves me time to do other things in life. In the last month though, I’ve found a new way to boost productivity. It’s not one I’m particularly proud of (!) but there is a lesson in here.

I like the wisdom and irony in the saying ‘the bleeding edge of technology’. It’s similar to the leading edge of technology except it’s one that comes at a cost. It can be painful. I have several friends in this space. They feel compelled to have the latest photographic equipment and will buy new equipment whether they need it or not. They’ll also buy it regardless of whether they have existing equipment which can do the job. I prefer not to be at that expensive, bleeding edge. I typically don’t buy the latest model camera body as soon as it comes out. I will wait until it has been in the market for some time, and has been proven to be effective. I’ll typically buy when the price comes down, perhaps 12 or 18 months after the model first came out. Where’s this heading and where is a new way to boost productivity?

Couple

Greater productivity in my post production work leaves more time for shooting.

While I’ve been good at steadily updated my photographic equipment, the same can’t be said for my computing power. I’ve been using an old laptop, which I have stuck with for too long. It runs slowly. It takes too long to start up. It’s weighed down by the thousands of images I’ve shot and downloaded onto it.

So, I’ve recently got a new computer and am in the process of using it more and more, and using the old one less and less. So where is a new way to boost productivity? You won’t be surprised to hear that the new machine runs much more quickly than the old one. I estimate my productivity for post production work (and even writing blog posts!) is up approximately 25%.

business

Is Christmas the time for you to upgrade your businesses computing power?

While it’s an embarrassing story to tell, I really believe my ‘computer time’ efficiency has improved 25%. That leaves me more time to speak with clients, or do more shoots, or just enjoy the Melbourne summer.

I definitely should have upgraded my computing power at least 2 years ago. In future, I will be thinking of this as an investment in an asset for my business. I might not be at the bleeding edge of technology, but I’ll make sure my computer is adding to my business and not slowing it down. How good are you at upgrading your computer assets? Are they adding or detracting from your business?

Thanks for reading a new way to boost productivity. I hope it’s given you reason to consider your own business needs.

Why I Dropped iStock Exclusivity

This year has been one of big change at leading microstock site iStockphoto. I’ve written about that in many posts. On my recent holiday, as I planned for the future of my business, I had to rethink my position with iStock. That has lead me to cancelling my exclusive contributor status. Here is why I dropped iStock exclusivity.

It is never just one thing which leads to a decision like this. Here are the 5 reasons, starting with number 5 and building to number 1.

palace

Next year will bring a new dawn in the stock photo side of my business

Reason 5 – iStock does not provide photographers with up to date, easy to use statistics.

What am I talking about? I’m really talking about live sales data so that photographers can see what is selling at the time it sells. It is frustrating to wait until the monthly sales report to see what is popular with buyers. If sales were growing strongly and I had faith this would improve, then this alone is not a big deal. But I don’t have that faith and it’s annoying not to have live data.

Reason 4 – it is harder and harder to get images into the Signature+ collection.

Getting images into S+ allows them to be mirrored onto the Getty Images site. Being on GI means your images are available to more potential buyers. Earlier this year I had a lot of files accepted into S+. In recent months, with similar quality content I have had none accepted. It feels like Getty have changed the requirements without informing photographers. It’s hard to justify spending money on shoots when there is no guideline for acceptance into S+. Fewer files in S+ means lower royalty income.

Reason 3 – iStock is almost giving photographers work away.

In my most recent sales month I had 450 downloads of my images. That sounds ok on the surface. Dig a little deeper and we see that for 200 of those downloads I received less than US$1 per download. This is connected to the rise of subscriptions for buyers. I’m not against subscriptions and have actually written about why subs might be good – but when I received US$0.12 in royalty for a download last month that was the final straw. iStock and Getty need to rethink their approach to subs so that the image copyright owner (the photographer) might get some benefit. Currently all the benefit is with the client and the image library.

umbrellas

My personal outlook for iStock exclusive contributors remains gloomy

Reason 2 – new files are buried.

iStock recently introduced some enhanced reporting. I wrote about that in this post, iStock Contributor Statistics Progress. What the reporting does show me is that new files are not getting seen by buyers. It is very clear that the 1700+ new files I have added this year are not getting in front of buyers. iStock have recognized this by looking at issues around ‘search freshness’. This is ongoing. I’m not confident this will improve outcomes for new files as the collection is already so large. With little value coming from newer files, that makes it hard to invest in new shoots.

Reason 1 – the big one – monthly royalty income continues to fall.

Today I have over 10,300 files on iStock. In 2012, I had 4,000 files. Wonder how my royalty income compares? Today, my monthly royalty is roughly half what it was in 2012. Yes, with two and a half times more files, my royalty income is half. Income falling, new images not getting in front of buyers, and no useful stats to understand performance – I think you can see why I dropped iStock exclusivity.

So where does this leave iStock?

I don’t imagine my move to drop exclusivity will make any difference at iStock. But if my experience is replicated by others, eventually iStock will have less and less exclusive content. With less exclusive content they will only have 2 areas to compete on – price and website functionality. I expect price will be the main driver. That will be good for buyers and very bad for photographers. That’s a risky strategy for iStock and only time will tell whether they ‘win’ by selling the same content that is on other sites at low prices.

What else?

It is interesting to see other photographers making similar decisions. When I started contributing to iStock in 2008 one of my ‘heroes’ was Nicole Young. She had a great range and quality of images in her portfolio. This blog post she wrote back in 2014 sums up many of my own views – I just wish I’d come to the decision back in 2014 when she did! See Nicole’s post  Why I Canceled Exclusivity with iStock.

So, iStock contributors they are the reasons why I dropped iStock exclusivity. What is your experience? How does your monthly income compare to previous years?

 

5 Great Reasons to Have a Break From Your Business

I have just had 3 weeks overseas. It was a great time to have a break and to reflect on my photography business. I had plenty of time to consider where it is at now, and where it is headed. I feel refreshed! It has also enabled me to make some really significant decisions on where my business is going – more posts on that to come in the next few weeks! I was reflecting that isn’t it funny that I was looking forward to a holiday, but I was going to miss my business and my clients. And I did! But it has made me really appreciate getting away for a break. Here are 5 great reasons to have a break from your business.

fitness

This isn’t me (obviously!) but after a 3 week break I feel physically refreshed and energized

Reason 1 – A Physical Refresh.

Many of us are running one person businesses and while I love the hustle and bustle of my business, it wasn’t until I got away that I realized I was tired! I was too busy to realize it before! For most of the first week on holiday I relaxed and slept really well. For the next 2 weeks I ate a lot healthier than I normally do, and did some exercise. I feel much better for it. Do you need to schedule time for a physical refresh?

market

Being on holiday it was fun just shooting the people, places and experiences in South Korea. That made it one of the great reasons to have a break from your business

Reason 2 – Shooting was Fun Again.

When I’m at home I rarely find time to just shoot for fun. While I am quite good at setting personal projects for myself, it’s very rare for me to shoot random stuff just for fun. Taking a good break enabled me to shoot for fun again, and to experiment. I would never do that when I am shooting for a client. It was great to be experimenting and to shoot for fun again.

Reason 3 – Space Helps Perspective.

Being a long way away (14 hours flying time!) helped me to detach from day to day business issues and to reflect on the overall shape of my business. That helped to then re-shape where I want to move to in the future. I like to be busy shooting and meeting with clients. It was a blessing to be not able to do that for 3 weeks.

alarm clock

Without the pressure of immediate deadlines I had the space to plan for the future

Reason 4 – Time Drives Considered Decisions.

I have been thinking about taking a major step in a different direction in my photography business. When I was on the first long plane ride I had a lot of time to think through that option and to write down all of the issues associated with it. Over the next 3 weeks I had time and space to revisit and challenge my earlier thinking. It was this space that has helped me reach a significant decision on the next steps for my business. Are you making space for yourself to assess progress and future direction? or are you buried in the day to day busy-ness?

Reason 5 – Realize What You Miss and What You Don’t.

Being away from my business for an extended time made me realized what I missed the most! It also made me realize what I didn’t miss – which was the extensive time I can spend in front of a computer. I know I’m better in front of clients than in front of computer screens, and am going to start to make that work better for me.

I hope my experience and the great reasons to have a break from your business have been helpful to you. Schedule a break and make the most of it!

 

 

Getty Updates Custom Content Briefs

Getty Images recently launched a new service to marry the needs of their clients with their network of photographers. The new service is called Custom Content Briefs. You can read about it in this post Getty Launches Custom Content Briefs. While Getty and iStockphoto have traditionally operated under the stock photography model where an image can be licensed many times, under Custom Content Briefs they can only be licensed by that one client. This makes it tricky for stock photographers to assess the likely financial benefit of shooting to these briefs. And that has lead to this post, Getty Updates Custom Content Briefs.

When the Custom Content Briefs were launched, a sticking point for photographers was the issue of what would happen with ‘unsuccessful’ images. That is, images which were not selected by the client. Getty had outlined that those images would not be able to be added to the photographer’s stock photo portfolio. That made shooting to these briefs more of a gamble for photographers. If your images were chosen by the client, great. If not, the photographer had lost the time and money invested in the shoot.

Train

I can’t see enough financial upside in Custom Content Briefs and will be letting this train pass

So what is changing in this update?

This week, Getty has had a change of mind. Quoting directly from the update on the Getty Images contributors forum ….

“What happens if a client doesn’t select all or part of my Custom Content submission? Can I license non-selects?
If the client doesn’t select all or part of your Custom Content submission and the non-Similar work is suitable for general stock licensing (i.e., it has all applicable releases and contains no client products), then we’ll put it straight into the regular collection you submitted it to in ESP. There is nothing you need to do and the work should appear in your regular collection around two weeks after the submission brief deadline.”

What does this mean? In short, it means if your images are not selected by the Custom Content Brief customer you will be able to use them in your stock portfolio (if the images meet the requirements of the collection).

Does this make Custom Content Briefs more attractive? In theory, yes. By having those ‘unsuccessful’ images in a stock portfolio there is a potential financial return.

tram

Getty will need to increase the payment for ‘successful’ images for me to consider jumping on board with Custom Content Briefs.

Will I be shooting Custom Content Briefs? At this point, no. I can’t see enough financial upside in shooting a one off project as opposed to a steady flows of royalties from successful stock images. While Getty has addressed one piece of the puzzle they need to address another, and that is the financial return for the successful images.

What other options are there? Imagebrief’s business is built around a model like Custom Content Briefs. I wrote about that in New Ways to Sell Your Images. I see higher potential return in the Imagebrief model than I do in the Getty model. While I’m not planning to shoot for either in the near future, it’s clear to me that it would be more financially lucrative for the photographer to work with Imagebrief. What about you? What do you think of this emerging model of crowd sourced contract work?

Thanks for reading Getty Updates Custom Content Briefs. I hope it’s helped you.

Taking Your Photography Business in a New Direction

It’s not uncommon for photographers to come into the industry with a burning passion for an area of the market, only to find that their early enthusiasm and drive gets worn away over time. This month I’ve been working with a photographer to help her move away from weddings and into pet photography. We’ve been talking about how to make that transition, and how to move from a moderately successful wedding photography business into a very successful pet photography business. Based on those discussions here are 5 tips for taking your photography business in a new direction.

Woman and train

When you are taking your photography business in a new direction, focus on the opportunity in front of you and not on any failures behind you

Tip #1 – Don’t Let Past Performance Define your Future Success

My observation is that most photographers who are changing direction in their photography business are not doing that because they’ve had too much success! While that’s possible, I’ve found that most are changing direction because they’ve lost the passion and drive for the area of the market they initially targeted, and that’s also reflected in the performance of their business.

In the case of the photographer I’ve been helping lately, she has grown tired of long days shooting weddings, managing wedding guests, driving to different locations, working with a wide variety of second shooters, and spending hours editing images. As a result her wedding business is not particularly strong. That is impacting her finances and her self-esteem.

So tip number one – don’t let that current circumstance affect your mental health or your confidence. Take it as feedback that you need to refine your business and refocus – not that success is beyond you.

I wrote this post about an important principle – it’s about progress not perfection. I believe that’s the case for every small business, regardless of the industry you are operating in. If you can adopt the outlook that it is about making progress in your business every day, then success will come your way.

Tip #2 – Be Very Clear on Your Target Market and Commit to It

When you are changing direction in your photography business it is very important to be clear on your target market and commit to it. In the case of the photographer I’ve been helping, she should try to avoid shooting any more weddings if she sees her future in shooting family’s pets.

As she moves into the world of pet photography she needs to clearly define who her potential clients will be. The more detailed she can be, the better. Consider these questions about your ideal client:

  • Where do they live?
  • What types of occupations do they have?
  • What family structure do they have?
  • What socio economic profile are they? What income levels?
  • What is important to them?
  • What type of photographic products do you expect to provide them with?
  • How much do you expect them to spend with you?
  • What do they do in their spare time?
focus

Be specific about your target market. It will bring focus to your business and your actions

Tip #3 – Show appropriate work on your Website and Social Media profiles

Now that you are pushing forward and re-energised we need to make sure that the work we are showing to the world reflects the type of work we want to do, and the type of clients we want to attract.

The photographer I have been working with wants to do studio pet photography. So it’s important that she shows studio based pet photography on her marketing materials. The easiest and arguably the most important are your website and your social media profiles. Resist the temptation to share old wedding work if you see your future in pet photography. Share studio pet images if this is the type of image you are going to build your business on.

Tip #4 – Network in Your New Space

If you want to accelerate your move into a new market, network in that new space. The rewards will justify the effort. Get to know people who share your passion.

Start with making a list of possible networking contacts – for the pet photographer this could be pet stores, dog training schools, vets, animal hospitals, or animal care organisations. Then research which ones are local to you. Visit them. Get to know the people. Ask how your business could support their business or organisation. See if you can refer your clients to them, and ask if they will refer clients to you.

Effectively networking in the new area will accelerate the development of your business.

Juggling

While you take your photography business in a new direction you will have a lot to juggle. Network in your new space to accelerate your business.

Tip #5 – Leverage Your Previous Clients

I’m known for preaching that the key to a successful photography business is a growing number of happy clients. Don’t complicate things. Ask yourself – today, do I have more happy clients than I had last month?

When you are looking to move your photography business into a different area, leverage those strong client relationships. Get in touch with the couple whose wedding you shot last September and explain that you are moving into pet photography and ask if they know people who’d appreciate your style of images. People like to make referrals to their friends. Use this to your advantage and ask them to help you establish a new direction for your business. Those strong client relationships you’ve built up are an asset to you and your business. Use them as you move your business in a new direction.

Other resources

I’m a regular reader of Cole’s Classroom. It is an online resource covering a wide variety of photography topics. They recently had an interesting post about when you are trying to grow your photography business in a new geographic location. Check out 5 Tips For Growing Your Photography Business in a New Area.

If you are considering repositioning your photography business I hope that Taking Your Photography Business in a New Direction has been useful for you. Happy shooting!

Getty Launches Custom Content Briefs

In July 2017 many Getty and iStock photographers were advised of a new initiative – Custom Content briefs. This was positioned as a new way for photographers who currently submit to Getty and iStock to earn income.

What are Custom Content Briefs?

According to the communication from Getty “there’s a fast-growing market for brand imagery that is shot for clients on demand, but which is very different from a traditional commissioned shoot. With our vast customer base and your talent, we’re in a unique position to lead this rising market and grow revenue and royalties”.

Getty will send briefs to select contributors stating that it is for Custom Content. Again, directly from the Getty communication “the brief will explain the content need and any tips that could help”.

What are we likely to see in the Custom Content briefs? and what do I think?

The Getty brief says customers are asking for:

“Simple, easy to shoot, highly relevant topics. The content is meant to be loose and authentic, so making the images should be fast and easy.” This sounds just like the modern trend in stock photography. Less in the studio on a white background, and more with real people engaged in authentic activity. Nothing really new here.

Melbourne, Australia

Custom Content briefs are likely to want real people and authentic settings

“Customers come to us looking for large sets of imagery, in a variety of styles, on a specific theme or subject that fits their brand.” Ok, this is starting to sound different to the imagery Getty and iStock are known for. As a stock photographer I would typically try to shoot a wide variety of content in a single shoot. I wouldn’t necessarily be trying to shoot what this outline asks for. I can see the business need here. It’s not likely to be met by current stock libraries and represents an opportunity to get a better outcome for the customer.

“They often have very specific needs, for example that the images contain their product or are taken in specific countries or cities.” There are lots of stock briefs requesting content from specific locations, so that element is not new. But including their products is very new. Previously I would have avoided showing any branded product (so that it could be approved to be part of the main iStockphoto royalty free collection).

They typically want the imagery cleared for commercial use (released).” This is normal practice for stock photography, and makes sense here as the customer is likely to be a business who will want to use the images in a commercial context.

“They want to license this imagery exclusively.” Again this is new ground for Getty and iStock. The model of stock photography has traditionally been low prices and images which will be bought by multiple customers. In this case they are saying that the customer will purchase exclusive rights for the images.

Man in Melbourne

Custom Content briefs seem to be a form of crowd sourced contract work

So what’s the concept here?

The idea of Custom Content briefs seems to be a hybrid of crowd sourced contract work. This type of content would not have previously been met by image libraries, and a client would have had to contract a photographer to shoot this imagery. Getty’s Custom Content briefs look like they are trying to marry their relationship with a large number of clients, with their relationship with a large number of photographers for mutual benefit.

If it is successful, the client, photographer, and Getty are all likely to benefit. And equally, photographers who were previously shooting this content on contract to the client will be the losers. Their corporate client will be partnering with Getty and their photographer community, and no longer directly with the photographer.

In many ways, this concept is similar to the model operated by ImageBrief. For details, please see this earlier post on Beyond Here New Ways to Sell Your Images.

How will submissions work? and where will the images be displayed?

When responding to a brief, photographers will upload content through the Getty Images portal ESP. I see what Getty are thinking here, they will leverage their existing technology capability to open up a new market. From the photographers point of view this is straight forward as they are already familiar with ESP for their stock content uploads. They just need to add the brief code to the upload process so that Getty know it is content in response to the brief.

Where will the content be displayed? This is where things change. Instead of displaying on the Getty or iStock site for clients to purchase, these images will be “routed to the customer to review“.

If the customer buys your content – great – the photographer will earn an income. One point which Getty have not yet clarified for photographers is whether ‘unsuccessful’ content submissions can then be used in stock portfolios (if the images meet the criteria).

What’s the financial incentive for photographers?

Getty’s communication indicates “pricing will range based on the volume of images being requested by the customer – we expect to have a licence fee of between $200 and $400 per image.” And what will photographers get? “You will receive your standard royalties (in the case of iStock Exclusives this will be your iStock tiered rate).”

Those iStock exclusive tiered rates are from 25% to 45%.

If we take a rate in the middle (35%) that means iStock Exclusive contributors can expect to earn between $70 and $140 per image. (Getty have not advised the currency but we can safely assume they are talking about US dollars given they are a US based company).

Business woman

Early feedback from iStock photographers says they are skeptical about the potential financial return

What is the early feedback on the concept?

Taking a small sample of iStock photographers – those contributing to the iStock / Getty community forums – the initial feedback is largely negative. Most have a view that earnings per image won’t justify the time, money and effort to invest in the shoot.

Can the concept work?

I’m a glass half full person, and I would say that yes, the concept can work. It appears to be working for ImageBrief and their clients, and it can work for Getty too.

From my perspective, making the concept work will depend on Getty making sure the right clients are using Custom Content briefs.

I would see a client wanting just one image and wanting to pay $300 will not work as the photographer will receive between $75 and $135 depending on their royalty rate. From my own point of view I expect my stronger stock files to produce more income than this and so would choose to shoot stock ahead of Custom Content briefs.

However, if a client wants 25 images at $200 each that’s a $5000 shoot for which the photographer would receive between $1250 and $2250. Depending on the quality of the brief I would consider shooting to a brief that offered this potential return. I would be even more likely to if any ‘unsuccessful’ images (ie not bought by the client) could then be used in my stock portfolio.

So?

Getty intends the first Custom Content briefs to be issued soon. Time will tell whether the concept will work, but I have a view that it can. Do you share that view? Do you plan to shoot for Custom Content briefs?