Category Archives: Craig’s Comments

Comments from Craig

Letter to Mark Getty from an iStock Contributor

I have been reading in Petapixel that Getty Images to be Fully Controlled by the Getty Family Once Again. According to that article the Getty family have taken a majority stake in the business, and will take full control. Mark Getty led the negotiation and purchase on behalf of the Getty family. I know very little about the broader Getty Images business, but I have been a contributor to iStock since 2008. I used to love iStock and the high volume, low price business model. With major changes to iStock over recent years it no longer looks like the site I joined in 2008. With this post, it’s time to write a letter to Mark Getty from an iStock contributor outlining the issues and to make suggestions to make iStock great again. 

“G’day Mark,


My name is Craig Dingle. I live in Melbourne, Australia and have been an iStock contributor since 2008. I’ve been reading in Petapixel that the Getty family has taken a majority stake and full control of the Getty Images business. I’m sure you are doing that as you see potential for a good investment. In the stock photography side of the business, and specifically iStock, I see considerable potential but not on the current trajectory. I’ve outlined the issues and potential solutions from a contributors point of view.

Background

When I first joined iStock it was a vibrant community made up of photographers from around the world. iStock was known as the micro stock industry leader, and for the high quality content on the site. It was a badge of honor to be an exclusive iStock contributor. There was a dynamic contributor forum, and contributors who were submitting strong content were making a considerable income. That’s not the case today.

money

Up until 2012/13 contributors could make a significant income in microstock

Where it All Changed

Many things have changed about iStock since 2008.

Where the fundamental shift occurred was when iStock stopped selling licences to contributors images – and starting selling subscriptions. At this point, the most important change in iStock history happened. The interests of iStock and contributors were no longer aligned.

iStock is interested in selling subscriptions. I can see why. With a subscription iStock’s monthly income will fluctuate much less than if it were based on a percentage of image sales revenue.

Where is the misalignment? The contributor is still receiving a percentage of the amount to licence their image.

In my case, I was exclusive and on a 35% royalty. I decided to drop exclusivity last year and now receive 15% royalty as an independent contributor. That means I see many royalties of less than USD$0.20 per download. The lowest royalty I have received for a download is US$0.02. (Some contributors report seeing royalties of US$0.01 but I haven’t had one of these – yet!)

Contributor Royalty Rates Versus other Microstock Libraries

So, one issue is the misalignment of Getty Images interests with contributors interests. The second issue is how the royalties are structured and what it means in royalty per download for your contributors.

Contributors are sometimes receiving US$0.02 royalty when a customer licences one of their images via iStock. Let’s let that settle in for a moment. It’s worth repeating. Contributors are sometimes receiving US$0.02 royalty when a customer licences one of their images via iStock.

iStock’s major competitors overcome this by offering minimum royalties. I now contribute to Shutterstock. My minimum royalty there is US$0.33. It’s not much per download, but it is 16 times higher than iStock is paying on some downloads. iStock is paying contributors much lower royalties per download than the other major microstock agencies.

What’s the Implication of Paying Contributors so Little?

At the level of an individual contributor – the implication for me is that it no longer makes financial sense to contribute images to iStock which have any cost of production. That means I only contribute content that has cost me nothing to produce.

All my other content goes to other agencies where there is a greater financial reward for the contributor.

Again, let’s pause and let that settle in.

Melbourne lifestyle

My stock photography has focused on lifestyle content in the last 3 years. I don’t upload it to iStock as the financial returns are not there.

Other contributors will be in the same boat. I expect that iStock – previously the market leader in microstock – is becoming a dumping ground for contributors of low cost of production images. That’s not likely to make any difference to the iStock collection or business in the short term. But in the long term, iStock risks being the low quality, low price image library. I presume you’ll need to do massive volumes to make that business model work.

Contributor Reporting

An outcome of the royalty structure is that iStock contributors see a major delay in reporting. We get visibility of what content has been licensed at what prices on the 20th of the following month. So for August sales, I see reports on the 20th of September.

Mark, I imagine Getty Images has a monthly board meeting in the middle of each month. I imagine financial results are tabled at that meeting plus management commentary for the previous month. Can you see the irony here?

While Getty Images reviews the previous month’s financial results, contributors are still waiting for their financial reports.

To compound the issue for iStock – your competitors are miles ahead in this area. Each time one of my files is licensed on Shutterstock I get instant notification on my smart phone. It tells me which image was downloaded, what my royalty was, and the total amount Shutterstock now owe me.

The process I take to receive the same information on iStock is – wait until the 20th of the following month to receive data. Then, I download a text file. I save it to my computer desktop. Then I upload it to Qhero stats function to see what has sold for what amounts.

Shutterstock is leaving iStock behind by making it easier for contributors to run their business.

New Content Visibility

When I look at the Qhero stats functionality I see it is mainly my old files which customers are licensing. I’m not getting a return on recent files, which is a major disincentive to upload new content. You can read more about that in this post iStock Shutterstock Comparison.

iStock has identified issues with ‘search freshness’ but there is no evidence that it is taking action. The lack of sales of recent content is a further disincentive for contributors to add fresh material.

Melbourne lifestyle

My new stock content is going to other stock libraries, not iStock

Priorities to Make iStock Great Again

I have more than 10,000 files on iStock so I have a vested interest in seeing that business succeed. As the Getty family take majority ownership and full control, these are my suggestions for priorities to make iStock great again.

Priority 1 – Align the Interests of Contributors with iStock. When a customer licences an image (who’s copyright belongs to the contributor) there must be a financial benefit to the contributor as well as to Getty / iStock. Please don’t suggest that US$0.02 is a fair financial benefit to the contributor.

Priority 2 – Get Serious about Reporting for Contributors. Ironically, iStock doesn’t have a business without contributors content. We are partners. iStock need my content, and I need iStock’s distribution strength. If you want me to produce current, fresh content, you are going to need to build reporting which supports that.

Priority 3 – Find Ways to Reward High Quality Content. The first 2 priorities are the necessary first steps. Priority 3 must be finding ways to reward high quality content. I can tell you directly that I won’t invest in paying models, hiring venues, and paying assistants to receive US$0.02 per download. If the iStock team think back to the high quality collections of the past (Vetta and Signature+) these were real incentives for contributors to excel.

Priority 4 – Clarify the Business Model. iStock is getting confused as to whether it is an image library for royalty free content, or a broker of contract work between customers and contributors. The Custom Content initiative would not be happening if the core stock photography model worked better for contributors and customers. I see this as a distraction from iStock’s core business.

Conclusion

Mark, I genuinely want the iStock business to be successful – and much more successful than it is now. I would love to be proudly telling people I’m an iStock contributor. That’s not the case today, and I fear that the current trajectory means poor outcomes for contributors in the short term, and for the iStock business model in the medium term.

I hope the Getty family taking majority ownership and full control is an opportunity to steer the ship on a new course.

Kind regards,

Craig Dingle”

Note, I don’t really expect Mark to read this content, nor to respond. But I hope that it is helpful for photographers considering stock photography options to understand the current market and make decisions appropriate for their goals. Thanks for reading this letter to Mark Getty from an iStock contributor.

Photographing Different Commercial Jobs

This year I have been growing my business in sports and stock photography, and winding back slightly my wedding photography commitments. Over the last 3 weeks I’ve been asked to shoot two different commercial jobs, one for a bathroom renovation business and one for a cookie business. I often find myself in a dilemma about whether I should be photographing different commercial jobs.

Where Do These Jobs Come From?

I get these requests from personal relationships or referrals. The bathroom renovation business came across me at a recent sports shoot. You can read about that shoot in More Win Win Win Photography Ideas. The owner’s son attends that gymnastics club and made contact with me after the event.

The cookie business is run by an old friend of mine. He was visiting Melbourne and we caught up for breakfast. In the course of discussion he outlined that he needed images of his product as they have new packaging. Naturally, he asked if I could help.

product photography shoot

My simple set up for shooting boxes of cookies on a white background

Why the Dilemma?

I know that these clients want to deal with someone they know and trust. That’s why they’ve asked me to help.

The dilemma is twofold. First is that my business plan is to grow in sports and stock photography. Work outside of that is not helping achieve my business goals. Second is that I don’t regularly shoot this style of content. While I can produce acceptable results, I’m sure they could achieve stronger images by working with a photographer who specializes in the type of work they need.

What Did I Do?

For both of these jobs I decided to go ahead but for different reasons.

For the bathroom renovation business I considered that they will have ongoing work and need those jobs completed at specific times. I like clients like this, as most of the work is mid week when my team and I have availability. On top of this, they were nice people and make payment promptly. I like doing business with people like this.

For the cookie business, I took this job as it was for an old friend. So I’ve ended up photographing different commercial jobs for 2 clients this month.

Cookies

This is the type of image produced for the cookie business.

What Do I Expect for the Future?

The bathroom renovation business will need images each time they complete a job. I expect ongoing work from them. I am planning that I won’t shoot all of these myself, but will outsource some to other photographers depending on the location of the property, the time frame for the job, and my own workload.

The cookie business I expect to be a one off job and don’t expect any ongoing work. My friend lives in another country so it was just chance that he was visiting Melbourne and had his products with him. That might be a good thing as I wouldn’t want cookies and photos to mess up a great friendship!

What If I Don’t Want to Shoot this Type of Job?

If you are a regular reader of Beyond Here you’ll know I have a simple mantra of making sure the customer is happy. If I didn’t want to shoot these jobs, or was not able to, I would refer them to a photographer who could help them. In that sense I would help solve the customer’s problem even if it didn’t benefit my business. You never know when goodwill generated by helping a customer will generate additional business.

What Would You Do?

Do you face the dilemma of photographing different commercial jobs? Are they a distraction to your main business? What do you do?

How to Ruin Potential Sales

Lately I seem to be particularly sensitive to poorly targeted promotions which leave me feeling like a number rather than a client or partner. I’ve called this post ‘how to ruin potential sales’ as the people who send me these promotions are ruining their chance of me buying from them.

So What Are We Talking About?

Yesterday I received an email promotion from qHero. If you aren’t familiar with qHero – they are a business which offer services for stock photographers. I have been using qHero to upload stock images to iStockphoto since early 2017. More recently they started offering a stats feature and a retouching service. You can read about that in this post – qHero Stats Feature.

Flinders Street

I shoot a lot of Melbourne lifestyle stock content, so am a potential customer to qHero retouching service

What Was the Content?

Taken directly from the email, here is the offer from qHero.

“Retouching Special – 50% Off

With the summer over us, we feel that at least you should get to enjoy the sun. We know how much time and effort retouching takes, and it seems even longer during the summer. Whether the time is spent on managing retouchers inhouse or outsourced, or even worse doing the retouching yourself, it is guaranteed to keep you out of the sun.

We offer you 50% off on up to 200 files in retouching.

Convert the time saved from retouching, into time in the sun, makes it an easy choice. We are happy because we get to show you how awesomely easy it is to manage retouching directly in the tool you use already for uploading.

All you have to do is to use the promo code XXXXXXXX when ordering. This promo is valid until August 31st 2018, and as always we would love to hear what you think after trying our retouching service.”

Why is This Going to Ruin Potential Sales

This is going to ruin potential sales as it is poorly targeted!

I live in Melbourne, Australia where it is currently mid winter. It’s dark, cold and wet. At this time of year we spend more time indoors, and I spend some of that time doing post production work.

The idea of “convert time saved from retouching into time in the sun” is a nice idea, but would require me to book airline tickets and head to the airport! Hello Queensland or Fiji!

weather Melbourne

Today was a maximum of 12 degrees celsius in Melbourne. It’s not exactly summery right now!

What’s My Take Out from the qHero Email

I understand that the bulk of qHero customers will be in the northern hemisphere where it is currently summer. However, as they’ve sent me a summer promotion in the middle of winter it leaves me to think:

  • they don’t care about customers in the southern hemisphere
  • qHero don’t want customers in the southern hemisphere
  • they don’t have much attention to detail. (It would be ironic not have much attention to detail for a retouching service!)
  • although I have 10,000+ images at iStock and have uploaded more than 300 batches of images through qHero, I am just another ‘anonymous user’ to them

So, unfortunately qHero have ruined the chance of a sale by sending me a poorly targeted email promotion.

What Can We Learn

I am a believer that every business, big and small, can learn from experiences like this. I run a one person photography business, and many of the readers of Beyond Here are also running one person creative businesses. We have an advantage over big businesses because all of our customers are local. There’s no chance of me sending a summer promotion to a customer in mid winter (unless they have moved overseas without me knowing!) While it’s not likely that local businesses can make this ‘mistake’ there are lessons to learn.

Female tram traveller

Right now it’s cold in Melbourne. People are wearing coats and hats. Not quite the right time for a summer promotion email

Key Take Outs

I see three key take outs from this experience.

Number 1 – Personalize offers where possible. Being offered a summer promotion in the middle of winter tells me this is a mass mailing to a large number of people. Immediately I know that it is not targeted to me. Small business owners who really know their customers won’t make this mistake.

Number 2 – Know your customer. In this case, it seems qHero haven’t taken the time to really know their customer. I can’t remember whether I provided location information when I signed up for their upload service. I expect I didn’t. But I have uploaded more than 300 batches of images to iStock through qHero ….. and more than 290 of those batches would have the keyword “Australia”. A similar number would have the keywords “Melbourne” and “Victoria”. It would be fair to assume that I live in Australia based on those numbers. And right now in Melbourne it’s definitely not summer.

Number 3 – Don’t treat everyone the same. This point is similar to point 1 where we can learn to personalize offers. I wonder if qHero segmented their users based on how often they upload through qHero? or how many batches they upload? It feels to me like they didn’t, and that reinforces the lesson – don’t treat everyone the same.

The Wrap Up

I hope there are some key messages in here which will help your business and will make sure you don’t ruin potential sales. If you have had a similar experience, please share it in the comments. And finally, if the good people at qHero ever read this post, I think your upload and stats services are great. In your promotions I’m much more likely to buy something if you make me feel like a client or a partner. Thanks for reading ‘How to Ruin Potential Sales’.

Fresh Perspectives on My Hometown

Last month I had a unique photographic opportunity. I had previously worked with a young woman who is training to be a commercial pilot. Several years ago we had done a successful stock photo shoot. We’ve kept in touch since then, and last month she asked if I would be interested in a scenic flight over my hometown, with her as the pilot of course! I jumped at the opportunity for fresh perspectives on my hometown.

Melbourne scenic view

Fresh perspectives on my hometown. Melbourne and Albert Park Lake from 1500 feet.

Flying is very weather dependent and on our first attempt we had to cancel due to the hazy conditions and their impact on visibility. We rescheduled for 3 days later, and although the conditions were still hazy, we were able to fly.

pilot and aircraft

My pilot and aircraft

My expert pilot completed the necessary paperwork on the ground and we took off for a 40 minute flight around Melbourne. We headed from Moorabin Airport toward the Westgate Bridge, then flew around the north side of the city including great views of the MCG and Melbourne Park. We completed this circuit twice. I was grateful for several delays as air traffic control asked us to circle more than once. It gave me the opportunity to photograph the views, and the pilot in action.

Melbourne Cricket Ground

Seeing the MCG from above was unique

I shoot a lot of Melbourne lifestyle stock images and seeing the city from above was unique. I appreciated the fresh perspectives on my hometown. It was refreshing to shoot content which was completely new to me.

Aerial shot of Albert Park Lake

Looking down on Albert Park Lake

Reflections

On reflection, it is easy to get into a photographic rut where we shoot similar content all the time. I find this with wedding photography and also with my stock photography. Do you find this too?

It was good to shoot something new – something I didn’t know well. It was refreshing to be a ‘beginner’ at aerial photography and to see things in an entirely new way. Making multiple laps of the city gave me time to experiment with several angles and subjects. It was fun.

New Perspectives

This gave me fresh perspectives on my hometown. Do you need a fresh perspective? Have you considered shooting something completely new?

Female pilot

The pilot expertly guided as back to home base

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know I shoot a lot of kids basketball. I find I can get into a rut with basketball as well, as I know the game well and know the best spots to position myself. This week I’m going to shoot something new again – a gymnastics competition. I’m fully expecting that being a beginner at gymnastics photography will be fun and will help me experiment in ways which will help the other shoots I do.

Thanks for reading fresh perspectives on my hometown. I hope you can find something new and challenging to shoot this week. Have fun!

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.

 

Imagebrief Terminate Services

Almost exactly one year ago I wrote a post for Beyond Here called New Ways to Sell Your Images. It looked at a site called Imagebrief which was connecting image buyers with photographers by providing written briefs. My final point in that post raised the question Will It Be Successful? Today that question has been answered. Overnight I’ve received an email announcing the end – Imagebrief terminate services.

Plan

Their plan seems to have fallen over. News overnight that Imagebrief terminate services

Directly from the announcement where Imagebrief terminate services

“Dear Craig,

Today, we’re announcing that after six years of connecting agencies, brands and creators, we will be closing down ImageBrief’s photographer marketing services.

We’re proud of the products and apps we built, but even more so, we’re grateful for the community that enabled them to grow. More than 70,000 creators earned millions of dollars collaborating with 12,500+ global agencies and brands in 169 countries.

There has never been a better time for creators to thrive. Demand for content has increased, and the tools to create world-class creative are more accessible than ever.

Our talented team of engineers, designers, developers, and curators have worked tirelessly to make ImageBrief a success in a competitive and rapidly evolving landscape, and our immediate priority is to help you transition to other services to support your business.

In the coming days, our team will be in contact with you directly with detailed information about your specific account, license history, and services. Over the next week, we recommend logging into ImageBrief to download and retain your license history and related assets. Further details can be found in the FAQ’s below.

We want to thank you for your participation and loyalty, and look forward to working with you in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition.

Sincerely,

Team ImageBrief”

How Will This Impact Individual Photographers?

I had submitted images to a handful of briefs but it was a tiny part of my business.

I know 2 photographers who invested significant time and energy working on briefs for Imagebrief. They were positive about the financial returns they received. Those photographers also felt the briefs directly connected them with the buyer, and gave them a better understanding of the needs of the image buyer.

They will no longer have Imagebrief as a source of income or ideas.

money

Multiple sources of income is an asset to any business

What Can We Take From This?

The email from Imagebrief doesn’t explain why Imagebrief terminate services. I assume the business model was not a financial success.

This reinforces the challenge of working with an online business. If it is not going well, that is very difficult for a photographer to know. I doubt any photographers were wholly relying on Imagebrief for their work and income. If they were, they have very short notice for finding alternatives.

As a business this reinforces the value of having multiple sources of income.

What Other Outlets Does a Photographer Have?

There are significant challenges with the stock photography model and distributing through major stock agencies. However, this is still an easy way to access a global market of image buyers. If you’ve got the time and the commitment to produce a high volume of images, stock photography is still an option.

With the announcement of Imagebrief terminate services it also reinforces to me the value of a photographers relationships in their local community. There is always a pipeline of work, both commercial and domestic, where people want to deal with local people who they know and trust.

map

Investing in local relationships helps produce a pipeline of business

I recently did a shoot for a dentist who runs his own practice. Ironically, he wanted images which did not look like stock images (!) and featured himself and his staff. He asked me to do the work as he knows and trusts me. He didn’t get quotes from other photographers, and he paid my invoice within 3 days of receiving it. That was great value from a strong relationship built over time. Have you been investing in relationships in your local community? Is it providing you a pipeline of work?

For more reading about Imagebrief Terminate Services see this post on PetaPixel – ImageBrief Shuts Down After 6 Years of Trying to Disrupt Stock Photos

Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs

Thank you Beyond Here readers. Beyond Here has been ranked in this list of the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs. Thanks to you for reading Beyond Here, and for sending in your questions and comments.

I’m not sure how many Australian Photography Blogs there are, but being ranked in the top 100 feels good. Beyond Here is ranked at number 87. We have plenty of room to move up in the rankings next year!

Photo Blog

Beyond Here has ranked in the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs

I encourage you to check out the blogs on the list. Australian photographers are doing fascinating work and reading these blogs will give you insight and ideas for your own work. Are you are into wedding, new born, or family photography? If so, you are extra lucky. There are numerous blogs on the list in those genres.

I’ve been through the full list of the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs. I didn’t visit every blog, but I did check out a lot of them. Interestingly, Beyond Here is the only one on the list focused on the business side of photography. Does that mean we can be the self proclaimed Number 1 Australian Business Photography Blog?!

Where to from here?

Starting 2018 I’ve set several objectives for further improving Beyond Here. These include:

  • More frequent posts. As the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs list indicates, Beyond Here has been publishing an average of 2 posts per month. I’m aiming to increase that to 4 posts per month.
  • More emphasis on featured photographers. I find the featured photographers session interesting as it gives me insight into what other photographers are doing. It takes a lot of effort to organize and that’s why there haven’t been many posts to date! Look out for an increase in 2018.
  • Keep gear guides to a minimum. There are many good photography gear websites and blogs. Beyond Here is not one of them! I like to post about new or interesting gear from time to time, but am conscious that our focus is the business side of photography.
  • Share the journey of Melbourne Stock Photos. In January 2018 I launched an image library featuring lifestyle images of my home town. I see photographers setting up image libraries as a real alternative to the small returns offered by the major players in the microstock industry. I’ve had lots of questions about Melbourne Stock Photos already this year, and have committed to sharing the ups and downs of that journey.

I hope you will find plenty of content that is relevant to you and your business. (That way we can feature higher up the list of the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs next year!) Thanks again for being a reader of Beyond Here. If you have specific business issues you would like addressed by Beyond Here, please add a comment to this post or send an email. Thank you.

5 Stock Photography Predictions for 2018

As 2017 draws to a close I have been giving thought to what the new year will bring in the fast changing world of stock photography. Stock photography makes up a considerable portion of my business, and it’s a part of the industry which has changed significantly in the last 5 years. It’s now possible to shoot stock images on your phone and upload them to your image library immediately. There’s options to shoot news worthy current events and upload them while the event is still happening. And there’s the inevitable decline of studio shots on a plain white background (thank goodness!). I’ve wrapped up my thoughts into 5 Stock Photography Predictions for 2018 and outlined what we, as photographers, can do to make the most of these trends.

Prediction #1. The Major Image Libraries are going to Continue to Compete on Scale and Price.

When I say the major image libraries, I’m referring to the big microstock players like iStockphoto, Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Adobe. Their business models are built around offering a huge number of files in one place.

SelfieFor customers, this can be good as they can get all of their image needs in one place. For photographers, it can be very difficult to make your images show up in this vast sea of high volume and low quality images.

Photographers who want to compete using the major microstock libraries to distribute their images will need to keep production costs low and volumes very high. (That sounds like a path to hard work and limited creativity to me).

Prediction #2. Subscription Programs are Going to Continue to Drive Prices Down.

Subscriptions have major benefits for image libraries. With the customer paying the same amount per month, the image library can accurately predict their income in future months. And of course if the customer doesn’t use all of their subscription for the month, most libraries are keeping the customers money and not having to pay a royalty to photographers for that month. That can make it a profitable business for the image libraries.

Subscriptions are very attractive to image libraries and they compete aggressively, particularly to win large clients. Unfortunately subscriptions have also driven down the royalty received per download by photographers.

For the photographer to do well financially in this model – again they will need to keep production costs down and volumes very high. Urrrggghhh.

Prediction #3. Customers are Going to Demand a Better Solution

Predictions #1 and #2 are an extension of the current trends in the stock photography market. It is leading to an influx of ‘low production value’ images. And that influx is in high volumes. Photographers are adding more images in the hope of making up for the reduced royalty per download.

santa hat

Customers are no longer looking for generic images

So where’s this all heading? It is making it harder and harder for customers to find the type of image they need in a short time period. They are getting frustrated with the amount of time it takes to find the image to meet their needs. It’s only going to get worse as the large libraries pass 15 million, then 20 million, then 25 million files.

I’m predicting we will see continued frustration for customers, leading to them looking for alternative solutions.

Prediction #4. There Will be Growing Demand for Authentic Stock Images

What do I mean by ‘authentic stock images’? Several years ago there was a time when a ‘generic’ stock image was enough for a buyer. A generic image would help tell their story. We are seeing those days rapidly pass, with much less demand for studio shots on a white background. What are we seeing instead? We are seeing demand for ‘real life’ settings and ‘real life’ people. We are talking about much less of ‘beautiful models in studios’ and much more ‘everyday people in everyday situations’. I recently heard a saying which sums up this trend – less perfection, more authenticity.

What can photographers do to capitalize on this? Shoot images which communicate ‘less perfection, more authenticity’ and you’ll see your downloads grow.

Prediction #5. The Rise of the Niche Image Library

Prediction #3 says customers are going to look for alternative solutions to their image buying needs. They no longer want to wade through thousands of images to find the one they need. And unfortunately, the major libraries have a lot invested in their current solutions. I predict we are going to see customers, in growing numbers, rejecting those solutions and looking elsewhere.

And where will that be? It will be with niche image libraries. Libraries which don’t offer every image type – but they do offer high quality, relevant images for their niche.

What type of niche am I talking about? It could be anything. It could be country specific. I have started uploading my own files to a library which specializes in Australian content – you can read more about my rationale for moving away from the microstock sites here. It could be industry specific (like tradespeople, or mining, or healthcare). It could be content specific (like wildlife photography).

And these libraries will charge higher prices than the large microstock players do.

Coffee shop

Less perfection, more authenticity. Real people in real situations.

How will niche libraries justify higher prices? By saving customers time in looking for the images they need. Customers will save time using multiple websites from niche libraries. They’d rather do that than spending hours wading through pages and pages of images with the large microstock players. And with higher prices come higher royalties for photographers. And with higher royalties comes more money to invest in shoots, which leads to greater creativity, which leads to better images.

Ultimately it will lead to niche libraries having unique and superior content to the big volume libraries.

How can photographers benefit from this prediction? I’m convinced that niche players and higher prices are the way forward. Photographers would do well to research who those niche libraries are and begin a relationship with them. If you shoot wildlife images, start looking at the niche wildlife libraries. If you shoot urban lifestyle images, look at niche libraries that specialize in this content. You get the idea.

As an aside – how might the major microstock players benefit from this trend? They could be the source of disruption to their own business! Rather than wait for a niche player to grow and get traction, the major players could start niche libraries themselves. Much like the major airlines launched ‘low-cost’ off shoots in the late 1980’s, the major image libraries have the expertise and resources to start the niche libraries themselves. (If you are a Getty Images executive reading this – remember you heard it here first! From one bloke down at the bottom of the world in Melbourne, Australia. Your choices are to watch others do this, or lead the change. Be bold. Disrupt your own business model).

2018 is going to be another challenging year in stock photography. Thanks for reading 5 Stock Photography Predictions for 2018. We’ll check back in 12 months and see how accurate they were! Happy shooting.

 

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!

 

 

Pretty Cool Personalized Camera Strap

This week I celebrated passing a milestone in my stock photography work. I started contributing to iStock in 2008. At that time there was a limit of 15 uploads per week. A lot has changed in stock photography and for iStock itself since then, and this week I had my 10,000th photo added to the collection. So what has that got to do with a pretty cool personalized camera strap? I’ll get to that!

For the last 10 years I’ve been able to average 1000 uploads per year to my stock portfolio in addition to other work. This year I’ve really knuckled down, and have gone from 9,000 to 10,000 photos on iStock in just 5 months.

How have I done that? These 2 posts from Beyond Here helped me make a step change in my stock photography output. Check out How to Drive Change in Your Photography Business and Two Great Sayings Photography Business Owners Should Know.

camera strap

The personalized camera strap arrived in a funky branded box

So where does a pretty cool personalized camera strap come in?

To celebrate the milestone of reaching 10,000 stock images I splashed out on a personalized camera strap from Luckystraps.

I’ve always disliked the branded camera strap which comes with Canon camera bodies. I particularly dislike that the strap has the name of the model on the strap. For potential thieves it makes it very easy to know which camera to try to steal. As a user of full frame camera bodies I’d prefer those potential thieves don’t know the model and value of my camera.

camera strap

Luckystraps are based in Australia but ship worldwide

So this week, I checked out the leather camera straps from Luckystraps. They have an interesting range, and I particularly like the classic look of their leather camera strap. They offer a service to emboss the strap and so I had my name added. It’s a pretty cool personalized camera strap.

Even more impressive was that I ordered the strap on the Tuesday, and it was delivered on Thursday. Nice work.

If you are interested in a personalized camera strap – check out Luckystraps.

Note: It turns out that Luckystraps is run by a guy called Justin in Bendigo, Australia. Bendigo is one of my favorite places in regional Victoria, so I have an instant liking for Justin and his business! As I read more on his website, Justin runs a wedding photography business. Not only is he living in a pretty cool place, he’s involved in a pretty cool business. Good job Justin. Check out the Luckystraps website and get yourself a pretty cool personalized camera strap. (I have no affiliation with Justin or Luckystraps – although I’d like to! It would give me another reason to visit Bendigo!)