Tag Archives: stock photography

4 Lessons from this Month’s Stock Photo Sales

I have written extensively about stock photography for Beyond Here, and it continues to be a core part of my photography business. I shoot a lot and often have several stock photo series on the go at once. As a contributor to iStockphoto sales are reported once a month (around the 20th of each month) and payment is also made once per month (by the 25th). We are now near the end of August 2017 and so I’ve just received sales reports and payment for July 2017. July is often a fairly weak month (read this post on What is the Summer Slowdown in Stock Photography) but this year July has been my second best month of the year. Why would that be? I’ve done some analysis and here are 4 lessons from this month’s stock photo sales.

Let’s look at the analysis first.


graph

51% of my iStock sales generated a royalty of less than USD $1 each

For the month of July you can see that I had a lot of downloads where the royalty I received was very small. For just over half of my downloads (51% to be precise) the royalty I received for the client licencing my image was less than USD $1. It’s scary how little the photographer makes from these downloads. For 30% of my downloads I received between USD $1 and $5. For 10% of the downloads I received a royalty of USD $5 – $20, for 4 downloads I received a royalty between USD $20 and $100, and for 2 downloads I received a royalty of more than USD $100.

graph

Royalty income of between $5 and $20 per download generated one third of total royalties

When we turn that into total revenue you can see that the 51% of downloads which generate a royalty of less than $1 combine to add up to just 6% of my total royalty income for the month. And at the other end of the spectrum, 2 large sales account for more than 10%.

When we combine these, you get the picture below.

graph

Royalties of over $5 represented 13% of total downloads, but 70% of total royalties

So what does this all mean? And what are the 4 lessons from this month’s stock photo sales?

Lesson 1 – Expect volatility in your monthly stock photo income.

A few large sales had a significant impact on my royalty income for the month. Without those larger sales July would have been very mediocre. Unfortunately those larger sales don’t happen every month, and so there is going to be a lot of volatility in monthly royalty income. The larger and more diverse your portfolio is, the less volatility you will have. And a smaller portfolio with a narrower range of content is likely to have much higher volatility.

I have more than 10,000 images in my portfolio and still experience a lot of volatility.

Lesson 2 – Higher value sales do still happen

My highest royalty from an individual sale this month was USD $114. That is a good royalty from the sale of just one file. I’d prefer if these types of royalties occurred more often but it is nice to know they still happen.

Lesson 3 – Larger sales happen in unique collections

My larger sales this month all happened through the Getty Images website rather than the iStockphoto site or partner program sites. To get images onto the Getty website I upload through iStockphoto and nominate them into the Signature+ collection. If they are approved in the Signature+ collection they are automatically mirrored onto the Getty website. So getting more images into Signature+ is important for generating higher value sales.

Lesson 4 – There’s no money to be made at the low price, high volume end of the market

51% of my total sales this month generated very little income. Most of those sales were of very generic imagery where there is high demand but also high supply. While it’s nice to have your work downloaded, my experience is that there is no money to be made in low price, high volume generic images. I’m going to continue to focus on unique imagery and leave this end of the market to others.

It was nice to have a strong royalty income month in July. I hope the 4 lessons from this month’s stock photo sales are helpful in your own stock photography journey. Keep shooting!

 

Six Great Reminders from this Stock Photo Shoot

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know I have been shooting an extended series on Melbourne lifestyle for my stock photo portfolio with iStockphoto and Getty Images. This winter I’ve stepped up my effort in this series and am building a wide range of material. Of course, not all shoots go fantastically well – but last weekend’s was excellent and has prompted me to write about the six great reminders from this stock photo shoot.

Before I take you through the six great reminders from this stock photo shoot you may like to check out other posts related to this series. You can find them at City Stock Photo Shoot Explained and Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional.

So, let me tell you about this shoot. It was conducted early on a Saturday morning. We met at 8am on a cold but sunny winter day. First of all, we completed the model release, made payment to the model and then sat and discussed the shoot. From there we walked (and talked!) and shot various concepts around Melbourne city. And here are the six great reminders from this stock photo shoot.

Woman in Melbourne

Alicia arrived wearing a hat and scarf which communicate a strong winter theme

Great Reminder 1. Wardrobe is Really Important to Communicate a Message. For most of the shoots in this series I’ve encouraged the models to dress like they were going for a day in the city with friends. When Alicia arrived wearing a scarf and beanie it immediately communicated a winter theme. I like that it anchors these images to winter. Here in Melbourne we don’t think it gets very cold in winter, but the rest of Australia think we freeze. The wardrobe in these images help to communicate the message that it does get cold in winter, and it is still possible to have an active, vibrant outdoor life at this time of year. Nice work on wardrobe Alicia!

Great Reminder 2. Facial Expressions Can Really Make or Break Stock Images. Some models struggle to communicate a message with their facial expression. Others, like Alicia, really get this concept and can pull off a wide range of different facial expressions. This provides great variety in the images, and allows the photographer to shoot different themes with different messages. Another great job Alicia!

Melbourne laneways

Location helps communicate the essence of the city. Here we explore Melbourne laneways.

Great Reminder 3. Location Helps Capture the Essence. Melbourne is well known for its lane ways which are often full of shops, bars and cafes. Taking time to shoot in these locations helps to really capture the essence of the city. In this case, shooting in the small backstreets on a Saturday morning meant we could shoot a range of images which show Alicia exploring this part of the city. Because it was early morning there were not many people around which makes it easier to capture images without people in the background.

Great Reminder 4. Don’t Shoot All Images with the Model Smiling. Alicia has a great smile, and I encouraged her to smile more. But, some of the strongest images in this shoot came when she was looking thoughtful or pensive or bored! For those shooting stock, keep in mind that the broader range of messages you can incorporate into your images, the more likely your images are to be purchased. Encourage your model to express how they feel, but don’t shoot all your images with the model smiling.

Serious

Happy, smiley images have their place. Expand your potential market by also shooting different facial expressions.

Great Reminder 5. Exploring and Shooting Your Own City is Cool. I know the Melbourne CBD area quite well and enjoy walking around creating images which capture the essence of the city. In this shoot we walked around some areas I know well, and it is fun and challenging to find new ways to shoot in familiar areas. Don’t be afraid to explore new parts of your city, but equally, don’t be afraid to revisit familiar areas and shoot them in a different way.

Great Reminder 6. Shooting Stock Images Can be a lot of Fun. Within 20 minutes of starting this shoot, experience told me that this was going to be a successful range of images. Alicia is a very natural model. She also took interest in the images we were creating, and where we hadn’t got it quite right she was happy to re-shoot that image before we moved on. This shoot lasted 2 hours where we walked a lot, talked a lot, shot a lot, rode on the tram, and before I knew it the 2 hours was up. It was a very fun 2 hours, with a very capable model, and I now have a wide range of Melbourne lifestyle images to add to my stock portfolio.

Thanks for reading six great reminders from this stock photo shoot. I hope it is helpful for your own shoots. Best wishes.

Five Lessons From Fine Art America

This week I had a sale of a print on Fine Art America. It was one of the extensive range of images I have shot of grey headed flying foxes. The image itself shows the animal flying in mid air with the sun showing the veins in its wings. It’s a cool image, and it will look great as a large print for the US based buyer. I have written lots of posts for Beyond Here about stock photography, but very little about my experience with Fine Art America. Here are five lessons from Fine Art America.

Flying fox

This image is similar to the one which sold on FAA this week. A magnificent animal with the sun shining through its wings

What is Fine Art America? FAA is a website where artists can post their work for sale. Unlike stock libraries where buyers purchase the electronic image and a licence to use it, on FAA the buyer is purchasing a print or other physical product. FAA works with printers and other product manufacturers around the world to produce the final product and ship it to the buyer.

So here are my five lessons from Fine Art America.

Lesson 1 – You need to promote your own work. FAA has not been a source of significant income for me as I’ve treated it like an image library – in that I upload my content and expect the buyer to do the rest. In my experience those who are doing well on FAA are actively promoting their content. They are adding links to their social media feeds and encouraging followers to check out their content. So the lesson is that you need to promote your own work, don’t rely on FAA to do that for you.

Lesson 2 – Set your own prices. One of the key differences between FAA and image libraries is that on FAA you can set your own prices. That means you can determine the margin or amount of money you want to make on each sale. FAA has a well organised back end system where you can set prices for individual files or for groups of files. If you intend to make a significant income through FAA it is worth investing the time to price your content appropriately.

flying bat

Grey headed flying fox in mid air

Lesson 3 – Income per sale will be high. While I don’t have a lot of files on FAA each sale represents a reasonable sized income. In the case of this week’s sale (I only had the one sale on FAA this week!) the income from this one sale is the equivalent to 30 sales of my stock images. So while the number of sales is lower, the income per sale is high.

Lesson 4 – There is still a market for prints and other physical products. It’s nice to remind ourselves once in a while that the era of physical products is not dead. People still want prints to hang on the walls of their homes or office, and increasingly there is a market for new physical products. (Before this print sale, my previous 2 sales on FAA were for smart phone covers.)

Lesson 5 – You need to continue to add new content. Just like a stock photo portfolio you can’t expect a growth in income without adding new content. I haven’t been very active in adding to my FAA portfolio and this is reflected in low levels of income. To state the obvious, to grow your income stream you need to keep adding new content.

fruit bat

Grey headed flying fox carrying it’s baby

My income from FAA is far below my income from stock images. (For background on stock photography please see Why I Shoot Stock). Having a nice big sale this week was a useful reminder of the potential of FAA as a sales outlet for photographers.

Do you contribute to FAA? What has been your experience?

Thanks for reading five lessons from Fine Art America. Happy shooting.

Five Months After iStock Unification

The end of this month marks 5 months since the iStock unification with Getty Images (you can read more about that process here). Where I live in Melbourne, Australia the end of this month also marks the end of the financial year which is a good time to assess the changes at iStock. So here it is – a review, five months after iStock unification.

I’ve divided this up to consider key elements of being an iStock contributor.

Element 1 – The File Upload Process. Prior to February 2017 there were 2 main ways to upload – either directly through the iStock site or via an application called DeepMeta. I had always uploaded directly to the iStock site. Since unification with Getty Images there are now three main ways to upload – via DeepMeta, via qHero or directly into the Getty Images ESP site. I have been using qHero and find it a very easy and efficient way to submit files. I consider the upload process an improvement on the old way.

happy

qHero is an easy and efficient uploading tool

Element 2 – Key wording. Key wording your stock images can be an arduous process. I find keywording batches of files in qHero very easy and again would consider this an improvement.

Element 3 – Inspection Times. The time taken to review files have been a major step forward since the unification. As an exclusive contributor my files are often reviewed within minutes of being uploaded. In the last 5 months I can’t recall any file taking more than 12 hours to review. This is an improvement. So have these 3 elements have been an improvement – good job Getty Images and iStock! Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends.

Element 4 – Downloads. Yes, this is what we are submitting files to microstock sites for – to have users download our images and to generate an income. My total number of uploads has increased thanks to the easy to use upload process using qHero. My download numbers have remained static. That’s a little disappointing but I’m trusting that those downloads will come. My experience is one of not improving or declining since unification.

Element 5 – Download Statistics. iStock used to offer real time reporting of downloads and royalties and the ability to request payment once per week. This was great for contributors but is unfortunately a thing of the past. Today we get payment once per month, and the reporting is vastly inferior to what was offered 5 years ago. Unfortunately whatever money was saved in the unification process has not yet been funneled into better reporting for contributors. iStock continue to advise that this is being worked on as a matter of high priority, but as at today, this remains a point of frustration for contributors. Currently this is inferior to what was offered before unification.

Market

Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne

Element 6 – Royalty Income for Contributors. This refers to my own income only, which is down on last year. That means that despite the improvements for contributors and buyers on the iStock website, my income from iStock is below where it was before unification. That might be driven by changes in the market for stock images, or more likely by the prices being charged to buyers and the corresponding royalty received by contributors. Unfortunately at this point for me, the royalty I’m achieving is below what I was achieving before unification. Many other exclusive contributors are having the same experience. I’m hopeful this situation will reverse and am focusing on contributing more unique content. Time will tell.

Are you an iStock contributor? What is your experience?

Thanks for reading Five Months After iStock Unification.

Thoughts on iStock Exclusivity in 2017

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

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

Money

Stock photography can generate a significant ongoing income

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

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

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

strategy

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

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

Why did I make this suggestion?

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

Many iStock exclusive contributors have had to rethink their plan

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

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

City Stock Photo Shoot Explained

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is a wrap on this stock photo shoot.

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

 

StarNow My First Experience

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

Melbourne tram

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

What is StarNow?

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

How did the listing go?

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

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

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

Melbourne

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

What has the response been?

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

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

Developing Multiple Photography Income Streams

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

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

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

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

Bride

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

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

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

Home studio

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

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

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

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

Businesswoman sitting on the ground

Adding to my stock portfolio helps create a future income stream

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

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

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

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

Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional

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

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

Business frustration

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

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

For this shoot we worked in my small studio.

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

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

Whistleblower

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

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

Confused

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

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

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

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

Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decisions

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

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

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

iStock Unification One Week Along

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

money

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

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

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

Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

sale

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

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

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

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

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