When Will Normal Return?

2020 has been a challenging year for so many industries across the world. The cancellation of sports events has had a major impact on my business. We can see light at the end of the tunnel with junior sport recommencing in July 2020. But the recent outbreak of coronavirus in Victoria has cast doubt on those dates, and left many people wondering, when will normal return?

Right now there is a lot of preparation for the return of sport. But will the recent second wave of coronavirus put back those plans?

Surviving the Coronavirus Shutdown

I have spent most of the last 4 months shooting stock images, family portraits, personal projects or organizing my images and filing systems for a time when we return to normal. It has been a challenging time and not one I’d like to repeat soon! (see background Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown)


I’m eagerly looking forward to the return of sports events, so that we can get back to photographing live sport. Like many sports fans, I was optimistic that time will be in July 2020. Now that date looks not so likely.

Although pro sport has re-commenced, Melbourne’s major stadiums remain empty with crowds not allowed

We are experiencing a spike in new coronavirus cases which looks likely to delay a return to normal.

Contingencies

I wish we did not need to think about contingencies! However, it now seems the global health concerns may be with us for some time. We may need to consider our short term plans more closely, and focus less on ‘when will normal return’.

What are your plans? Are you hoping for a quick return to normal? Or an extended time of implementing contingencies?

Shutterstock Makes Major Change to Earnings Structure

This week there has been a significant development in the microstock photography industry. One of the largest players upset many of it’s contributors by revamping their royalty structure. Read on to learn more about what’s happening and the reaction as Shutterstock Makes Major Change to Earnings Structure.

What is Shutterstock Announcing?

Shutterstock is announcing a major change to it’s royalty program for contributors. Previously contributors received a fixed amount for each subscription download depending on their level. The minimum royalty is currently USD$0.25. This week’s announcement moves away from a fixed amount to a percentage (also with different levels).

Contributors reactions have been angry with many proposing boycotting Shutterstock

How have Contributors Reacted?

Contributors have reacted negatively with a fear their income will be reducing. Most controversially, contributors percentage will re-set to the lowest level on 1 January each year. Regardless of your portfolio size and previous level of success, every contributor will re-set to 15% royalty at the beginning of each year.

When will the Changes Take Effect?

The changes will be effective from 1 June 2020. Although it seems barely believable, Shutterstock is introducing a major change with less than one week notice.

From this date, contributors percentage royalty will be based on the level of sales achieved so far in 2020. It will then reset to the minimum 15% from 1 January 2021.

Thoughts?

I have liked the certainty which previously came with a fixed royalty per download. If anything, it provided an incentive for Shutterstock to increase prices over time as this would expand their margins.

Unfortunately it seems they are interested in the same model as Getty / iStock who sell high volumes at very low prices, which in turn means very small royalties per download for contributors.

I believe contributors fears are well founded, and expect we will see a decline for contributors revenue per download.

Many Shutterstock contributors have already de-activated their portfolios in protest at this weeks announcement. We wait to see if and when Shutterstock responds.

Subsequent News

Earlier today another microstock agency, Dreamstime, announced an increase in royalties for contributors. The timing of this announcement can only be in direct competition with Shutterstock as they seek to benefit from the discontent Shutterstock has created with contributors.

Where to From Here?

I am going to wait and see what happens to royalties during June 2020 before deciding what actions to take with my small Shutterstock portfolio. If you are a Shutterstock contributor, what are you planning to do?

Thanks for reading Shutterstock Makes Major Change to Earnings Structure.

Delays with Microstock Image Inspection During Pandemic

Looks like I was speaking too soon! In this post My Microstock Experience During the Coronavirus Pandemic I was outlining that microstock seemed to be largely business as usual. That seems to be changing with delays with microstock image inspection during pandemic. Shutterstock and Adobe Stock have been communicating likely future delays, and my most recent submission at iStock has taken longer than normal for inspection.

What Are We Seeing?

On three of the major microstock sites I contribute to we are seeing image inspection delays and communication to expect slower inspections.

My most recent submission to iStock has taken 10 days to pass through the image inspection process. That’s nearly double the usual time frame. I don’t expect that was anything to do with the images – they were simple wildlife shots like the ones shown here – and more likely reflects quantities and operational challenges during the pandemic.

What about the Immediate Future?

Both Shutterstock and Adobe Stock have issued communication that contributors can expect to see delays in image inspection. To date, my own submissions have been reviewed relatively quickly by both sites. I am impressed that their image inspections have been so prompt up until now. It seems that may change in the near future.

Shutterstock today have put limits on uploads so that all contributors files can be pass through inspection in a timely manner.

So What?

I’m not sure there really is a so what here! Be patient. Inspections are continuing. Try to shoot stock content which is relevant and not too time sensitive.

Thanks for reading Delays with Microstock Image Inspection During Pandemic. Keep safe. Keep patient.

My Microstock Experience During the Coronavirus Pandemic

I am making the most of the current lock down situation to add to my microstock portfolios. The three microstock sites I upload to are iStock, Shutterstock, and Adobe Stock. Here is my microstock experience during the coronavirus pandemic.

Image Inspection Times

All three microstock sites continue to operate ‘business as usual’ with both uploading and downloading available. It is impressive that there isn’t any real business interruption, though both Shutterstock and Adobe Stock are indicating there may be an impact on inspection times.

My microstock experience during the coronavirus pandemic has largely been ‘business as usual’

I am uploading daily to each site and to date my experience is:

  • Shutterstock – inspection is taking 24-48 hours with files available in the database very soon afterwards
  • Adobe Stock – inspection is taking 3-4 days
  • iStock – inspection is taking 6-8 days (note, I am an ‘independent’ contributor to iStock. I am expecting that exclusive contributors file inspection is faster).

Sales of Newly Approved Files

My newly added content has been a mix of historical files and newly shot coronavirus themed images (discussed more in this post Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown).

My experience with newly uploaded files is similar to my usual microstock experience:

  • Shutterstock – new files are selling well, particularly those with a pandemic theme
  • Adobe Stock – new files are selling well, and slightly better than my usual experience
  • iStock – unfortunately iStock only reports once per month so at this stage I don’t know how well new images are selling. iStock is well behind the other two agencies in the information it provides to contributors
Social distancing is a popular theme right now

Total Sales

It is still early days in the new ‘pandemic world’. Without full data yet available it seems my overall microstock sales are down on usual sales numbers. I am expecting this to be the case as the overall business activity in the economy is below the normal level.

What is your microstock experience at this time?

Thanks for reading about my microstock experience during the coronavirus pandemic. Happy shooting.

Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown

It is very challenging times right around the world as we deal with the coronavirus. Here in Australia the government is encouraging people to stay at home and only go out when absolutely necessary. I recently wrote a post called Coronavirus Realities for this Photographer. Today, it’s shooting stock images during the coronavirus shutdown.

Background

We had a small amount of advance notice that there will be restrictions in daily life as the world tries to ‘flatten the curve’ in growth of coronavirus cases. During this small window I was able to do one outdoor coronavirus themed stock photo shoot. I also made a visit to the craft shop to stock up on supplies which I could use in stock photo concepts.

Shooting stock images in the coronavirus shutdown. I was able to do one outdoor themed shoot recently.

Early Feedback

There are currently a lot of coronavirus themed images being added to microstock sites. To date, I have been concentrating on local themed images like the one above. Why? Firstly, because it is relatively easy for me to shoot this style of image, and secondly there is very little competition. Encouragingly, there have been immediate sales on each of the microstock sites where I submit images.

From Here?

Now, with daily movement restrictions increasing, I’m not expecting to be able to do outdoor shoots in the near future. The increasing requirements around ‘social distancing’ are going to make this impossible in the short term. So where will I focus? I built a small home studio several years ago and am planning to shoot a series of simple stock images there.

There is strong demand for coronavirus themed stock images right now

What Can You Shoot?

Right now is a unique time to be able to shoot specifically themed images. The whole world is reporting on the virus, and there is high demand for relevant images.

You don’t need a studio to shoot coronavirus themed stock images. With the large push to stay at home, work from home, social distancing, and ‘flattening the curve’ there is real opportunity to use your own home surrounds to shoot relevant images.

Final Thoughts

In a world turned upside down I am grateful for the small amount of revenue coming in through stock photography. All my booked jobs for the next 2 months have cancelled, with no current time line for when normal activities might resume. In the meantime I’ll be staying home, keeping safe, and doing what I can with stock imagery.

Social Distancing is a theme to consider for your stock photo shoots

Thanks for reading Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown. Good luck!

Coronavirus Realities for this Photographer

Wow, we are living in interesting times! Right now many events and activities around the world are facing cancellation or suspension as we try to halt the spread of coronavirus. This is already having a major impact on all industries and is clearly impacting photographers. In my business, all my jobs for the next 2 months have been cancelled or are likely to be cancelled. Here are the coronavirus realities for this photographer.

Coronavirus is having a major health and business impact around the world

Immediate Impacts

The response from health officials and governments has been significant this week. Here in Australia, gatherings of over 500 people are being discouraged. This is causing the cancellation or postponement of major events. As the majority of my work is in sports, the cancellation of many sports has meant my pipeline of jobs for the next 2 months has disappeared.

How Long Will this Last?

I wish I knew! With 2 weeks left in the local school term followed by Easter holidays I can’t see any change being likely until at least the end of April. I really don’t know what to expect from there. I am now planning for an extended period without major sporting events.

What to do in the Meantime?

The cancellation of sports events will have a significant impact to my business. To keep busy I am planning to shoot stock images and upload them to my online portfolios. My income from stock is well below what it has been in previous years but it is steady and comes in every month. Unfortunately I don’t know how long this challenge is going to last, but for the next few weeks I plan on creating stock images relevant to the current health crisis.

What will that look like?

I am conscious of helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus by limiting social interaction. For me that will mean shooting stock images in my home studio. I can see I’ll need a break from that at some point (!) and plan to visit wildlife areas close to home.

Do you have an action plan in place to get through the next few months? These are the coronavirus realities for this photographer. What are they for you?

Helpful Resources

If you’d like to look into stock photography please check out

Featured Photographer Sally Jacob

Today’s featured photographer on Beyond Here is sports photographer Sally Jacob. Sally is originally from Yorkshire, England and is now living in Melbourne, Australia. Read on to learn more about sports photographer Sally Jacob.

Background

Sally, tell us about Sally Jacob Photography and your work in sports photography …

Well, it’s always been about sports photography. I have done a bit of food photography, I spent some time publishing a recipe book with my mum. Just sold our 400th copy. Woo! I worked a season in Greece photographing holidaymakers participating in sports activities and portraits. I’ve always been most interested in sports photography. I recently gave up hospitality work to devote myself to photography full time, mainly for Melbourne Sports Photography. I’m from England where I shot a lot of local football and since being here in Australia have found it fun learning Australian Rules Football whilst photographing a lot of junior games. I have just been photographing a lot of basketball, which was another new sport for me, which has been fun.

Junior football celebration. Sports photographer Sally Jacob.
Image copyright Sally Jacob

Deciding to Pursue Sports Photography

How did you decide you wanted to be a sports photographer?

I did skydiving while at school and was fearless! There was a guy jumping alongside me photographing it. I thought what a cool job and that’s when I decided how fun it would be to be a sports photographer. Following a photographer, Christian Pondella, I just couldn’t quite believe that photographing in the mountains was his job. How cool.

I went straight from college to university to study Press and Editorial Photography at Falmouth University and got into photographing the local rugby for the paper, which I found a lot of fun and I learnt a lot about how to shoot sports. Currently I’m thinking a lot about how to get access to big sporting events, whilst trying to build up my range of equipment. I can tell I still have far to go however I moved to Australia a year and a half ago and have felt a huge amount of encouragement and am learning everyday.

Favorites

Which are your favorite sports to photograph?

Anything outdoors! Tennis is currently number one. I grew up with tennis and had a great time at the Australian Open this year. I didn’t have media access but still managed to get some shots on the outside courts of some top players. This was a huge highlight for me and has made me realize how much I want that accreditation.

Close up of squashed tennis ball. Sports photographer Sally Jacob.
Image copyright Sally Jacob

Challenges

What challenges do you come across as a young sports photographer?

I guess finance is a big challenge. The top gear is really expensive for anyone but I haven’t got a lot of savings or money! Older, more experienced people are constantly telling me that there’s no money in sport photography anymore which can sometimes be off putting when you’re about to put everything you’ve got into a new lens. But then again, I guess the fact I am young, I don’t have a mortgage or family I need to provide for . I do love to travel though, and maybe the job could help with that.

The Future

What opportunities do you see?

Well, every year I hear more and more stories about women in sports, and women working in sports. It seems like there are so many more opportunities out there for me than there perhaps would have been in the past. It was great to watch some tennis this year at the Australian Open and see a good handful of female photographers.

Looking forward, which are the sports you’d most like to shoot in the years ahead?

Well, the Australian Open tennis is something I can’t stop thinking about. So that’s a goal for the next year. In the future I’d love to shoot the Olympics and the winter Olympics would be pretty cool. I still feel I have far to go and need to work out what I need to do to reach these goals, but I’m feeling ambitious these days!

Australian Open tennis, sports photographer Sally Jacob
Image copyright Sally Jacob

Advice

What advice would you give to aspiring sports photographers?

Shoot, shoot, shoot. Always ask for feedback and take it on board. If you are new to sports photography, start with a sport you know – it’s easier to shoot something if you know what’s about to happen. Don’t be afraid to shoot in tight. And just have fun with it, play around, try a different perspective.

Thank you for reading about Melbourne based sports photographer Sally Jacob.

(Editor’s note – I have known Sally for the last 12 months and have done work with her for Melbourne Sports Photography shooting basketball, Australian Rules football, diving, cheer leading and dance, gymnastics, and cycling.)

Lessons from Pricing this Photography Job all Wrong

Last month I was asked by another photographer to assist on a shoot. I like helping other photographers and appreciate the opportunity to expand my contacts in the industry, and to learn from the way they shoot. The shoot was great, but I badly misjudged the pricing. Here are my lessons from pricing this photography job all wrong.

What was the job?

The photographer was looking for assistance on a shoot for his sports wear client. The client is a large international sporting brand pushing hard in the Australian market. The photographer has worked with this client on several shoots, most of which he has done on his own. For this shoot he was looking for someone to assist on action shots.

money

What Happened

The intention was for the main photographer to lead on both studio stills and video, and for me to be an extra pair of hands to assist and to shoot action images. Straightforward – or so I thought!

When the shoot got underway the client had very specific requirements for the video component. That meant shooting video in a different part of the stadium away from the studio area and the court we used for action images. Can you see what’s coming? Yes, instead of playing a support role, I am now leading all studio and action photography while the ‘main photographer’ is elsewhere shooting video. (Note, I’m not blaming the main photographer. He did a great job meeting the client’s needs, and is clearly talented with both photography and videography.)

It was a terrific, enjoyable shoot and the images are currently being used by the client in a national campaign. Great. The drawback – I hadn’t priced this job in a way which reflected doing the majority of the photography on a major national campaign. So here they come! The lessons from pricing this photography job all wrong.

Lesson 1 – Be Clear on the Brief

I should have been clearer on making sure I understood the brief and based my pricing on delivering those services. That would have given me room to renegotiate the price given I delivered a very different set of services.

The job was a success, but mis pricing any job is not a “slam dunk” towards financial success

Lesson 2 – Put the Quote in Writing

I had assumed this would be a straightforward shoot and didn’t provide a written quote. The business side was simply a discussion and a verbal agreement. Again, that makes it very difficult to renegotiate should the brief change. While I could have tried renegotiating, that didn’t seem like ‘good form’ after the shoot was completed.

Lesson 3 – Industry Contacts are Valuable

Despite getting the pricing for this job badly wrong, I got on well with the other photographer and know that, should our paths cross again, we have the foundations for a strong working relationship. He has already been in touch with me to see if I could help on another shoot, which unfortunately clashed with one of my own. Such is life! When the opportunity comes, you can be sure I’ll price it more appropriately.

Lesson 4 – Working with Others is a Learning Opportunity

Many photographers, myself included, often work alone or with the same people. In this case, we had never met before and it was a great opportunity to see this experienced commercial photographer in action. Most impressive was the way he was able to move effortlessly between video and photography, while also managing the needs of his client who had 4 people on set. Nice work, and valuable lessons.

Lesson 5 – Don’t Undervalue Your Services

This job was at a quiet time of year and I was keen to take on the role. Combined with being interested in this type of shoot, I may have undervalued the skills I could bring to the role (despite the brief changing). I feel like I’m too old and too experienced to make this mistake, but don’t undervalue your services!

Thanks for reading Lessons from Pricing this Photography Job All Wrong. I’m determined to take the lessons and make them into a positive – much like in this post Turning Negative Experiences to Positive. Happy Shooting!

Common Sense, Real World Experience, and Practice

Thanks for being a reader of Beyond Here. I’ve just taken an unannounced 6 month break from writing this blog. A visit to the bookshop and the library this week have been enough to kick me back into action! Why the sudden return? At both the book shop and the library there are no resources for people wanting to learn the business side of photography. Literally I couldn’t find a single book. I’m not planning to write a book anytime soon, but I can add to Beyond Here regularly. So today I’m back, and here is common sense, real world experience, and practice.

Why the 6 Month Break?

I started Beyond Here 5 years ago, thinking it would be relatively straightforward to write at least one post a month about the business side of photography. Most months it was, even though I am not a natural writer and the words don’t always flow. But mid last year I finally missed one month, and soon realized that became 2 and 3 and 4 months. I enjoyed the break, and spent a lot of time shooting and working in my sports photography business.

Writing a blog, it’s not always easy to know how well (or not) received it is. Readers don’t tend to comment on blog posts anymore. They are more inclined to add comments on Facebook than to bother commenting on the blog. Even though Google Analytics makes it easy to see how many people are visiting and what they are reading, that doesn’t always equate to knowing the information is valuable. So in one of those months where I felt like I might be the only person reading what I was writing (!) I took a break, and here we are 6 months later.

Consistency of effort is key in sport – perhaps in blog writing too!

Common Sense, Real World Experience

One of the reasons I sometimes doubt the value of the content here is that it is not rocket science. It is not brilliant insight which no-one else in the world could possibly have. Common sense and real world experience make up most of the content. It is trying things in my own business, and sharing what works and what doesn’t. If you are expecting amazing insight, I’m going to let you down! But if you are looking to speed up your learning, and apply that to your own creative business then I might be able to help.

I do like the saying – common sense is not so common – so maybe I can add some value there. I can certainly add my real world experience from the ups and downs of my own business.

Sport is a great example where you can’t perform without practice. Are you practicing your photography skills?

Practice

And now for today’s dose of common sense! We are very lucky today that it is easy to start a photography business. It is literally a matter of some basic equipment, a few clients, and you are away.

While it is easy to start that in no way means your skills are at a professional standard. In fact, they are likely not to be when you are starting out and your portfolio consists only of family portraits taken of friends. It takes time and practice to build skills so that you can meet different photographic briefs, and produce high quality images in a variety of lighting conditions.

So what’s the answer? The answer is really a question – are you practicing and building photography skills? For much of this blog I assume your photography skills are strong and we focus on sales and marketing and other topics. But I see too many photographers who have not built their skills and are not practicing. I’m a sports lover, and to draw a sports comparison, can you imagine a pro sports person who doesn’t practice? They are not likely to last too long. Are you practicing enough?

I wrote a post called Photographing Different Commercial Jobs. Sometimes we get in a rut shooting the same types of jobs in the same way. Doing those commercial jobs was challenging, and helped me build new skills. Sometimes it’s best not to take on paying jobs to learn new skills, the key questions is are you taking on different challenges?

Thanks for reading common sense, real world experience, and practice. I hope it has given you food for thought. Invest in practice, and go ahead and comment on the blog. Happy shooting.

Do Photo Prints Still Sell

One year ago I revamped my website and refocused my photography business with an emphasis on photographing junior sport in Melbourne. I have been shooting juniors to elite level across a variety of sports with a specialty in action images. In many cases it has been a thrill to see the look on kids faces when they see themselves as the subject of high quality action images. When I started shooting junior sports I expected the strongest demand would be for digital images. A year on I am in a better position to answer the question do photo prints still sell?

Action images of junior sports games have been very popular

What Did I Expect?

The first major event we photographed was a large junior basketball tournament. You can read about that in this post Photographing 1000 Junior Basketball Players.

We photographed more than 100 junior teams over 2 days. I expected the majority of demand from players and families would be for digital images. Social media is driving communication and shared experiences, and I imagined a large number of the digital images would appear on social media. I wondered whether it was worth even offering prints as it is straightforward to purchase the digital images and make your own prints.

Since then we have been shooting many sports including more basketball, netball, dance, cheer leading, volleyball, and football.

What Has Been the Reality?

Interestingly, across a wide variety of sports, the trends have been similar.

  • Action images of junior sport have been very popular
  • Two thirds of all sales have been digital images
  • One third of all sales have been prints
  • Almost no-one orders both prints and digital images
One third of all sales have been prints

Key Learnings

When starting out selling action images of junior sports I expected most sales to be digital images. That has been the case, though I have been surprised that one third of all sales have been prints.

Offering prints does come with some challenges. I fulfill my print orders through an external supplier, and ship direct to my customer. Every now and then I have an issue with quality where I may end up having to organize a reprint for my customer.

Despite those occasional challenges there is still a very strong market for photo prints. Do photo prints still sell? Yes definitely.

Thanks for reading Do Photo Prints Still Sell. I hope you can use my experience to benefit your own photography business. Happy shooting.