Category Archives: Craig’s Comments

Comments from Craig

Turning Negative Experiences to Positive

I recently wrote a post for Beyond Here called Choose Your Photography Jobs Carefully. It outlines my experience doing some interesting sports photography work but having issues with payment. In this post I have an update, it’s called turning negative experiences to positive.

My recent experience, like this basketball player, had me down but not out

What Happened?

I was dealing with a reasonably well known business, but having issues getting paid. I remained polite through all communications and provided details of which invoices were outstanding, when they were due, how long they were now overdue, and copies if requested. There were a series of reasons provided about why payment had not yet been made, and then steadily, one by one, each was paid over a period of weeks. So there’s the good news – payment came through ok.


Ready to rise again

A Choice to Make

I’d committed to shooting another job for them, but hadn’t received payment for the earlier jobs. What to do? I considered what was my best course of action, and perhaps they anticipated this as payment was made a few days before the job.

Turning Negative Experiences to Positive

So with a degree of uncertainty I shot the additional job – a 5 hour sports photography assignment shooting a cross country event. I was shooting alongside the owner of the business. How did I go about turning negative experiences to positive? It turns out I had many things in common with the owner of the business. Perhaps the biggest and most important was a common enjoyment of photography and sport. We got along reasonably well, and were able to put aside the slow payment issue and focus on doing a good job photographing the cross country event.

What Is the Positive?

There were three clear positives which came from this experience.

First was that I enjoyed the cross country photography assignment and made stronger industry contact in the process.

Second, while on the job I was asked if I could help with an additional job. This is the sign of a good relationship.

And third, payment from the cross country assignment came through 4 days after the invoice had been sent through. I am expecting that prompt payment will be the norm in the future.

There it is! Thanks for reading Turning Negative Experiences to Positive.

5 More Things to Like About Zenfolio

Earlier this month I wrote a post about the positive things I’ve experienced since moving my website to Zenfolio. This solution delivers full transaction capability through my website. If you wish to read that post it is here – 5 Best Things About My Zenfolio Website Solution. Since then several readers have contacted me with questions. While there are some things I don’t like about Zenfolio, the majority work well for me. So here are 5 more things to like about Zenfolio.

1. Excellent Sales Reporting

In rough numbers three quarters of my sales so far have been digital images, and one quarter has been print products. The reporting provided by Zenfolio is excellent and updates immediately a sale occurs. In addition, I am notified by email when (a) a new customer registers (b) a customer makes a purchase and (c) when the customer downloads their images. As a result of the excellent reporting it is very easy to calculate the profitability for each event. Good job Zenfolio! (For frustrated iStock contributors, Zenfolio is light years ahead of iStock in delivering timely reporting which helps photographers run their business).

Zenfolio’s transaction capability is helping me sell a high volume of sports images

2. Timely Funds Transfer via Paypal

My customers pay for their purchases with credit card or paypal and Zenfolio tracks the balance in my account. When I wish to withdraw funds this is done by paypal. To date, the transfer has been very timely – as quickly as the next day and as slow as 3 days. I am impressed with how quickly the transfer occurs and appreciate that I can request a transfer at any time.

3. Support from Zenfolio

There have been several instances when I have had questions about Zenfolio. I have found there is a very comprehensive only database which has nearly always answered my question. Outside of that, there is both web chat and email support. In all cases the responses times have been good, and generally the quality of support has been good. I appreciate that which is why it makes the list of 5 more things to like about Zenfolio.

While not everything has been perfect, there are plenty of reasons to smile using the Zenfolio solution

4. Adding Custom Watermarks is Easy

I display images with a large watermark across the centre (the watermark is removed when a customer purchases). Setting up and adding the watermark is straightforward, and can be done with one action to apply to the entire gallery. This is great as I don’t need to remember to do it for each image, I just do it once for the gallery. Nice.

5. Zenfolio Look After the Financial Transaction

By this I mean that the Zenfolio solution comes with the transaction functionality to accept credit card or paypal. In one of my other businesses I found setting up the transaction capability with the bank to be a slow and drawn out process. I like that Zenfolio look after this.

So there are 5 more things to like about Zenfolio. There are other solutions available, but I suggest checking out whether Zenfolio will meet your needs.

5 Best Things About My Zenfolio Website Solution

When I began my photography business in 2008 I set up a simple website to display my images and advertise my services. Apart from changing the images from time to time, I had not got around to updating my website until recently. 6 months ago I made the switch and am now using Zenfolio as my website solution. (To check it out head over to Craig Dingle Photography). I like many of the features which Zenfolio provides. Here are the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution.

1. Simple Templates

I’m not an expert on the technical side of websites, so I need a solution which keeps things easy. Zenfolio is in the business of providing websites for photographers and they have really kept things simple. There are a series of templates to choose from. From there it is just a matter of adding your images and you have a professional looking website. This is the first of the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution.

If you are not sure, Zenfolio offers a 14 day free trial. Check it out and experiment with the templates to see if they meet your needs.

junior basketball
The Zenfolio solution has made it easy to sell high volume digital images directly from my website

2. Password Protected Galleries

I shoot a lot of junior sports so it is important to me to have password protected galleries. Zenfolio makes this straight forward with simple settings for each gallery. I set up the gallery, add my watermark, make the settings private, add a password, and upload the files. It is a very easy and effective system for password protected galleries and takes just a few minutes.

3. Selling Images Online is Simple

While I have listed this as point 3 in the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution – it is the one which makes all the difference. Regular readers of Beyond Here will know that my background is in stock photography. Based on that experience I know the power of selling and distributing images digitally. Zenfolio has given me the ability to sell directly from my own website in much the same way that stock photography sites do.

(For more information about stock photography please see Starting in Stock Photography).

female gymnast
I’m glad I made the leap to Zenfolio. It’s made a huge difference in digital sales of my sports images.

4. Partner Providers Make Print Products Easy

Within the Zenfolio solution is the ability to sell prints (and other products). This can be done through partner providers which Zenfolio puts in place, or with your own providers. When I use this feature I’m doing high volumes in a short time frame. So far, I’ve used the partner providers and found this an easy way to fulfill print sales.

It is a great, low touch solution. My customer places their order and makes payment. I receive notification during this process but don’t need to take any action. The print order is automatically sent to the partner provider, who print and ship direct to the customer. I have full visibility of the process, without having to intervene in the customer order. Nice.

5. I Set My Own Prices

Now that I’m using a Zenfolio solution for my website, setting up price lists and establish my own prices is a simple process. Making changes to prices is also straight forward and takes just a few minutes.

Conclusions

I find Zenfolio very easy to use. I’ve quickly made the leap from having a very old fashioned website only displaying images, to one with fully integrated purchase capability. If you are considering selling images from your website, check out Zenfolio as a possible solution.

Thank you

Thanks for reading 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution. Best wishes.

What to Do in Quiet Times for Your Photography Business

Every photography business has periods when things are quiet, and most have times when they are crazy busy. This month is a quiet time for my business. Most sports are having a break over the Christmas / New Year period, and it will be another few weeks until I am really busy again. Here are 9 suggestions for what to do in quiet times for your photography business.

Suggestion 1 – Get Away for a Break

Everyone needs a break from their business from time to time. Physically getting away is a great way to refresh mentally and physically. I’ve just spent a week away near Geelong in Victoria, Australia and have come back refreshed and ready to tackle the new year.

You don’t have to fly, but getting away for a break is a great way to refresh physically and mentally

Suggestion 2 – Learn a New Skill

When your business is quiet is the ideal time to invest in yourself. Photography is a big field, and no-one knows it all. I’ve been working on simple editing skills while my business is quiet. Last month one of my client’s wanted a collage print. I’ve been working on adding borders to images in Lightroom so that they look great as part of collages. It’s very simple stuff, but often it is hard to spend the time when you are busy. Take advantage of quiet times to learn a new skill.

Suggestion 3 – Shoot Personal Projects

I don’t know about you, but when I am busy I have very little time (or inclination!) to shoot personal projects. What to do in quiet times for your photography business? Obviously, tackle some personal projects. I enjoy wildlife photography, and have set aside time to shoot wildlife images in the next 3 weeks.

Quiet times for your business are ideal for personal projects. I’ll be creating wildlife images in the next few weeks.

Suggestion 4 – Make Your Quiet Time a Health Break

When I’m really busy I struggle to make time to exercise and eat well. It makes complete sense to use that extra time while business is quiet to get some exercise. This month I’ve been playing tennis with my son and walking the dog a lot more!

Suggestion 5 – Review Your Business

Quiet times are the ideal time to review how your business is going and to set goals for the year ahead. Last year was a very good one for my business. I’ve shot fewer weddings, and a lot more sports which was the plan. While I’m pleased with the year that’s gone, I’m focusing on making sure I’m producing more printed products for my clients next year. They are really the thing that keeps the memories alive – and I’ll be aiming to produce a lot more albums, canvas prints, and standard prints.

I’m planning to produce a lot more albums, canvas prints, and standard prints next year

Suggestion 6 – Get Your Gear Serviced

When times are really busy I’m reluctant to get my camera bodies and lenses serviced as I don’t want to be without them. Quiet times are the ideal opportunity to have this done when you are not likely to need them for a short notice job.

This year I’ve bought no new gear – so it is very important that my existing equipment is serviced and ready to produce high quality images. Get that equipment serviced while things are quiet.

Suggestion 7 – Organise then Clear Out Digital Files

I pride myself on being well organised and having digital files well organised and easy to access. Quiet times are ideal for making sure those files are well organised. It is also the time that I check my back ups are all in place, and then I move the images to external drives.

While I do this activity all year round, quiet times are ideal to make sure my digital files are organised and backed up, and my main working computer has capacity for the year ahead.

Suggestion 8 – Explore Your City or Town

How often do you get to explore your home town when things are busy? For me, it’s almost never as I seem to be finding my way through traffic and looking for a parking space! Quiet times are ideal for exploring your home town. Find an interesting subject to photograph. Find a new area. Shoot like only a local can shoot. Explore your home town when things are quiet.

Get out and about and explore your home town when things are quiet

Suggestion 9 – Write Your Blog!

Blog post ideas don’t always flow easily for me! Do they for you? Either way quiet times are great times to write or to put together a content plan for the year ahead. When things are quiet, dedicate some time to your blog.

Thanks for taking the time to read What to Do in Quiet Times for Your Photography Business. Wishing you a successful year ahead.

Suggestions When Applying for Photography Work

Later this month I will be shooting a large junior basketball tournament. It’s run over a weekend and is very popular tournament. The dates are the  week before the representative basketball season starts making it an ideal preparation for the season ahead. I’ve been looking for several photographers to help across one or both days. This hasn’t been a smooth process! So, for all the photographers out there, here are some suggestions when applying for photography work.

Be Clear on Dates and Availability

I posted a job ad on Starnow outlining that I am looking for sports photographers. It clearly outlines the dates of the job, yet I have had some photographers apply without being available for the specific dates. It isn’t much good applying for a job when you are not available. Check dates and availability before you apply to avoid wasting time.

job

Respond to the Specific Requirements of the Job

For this shoot, photographers will need to provide their own equipment. I want to know that the photographers are using camera bodies and lenses which can produce good quality images in indoor stadiums. To all the applicants credit, they have all outlined the equipment they will use. That has reassured me they are using equipment which has the capacity to produce the quality needed.

Be Ready for Photography Job Opportunities

This job is photographing players under the age of 18. For that reason I’ve advised that photographers will need to have a current Victorian Working with Children Card. I’m really surprised that some photographers don’t have one, and yet still apply for the role. I’ve responded to them immediately advising that they can’t be considered for the role without one.

I also ask that photographers have their own public liability insurance. If something goes wrong they won’t be covered by my insurance. Again, there are people applying for the role without insurance. You will struggle to convince me that you are a professional photographer operating a business without insurance.

If you want to get regular photography work, have the basics in place – insurance and working with children permits are important. Having them will open up many more opportunities for you. Go ahead and get them in place.

Provide Links to Previous Work

Several of the applicants would like to get into sports photography or have done a small amount of similar work. That’s not what I’m after for this job. I need people who I know can do the job, because they have done it plenty of times before. If you want to immediately establish your credibility, and reassure the job poster that you can do the job, provide a link to an online portfolio of related work.

basketball

If you have relevant experience be sure to mention it in your application

Respond Promptly

With a job which is two weeks away, it’s in everyone’s interest to communicate quickly and clearly. If an applicant doesn’t respond for several days, I will assume they are not very interested in the job. On the other hand, if they respond very promptly and make themselves available for a face to face meeting in the near term, that demonstrates a level of commitment and a willingness to take on the work. Respond promptly. It will impress the job poster and make organizing the job easier.

Respond Professionally

At this event, the photographers will be representing themselves and also my business. I want to know they will treat the players, officials, and spectators appropriately. That will include displaying a high level of professionalism. It won’t help your credibility if your communication is unprofessional from the outset, so take the time to make sure all of your communication is professional.

Outline Relevant Background

There are not a lot of photographers out there who have shot lots of junior basketball. That said, it is worthwhile outlining other relevant background. For this type of job, if you have photographed other fast moving indoor sports that is worth mentioning. If you have played and watched a lot of basketball, that is worth mentioning too. Both elements would increase my level of confidence that the photographer can do the job with minimal supervision.

Thanks for reading Suggestions When Applying for Photography Work. I hope it is helpful to you. If you happen to be in Melbourne, Australia and would like to shoot some basketball later this month, please make contact!

 

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.