Monday, December 7, 2009

Digital Age of Photography

I have been shooting digital for awhile and like the ability to see my images instantaneously and the ability to take these images and upload and get the images to my Agencies and to my website quickly. I won't harp on this all the time but since I am new to digital I don't like all the workflow that gets between you and shooting. What I find is that you shoot pretty much the same as you did with your film base camera but the workflow after shooting is so time consuming and daunting sometimes that it drains your motivation to keep shooting. As I get my workflow down in Lightroom I will be able to process my images faster and upload them quicker and then have the ability to shoot more.

I also don't like the digital images when I am shooting sunsets. The detail and color in the highlights seem to blow out and the color shifts in these digital files as opposed to shooting film. I have to spend alot of time adjusting the image in Lightroom to get it right.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pricing Stock Images

As the lines between amateur and Professional blend together in Stock Photography it becomes obvious that pricing for images will also blend together on a downward spiral. There are just to many quality images being produced and buyers, clients and businesses are now having such a wider choice for their image sources that all price points from exclusive RM to micro RF will go down even more. In retail if you have similar products and sell to the same customer base how do you gain market share. Well, you can give the client better customer service and try and distinguish your brand from the other competition through edgy advertising and directly attracting the age group you want. You can locate your store in a great traffic location with plenty of parking and so on. Or you could reduce your prices and compete on volume. The lowering of prices will work for awhile but eventually you will want to raise your prices because as with any product you sell, costs do go up. But if you try and raise your prices before the other guy then you could lose market share to your competition and again be stuck having to lower your prices again and again a race to the bottom. Timing is everything.

With photos it is the same but different. The internet is a perfect vehicle for buying photos especially when the photos can be bought through a streamlined credit card process. No overhead or negotiations just upload and sit back and see the money come in. It is a little harder than that, you still have to be found (SEO Search Engine Optimization) and you still have to price your images so you and your family can survive. But on the internet how do you compete with other photographers who are willing to shoot and sell their photos for less. Well you can't give your images away for free to gain market share (even though some portals are now doing that to to try and hook clients and sell them up to a paying customer status, good luck with that). So how do you compete with the tsunami of cheap imagery out on the web and still make a living wage? How do you maintain a pricing model that gives you a decent return on your shooting investment? Lowering prices will not work because the return on your shooting investment would be disastrous. Prices are already rock bottom low and they could still go lower as the microsites begin to max out their contributors wallets by trying different schemes (subscription) in order to maintain volume and profit for themselves. Photographer's still have to set up and expend some cash to produce images and in this economic meltdown everybody is trying to survive by working at a job that least pays the rent. Micro shooters are feeling the pain as well right now. What they also are finding out on these micro sites is that the professional Studio Production Companies are beginning to shoot 1,000's of images a month for these microsites and take the little market share these micro shooters had and making their return microscopic.

What all the Distribution portals (Getty, Corbis, istockphoto etc...) are hoping for is volume over pricing. They want to move into the consumer buying market and be the broker that gets a % of each deal that is transacted on their site. But this time they want to move into the arena of lets say a Flickr type distribution portal with billions and billions of imagery where the potential is there for alot of volume to make up for the pennies on the dollar transactions. Where does this leave the photographer trying to make a living at this photography business, out in the cold. There is no way for an Independent Rights Managed Photographer to make a living wage under this system. Volume over Price doesn't work for the Independents. Look at Wall-Mart. Cheap prices for similar products destroys the Mom and Pop stores in the big box community.

So I asked the question above how does a photographer make a living in this environment of volume over decent prices? They can't. Period.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Transitioning to Digital

Well, I have finally made the transition over to Digital. It was a steep learning curve but in the long run a necessary evil. I am amazed at the amount of effort it takes to process the imagery from camera to Agency. Wow! As an independent photographer not shooting for or having my own studio production company with employees that can handle the work flow, I spend most of my quote "shooting time" in front of a computer. Technology was suppose to make our lives easier, giving us more leisure time. Not true. I feel Technology is coming between us and living our lives in the present. Enjoying the quiet meditation of subjects and taking your time with creating great imagery. Instead, I see photographers quick to shoot everything and anything at break neck speed and once they blitz the subject they automatically check their camera monitor to see if they have captured the subject before racing onto the next quick impression. They might have captured the subject but the subject in relation to what? You can shoot subjects millions of them but with out great lighting and composition and content you have taken the art of photography to a lower level, to a home movie of boring subjects. This recording of minutia of detail, of look at me Face Book postings is not photography.

Douglas Rushkoff said, " As photography becomes less time consuming, less crafted, less intentional and less expressed through physically realized artifacts, it will lose its ability to elevate the moment and subjects it captures". To make a great photograph you have to have intention, a purpose. In shooting digital I have also lost that awareness, it so easy to shoot and shoot and have nothing to show for your effort but snap shots. I will shoot digitally as I did with a film based camera, exploring the subject, looking for the best composition to express purpose in taking the image, immersing myself in the best light and only after I have done this will I move on to the next experience allowing my inner landscape time to be reflected in the subjects I choose.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Search Engine Optimization

My web presence is through PhotoShelter. Until late last year I was with Digital Railroad until the wheels came off their cart but that is another story. Photoshelter is a very active particpant in the photo community and in April of this year published an SEO cookbook. What is it? I was vaguely familiar with the the term Search Engine Optimization but didn't really understand how it could effect my web traffic. Basicaly, SEO is a way to get your website ranked higher in searches on Google and other major search engines and by doing this you can drive more traffic to your website. What I gleamed from the cookbook is that in order to sell anything on the web customers have to find you and to find you they search by keywords. Have the right keywords associated with your web site makes it more likely you will come up higher in the search results than someone who doesn't. You can also drive clients/customers to your site through links. By joining networking sites, creating blogs like this one and linking back to your own web site you can increase traffic and potential sales. Your site should be e-commerce compatable and your ready to go. Also we have the standard ways to get clients to our web sites for sales and assignments and that is though mailings, portfolio revues etc... and those to are still very important in this highly competitive market place. I want to give you an example of how this works. It is a simple story but it does high light a key point on how to get people to visit your site. PhotoShelter has given its archive members a chance to particpate in what they call their Photoshelter homepage slide show. If your image is selected then for a month on their homepage your image along with 20 other members are displayed. Well, to make a long story short my image was selected Spaghetti image at right) and along with the image being displayed Photoshelter included a brief bio of my specialties and then showed what custom web template I chose to sell and market my image archive on PhotShelter with and then linked that back to my website galleries. Well previously through Google Analytics (SEO cook book describes it is a great way to see who is coming and browsing your site) I was maybe getting 1 or 2 visits a day if I was lucky and no one was really looking seriouly at my images on PhotoShelter. Well after the posting of just one image on the homepage of Photoshelter I have seen a 600% increase in traffic to my PhotoShelter website and also some image downloads for comps and some activity on the sales side of the site. All this because I was able to get one image put on a heavily trafficked website like PhotoShelter and then link it back to my images. Wow. I am not the best tech person in the world but this SEO is beginning to make since and I will continue to develope more links and keywords on my web pages to drive more potential customers to my site. And no I am not being paid by PhotoShelter.

Monday, August 10, 2009

August 10, 2009

Welcome to my blog. I have been shooting stock photography for a long time. I first entered this arena in the mid-eighties when I joined Aperture PhotoBank in Seattle. Aperture changed it's name to Allstock a short time later and I have been submitting to Photo Agencies ever since. Now however, we call them Image Portal Distribution Sites or something like that. The Stock Photo Industry sure has changed over the last decade and what that means to the photographer is more production work not in necessarily shooting (there has always been prep time, scripting, logistics, etc.. for photographers) but in post production on the computer. With digital cameras shooting is still shooting. But there are differences like having to turn your camera off when changing lens ( that is why zooms I guess are so popular) but I like fixed focus lenses so I have to stop my momentum in the shoot and hold back the concept of time, everybody freeze that pose and change lenses and begin again. I know why don't I have more than one camera body, simply right now cost. Anyhow I will be posting new thoughts coming up on Digital vs Old school analog shooting, getting into SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how I believe Digital shooting is making the photographer lose sight of exploring the subject we are shooting. Hint that back monitor on the digital camera has got to go. That's it for now.