Dealing with the new realities for stock photographers

We all are facing change and challenges in our businesses, contemplating new courses of action. There is one thing that we can all do to help prepare for the future…create great, optimized websites.

Getty Images, iStockphoto, and a Revelation I did a search on Getty Images today while checking to see the competition that existed for an image idea I am considering creating. Then, just for the heck of it, I did the same search on iStockphoto. It was a bit of a revelation. Not only were there far more images, a couple of thousand rather than a couple of hundred, the iStockphoto images also included ones that were both higher in production value and more creative.

The Problem of Being Found in the Market Place

It makes sense too. You have a far greater supply of photographers contributing. And you have both photographers who are bent on creating images that will sell and earn income, commercially oriented photographers, and those, lets say advanced amateurs, who are more interested in creating their art and would love to see someone publish it.  As time passes more and more images will come into microstock collections that, no matter who has created them, will offer some truly wonderful alternatives to what is in the traditional collections. You just cannot get around the fact that the flood of new images is only going to continue and the problem of being found in the market place is only going to get more challenging.

How to Deal with the New Reality

The question for all of us who depend on photography for our livelihoods is how are we going to deal with that reality?  Among the photographers that I personally know some are turning to, or returning to assignment work, (which of course is also under the same pressures including increased competition from those who are hurting in stock), some are relentlessly pumping out more images (and, I suppose…adding to the problem), some are focusing on higher production value and more unique images (which I think is warranted but still eventually subject to the same pressures as the rest of the images), and some have left the business altogether. As an aside, I know at least three “traditional” stock shooters who have embraced microstock and are actually optimistic about their futures with that business model.

One Thing Every Photographer Can Do

I know I keep harping on this, but I think the one thing that every photographer can undertake to best help them be in a favorable position for whatever happens with photography, and particularly stock photography, is to create websites that are highly optimized for search engines. And now is the time to do it because it takes such an incredibly long time to get significant results (unless of course I am doing something wrong…which is entirely possible).

Being “Found” Makes You The Hero

The number of people out there searching on the Internet is mind-boggling. If you can get them to your site you can monetize that traffic. You can make money off of advertising, selling prints and merchandise, licensing images, getting assignments, offering workshops and probably a few more things I am not aware of at this moment. People who are searching want something…and if you can get them to your site you at least have a chance of supplying them with what they are looking for. You become the hero! Further, those people who end up on your site and who don’t find what they are looking for might see an ad on your site that does offer the chance of solving their problem…so they click on that ad and, in essence, pay you a fee for pointing them in that direction.
Millions of Searches and a Wide Variety of Opportunities If you ask me, the potential rewards for creating a site that actually works in terms of attracting those millions and millions of people searching the Internet, of a site that opens a wide variety of opportunities, makes all the time, effort and investment that goes into such a site a no-brainer. But hey, more than one person has suggested that I do, indeed, have no brain. Oh well….

About the author

John Lund  has been shooting professionally for over 30 years.  John was an early adopter of Photoshop, first using version 1.0 in 1990.  He began using digital capture in 1994.  John has been active in the stock photography world as a founding member of BLEND IMAGES, and long time contributor to Getty Images, Corbis, and, more recently SuperStock.

John has lectured on digital imaging and stock photography, has been a columnist for PICTURE and DIGITAL IMAGING magazines, and written ADOBE MASTER CLASS, PHOTOSHOP COMPOSITING WITH JOHN LUND.  John has been a frequent speaker at Photo Plus and other venues and has taught workshops at Palm Beach Workshops and Santa Fe Workshops.  His work can be seen at www.johnlund.com.

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

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