Traffic And The Future Of Photography

An Unpleasant Truth For Photographers

The recent sale of The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million dollars underscores an unpleasant truth for us photographers, for us “content producers”. That unpleasant truth is that traffic is valued more than content; that the distribution of our images is, in a significant way, more important than the images themselves. After all, the greatest photo in the world, unseen, will return less revenue, and have less impact, than a mediocre or poor image that is seen by everyone.

Great Content Is A Building Block of Traffic and Distribution

Of course, it isn’t quite as simple as I just indicated above. After all, distribution requires content and great content is a building block of great distribution. But as we have all witnessed, great photography content is significantly easier to produce than ever before, and mediocre and poor content is, well, shall we say abundant?  But the question remains: With the knowledge of how important distribution, and traffic is, how do we photographers proceed?

Where We Want To Go, And Reality

In order to understand where we go from here it is essential that we understand where we want to go. It is also imperative that we have a relatively firm grasp on reality as well. One reality is that the price of photography has been and is continuing to drop.  Another reality is that the competition continues to explode both in the form of stock images and in the form of newcomers to the industry.

Making A Living With Stock Photography, And Building Traffic

In my own case, I want to continue to make a good living creating stock photography. Right now, as far as I can determine, the fastest route to earning money in stock photography is by creating exceptional images and getting them in to distribution through top agencies.  But taking a longer view I think it is important to utilize my content to create my own traffic. And for that endeavor you really do need a long view. After two years of diligent work towards that end, and getting 4,600 well key worded images up on my site, I am generating around a thousand visitors a day. I want at least ten times that number, and I will get it. It will probably take me three to five more years.  One day I will wake up and say to myself, “Man, I am glad I did that!”

Traffic And Success With Photography

The traffic I build will include visitors that will license stock (primarily by being routed to one of my agencies), generate revenue by clicking on ads, purchase photo imprinted merchandise, buy prints and provide me with a market for whatever else I might dream up. Hopefully I can build enough traffic to insure success with my photography over the long term. It used to be that photographers looked at stock photos as a source of retirement income. That view seems to have evaporated. Perhaps traffic will be the new replacement for that strategy. It seems to have worked for Arianna Huffington!

Traffic and A Base For The Future

I believe it will behoove all of us photographers to understand how to build traffic that will help us achieve our goals, and traffic that will provide a base for all the unknown twists and turns in the photography business that no doubt await us in the years ahead.

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

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

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