As the digital age continues to permeate every aspect of our everyday lives, I recently had to ask myself: When did my photographs become digital assets?
Back in the day, a photograph was a photograph. We could stash the original negative or transparency away in our files while various copies of it were circulated in an effort to make a sale.
Then the digital age arrived, and slowly our photographic world began its relentless change. For anyone able to access one of the very pricey original digital cameras, the quick transmission and distribution of images suddenly became easier. Computers improved, the internet improved and the world of photography changed even more. Before we knew it, it was very easy to distribute an unlimited number of camera originals to as many outlets as we wanted! Of course this carried with it the possibility of unwanted distribution and copyright infringement, but still the digital age was viewed as making our jobs easier and our output more efficient.
Still the improvements continued and computers, cameras and full function photo websites became available and affordable to anyone who wanted one. The laws of supply and demand kicked in and the prices for our photos began to plummet. Not really a good or bad thing if looked at objectively, just the way things are.
One day, a couple of years ago, I came to the realization that my photos were no longer photos, but were now “digital assets”. I was conducting a search on the internet for software to catalogue my digital images when I was struck by the fact that this software was not called photo management software our photo cataloging software. It was called “Digital Asset Management” software. In other words, my photographs were, in the eyes of these programs and the programmers who created them the same as a word processing document or an entry in a digital address book database. My labors of love had been reduced to string of numbers that could be quantified and recalled by the asset management program in response to an input query.
At first I was taken aback by this realization, then, the more I though about it, the more liberating the concept felt.
Here is the way I’ve begun to view my “digital assets” on the internet. If power, influence and even income on the internet all begin with traffic to your internet offerings, it makes sense that the right kind of “assets” could pull more traffic, resulting in more power, influence, and income for the person who controls these assets. Therefore, if I take one of my images, digitize it, annotate it with well thought out titles, captions, and keywords, I’ve converted it into the kind of digital asset that I can plug into my management program to pull traffic to my site. If I have thousands of these assets, I should have more traffic. In fact, the more images I employ as digital assets, the more traffic I should have to my site.
Now, the number of assets I have, does not address the question of the quality of the images from which these assets were created. The quality does not matter, however, as a larger number of assets will still draw more traffic. So, in this day of affiliate marketing, online advertising, pay per clicks, etc, a crafty online marketer who also happens to be an average or even below-average photographer could create a hug database of images which could draw traffic to a site which he could use to create more income than if he were trying to market his images as stock photography, especially in this day of declining stock photography value.
So in this age of “digital asset management” just think of what a talented online marketer who also happens to be a talented photographer could accomplish!
As I was setting up to shoot the checkered flag at the MOntreal 200 Grand-Am race this past weekend this though occurred to me: “ The vertical photo is a dying breed!”
As the cars raced toward the finish line, I instinctively started to turn my camera to shoot a vertical shot, which is what the shot really should be, to minimize empty space within the frame and to isolate the action which is taking place. Suddenly I remembered that this shot would go into the Grand-Am event photo gallery and most likely end up on Grand-Am’s homepage on their website, both of which call for photos that fit a pre-defined horizontal photo hole. I turned the camera back horizontally and fired away.
As a long time freelancer, I remember the days when you would shoot everything horizontally and vertically, depending on what your subject was. By shooting lots of vertical shots, the hope was that an editor would pick one up for the cover of his or her publication, which paid more money to the photographer. In those days my checkered flag would have been a horizontal shot, no questions asked.
But as our industry’s print segment has shrunk and the electronic segment has grown, more and more I find myself shooting to fill a pre-defined horizontal hole. Much of the decision making has even been removed from the process of cropping our images. For instance, I know that on the Gran-Am site, if I crop all my images to a horizontal 16:9 HD ration, they will all fit neatly and perfectly into the photo holes throughout the site. Where-as cropping used to be a free-form art, the electronic age has tended to reduce our options when it comes to cropping our images.
Over the last couple of years I’ve noted that my shooting has gone from probably about a 75% horizontal, 25% vertical mix to the point where I shoot almost exclusively horizontal shots. There are few thing more frustrating to both a photographer and I client than having the photographer produce a spectacular image that the client can not use because it is in the wrong format.
This development is neither good nor bad, it’s just the way things are and the photographers who accept these types of things will be the ones who will thrive as they press forward in the digital age.
After I started building my online photo archive several years ago, it wasn’t long before an unanticipated group of followers came to light and began e-mailing me with specific photo inquiries: scale model race car car builders are always on the lookout for photos of auto racing’s past to use as reference when they are assembling their projects.
Photos that show paint schemes, sponsors for specific events, decal positioning and size, etc. are invaluable in assuring the accuracy of a given finished model.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve filled several print orders for scale modelers and have incorporated a special print pricing structure with these clients in mind.
My print price schedule includes low-priced 4x6 and 5x7 prints for these folks who need accurate reference prints, but don’t want to break the bank when acquiring them.
The photo archives at bcpix.com include, but are not limited to the following: 1980’s NASCAR, Indy Car (IRL & CART), and the IMSA glory days of the GTP era. Of course I’m always updating my online catalogs as more images from the past are digitally archived!
The photo database is fully searchable, making it easy to find just the pictures you’re looking for.
Begin your search today by entering search terms in the box below:
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to drop me an e-mail at: email@example.com
With the over-saturated stock photography market that the advent of digital photography and the ever-improving line of digital cameras has created, many of us photo veterans, who date back to the days of film, are having a hard time coming to terms with ultra- low commissions that the microstock houses are paying.
With that in mind, have somewhat limited options when it comes to marketing our work at prices with which we are comfortable.
One route is to build your own online archive and portfolio at places like Photoshelter, where I house an ever-growing collection of rights-managed and royalty-free photography. One problem with this approach is that it is extremely tough to even get noticed in the sea of photography that is now online, which makes it very difficult to attract enough traffic to build a steady income.
There is another interesting option that has been around for a few years that I have recently discovered.
There are now several sites out there where merchants can sell their digital downloads, with the site proprietor taking a percentage of the sale price. While many people use these sites to market e-books, mp3’s, software, etc, it is also a viable platform from which to sell royalty-free stock photography and royalty-free video clips.
The site with which I am currently experimenting is the German=based Tradebit.com.
There are several things I like about the Tradebit model:
1) Tradebit is highly ranked with Alexa (as of today, 2381st in the US), ensuring a built-in traffic flow. While not all of these visitors will be looking for stock photography, at least you have a chance to get your tagged, keyworded files in front of thousands of potential buyers.
2) Tradebit offers several ways to get the URL of your homepage in front of the visitors to their site.
3) You can set the price for your offerings at whatever you want. If I’m not comfortable accepting the 30 perc ent of $1 sales that many of the microstock sitesw are offering, I can post the same photo at Tradebit at any price I wish. I may not make any sales, but I can always adjust the price as I see fit and don’t have to be frustrated at seeing my work being used while I pocket a 30 cent commission!
4) There are no monthly fees involved in dealing with Tradebit. Amazingly, you do not pay for them to house you uploads, they work only for a percentage any sales.
5) You are your own editor. There is no long curation process, where you are often told that your work is not suitable for sale on a particular site. You decide exactly what you want to post for sale, upload it and it is online, usually within a day and often almost instantly!
6) The offerings on Tradebit show up very quickly and competitively ranked in google searches.
7) Buyers on Tradebit are not required to maintain a user account. They simply find what they are looking for and download it, paying via PayPal. I’ve always felt that the easier it is for someone to buy something, the more likely they are to buy it.
8) You can easily create a variety of embedable widgets from your projects and place them in blog posts, on web pages, etc. (see example below):
So those are a few of the Pros to the Tradebit model. Are there any Cons? Of course. The Tradebit platform is sort of a self-serve process for both buyers and sellers. While the owner, Ralf, is very helpful and responsive to questions, it is often a process of feeling around the site to make things look and work the way you’d like. I’ve discovered a few amazing little hidden perks in my exploring (the ability to insert a clickable-to-my-site banner on my pages, for example).
Tradebit is only one of several options for merchants looking to do business on one of the digital download sites, and I selected it due to its traffic ranking and favorable reviews that I was able to find online.
The jury is still out on the effectiveness of marketing royalty-free stock photos on Tradebit, as I’m only about a week into my experiment, but could this be the new wave for photographers to battle the online microstock mega-sites?
Marketing a photo archive online can be a difficult task, especially with things moving so fast in today’s world. For this reason, BCPix.com is happy to announce the creation of a new product: a unique collection of stock video clips created form the still photo archive of Florida-based freelance photographer Brian Cleary.
This collection is intended for use by documentary filmmakers, webmasters, video producers and anyone else in need of unique video content for their projects, and is offered for royalty-free sale online at:
At the collection’s new online home, you can browse the clips, search for specific content, purchase and instantly download the files.
The clips are uploaded in the HD1080 format at a 1920x1080 resolution, but other formats are available by contacting Brian Cleary (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Check the samples on this page and then hurry over to email@example.com to see if we might have just the clip to round out your newest production!
In trying to keep up to speed with the changing landscape in stock photography, www.bcpix.com is happy to announce the addition of the royalty-free collection.
The collection, which can be viewed by clicking here, features a select number of images which can be purchased and downloaded at a low, fixed price and then used repeatedly at the buyer’s discretion.
Sizes and prices are as follows:
500 pixels (small web sized) - $25
1000 pixels (large web sized) - $50
2500 pixels (newsprint sized) - $75
3000 pixels (hi-res) - $99
We are currently transferring select images over to the royaly-free collection, so be sure to check back often!
Several years ago, before the days of digital photography , I was walking on the beach with my camera, throwing bread to the seagulls along the shoreline, when one particular gull caught my eye.
At first I wasn’t sure, but closer inspection confirmed it: this seagull had no feet!
Of course I began to wonder how the gull had come to loose his feet. Visions of a shark attack from below as he floated on the Atlantic, or an unfortunate encounter with a tangle of wire fishing leader left behind by an inconsiderate angler came to mind.
Eventually I realized, though, that it didn’t matter how the bird had become footless. The amazing thing was that he had come to terms with his misfortune and had found ways to rise above it! He swirled and swooped with his fellow gulls above me battling for scraps of bread. He settled to the sand and rested on his knees when he became tired, then lifted effortlessly airborne when he chose to take flight. Sure, there were some differences between this gull’s life and the lives of his fellow flockmembers. For instance, I doubt that perching on a powerline was no longer a part of his life. But still, he didn’t seem to mind and went about his business as if he was no different than the birds that surrounded him.
A few years after my encounter with this footless seagull, digital photography came onto the scene. At first I thought I would not like it and was uncomfortable with the idea of no tangible film negative that I could develop and store securely in my files. Before long, though it became apparent that digital was here to stay and I began to embrace the technology.
Time went by and, as we all know, the business of photography was changed irreversibly and permanently. Image quality became better, cameras became cheaper. More and more photographers, talented and not-so-talented, were able to afford better and better cameras. The pool of available stock photography for purchase exploded and prices plummetted.
Here is where the footless seagull speaks to us. Some photographers chose to keep trying the same old things in hopes that they would work and their business would return to the levels of the past. Other photographers complained about how unfair things were and that no one understood the value of their work, many going so far as to putting down their cameras for good and moving on to other professions. The realists accepted the changes and realized that in the marketplace, a glut in supply means a diluted demand and lower prices and that ultimately the buyer decides what a product is worth. These photographers went about the business of finding new ways to create value for their photography. Whether that meant niche marketing, becoming a master of photoshop technique, or learning cutting edge SEO and online marketing strategies, these photographers found a way to survive.
So as I stand here in 2011 after almost 30 years in the business still holding a camera in my hands, I consider myself a colleague of that footless gull from many years ago: when my feet are cut out from underneath me, I’ll keep looking for ways to survive!
The revolution continues: What happened to still photography is happening to video. Just as technology supplied hi-end, hi-quality still cameras at affordable prices to anyone who wanted one over the past several years, all of us would-be videographers are now able to afford hi-quality, hi-def video equipment. And, it follows, just as photo buyers descended on the huge supply of photography that resulted, we are now faced with a glut of video producers who are more than happy to see a larger supply of hi-def video clips drive the prices of the stock video market down.
Having lived through it on the still photo side, and watching as technology created more hi-quality video equipment at lower prices, I could see this coming, and it’s not all that bad.
The same technology that delivered the better, cheaper equipment and created the declining prices, has also supplied us with an incredible tool to get more of our photos and videos in front of millions of viewers and potential buyers: the internet.
So as I continue to push my photo archive out on the internet and as I step off in a new direction, the world of video, I’m siding with the school of thought that says that falling prices can be offset by increasing sales volume, which would be a product of the millions of internet users I theoretically have access too.
Now, just as in the past, it’s simply a matter of rolling up your sleeves and working harder to position yourself favorably in today’s changing marketplace.
make custom gifts at Zazzle
How many of us, as photographers, down through the years have produced images that we though would be perfect for a poster, a postcard, a greeting card, etc,, only to package them up and send them off to a stock photo agency or upload them to a stock photo site, sure that their perfection for that certain use would be immediately obvious to the receiving editor and the royalty check would be soon rolling in, only to have the image flatly rejected and returned to your files? It's happened to me more times than I can count!
Well one benefit to the technology that has emerged over the past few years is the ability for individual artists to create their own design and float them in the marketplace to see if anyone notices.
I've been fooling around for the past month or so at Zazzle, one of many online do-it-yourself, print-on-demand sites that allows artists to create their own merchandise for sale. As a photographer, I can take that image that all the editors overt he years have rejected for a variety of reasons and by-god put it on that t-shirt or poster that I always knew it was perfect for.
It's not a new concept, it's been around for a few years, but it is one I've decided to try out in this age of dwindling stock photo commissions and hard-to-track-down clients. Lets say a photographer takes a photo of a dog catching a frisbee. He uploads it to a microstock site where it might end up being sold for as little as a dollar or two, out of which he might get a 50 cent commission. He can take that same image, incorporate some sort of catchy phrase and design his own poster at Zazzle, chose his own commission rate, which will determine the final selling price of the product. If someone orders that poster from Zazzle, that photographer can make from about $2 up to as much as $50 or more per sale. Individual artists also have a hand in marketing the products via many online options such as facebook, twitter, squidoo, and even their blogs. So, in theory, the artist has a good product and markets it effectively, he or she could end up making more money by designing and marketing there own products at a print on demand site.
We may not like the direction our industry has taken over the last few years, but the reality is that the changes are here to stay, and a new way of thinking might be necessary to survive as a professional photographer. One of the ways you might consider, is marketing your work on a site like Zazzle.