Wednesday, August 27, 2008

File storage on the go

Tired of lugging a laptop with you on every location shoot? I was. So for a recent travel shoot I picked up a new card transfer and storage device. I had purchased several of these devices in the past, but was always disappointed by speed, reliability, and battery life. I was hoping that technology had advanced enough so these short comings would now be overcome. I was right.

The model I purchased is the new Hyperdrive Colorspace 0. This card reader has a 3.2” color screen that displays JPG and a long list of camera RAW including Canon CR2 / CRW, Fujifilm RAF, Konica Minolta MRW, Leica M8 DNG, Nikon NEF, Olympus ORF, Panasonic RAW, Pentax PEF / DNG, Ricoh DNG, Samsung DNG, Sony ARW. Backup speed is very fast on a battery life claimed to deliver 120GB per charge. An interesting feature is its card recovery tool for recovering lost or deleted images on a memory card. Fortunately, I did not have an opportunity to try out this feature. If I ever do, I will report the results here.

Hyperdrive comes with drive sizes ranging from 80GB to 500GB as well as a casing only model allowing you to add your own drive.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Image Half Life

Quite often I am asked how long a stock image will live. I have always had difficulty answering this question because, while sales from some images diminish rapidly, other images continue to generate sales for over twenty plus years. After some analysis, I came up with a concept of “image half life” to explain the rate at which stock photo income declines over time.

The term “image half life” is borrowed from physics where it refers to the unpredictable life span of a decaying atom. Similarly, in stock photography a body of work will not just stop earning at one point in time. Instead it will probably follow a course whereby it produces steady income for several years and then gradually begins to diminish over time. The rate of diminishing return varies with a number of circumstances – longevity factor of the individual image subject, the agency where the image is placed, changing photographic styles, changes within the stock marketplace, and numerous other factors.

Simply put, image half life in stock photography refers to the period of time over which the sales from a body of stock images will diminish to half of what it was in its first year of marketing. As an example, let’s say we have a body of newly produced images earning $10,000 annually. If in five years the same body of work is earning only $5,000, and five years after that (ten years from initial marketing) earning $2500, then the image half life is 5, for five years.

Why is image half life important? Stock photographers derive income from royalty payments over time. In order to predict income from a body of work in years to come, it is important to factor in image half life. For purposes of planning retirement income, for instance, you need to know how much income can be expected from a body of work receiving diminishing returns over time.

Once you do the calculations, you will find that it only takes a small percentage of new images added annually to the existing portfolio to maintain its consistent income over time.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Globalizing your stock images

In RF stock photography where the royalty rate is low the name of the game is multiple sales. Internet marketing has made this a breeze for photographers who put their images with agencies or outlets having global distribution schemes. Giving your images a non-specific country look can serve to increase sales globally.

Including any language in a photo is a sure way to localize it. So try to avoid the presence of words. For instance, when photographing a school scene with a blackboard, it would be far more generic to have math problems written on the board.

Check out uniforms, a European nurse’s uniform might be different than an American uniform. Perhaps all you have to do is modify the nurse’s cap. Pay attention to clothing styles and hair styles everywhere, and select your wardrobes accordingly.

Whenever I travel to a foreign country, I make a habit of visiting several large department stores to see what people there are buying and what images advertisers use in their displays. You might learn that including something as simple as a home phone in your photo is a quick give-away that the shot was done in the USA and not Europe, thereby hurting potential European sales of the photo.

Much of this seems obvious, but is often over looked by the stock shooter. Always try to imagine the end use of your images, and keep in mind that the use may be in a completely different part of the world. The more universal you keep the image, the more you increase your chances for multiple sales.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

First things first

To be successful, a stock photo must first grab the viewer’s attention. That’s something of a given. What comes next is something often overlooked by even the most seasoned stock shooters.

Before you ever pick up the camera, you need to know the end use of the image you are about to take. Specifically, this means knowing the industry being served and how the subject of the photo relates to that industry. Let’s look at an example.

The insurance industry needs images for auto insurance, home owners insurance, theft insurance, fire insurance, flood insurance, and on and on. The list is quite extensive. Once the stock shooter has the industry list of needs, the next step is to determine how these topics could be illustrated.

We can divide the coverage into negative and positive methods. For instance, showing a crashed car, burnt home, or the results of any disaster is the negative way of illustrating the point. Showing a person feeling secure because he or she is protected by insurance is a positive was of illustrating the same point. In general, positive images will always outsell negative ones in stock photography. That is because advertisers want to gain allegiance from their customers by imbuing their ads with a nurturing feeling, as opposed to showing them something that scares them to death. Positive trumps negative.

In sum, to create marketable stock photos you should fill the advertising needs of a specific industry, actively illustrate these industry needs in a positive way, and make the image powerful enough graphically to grab the viewer’s attention in a fraction of a second. Note the order here. We don’t start with a photo idea and work towards the industry. We start first with a researched understanding of the industry and work back to a powerful image.