commercial content creation

Learning Stock Photography from True Sources?

There’s this gal I am following online. It is a lot of fun, though not in the way you might imagine. I don’t dislike her or anything, but the problem is she’s working for a seminar provider “teaching” people how to earn money as writers online, as house-sitters for holiday homes abroad, or from stock photography. In one of their initial teasers I saw, she mentions how nice the feeling is being able to make a car payment from one’s stock image income.

Well, or so they make you think.

The “fun” part comes in when watching the entire show more closely and marking those claims to reality. I have been mean enough to do just that for two years or so now. The reality is, unsurprisingly, not as simple as these claims, which are, in fact outrageous. That does not mean that it cannot be done at all or that it is not worthwhile nor fun doing it, or at least trying it. Some people still make good money in that business, even today.

Here’s what I found out:

Maybe, she even is overly unsuccessful and others can do better than she does (or the market has slumped so badly that even I am underestimating that slump, and I am just lucky to do better)? Anyway, she sells about 20-30 images at Dreamstime annually, and she’s doing this out of a portfolio of 88 photos she has for sale with that particular online image agency. She also is a fully-qualified photographer (learned photography, worked for a local photographer in the Pacific Northwest for a few years, and now is in the employ for that seminar provider for the very reason that she has those credentials. Apparently, these are supposed to add “credibility” to the pricey seminars they offer). She has learned the Ins and Outs of photography basics over multiple years of hands-on work in that very field.

In her seminars, she teaches you what to shoot, how to shoot it, and how to post-process it (and what software to use, which is an Adobe product — why am I not surprised)… She does exactly the same things for her own stock photography shots, and they are technically flawless and looking really good. She even uses models and does “all the right things” (which includes shooting all that crap that is supposed to sell so nicely as stock images in today’s “multi-cultural” and oh-so tolerant marketing industry). This type of content has recently been parodised by Vince Vaughn and the entire cast of “Unfinished Business” — so it’s not just me thinking these “messages” are ridiculous. There are even has those proverbial “business-people high fives” where that African-American face is smiling at the Half-Asian, and our girl also has the image of a box of “valentine’s treats” with some rather meaningless “Love, Oh-la-la” plastered across the picture.

At the end of the day, she has sold a total of 186 images over a whopping seven-plus year period with the agency. At the stock photography going-rate there of between 34 cents and $2 dollars (a little more for XXL-size images purchased without a subscription, which rarely happens these days), she would have all of $70-odd spread over more than seven years which equals roughly $10 bucks of income per year. (Even at the maximum conceivable in case she always managed selling XXL-sized images to a non-subscriber — which is entirely wishful thinking –, those earnings would still be under $500 total over a seven-year period).

Even considering the fact that she has a larger portfolio with iStock and also with Shutterstock — and Shutterstock is supposed to sell a significantly higher rate of your images albeit at a measly 25¢ a pop, which in my experience is not even the case — the original claim of making more than a totally negligible amount cannot be upheld in her case at all.

So much for that making-a-car-payment claim. So much for the overall credibility of that Publishing company offering those $$$ seminars.

Every time I make another sale from my (even smaller) portfolio with that same agency, I go and check if she has also sold something. She hasn’t. For the last four or more sales I had, and counting. Considering that I think my low sales rate is normal in today’s over-saturated microstock market and in light of my own very small portfolio of stock photos available through this particular agency, at least I must do something right there — and a lot better than that “coach” herself.

But she’s the one giving us advice.

Top Five Tips for Marketing with Video

It is not a secret that Video is one of the best tools there is for both internet and traditional marketing campaigns. Video is quickly gaining popularity among businesses. Statistics show significantly higher levels of visitor engagement, significant increases in conversion rates, and improved search engine optimisation results when video is used in marketing activities.

Companies both large and small have a huge need for quality content. Content was king since the very beginning of commercial internet use, now it’s not “just content” anymore but Video Is King, meaning that content with related video scores the highest.

A well-produced video can be just the thing to catch the attention of your website visitors or prospective customers in a brick-and-mortar setting .

The following five tips explain how to use video to improve SEO for internet selling and draw in more customers both online and off:

1. Pre-Production: Draft an actionable plan containing a list of reasonable and achievable goals for your video before you start shooting it. When working with a pro, ask them to incorporate these marketing goals at the pre-production stage and shoot in accordance with them. Time is money (for both yourselves and your video producer), and this greatly saves on unnecessary footage before it is even produced. Targeted content with a solid call-to-action does the trick. You want to take viewers to the next step of the sales funnel.

2. Create high-quality videos: not necessarily hiring a big-time production firm (expensive), but have your video shot with a few simple techniques in mind in order to not have it bounce (viewers leaving after a few seconds, bad for SEO rankings) and, that way, do more harm than good. Only start after solid pre-production (your own goals written down, properly transferred to video pro’s shooting plan), avoid long-windedness and slow-moving storylines. Make sure that state-of-the-art equipment is used (you want a production pro knowing their job, using the right lighting and other equipment to come up with well-produced HD video footage to be made into a brief clip, ideally less than one minute in total length.

3. Host your videos on your own domain: while YouTube or Vimeo and similar hosting sites may seem convenient for hosting videos, they will not let you have the benefit of increased web traffic to your own website. To tap into YouTube’s high visitor traffic, consider having your video pro extract an introductory video and post this with a brief text description and a link to the full video on your own domain (or have your video or marketing specialist do it for you). This will increase your visibility and drive visitors to your own site, and that’s where you want them to be (not YouTube)! On top, include share buttons for your videos, blog posts, and other content to give others the opportunity to amplify your reach.

4. Optimise your videos by adding meta descriptions: search engines cannot see but need to get an accurate picture of what’s in your video. Be sure to only use terms of what is actually in your video to avoid viewers quickly moving on (counted as bounces and damaging your rankings).

5. Use social media to get more traction from your video by distributing it across social media channels: when the above is done, don’t stop here but get more bang for the buck by also posting the video on all of your social media sites for your audience to re-share and enjoy.

We can help you to effectively use video marketing for both your online or traditional business and increase website traffic and customer conversion rates. Our business-friendly priced packages cost significantly less than the benefit they provide. Check out our video production services or get in touch with us for a free quote.

Race to the Bottom

It’s not a secret that the online stock or “microsotck” business model is rapidly wearing out itself. This appears to be true for both buyers and sellers of downloadable arts files. The best part is the one of the agencies themselves where big automated profits can be made off however small a margin because of multiplication made possible by an intelligent business system. Even for the agencies themselves, things aren’t as rosy as they used to be though. It all burns down to the vast number of files stored in today’s agencies. With 60 million images on Shutterstock alone, you should get the picture — or not, because how on earth are buyers supposed to find something within a reasonable amount of time?

Particularly with the surge in video footage made available (and stored) online, all aspects have turned red exponentially: cost of storage, use of bandwidth on the part of the agencies, time needed to sift through the enormous amounts of content available on part of the prospective buyer, and lowered prices and profit margins mostly on the part of artists (but partially agencies themselves as well).

So even the agencies themselves increasingly appear to be hurting. Even iStock as a subsidiary of media giant Getty Images, is spinning non-stop and throwing out increasingly desperate changes to their pricing and overall business model. Mergers and acquisitions — most recently the one between Fotolia and Adobe — prove that cost-cutting is more than just the latest flavour of the day.

Further illustrating the problem is the fact that $1-or-below pictures and $2 video clips cannot possibly be very profitable for anyone, artist or agency alike. Saying just that, the banner below — while clickable for a commission sponsoring this site much more attractively than actual images themselves — is truly symbolic for the overall situation described.

video hive is an example for online video footage selling from only $2.00

In a world like that, truly new approaches are urgently needed. One could be reverse image search or “human-powered image discovery” as seen with ImageBrief. Others may be self-hosting and taking back control of one’s own content and intellectual property on individually-owned gallery websites and quality showcase locations online. Additional business models will — and have to — be developed, including the incorporation of disruptive technologies like Bitcoin and other Crypto currencies with a potential to solve crucial parts (like cost of payments transmission and general micropayments distribution) of the microstock business model.

The near future will be exciting, and we will be watching and reporting on things to come.