internet selling

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.

 

Photographer’s Darling: New Online Media Selling Tool

If you are like most photographers, then titling, tagging, and editing your descriptions is tremendously time-consuming and a huge overall turnoff. Many tools have been developed to try and ease the pain, but so far there has been very little available out there to truly make a difference. The only “solutions” are expensive or they are third-party hosted and do not give you any meaningful control over your own photography (or graphic design) business.

Even available WordPress solutions like the popular SellMedia Plugin, while providing great steps in the right direction, have certain shortcomings.

Solution to Indie Selling: Professional Tool for Online Media Selling

To the rescue comes “Indie Selling” for photographers, videographers, and graphics artists — all complete with a brand-new Plugin called “grfx” (stands for graphics). This powerful microstock photography (and, yes, graphics) plugin for WordPress had initially been developed as a Theme-based solution. It has gathered a following of a few hundred enthusiasts over the past few years and is much-liked in the microstock community worldwide. Independently selling or “indie selling” of art online, from graphics to photography, video footage and even including e-books and other Downloadables, has taken a major step forward with the outstanding grfx Plugin for WordPress.

The new grfx Plugin for WordPress extends another popular WP solution, the popular Woocommerce e-shop, to allow mass-upload and selling your stock images online through your own store — and, unlike Shutterstock, Fotolia, iStock and others, on your own terms! Sell multiple image sizes, licenses, file types, useful for any image market including photography and selling other files, images etc. for download, but optimized for illustrators. The Plugin is brought to you by Leo Blanchette in Hawaii of clipartillustration.com who set up grfx, the illustrator network.

The grfx WordPress Plugin reads your meta-data from images, streamlining all  upload/description processes and providing a huge productivity advantage to every photographer or microstock artist — no tedious editing required anymore.

Summing It All Up: Main Features of GRFX:

Great community support, and very strong SEO functionality built-in. Further details of the grfx Plugin for WordPress include:

  • Compatible with Woocommerce and Woocommerce themes: Enjoy the benefits, security, and extensibility of a Woocommerce based store that sells stock images.
  • FTP Support: Bypass the uploader and easily FTP your images.
  • Beautifully watermarks your images: Protect your images with a professional looking watermark – automatically provided or of your creation.
  • Automated image processing: – Set it and forget it. Process thousands of images at once.
  • Set your own licenses: Easily set EULAs (End User License Agreements) for your images.
  • Processes image Metadata: Extracts title, keywords, and description from your image files’ EXIF information and applies them to either all or single ones of your products, saving you lots of time.
  • Illustrator network: Join the grfx illustrator network, open for photo and graphics artists alike.
  • Support forums and community: (now closed)
  • Tested and stable: We’ve been doing this a long time, and this package is well-tested and very stable.

The grfx Plugin is highly recommended.

 

 

Why Sell Independently?

As to why anyone would want to go down the route of selling their photos, graphics work, or other media on their individual website at all, however great the available tools, let’s simply have a look at the professional artists forum Microstockgroup from Sarpsborg in southesastern Norway’s Østfold province and bear in mind what real-life micro stock artists have to say about pay and other policies of conventional microstock agencies like iStock, Shutterstock, and similar. In light of steadily declining revenues and established agencies’ tendency toward lowering acceptance thresholds even further and favoring quantity over quality, selling individually on one’s own website can beat microstock selling very early on. Done right, it will not even beat but can easily surpass conventional microstock income levels as Search Engine Optimization can be done more effectively for self-controlled images and media files.

Google Update: Still Promoting Your Site Effectively

Beginning in April 2012, Google has started to modify their way of “looking” at websites. Changes in basic structures of underlying algorithms around the “Googlebot” and database handling are meant to siphon out useless and dishonest results. These are most often achieved by dubious “consultants” tweaking their SEO methods in order to force overly-advantageous results for their own or their clients’ websites. Comment spamming or building an extensive web of — more or less legit — content that then, oh-so surprisingly, all points to a certain location are chief among these methods.

In order to restrict these con-artists and limit the success of their methods even further, Google has introduced yet another modification, an update to their Penguin update of last year. The consequences are not yet fully understood throughout the community — or rather communities (namely of legitimate SEO and illegitimate black-hat operators).

Here is some advice though:

Whatever the intricacies of the update or, in fact, any future modifications, staying with high-quality content and accepted ways of sharing, commenting or promoting that content will never be wrong (nor “punished” by any reasonable search engine). So instead of thinking up all sorts of stuff, comment spamming and doing stupid things, why not spend just a fraction of the time and effort involved for writing some meaningful content and create some legitimate Social Media buzz around it? Google and all the other bots love Facebook and similar sites. This is hardly a secret, it is a well-established fact, and while it is long known throughout the industry it is actually surprising that it is not the only thing all these strange characters out there are after. Would save them a lot of elbow-grease — and, indeed, trouble. On top, it’s also an integrity thing: as a business person, you really do not want to abuse someone else’s effort (and resources) by exploiting or tainting their operation with your garbage. Get out, you and your dirty BS down there under “comments” are not invited — not anywhere in the world, that is –, and it is not even “helpful” for your own little games anyway. So spend some time thinking (if you can), get a few new books or do some proper research over the net. Then, finally get it right. For all our sakes: your customers’, your own, and ours who do not want to have to constantly clean up after the likes of yourself…