If you do stock photography then you are probably aware that image keywording is one of the most debated and least sexiest activities in professional photography. Several companies have produced keyword software to help alleviate this problem by minimizing the amount of redundant exercises and to ensure adequate keywording of your images. Without proper keywording, your images would be hard-pressed to sell these days not to mention difficult to locate if you have a large library of images to sift through for submissions. With that said, Cradoc fotoSoftware recently sent me a copy of their new fotoKeyword Harvester software to review for this blog.
Keyword Harvesting: The first thing I did when I opened the program was click on the “open web pages” tab to bring up a bunch of big stock photo sites where I could do keyword research for similar images. I found that some of the stock sites didn’t consistently have adequate keywording such as Getty Images and Jupiter. In my opinion, the most useful sites for “harvesting” keywords are Alamy, Digital Railroad Marketplace, Photoshelter and Corbis. (Technically, DRR wasn’t on the default list but I added it myself). I deleted some of the other default websites (dictionary and thesaurus) from the list because that takes more time than I’m willing to spend on an image. For some however, it might help to consult with those sites during your keyword research. Overall I thought this was a nifty little time-saving feature to be able to set your default list of websites and have up to ten of them open at once in tab-browsing mode on your web browser. Certainly more convenient than opening them all one-by-one.
Once you find your images then just copy and paste the keywords into the program then click “Harvest Keywords” to eliminate the duplicates and format the list for use. There is also a list of words that are screened out such as “a”, “and”, “by”, stuff that people would use in a conversation but not for stock photo research. This was very helpful and a time-saving feature particularly when copying a pasting text from a variety of sources.
The Keyword Catalog: This is the Keyword Composer tab which is basically a customizable, controlled vocabulary database of commonly photographed subjects. This feature, which is an updated version from fotoBiz 2.0, makes sure that you didn’t forget any essential words. For example, when I was keywording the LA County Fair image below, I checked off the box that said “Things” and the menu brought up a list of categories. The ones that applied to this image were “Americana” and “Food & Prep”. Once clicking on Americana, it brought up a list of keywords. One of which was “junk food”. That fit my image so I clicked on it. Then it added several related keywords onto my list of keywords. For nature photographers, this program could really come in handy because there is a lengthy list of wildlife and natural history subjects which produce latin names that typically require research to find out.
Overall: Before editing down the list of words for relevance, I had 100+ words in the harvester. After making a final edit, I ended up with 88. I had about 23 in my original session of keywording prior to using this program. I found the disparity between how few keywords I originally had versus what I got out of using fotoKeyword Harvester to be shocking. If I were to re-keyword my whole collection in this manner I’d probably triple my sales. What I’d recommend is to start with your most marketable images and then leave the rest as is to focus on keywording your new images.
I found fotoKeyword Harvester to be much more thorough and user-friendly for image keywording than other programs I have tried such as iView Media Pro and Image Info Toolkit. fotoKeyword Harvester was clearly written by a photographer for photographers. In time, it would probably be a time-saver for me to use this program but one thing for sure is that this is essential software for photographers looking to maximize the value of their pictures.
I chose the following three images for an example because they represent three very different types of keywording challenges. They are also subjects / places that I anticipate photographing again in the future.
My Original Photo Keywords: tambourine; tambourines; woman; women; female; females; girl; girls; Venice Beach; drum circle; music; musicians; percussion; dances; dancing; fun; young; youth culture; couterculture; Southern California; Los Angeles County; travel; USA; United States of America; movement; beaches; party; partying; parties; coastal; people; crowd; crowded; crowds
fotoKeyword Harvester: los angeles county, pacific coast, sunset, scenes, travel, southern california, outdoors, usa, venice beach, north america, evening, american, people, drum, circle, dancing, dance, dances, united states, celebration, counterculture, free, spirits, spirited, girl, female, females, lady, ladies, woman, women, fun, twenties, young, adult, life, festival, youth, culture, drumming, dancers, freedom, music, rhythm, beat, percussion, multi, ethnic, leisure, happy, musical, spiritual, gathering, calm, harmony, musician, musicians, male, males, man, afternoon, sunday, interracial, together, mood, move, sound, adults, enjoyment, men, togetherness, festivity, community, group, recreation, crowd, dancer, ca, tambourine, sensual, sexy, seductive, americans, crowded, crowds, tambourinist, tambourinists, tambourines, us, energetic, energy, inspired, inspire, inspiring, inspires, meditative, meditate, meditating, meditation, meditates, passionate, passion, passions, upbeat, vibrant, vibrance, vibrancy, party, parties
My Original Keywords: Maroon Bells; maroon lake; maroon – snowmass wilderness; forests; white river national forest; colorado; rocky mountains; cold; winter; snow; ice; white; clouds; sunset; sunsets; reflection; reflecting; reflections; high altitude
fotoKeyword Harvester: colorado, skies, forest, rocky mountains, maroon bells, winter, season, snow, trees, bare, white, cold, rockies, altitude, majestic, maroon lake, maroon – snowmass wilderness, forests, white river national forest, ice, clouds, sunset, sunsets, reflection, reflecting, reflections, high, aspen, 14,000, feet tall, fourteeners, mountain peaks, state, united states, nature, idyllic, outdoors, western, usa, frozen, water, peak, north america, landscape, mirror, wild, remote, rural, natural, scenic, ecosystem, rugged, alpine, tree, outside, towering, range, summit, pinnacle, backcountry, outdoor, majesty, west, continental divide, beauty, scenics, snowcapped peaks, co, us, lakes, landscapes, scenery, dusk, wintertime, cloud, cloudy, weather
My Original Keywords: apple fries; mexican funnel cake; L.A. County Fair; Southern California; Los Angeles County Fair; fairs; food; greasy; junk food; unhealthy diet; Pomona Fairplex; 2007; gluttony; food stand; ordering food; people; tourists; people; tourism; hunger; hungry
fotoKeyword Harvester: southern california, los angeles county, fairgrounds, food, sign, drink, sweets, fun, north america, enjoyment, pomona fairplex, us, entertainment, fairs, neon, night, delicious, people, apple, fries, mexican, funnel, cake, la county fair, greasy, junk, unhealthy, diet, gluttony, ordering, tourists, tourism, hunger, hungry, u.s, united states, american, americana, travel, tourist, eat, couple, carefree, bliss, blissful, blissfulness, gluttonous, glutton, traveling, traveler, travels, travelers, ca, united states, dessert, desserts, fast food, fast foods, foods, vendor, vendors, amusement park, theme park, amusement parks, theme parks, fast food, greasy spoon, greasy spoons
If anyone is interested to compare keyword lists like I did above, you can put a link to one of your images in the blog comments, then I’ll generate a list of keywords for you from fotoKeyword Harvester. I think you’d be as impressed as I was.
Here is a link to the product website: http://www.cradocfotosoftware.com/fotoKeyword-Harvester/index.html
After just a few years in the advertising industry, Nashville, Tennessee-based art director Kaleena Tucker has already received accolades from the ADDY’s, One Show Student Competition and the Young Guns International Ad Competition. Find out what she has to say about photography.
How to get your book seen by ad agency art buyers is a source of endless debate amongst professional photographers. So set the record straight by telling us what methods a photographer can do to get your attention and keep it?
I’ve always been amazed at how many photography samples the average Art Director receives on a daily basis. Whether postcard-size, full-page prints, or booklets, most samples get thrown in the trash. Many without a second look. And it’s not because it’s bad photography. Most of the time it’s beautiful. The problem is, where do you put all of these postcards and work samples? It’s like getting coupons in the mail. They may be useful, but after so many, you just start trashing them. The 5% that get kept are the ones that use non-traditional methods and do something really cool. For example, I like to put cool stuff up on my office wall, so… if I get something fun in the mail from a photographer, it goes on my wall. As far as what works, I’d have to say that cold calling works. I know it sucks. But, a photography/illustration rep was able to set up a 30-minute showcase in our creative department just by giving me a call one morning. Emails easily get ignored. Mail mostly gets trashed. But, most phone calls get answered. I’d say that’s the way to go.
What has been your process for choosing a photographer to work with?
Most of the time, I go to the agency’s print production department, tell them what kind of style I’m looking for and ask them for any suggestions. In addition to that, I scour the Internet, and go through photography books to look for someone whose style fits what I’m looking for. Do they do a lot of indoor shooting? Are they good at lighting? Etc…
Where do you typically go when looking for stock photos? Do you ever look for photos on Flickr or Google?
No, Flickr and Google are only good if you’re looking for reference materials. In my experience, if you’re looking for something to actually use, it’s a complete waste of time. An agency’s clients have to be able to buy the image. Most of the images on Google and Flickr are a hassle to figure out ownership/rights. I use the big stock sites: Getty, Corbis, JupiterImages, etc. I know that I can usually find something useable.
Would there be occasional exceptions to this, say if the photographer had a website that was set-up for e-commerce licensing transactions similar to a Getty or Corbis, or if their bio listed a slew of big-name publishing credits such as National Geographic, Time, Ogilvy & Mather, etc…?
Yes it’s definitely possible that while you’re searching for reference materials/images, you may stumble across a photographer’s site who’s done some cool stuff and offers great stock photography. But honestly, I rarely seek out individual photographers that provide these services. It’s like, if you’re trying to meet someone to date. Your chances of finding someone at the company party, or at a bar is greater than running into someone on the street. It’s a numbers game. That’s what’s great about the big stock houses. It’s like a big online bar of drunken photographers waiting to be taken home.
(Alcohol. Does a body good.)
When you are doing a stock photo search, does it make a difference to you whether or not the image is rights-managed or royalty-free?
Absolutely! That is the number one question I ask my Account Manager. What kind of budget do we have? Do we have to get something royalty-free, or can we afford rights-managed? Again, no need to waste time finding a great image that the client can’t afford. Money matters. Budgets are real. Especially to smaller clients.
Aside from art direction reasons, what type of photography do you enjoy looking at the most?
I like a lot of classic black and white photography with simple imagery. I find that I’m much more captivated by a single subject, rather than photography with a lot going on.
I’d like to thank Kaleena for her time and insightful responses to these questions. Hopefully you’ve found this information to be useful for your own photo business.
When you freelance to pay the bills, (unless you’re already loaded), it’s not about how much gross income you make, it is how much net income you come away with. When you have a full-time job, it’s nice to get health insurance benefits (hopefully), have taxes taken out with every check and money put into retirement. When you don’t have one, then it is up to you to manage all of those things. So the freelancer really has to think of their income as business income, not salary. The IRS says so as well. Regular jobs don’t come with an overhead cost usually, but freelance jobs usually do, particularly photography. If you’ve ever had to do temp work or in an industry with no job security, then you can probably relate also.
I’ve heard a joke from some professional photographers that you can tell the difference between the full-time freelancer and a serious hobbyist just by looking at them. The F/T freelancer has a beat-up camera & lens and drives a 20 year old car. The other photographer has the latest equipment and makes sure everyone knows it. For the freelancer it’s as much about minimizing your expenses as much as it is generating income. So what types of costs are there to consider?
Camera: Do you need the latest and greatest body? It depends. Can you get the job done effectively with your current gear?
Lenses: Can the images I can only make with the image stabilizer lens sell for enough money to justify the extra cost? Can I get similar image quality with a non-Canon L lens? Would it be smarter in the long-run to put this money into a mutual fund or property investment so I can upgrade later?
Car: Does your 15-year old car still work? What is the gas efficiency? How much does it cost to maintain?
Travel: Hotels or camping? Can you get an inexpensive room in the city without fearing for your life? Does camping still save you money once you factor in the driving distance? Can you find someone to split the travel costs with? Haven’t I photographed alpenglow on Half Dome ten times already? Would I ever sell an image from this place if I go there?
Office: Where you handle your daily business – can you get the same amount of work done conveniently in your own home rather than renting studio space? I’ve read and heard all sorts of things from wedding photographers believe that meeting in the photographers home helps to seal the deal, to having a downtown studio sounds more impressive to photo editors.
Other Stuff: Everything else that normal people have.
The moral of the story: It’s hard to earn a living doing what you enjoy but many are doing it. It can be an incredibly rewarding occupation or part-time business. It requires a lot of personal sacrifice however. There are some people making a mockery of photography by giving work away for free or selling royalty-free for pennies. If you are going to shoot serious pictures, then charge appropriately for your pictures. If they are good enough to be published then they will sell for market value. With the general public suspecting each photographer of being a paparazzi member, terrorist or a source for free photos these days, really all photographers are being affected by the actions of a few. This is not simply a matter of economic philosophy. What it comes down to is that photography needs an image rehabilitation and that should start today with you and I. It’s about educating those in need of one.
Popular Social Networking Methods: Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, AIM, blogging, podcasts, LinkedIn, Ning, Plaxo, Pownce, StumbleUpon, online forums, etc…
Are these worth the time if you are trying to market your photography? It depends on what your business plan is. If you use the internet to generate leads for your business, then some of them might be worth your time if you have a clear idea for who you plan to reach. If your website is just there to remind existing clients that you are there then social networking sites might be a waste of time for you other than say a blog and an RSS feed.
They are mostly promotional tools for me, otherwise I wouldn’t bother wasting more time on the computer with them. The newest fad that I like, are widgets. These cool looking “online ads” are bits of code that these social media sites allow you to paste your info onto blogs and any other online sources.
Online Forums: the most obvious benefit to these is to network with your peers. A side benefit to this is that the photographers that you develop relationships with can end up in a link trade which helps with search engine rankings. Also, these are people that you can swap insights with, image critiques, and good company to go shooting with. I regularly participate on the Nature Photographers Network because these are people whom I consider to be my peers. Photo.net is also a great source for general information though I don’t actively participate on that site. A good idea to employ with these sites is to include your URL’s in your signature as a promotional tool for your website every time that you comment in addition to being link juice. I would also recommend spending some time on the photo business forums which are listed under the links on the right. I won’t elaborate on Flickr right now because I have serious reservations about the overall culture of that site.
Twitter: Many people use this to “tweet” every detail of their personal lives, but I try to minimize that in favor of promoting my photography activities. I have some photographers on my follow list on Twitter so it’s a good word of mouth PR outlet. Twitter is pretty mainstream with the web 2.0 crowd so it is definitely worth investigating. Even art buyers follow photographers on Twitter so it’s an easy way to provide updates on what you’re doing professionally. Another cool thing about Twitter is the widget that you can put on your blog to help your readers keep up to date with you.
Facebook is another source where you can add your RSS feeds and mass-email people on your friends list. Almost everyone uses Facebook these days so if you have the right contacts then it could be worth your time. Beware that it is easy to get sucked into time-waste mode on this site with all the games and stuff you can add to your private profile. I’m guilty of it.
Digg is primarily for driving large numbers of traffic to web articles. This is probably the least targeted method of web marketing for professional photographers but if enough people link to your article then it could drive up your search engine rankings. I personally spend very little time on here because I think these are just for short-term popularity boosts rather than long-term brand building. More geared toward breaking news stories because the controversial stuff is what tends to get Digged.
These are just a couple of the well-known online networking sites and there are new ones everyday. The key is to not get sucked into every little detail where you lose track of the ultimate goal: promoting your brand and networking with your professional peers. The two social networking methods where I feel that I get the most bang for my buck is blogging and the online forums. The others, I could probably live without. Remember the most important website for your business is your own. Invest the most energy there.
(Originally published at In the Field in September, 2007 and updated for this blog)
Stock photographers complain all the time about how dreadful keywording is and how it is the worst aspect of the profession. Well this article is not about that.
Proper keywording is essential to selling stock photography nowadays. Without good keywording skills you would be hard pressed to sell anything through stock photo agencies because the industry has gone mostly digital in the past several years. Keywords can also help make your life as a photographer easier because it would allow you to find your own images in a database easier. Keeping track of and finding all of your images is easy if you only have a few hundred marketable images but when you have thousands of images like most pros then it is easy to forget images when one is pressed for time if one doesn’t have an efficient filing system set up. In this article, I will describe what I was thinking about as I keyworded the following image and offer my opinion as to what is necessary in order to keyword a photo properly.
Photo: Louisville Bats versus Norfolk Tides AAA Minor League Baseball Game, Louisville, Kentucky
The most obvious keywords for any location shoot image should be geographic location so here are a few that immediately come to mind for this photo: Slugger Field, Louisville, Kentucky, southern, south, USA, United States of America. Personally I tend to leave the United States keywords out because I only shoot U.S. locations and I shoot very location-specific subject matter. If a photo researcher doing were to do an online stock photo search for a Kentucky tourism article or brochure, they’d likely type in something like “Louisville minor league baseball” or “Louisville team sports”, which is more than sufficient to bring up the necessary images since the odds of a Hungarian photo researcher needing my images from Kentucky are highly unlikely. Secondly, minor league baseball is generally thought of as an American sport, so it is unlikely that anyone would do a search on stock site for, “USA minor league baseball teams”. Now if I were keywording for a location such as Niagara Falls or San Francisco, of which the country of origin could be of multiple countries, then the need for country identifying would be more necessary. In this case however, since baseball is an integral part of American culture and history I decided to include the country identifier keywords since the images could be used in a broader sense than just the sport of baseball.
Once the location keywords have been determined, what next? Subject matter is another area in which one should explore for keywords. For sure, some images are more conducive to a high quantity of keywords than others say compare this baseball image with a general postcard scenic image of mountain such as Mount Shasta. There’s only a few relevant ways you can describe the Mount Shasta picture to be of any use to the photo researcher, whereas the baseball image can fit into multiple different image category genres such as lifestyle, travel, sports, inspirational, etc… For the baseball image for example here are just a few keywords to scratch the surface: hitter, hitters, hitting, batter, batters, bat, bats, batting, athlete, athletics, athletes. Knowing some historical information on your subject matter would be very helpful as well.
Synonyms: Every person has their own personal photo search style, so one should always include the singular and plural forms of the words in addition to synonyms of terminology that one might realistically use to find your image. One person might type in “Kentucky baseball pitching” whereas someone else might find my photo by typing in “minor leaguers tossing baseballs in the south”, so it would be to your best interest to include as many relevant forms of the terms as possible.
Vernacular: Be mindful of how your target market speaks because the terminology that they use might not be the same as yours. Slang to one person might be everyday speech to another. For example, my college roommate was from Idaho and never could understand what I was talking about when I said “soda” or “market” because he knew them as “pop” and “grocery store”. Knowing that linguistic insight, I would include those variations of the terms despite the fact that I would probably not use those same words myself in a conversation. Keywording strategy is all about covering the necessary bases.
Conceptual Descriptor keywords: This category of keywords describes the concept of your image. Advertising art directors are more likely to be searching for these types of keywords than an editorial buyer because advertising photography is typically used to illustrate a creative concept based off of a single message. While not absolutely mandatory for some of the images that I shoot, it could be beneficial to include these words anyway. To describe the baseball image, I could add keywords such as “determination, fortitude, reflexes, competition, competitors, etc…” For regular model-released lifestyle type stock imagery though, these sorts of keywords can make or break you financially. If you aren’t good at coming up with descriptory keywords for that type of imagery then chances are you will sell nothing because lifestyle images are all about illustrating a concept. If I were a “lifestyle” photographer specialist, then I’d probably pay a professional keyword specialist to keyword my images since this category of keywords is the most difficult to do effectively.
How many words are too much?: There has been a lot of debate over this since Alamy rolled out their new “Alamy Rank” image search engine prioritizing system a few months ago. Questions one must consider are: Are these keywords diluting the impact of my essential keywords? If so, is it worth leaving this keyword in at the potential risk of receiving a lower rank for a more important keyword? Does the stock agency put a cap on the amount of keywords that I can include per image, if so, then which words should I leave out?
There’s no way for anyone else to answer these questions for you because no one really knows the answers to these questions. My theory is that it’s best to know how your photos might be used and base your keyword strategy off of that assumption. For me, I’d rather just stay modest and not get too cute with every word in the dictionary if no one is likely to use those words. On the other hand, I see some photographers that will stuff 500 keywords into every image. I don’t know what other photographers are selling on Alamy, but my Alamy gross sales in the past year (2006 – 07) is almost $5 per number of images on average, which is higher than the commonly assumed standard of $1 per number of images annual average.
Keywording is not a rocket science so there’s no need to go Shakespeare to find keywords your images. All it takes is some common sense and a little understanding in how your images are used.
Photo Keywording Software: iView Media Pro, Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture, BreezeBrowser, FotoStation, IDimager, Image Info Toolkit, Photo Mechanic, Image Keyworder, StockView / METAmachine, fotoKeyword Harvester
The above listed software programs can help you batch keyword images in addition to allowing to create / purchase a controlled vocabulary catalog of keywords ensuring that you’ve got all your bases covered. I’ve tried to keyword images with trial versions of iView, Lightroom and Image Info Toolkit. These programs don’t really fit into my imaging workflow however at the moment so I do not use these programs. However, for many others it is well worth the investment. Eventually I will probably incorporate one of these into my workflow however.
Keywords: Louisville Bats; AAA Minor League Baseball; teams; team; sports; sport; sporting; America’s Favorite Pastime; Louisville; Kentucky; Kentuckiana; South; southern; USA; United States of America; Norfolk Tides; Slugger Field; pitcher; pitching; pitch; ball; balls; bat; batting; batter; batters; umpire; umpires; umpiring; catcher; catchers; catch; catching; infield; infield; field diamond; diamonds; grass; grass; backstop; back stop; stops; backstops; people; player; players; man; men; athlete; athletes; athletics; hand-eye coordination; compete; competitors; competitor; competition; competing; anticipate; anticipation; anticipating; reflex; reflexes; determined; determination; hitters; hitter; minor leaguer; minor leaguers; tossing; toss; tosses; flamethrower; flamethrowers; fireballers; fireballer; speed; fast; quick; speedy; quickly
Try to enjoy your next keyword session. 😉
“Like Heaven” Travel Photography Video
The primary reason why I started composing my own soundtracks for my YouTube motion-picture videos is because it’s too difficult if not impossible to license good music on a small budget. So I figured that since I used to write my own tunes for fun when I was playing saxophone in the college jazz program & in grad school, so why not pick it back up again? I rarely play the sax these days, but I still have a cheap guitar or two laying around the house so it made sense to try hacking something out of them.
I used to record with a Shure instrument mic plugged into my PC’s sound card whether I was recording a saxophone, guitar or keyboard track. Since I didn’t know anything about recording techniques and equipment, I found it difficult to record my alto saxophone playing in particular because the sound kept distorting due to extreme volume. But this time around, I had another problem also. My 30W Marshall amp blew up due to an electrical problem at home a few months ago. I wasn’t in the mood to spend another $400 – 500 to replace it, so I looked around Guitar Center’s website for a multi-effects processor with which I could use in substitution for the guitar amp. A major benefit to using one of these devices is that you can plug straight into your USB port and record directly into the computer without worrying about mics and ambient sound conditions. The sound records much cleaner this way.
Another reason why I chose to purchase the $99 DigiTech RP150 multi-effects pedal instead of buying a new amp to record is because I sold my “hard rock” guitar two years ago leaving me only with a $150 Fender Strat. I hate the sound of this guitar because it is too tinny, but I keep using because I like the way that it feels. With an effects processor though, I can create whatever tones I want even with this cheap Strat. An added bonus is that there is a built-in drum machine with this device. Previously, I programmed drum rhythms on my MIDI keyboard.
Keep in mind that you can create music for your slideshows even if you play keyboards or other instruments, you just have to be able to plug a quality recording device into your computer and have recording software. Most keyboards should be able to plug directly into the computer though, so that’s not an issue.
As for the software – I use open source freeware software like Audacity to record and Photostage for the slideshows. But I’ve used Pro Show Gold in the past for slideshows and think that it is a much better program allowing for more creativity.
Essentially I have been producing these YouTube videos with under $300 worth of gear. Now if only getting all the photos could be done on that sort of budget… Perhaps sometime in the future, I will get into the basics of choosing music and editing for photography videos.
(Originally published at In the Field in October, 2007.)
Digital workflow is a seldom discussed topic on photo blogs but it also happens to be one of the most important aspects for a working photographer to be proficient at. Without a good workflow it would be difficult to locate images quickly, you’d be doing the same tasks repeatedly, and just a total waste of time that would be better spent doing other things. It’s best to establish a good workflow from the beginning because by the time you’ll actually start noticing a need for something consistent you’d likely already have a significant number of images in your collection. It would be a pain to have to re-incorporate all of those processed images back into your new workflow.
Now if I were starting off today with digital imaging the first thing I would do is establish an organized filing system both on your computer and on your backup storage. The most obvious reason to do this is so you can find your images easily. The 2nd reason is so you are able to tell the difference between images that have been backed up versus images that haven’t been. When I first started off with digital imaging in 2000 – 2001, I didn’t have a good filing system in place yet so I ended up saving over my original files repeatedly because I didn’t know any better and because I didn’t have separate distinct folder directors for original files versus processed images. When I got serious about photography and realized that had I saved over my original files that woke me up to the importance of establishing an effective workflow. I use a PC and Windows operating system and will discuss how my filing system works.
I have a folder within the “My Pictures” directory that is called “Photography”. This is where I store low res processed images usually sized to 800 x 533 or thereabouts saved as compression 8 jpegs. The file sizes are usually about 100 – 300k. Good enough for review, email and comps without hogging up the entire hard drive. The jpegs are grouped within sub-directories according to their subject or geographic location such as: My Pictures < Photography < California Missions < Mission San Juan Capistrano. Other photographers might prefer to group their images by a coded image filing system such as CAMSJC001.jpg, CAMSJC002.jpg, CAMSB001.jpg, CAMSB002.jpg, etc… as opposed to a file folder based system such as my own.
The full-res Master files are stored in another directory by numerical order (RW001_Master, RW002_Master, etc…): My Pictures < RW_Master. The file names correspond with my photo ID numbers so I can easily dig up the full-resolution file and have it ready for immediate distribution or output when there is a need for it.
Original un-archived files go into an external hard drive directory: My Pictures < Originals < La Jolla Cove. I keep the originals in this directory until I have backed up them up onto discs and external hard drives. After backing these files up, then I’ll put them into: My Pictures < Burned < La Jolla Cove. The purpose for this is so that I know what I need to back up and what has already been backed up. Without an organized system such as this, then I probably would be missing a significant number of images as I clear off hard drive space.
Within the low resolution folder directory, I also keep a super low resolution catalog of my processed images sized to 250 x 1** so I can register my images at the U.S. Copyright Office on a single CD. It would be impractical to submit 5000 high resolution images to the copyright office and a waste of time to have to go back and create small files each time I want to register my images. This folder also allows me to quick reference a photo by the ID# for requests. This folder is located at: My Pictures < Photography < RW_List.
Another reason why I created my filing system this way is because it is the quickest way for me to save the different copies of each image when I am creating the files all the while maintaining separate folder directories for each. All I have to do is hit a backward folder or two to save each of the versions. Time management is very important when it comes to dealing with a large quantity of images. The goal for me is to create an efficient filing system workflow where I don’t have to think about what I am doing. As a result, my system is very organized and efficient for me to use. I’m not saving over important files by accident and I’m ensured that every image is being properly archived for storage.
Nowadays there are a number of “Digital Asset Management” (DAM) software programs that help streamline the cataloging process such as iViewMedia Pro and Adobe Lightroom. Once the images are keyworded then they can be searched through the catalog’s search engine. With a keyword-based catalog system such as iView, having properly keyworded images is absolutely essential however otherwise the images won’t be found easily. Even if you use DAM software however, it is still important to have an established filing structure for all of the above aforementioned reasons. I haven’t had a need to use these programs as these are primarily geared toward newspaper photojournalists and wedding photographers that need a quick turnaround time.
Time Management: I currently to submit to two stock agencies regularly and another one infrequently. I also upload high resolution jpegs to my PhotoShelter archive so I must keep in mind these additional forms of output when dealing with my image processing workflow. Every additional outlet for which I create files must be carefully evaluated because every single thing is time consuming over the course of thousands of images. My least favorite aspect to photography in the digital-era is the amount of computer work associated with it. So in general if there is little sales potential, profit margin or marketing benefits associated with that outlet then I have no interest in pursuing it. I am primarily interested in pursuing activities that can help grow my business whether that is promoting my website, selling through established rights-managed stock photo venues, or adding to the searchable photo archive on my site.
To start this blog off the right way, let’s take on one of the most popular photo business topics of them all – stock photo agencies.
Quick background info: Stock photo agencies are a source where art buyers (advertising agencies, publishers, corporations, small businesses, etc…) can license pictures for publication. A stock photo agency can range in size from large corporations like Getty Images to a family-owned business such as Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Photography. Getty is considered to be a general photo agency that has every type of photo imagineable while Rowell’s is a niche agency consisting of his own outdoor adventure and landscape photos primarily.
Getty is the industry leader by far, but not too popular with many professional photographers at the moment due to questionable business decisions and unfavorable contract terms for their contributors. In recent years, photographers have flocked to competitors like Alamy Images and start-ups such as Digital Railroad Marketplace and the Photoshelter Collection.
– Reach markets that you currently aren’t
– Let someone else handle the day-to-day licensing of your images
– Earn $$$ for your photos
– Some agency contracts take more than 50% commission ie. Getty.
– Some agencies require image exclusivity, meaning that you can’t license those images anywhere else for the duration of your contract. ie. Getty, Corbis, Age Fotostock, Lonely Planet Images
– Time consuming to produce and supply a large quantity of digital files on a regular basis
– The market is over-saturated with images
– The need to keyword and caption your images
– Most do not tell you the exact source of your photo credits, some will give you basic info about the type of publication
– Competition with other agency photographers for a share of the pie
Legit stock photo agencies:
The Big Ones- Getty, Corbis, Alamy, Jupiter, Age Fotostock
For a more comprehensive list of agencies check out A Photo Editor’s Stock Photo Agencies list. Be sure to avoid the agencies under the “Crap” category…
(I have images with Alamy, PSC and DRR (distributed via a niche photo agency) and will discuss my own experiences with them in a future blog post.)
Exclusive or non-exclusive?: The idea behind signing an exclusive contract is a matter of maintaining higher prices by limiting the amount of photos available in the market. Getty Images for example makes contributors agree to not market their images elsewhere during the duration of the contract. The goal is to maintain a higher licensing fee because those same images cannot be licensed anywhere else but through Getty. Before the onslaught of high-resolution digital cameras the past few years, Getty routinely licensed images for $500+ so this made sense. Those rates are a thing of the past now partially due to an over-supply of images in the market and some naive photographers giving away rights to their images for pennies. I have read that Getty’s average licensing fee is around $250 now.
So if non-exclusive agencies tend to go for a slightly lower rate, why would the photographer choose to do so? Because you can submit the same images to multiple agencies in addition to marketing them yourself.
Photo agencies that ask for exclusive terms are usually established enough so that can back it up with numerous sales of your images. So the question is can you make an equal amount of sales if not more through your four non-exclusive agencies? Either way, it is pretty hard to get by with only licensing images through stock photo agencies these days whether or not you decide to go with Getty’s 30 / 70% commission split or Alamy’s 65/35% commission. There are a number of photographers out there that have had a fair amount of success using a combination of non-exclusive photo agents as well as running their own licensing business. Much like investing in the stock market, diversification is a smart strategy.
Welcome to the Field Report: The Non-Glamorous Side of Photography. This “sub-blog” will compliment my regular blog, In The Field, by featuring weekly links from the photography industry that I think are worthwhile to read along with my digital imaging workflow, photo business-related news, and interviews with photographers / creative industry professionals that I respect. I have also written several articles about digital workflow, stock photography and internet marketing on my regular blog in the past, and will be migrating those to this blog for convenient access organized under the “Article Categories” section on the right column. Meanwhile, In the Field will continue to be a photography-based travelogue for my adventures.
One reason why I’m doing this is so that I can stay true to the original concept of In The Field, while expanding the type of content that I publish. Many of my readers are photographers – both professional photographers and hobbyists, so this sub-blog is directed toward that audience without having to bore the non-photographer readers of my blog.
The first blog post, “Stock Photo Agencies”, will be published at 8 a.m. Eastern Time / 5 a.m. Pacific Time on Monday, July 14th.
Upcoming articles include:
- Digital Photography Workflow: Have a Good Filing System
- Interesting Links 7-16-08
- Adding Music to Your Photo Slideshows on a Budget
- Photo Keywording Strategy
- Social Networking: A Waste of Time for Photographers, or a Smart Investment?
- Rights-Managed or Royalty-Free?
- Interviews with photographers, an advertising art director, and a startup photo company president
- Developing and Maintaining Your Photography Brand