Field Report:

The Non-Glamorous Side of Photography

Creative Industry Evolution and Extinction

I found this Fast Company article titled, Mayhem on Madison Avenue, to be a fascinating read. As a former ad industry creative, this really came as no surprise to me as I had realized that most of the creatives at the ad agency I worked several years ago had no idea about digital much less had experience with blogging, SEO, social media, etc…  Such was the case at the other places I worked at following that agency. The sad part was that no one figured their career path might be going extinct. Well that day is has already arrived according to this article.

Sue, the T-Rex at the Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois

Sue, the T-Rex at the Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois

The article cites agencies struggling to price work in the digital era because clients want more work but are willing to pay less for the work. Various business models have popped up in the meantime including crowd-sourcing ad creative. The “race to the bottom” if you will. Ten years ago when all media spend was limited to print, broadcast and radio it was easy to work in the industry because reaching people was rather formulaic and several large holding companies owned all the advertising spend. No longer. There are a million different ways to reach the consumer now and for the consumer to receive content. “Competition” is popping up in all sorts of places that never existed previously.

Sound familiar? Yes. The photography industry has already been heading down this path for ten years now as you already know. You can literally swap out the words ad agency for Getty / Corbis and photographers and write the same story.

Having only been a photographer during the internet-era, however, I feel there has never been a more exciting time to be a creative person because of all these reasons. My photography website for example reaches tens of thousands of visitors per month and I have about 1,000 more people that I reach on a daily basis via the social media sites I’m on. Had the internet not been around when I started photography, I probably never would have even bothered to try sharing my work much less talk about it because what audience would I have – family, local camera club, a stock photo agent, and a few clients? There’s not a lot of people where I live that are into outdoors and the type of photography I do.

Had this been 15 years ago, I’d probably have a few photos hanging on display in the local library, setting up a booth at weekend farmer’s markets and art fairs, be on the phone all day cold-calling and maybe consider running some print ads in advertising award annuals with no guarantee of success but a lot of money out of my pocket. But this is 2010 and here are two sites I have had an opportunity to be featured on in the past week:

Pro Nature Photographer – a website about the business of nature photography written by long-time industry vet, Charlie Borland.

The Rogue’s Gallery – an art website for current and former ad industry professionals curated by Steffan Postaer (ad god and creator of the Altoids ad campaign).

Who knows if I’ll get any direct benefit from getting my work on these sites but I know who reads these sites and those are the types of people I’m looking to reach. When you simplify the new technology down to that level, basic marketing principles have not changed at all. It is actually easier than ever to reach people and obtain any sort of metric you could imagine that was never available previously. You can cut it up so many different ways from checking referrer sites in your web analytics and tying that to geographic data, to seeing who comments on the sites, to which organic search terms people found your site via the search engines, to seeing Quantcast demographic info about any site out there. Any webmaster in the world can create a media kit and sell to advertisers now. You could create a media kit so detailed that it would bore even the most anal media buyer. This is powerful stuff at our disposal.

To conclude, there are some ad execs who get it though just like there are some photographers who get it.

Advertisements

December 6, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Photo Business, rants, Technology, Web | , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Media Monitoring for Photographers

With the growing popularity of online social networking / chatter / media whatever you want to call it, information has never been more readily available for photographers. If you want to know what any particular demographic is looking for or talking about then there are software applications out there that help you do this research. For a marketer this is information that companies paid millions in research for in the past. For you and I, the small business owner, it costs nothing.

Take Twitter for example, which is characterized by it’s fast-paced speed of updates. Mainstream news outlets like broadcast news, newspapers and the radio aren’t even the first to break stories these days. Often times the story has spread virally via Twitter before any mainstream media outlets catch wind of it. Now imagine being able to listen in on any subject of discussion on the Internet like Superman. You don’t need a stock agency wants list anymore. Those will be outdated by the time they are published. The information is already out there for the taking. Experienced photographers should be able to gather a lot of useful information from adopting these new methods if they embrace the technology. Be creative. Think creatively.

There are applications out there such as TweetDeck that allow you to not only interact with your friends on Twitter, but you can customize searches around specific terms and see what people on Twitter are talking about in real-time. Keep one column active for the search term “stock photography” and it is fairly obvious that many people (especially photographers) out there are woefully uninformed about the photo licensing industry. Even more telling is the amount of people who expect to find great photography for little to no money. If you can stomach this type of dialogue for long enough you will also find gems in there such as a photo buyer who tweets about having difficulties while looking for a specific image. Maybe you are that person who can help them out. Be sure to know what you are talking about though. Know the value of your work to the end user. If you have the right image at the right time then the buyer should be willing to pay what’s necessary for it. A twist on the old saying, you get paid only what you ask for.

TweetDeck Social Monitoring Example

TweetDeck Social Monitoring Example

Market research is just one of the many other uses for social media monitoring which includes PR activities such as reputation management but that is a huge topic all on its own.

Updated 5/11/09: As requested, here are some other apps you might want to try for social media monitoring –

twirl
PageFlakes
SM2
Raven

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, stock photography, Technology, Web | , , , , | 6 Comments

Location Scouting – Google Earth

Google Earth Image of Morro Bay

Google Earth Image of Morro Bay

Prior to the internet, photographers were most likely to have discovered photo locations by consulting with topographical maps, scouting by foot, looking at photo books, postcard racks, taking guided tours or word of mouth. Those methods are still valid today but there are many more tools at our disposal now due to the internet. Google Earth is one of the more interesting tools.

Google Earth combines the geographical contours of topo maps with real life satellite imagery and pictures from photographers that have embedded GPS coordinates into their meta data. It is really amazing to be able to “scout” photo locations from the comfort of your living room or even while parked on a sidewalk if you can find a Wi-Fi connection. Anytime you pre-visualize a scene that you aren’t quite sure if or where to make it happen, you can type in the location in Google Earth and search around the landscape to see if it is possible. This can save you a lot of time and even help find locations you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

One of the most useful features for photographers is that you can set what time of day you want to see the landscape and the program will render the light to show you what you can expect to see at sunrise for example. You can also check the atmosphere option and it will take into account how the atmospheric conditions affect the lighting.

Google Earth Picture of Morro Rock at Sunrise

Google Earth Picture of Morro Rock at Sunrise

I played around with the program several years back but didn’t find much use for it because the renderings weren’t detailed enough. I took another look recently however and the satellite imagery appears to be much more comprehensive and detailed now in many locations. Google Earth is a tool that I intend to use more frequently when preparing for photo shoots. In fact, I found out about this scenic vantage point to photograph Morro Rock through Google Earth and intend to go there on my next visit.

January 23, 2009 Posted by | shooting pictures, Technology, Web | , , | 2 Comments

Olympus DS-30 Digital Voice Recorder Review

Pros: Small enough to fit into any pocket. Decent sound quality. “CD-quality” sound for small budgets.

Cons: No belt clip. No wind sock. Lecture recording mode sometimes makes voices sound digital. No recording volume control.

Olympus DS-30 Digital Voice Recorder

Olympus DS-30 Digital Voice Recorder

After having tested the Olympus DS-30 Digital Recorder for several weeks in a variety of photography shooting situations, I have mixed reviews about it for the type of work that I do. Since I mainly photograph outdoors and generally moving around in non-controlled shooting conditions, the limitations are fairly obvious. Without a belt clip, the sensitive microphone picks up a rustling sound every time I move around due to being in my shirt pocket. Since the device is too small for a wind sock, having a belt clip would be useless anyway because wind would be a factor outdoors particularly in coastal areas.

The plus sides are numerous as well. If you are planning on staying at one place for a while then the sound quality is generally excellent for the $100 price tag. The device is really simple to use and uploads the .wmv files onto my PC like an external hard drive.

Overall: I plan to return the Olympus DS-30 before my 30 days are up. If you are a college student, podcaster or a reporter that wants to jot down notes then this would be excellent for you. For a photographer that works in the field, the only option is to go for models that have a belt clip and dedicated wind sock. Unfortunately those models are a little pricier.

Examples: Girls Having Fun, Venice Beach Drum Circle

Griffith Observatory Planetarium, Los Angeles, California

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Music, Product Reviews, Technology | , , , | Leave a comment

Social Networking Websites: A Waste of Time for Photographers, or a Smart Investment?

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.

Follow Richard on Twitter!

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.

Become a fan of my Facebook artist profile in order to enter a drawing for 10, 12×18 inch Lightjet Archival fine art prints of your choice.

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.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Marketing, Technology | , | 3 Comments