Now you have a portfolio of stock images, show them off to the world!
Marketing is something very close to my heart, I have been studying it for over 10 years now with heavy emphasis on the internet. Please note that many of these techniques will apply to other areas of photography and may be repeated in our Business of Photography section.
No matter what kind of photography you do, you should never rely entirely on other people to get your work seen even though most stock libraries do a great job. The more effort you put in yourself, the bigger the rewards you will reap and I will repeat what I have said before, keep on keeping on!
The Butterfly Effect
It has been proven that the “Butterfly Effect” works in just about any type of activity in life so use it.
What is it?
Well, the theory goes that all of us have a direct influence on all things that happen anywhere in the world by any of our actions. The butterfly effect is a term used in Chaos Theory to describe how minute variations can affect giant, complex systems like weather patterns. For example, the simple flap of a butterfly’s wings in New York could affect the strength of wind patterns on the other side of the world.
This theory, when you take into account all the other factors happening at any given point in time, makes determining (with absolute accuracy), any weather forecast impossible.
We have had tremendous winds in Dorset lately so could this be the effect of mass migration of millions of birds on the other side of the world. Where does air pressure really come from?Could part of it be a result of thousands or millions of tiny, seemingly irrelevant motions scattered throughout our planet?
An interesting theory and worth studying in your own time…too much to go into here.
However, for our purposes, the butterfly affect can be used with astonishing results in any type of business as I said before.
Rather than doing the bare minimum to get your work seen and “hoping for the best”, if you start taking small, regular and consistent actions throughout the quieter times of each day, you should see results start to happen almost immediately.
Let’s say, on an average day at work, you take a 10 minute break in the morning, a one hour lunch break and a further 10 minute break in the afternoon. Most people use this time to kick back, “relax” and chill out for a while.
If you want to kick start your stock photography business, start to utilise the butterfly effect in this time and try this.
Use any of that spare time to simply keyword and upload a few images…even one or two, it doesn’t matter. Maybe leave your office block or place of work with your camera and quickly walk around taking a few images (I bet many of you have never done that before).
Start to think about how you can do just a couple of really simple and quick things like this every day…it takes no time at all.
These seemingly small actions, when done for long enough, can have a huge impact on your business. You see, when stock agencies see regular, consistent activity from you, they will take you more seriously.
Not only that, but it is better to upload little and often rather than a huge batch once a month…why?
- If you submit 200 images at the end of each month, maybe the first three or four will be rejected for something like noise or focus issues which could lead to the reviewer rejecting the whole batch thinking that is your general standard in that batch. By submitting 4 or 5 at a time, you may catch those irregularities quicker, enabling you to correct them before uploading and otherwise jeopardising the rest.
- When you upload images, they will appear in many agencies at the top of the heap when buyers search for the “latest additions” or “just added” criteria. If you are regularly adding small number of images you are exposing your portfolio to more people. Upload 200 all at once and they will soon slip out of view and into the depths with everything else.
- Once the agencies see you regularly contributing quality stock on a daily or weekly basis, they may be more inclined to give you that “submitter of the week” or “featured photographer” slot on their homepage. Great for exposure and sales!
- Once you get smaller and higher quality batches of work accepted regularly, experienced reviewers will begin to trust your work and pass it quicker with extra leniency on occasion.
Think about how else you can use small pockets of spare time.
- Write and upload a number of small, helpful articles which all include a link to your portfolio at, say, Dreamstime or Alamy (more on article submission in the Business section).
- Become a valuable member of forums and communities and show off your work only when it can help others achieve their goal. Do not spam the forums.
- Read, learn and practice new techniques.
- Study the stock libraries and get inspiration whilst jotting down ideas.
- …and so on…
Compare two average weeks.
One as normal. You work 5 days and have a total of 6 hours and 40 minutes of “free” time (1 hour and 20 minutes a day). At the end of the week you have not really added any momentum to your business and that time is still gone forever regardless…you will never get it back.
The next week, you JUST keyword 5 images (taken the previous day or whenever) during the morning break and upload them during lunch each day for 5 days, a total of about 2 hours extra work for the entire week and you still get to relax.
However, now you are uploading, on average, around 100 stock images a month to maybe 6 stock libraries being the equivalent of 600 more images on view to buyers! Do this for 6 months and you could have the equivalent of 3,600 images online (600 actual images at 6 agencies)…
That alone could earn you a few hundred Pounds extra per month or more and once it is done, it is done! How could you spend a few extra hundred Pounds every month? Would it motivate you to continue and do more?
Now take into account all the other simple things you could do in those pockets of time and hopefully you will start to see how this butterfly effect could work for you.
“It is a common subject in fiction when presenting scenarios involving time travel and with “what if” scenarios where one storyline diverges at the moment of a seemingly minor event resulting in two significantly different outcomes.”
As I said, we will cover this in greater detail in the Business of Photography section.
Build a Website
Don’t just grab some free hosting and throw up a few pages hoping to get seen, think about it.
One host I can recommend with “gusto” is Sitesell. Whereas many hosting companies charge minimal costs per month and give back the minimum in service, Sitesell do SO much more for you.
They alleviate your precious time by doing all of the back end work for you including regular submission of your website to the major search engines…something not many people know how to do let alone have the time to do it, leaving you to build your business.
They automatically test each and every page you upload to ensure it reaches its maximum potential for being found and well indexed by the search engines…invaluable!
My experience with Sitesell has been phenomenal and propelled my businesses further than I could have ever done by myself. They have fantastic support, an absolute goldmine of resources to help with your success and an amazing forum where your questions will be answered “tout suite”!
If you want to build a site purely devoted to your stock images, I would certainly recommend that route especially if you are particularly concentrating on one topic or niche. A niche site like that would appeal more to buyers as it concentrates solely on one area of your business rather than a jack of all trades.
You could even expand the website once established and turn it into your own, work from home business. Use your stock images to sell mugs, tee-shirts, placemats, posters, wall art, canvas prints, fine art prints…
If you put in the effort, the rewards will come but how would having a single website with your images on compete with large stock photography agencies?
Once your website is built with your stock images in place, you can start to promote them. Not only will you want to be attracting possible buyers but future contracts too.
Let’s say a designer from Tesco’s or Wal-Mart happens upon your website and likes what he/she sees. What if they then speak to their boss and suggest that they contact you for some local, bespoke stock photography work…could easily happen, it happened to me a few times in Spain…furniture companies, real estate, travel…
You need to approach this business from all angles and greater exposure of your work will only help.
One way of getting traffic to your website whilst Sitesell or whatever method you use gets on with indexing it, is to use Google Adwords for paid traffic. This again is a big topic which we cover in greater detail in the business section.
Build a Portfolio
Online portfolios are great but to really get yourself out there, why not try this…it may work, it may not but it is a technique that has been used and recommended by some of the most successful business people over the last 80 years. Even with all the technology available to us these days, the personal touch still goes a long way!
Create a mini photo book costing just a few Pounds or Dollars from someone like Photobox which allows you to include a total of 30 or so images. Use the first page to add a small bio of yourself along with your contact details and then add 30 of your highest quality and most diverse images.
If you want or if you like to photograph certain niches such as food or travel for your stock photography, create a book around that theme with just food or travel images. In fact, at just £5.95 a book, why not create one for each topic that you like shooting?
Once you have a few copies of each, you could put a well presented, professional postal pack together and start marketing yourself to big companies in your area.
The pack, for food photography for example, could include the photobook with your finest food photography in it, a well written and well presented CV of your work experience and a covering letter outlining your intentions or proposals pitching yourself as a “gun for hire” (in the photography sense of course).
Explain that you are specialised in shooting food for stock and would like to be considered for any future promotions or marketing projects they may have. All this will cost you, other than your time, is around £10 for each pitch!
Here are a few local companies I would consider approaching:
- Clothing stores
- Jewellery stores
- Sports stores
- Local theme parks (water world, skate parks etc)
- Car showrooms
- Health food shops
- Travel agents
- Real estate companies
Sending packs to all of the above would cost a total of not much more than £100 and the worst that can happen is that they put you on file for future reference. The more positive aspect is that if you approach enough people, you could land yourself some nice retainer work that lasts for years!
Should you try this and should it work out well, remember three things:
- Always give more than you intend to receive.
- At the very least, try and cut a deal like I did once whereby you work for free but then get full rights to sell the images after a set period of say 3-6 months or when their particular promotion has ended and they no longer need the images. You swap ownership at that point.
- Let us know about it.
Years ago in Spain I approached a company for property photography work but they already had an in-house photographer. A year or so later, I was playing golf with one of the managers at that company who told me over a pre-game coffee that the photographer had recently left.
I jumped on the opportunity immediately and landed the contract within the week which led to some of the best projects I have ever done including:
- “Borrowing” a villa with pool in Spain for the day, 6 models and a ton of cool equipment for a promo shoot
- “Borrowing” 2 speedboats, 4 models and some water-skiing equipment for a day for a lifestyle shoot
- Photographing endless €5-10 million villas in Andalucia
When the contract ended due to the area hitting hard times, I agreed to work for free in exchange for model releases and ownership of the files to sell after 6 months as explained above. Worked a treat and we both benefited big time!
When opportunity rears its head, grab it! If it doesn’t, get out there and look for it!
Next Page – Future Proofing