I have had sales on iStockphoto

Handicap Accessible Restroom A few months ago I took some photos of a very corporate restroom, thinking (for some crazy reason) that they might make good stock photos. I put them up on iStockphoto and pretty much forgot about them. In fact , over the last several weeks, I pretty much forgot about stock photography altogether. I have been travelling for work, trying to figure out how I want to do the real estate photography thing, taking senior pictures of my daughter, taking pictures of the Lakewood High School cheerleaders, and still trying to have a family life. Yep, pretty busy, just like you.

Then I came across a blog post about fotoLibra. I checked it out. I liked what I saw. I made some uploads and then wrote about it briefly yesterday. And in that writing, I made a mistake.

I said I hadn’t made any money off of my stock photo endeavors so far. After I wrote that, I checked in at iStockphoto (haven’t done that for a very long time). Sure enough, I have had some sales. 3 to be exact, garnering me total commissions of $3.92. For the bathroom photos. That’s right – the bathroom photos. Not the pretty picture of golf carts all lined up in the morning, not the pretty cactus or the corporate biz jet. The bathrooms.

It’s kind of funny really. Some friends of mine thought I was crazy taking a photo of a bathroom, much less a few of them. But you never really know what people want (which is why I like fotoLibra), but apparently I must have at least a little bit of an eye for it. To the tune of almost $4 right now. Woohoo. I might go buy a Chai at Starbucks. That’s only enough to pay for a small though.

Hopefully this is the start of something wonderful. Hopefully fotoLibra is more successful. I really want them to succeed. But as long as my photos are selling somewhere, I guess I am happy.

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Culling the herd

Cactus I came across a different sort of stock photography site the other day. fotoLibra takes a different approach to stock photos – they don’t presume to know what people are going to want to buy. Instead, they accept most everything, as long as the photos match their technical standards (which are easily interpreted by the upload routines). No human intervention really. Once you upload your pictures, they are available immediately for people to see, assuming they search for keywords that you have tagged your photos with.

Since their model is a little different, you do need to pay to have your photos hosted on their service. But here is the cool thing – you only pay if you are hosting more than 12 photos. That’s right, the first 12 are free, so you can try out the service and see if it is going to work for you.

That brings us to the subject of this post. I have approximately 6,000 images in my Lightroom Library. Probably half of them could have potential as stock photos. So how do I choose which 12 to narrow it down to? I started with the fotoLibra Submission Guidelines. This helped me to sort out which ones were clearly not good candidates. I narrowed my choices down to about 27 that I thought had REAL potential, based on the guidelines and what I would be looking for if I were buying stock photos (a few friends of mine have said I have a good eye for this). From there I narrowed it down to 9 that have a vertical orientation (marketers like verticals more, since pages in magazines and flyers are vertical) and 3 that are compelling enough they could work as horizontal. I went for a few different subjects – skiing, beaches, sports, scientific, religious – just to see what is going to work (this is a test after all). You can see the resulting choices in my first fotoLibra collection. Some of these images have been placed on other stock sites, but none have sold. We’ll see what happens here.

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Video For Real Estate

My experience so far with shooting video and putting it online is 7 indoor skydiving videos I put on YouTube – 4 of my son, 2 of me, and one of an instructor. I haven’t been impressed with YouTube quality at all. And while I have learned to do a couple of things via online video, by and large it feels more like a novelty than anything else. I can honestly say I haven’t made any purchase decisions based on video I have seen online.

But that isn’t true for everyone apparently. In another excellent post at Photography for Real Estate, Larry Lohrman talks about Fred Light in Nashua, New Hampshire. He has built a successful business producing videos for real estate. The best part is, he is willing to share his secrets for success with the rest of us (for a nominal fee of course). This might sound like an infomercial, but I don’t get anything for it. I am just a believer. So much so, that I haven’t even received my copy yet (just ordered it this morning). But based on the sample videos I have seen on his site, I think my $20 was well spent. I still don’t have my real estate photo business going yet, but this is another element I plan to add. I have the equipment and software, I just need to find some time to get the ball rolling.

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Another way to do a pole mounted aerial

denver-6121033 I was at a Lakewood High School football game the other night, and it suddenly dawned on me that they have a great system for doing aerial photography. They mount a camcorder on a stand that is then cranked up to the desired height (typical max height seems to be around 35′ or so). They put one in the end zone in order to get a high level view of how plays develop, but in a perspective that would be more useful for a player than the traditional sideline view. They also do a sideline view from the pressbox. None of this matters though, what matters is the pole.

I did a quick Google search for “end zone camera” and came back with a few good results. They all seem to be priced around $5000 or $6000 dollars. One company offers 5 year financing plans, as well as month to month rentals ($350/ month). If you can find a company that can tailor their product for still photography, then you might have a winner. Way more costly than a painters pole, but if you have the budget and really want to look ultra-professional (or use your DSLR tethered into Lightroom maybe), one of these might be for you. If you find something similar at a lower price point, let me know.

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Holiday Greeting Cards

Thou Shall Not Pass Believe it or not, if you are in a corporate environment, it is time to start thinking about holiday greeting cards. I had an email come across my desk the other day with the pictures we have to choose from. I was horrified. I know I can do better than that. In fact, I probably already have done better than that. So I am going to go through all of my wintery scenes and pick out 4 or 5 that would make a good holiday greeting card for the coming season. I’ll post the designs here, along with ordering information.

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My Flickr “interesting” shots

View fit for a kingFlickr has a way of measuring the popularity of a photo. They call in “interestingness”. Here is their definition:

Besides being a five syllable word suitable for tongue twisters, it is also an amazing new Flickr Feature.

There are lots of elements that make something ‘interesting’ (or not) on Flickr. Where the clickthroughs are coming from; who comments on it and when; who marks it as a favorite; its tags and many more things which are constantly changing. Interestingness changes over time, as more and more fantastic content and stories are added to Flickr.

We’ve added some pages (and changed some existing ones) to help you explore Flickr’s most interesting content. Before you start though, you might want to take your phone off the hook, send your boss to an executive training session and block off some time on your schedule, because we don’t think you’re going to be walking away from your screen any time soon. Beautiful, amazing, moving, striking – explore and discover some of Flickr’s Finest.

Each day their “interestingness” engine (or maybe people behind the curtains) identify the previous days most interesting photos, and place them at http://www.flickr.com/explore. I have personally never had a photo make it into this feature. But I am curious about which of my photos people like. Fortunately, someone made a tool to determine this.

You can see my most interesting pictures. If you have a Flickr account, you can use the following URL to see what yours are (make sure to bookmark it): http://interestingby.isaias.com.mx/pm.php?id=xxxx&theme=white – to use this URL, replace the 4 x’s (after id=) with your Flickr User ID (something like 21716481@N07). You can find your Flickr User ID by going to http://bighugelabs.com/flickr/dna.php and entering the email address you use for your Flickr account.

I am really interested in seeing other people’s “interesting” photos. Take a moment and post a link to yours in the comments. The photo above is the #1 result for mine.

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My first real commission

My First CommissionOne day last week I got a phone call mid-morning. It was from a local engineering firm that needed some a quick headshot done of the CEO to accompany an interview in a magazine. They wanted to know my availability and price. Being fairly new to this, I lowballed the price, figuring if the pics didn’t come out at all, I wouldn’t be out much. Also, it was a bit of a learning opportunity for me, so I seized the chance.

I arrived at the offices about 10 minutes before I was to take the picture. I wanted to get a sense of where we might be shooting. I settled on two options – in the executive’s office, or in the conference room. Once he arrived and we spoke, we settled on the conference room so we would have a solid background that wasn’t distracting. I setup the camera, put the flash to camera right, mounted on my Cactus Trigger and a Gorillapod. This was my second shoot with the Cactus Trigger, and the first indoors. It proved useful, but with some caveats.

All in all I was satisfied with the shoot. I was there for maybe 20 minutes, then spent about 40 minutes in Adobe Lightroom 2. I offered up the pictures for client review on my Zenfolio site, and within 24 hours the whole transaction was done. Can’t imagine how painful this process must have been in the days before digital.

So, what did I learn?

  1. I need to get another tripod or stand to put my flash on so it is higher
  2. I need to get a soft box or some other sort of diffuser for portrait work
  3. I need to practice more
  4. I need to learn how to accurately set my flash for the conditions

I am sure it went better than I think though. As I said, they liked the result and paid me. It could have gone the other way if it had not been acceptable.

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Where to host a gallery?

Inspiration - Color Trying to determine where to host an online gallery is a pretty big deal. There are a plethora of choices, from software to host your own on your own website, to full fledged service offerings that will host all your images, maybe do some marketing for them, and offer a shopping cart system. It seems that every day a new one crops up, and one or two fold. It’s pretty difficult to keep up with them. On top of that, they all have different pricing, which factors into decisions as well.

So, what is an up and coming photographer to do? I have sat back for as long as I could and watched how other people built their sites and learned from them regarding what they did and didn’t like about certain sites. And then I decided to wait until I had to make a decision. For normal hosting of my photos, along with the community features, I really like Flickr. But Flickr doesn’t offer any ecommerce capabilities, and that site isn’t really geared towards sales at all.

Then I stumbled across Imagekind (via Flickr). They have an entry level offering that is free, so I put some pictures on it to see what happened. I linked to it from this site (“Prints For Sale“). I have 16 images there, and they have garnered 96 views, 3 comments, and 0 sales. Certainly I was hoping something would sell, but so far, nada.

Then I did the Lakewood High School cheerleader shoot last weekend, and I needed substantially more capacity, along with some other features. I took this as an opportunity to try out another service – Zenfolio. They have a two week free trial offer that gives you all of the features of the top level account, but limits you to 1GB of storage. There are some pro’s and con’s to the service, but all in all I am happy with it. So much so, that I have subscribed to it for a year. I am not 100% sure how I am going to market my prints on this site, but it definitely made it easy for me to keep the cheerleader pictures private for each girl. Additionally, I was commissioned earlier this week (at the last minute) to do a corporate headshot. I was able to quickly setup a “gallery” for the headshot proofs to go into. After the shoot, I uploaded the pics, my watermark was automatically applied, and the company was able to choose which image they wanted to buy. The bonus? That commission covered the cost of the Zenfolio site for the year. Now, anything I make off of print sales from the cheerleaders will be profit. Not too bad a deal at all.

I am aware that Smugmug is the heavy hitter in this industry, but for some reason I didn’t like what I saw there. I certainly have some issues with the Zenfolio people, but I have taken it up with them and it sounds like they are working on things. I’ll continue on there for the duration of my subscription, but I will also keep an eye out on the competition. If someone clearly does it better, at a similar price point, it would make sense to move. But if Zenfolio proves they can meet my needs, I’ll stay on, and likely become a strong advocate (for whatever that is worth). I work in a customer service type of industry too, and I know what my standards are. Let’s see if Zenfolio can keep up.

BTW – I am probably giving up on Imagekind for now. I’ll still keep the WordPress plugin for Imagekind up and running. I don’t know for sure if anyone is using it, but I suspect some are. Let me know if you do.

Also, I am going to stop writing posts on Saturdays. 5 days a week of my random thoughts, experiences, rants, raves and reviews ought to be plenty for everyone.

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Devil is in the details

Lakewood High School Cheerleaders 2008-09 I have finally finalized the pictures for the Lakewood High School Spirit Squad (cheerleaders). The last step was to put the “squad” photos into a template with the name of the school, the year and “team” and some mascot logos.

It was during this process that some small details started to shine through. The biggest one that jumps out from the photo above is that not all of the girls were holding their arms the same way. The devil is always in the details. The unfortunate thing is I didn’t see it until it was too late. While I feel like I am doing some things well, clearly I have a lot to learn still.

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To offer packages or not to offer packages?

LHS CheerleadersWhen I started thinking about how I was going to present and offer the photos to the Lakewood Cheer Squad after their photo shoot last weekend, I debated for some time on whether or not to offer “packages” or “sets”. Ultimately I decided against it. Instead, using Zenfolio (and their awesome free trial), I just made the photos available as individual ones and let the girls and their families choose what was going to work best for them.

The main reason I did this is that I remember after I had my senior pictures taken way back when (1989). We had a ton of pictures left over because they didn’t have a package that was “just right” for me. By going the way that I did hear, parents and extended family can order what they want, when they want. I’ll probably keep the pictures online for 6 months to a year (Unlimited and Premium accounts have no limitations), so they can reorder when they want. This is the way business should be run, in my mind. Let the consumer decide what is best for them, not what is best for me to sell. Hmmm, I wonder what other industries could put this notion to work?

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