Archive for September 2010

29 Sep, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes

They Come to You

Advance Notes: It’s one thing to get recognition for your photos; it’s also practical and helpful to get paid for them. I’m not talking about the $20 payment you receive from an on-line microsite. Photobuyers will pay ten times that $20 fee, if they can find your photos – and they can find them if you put keyword descriptions of them on a photo-textcentric * Internet site.

Join the photo-textcentric movement.* Next time you’re on a vacation, take a lot of pictures, but also take notes.
What is the name of that historic site (spell it right), that nightclub, or baseball park? What are the other interesting sites on recreation opportunities in the town you are visiting? Using a brochure from the Chamber of Commerce as a guide, or the post card counter in the local drug store, capture your images with your digital camera.
Again, take notes, the more the better. Who? What? Why? Where? When?
The answers to theses questions will be required as captions by many of your clients, photo editors, and researchers. And they surely will be needed when you “keyword” each of your images once you upload them to your personal site, or to a photo-textcentric site like
PHOTO: ronniegrob on Flickr

Making your photos accessible to buyers in this way (listing them on a textcentric site) is much more efficient than the former way of doing business, where you waited for a photobuyer to view your on-line photo display, your exhibit, or Internet catalog, looking for a specific picture for one of their projects.
Most commercial on-line stock photo agencies rarely accept very specific obscure images that don’t promise multiple sales. In contrast, the multi-million dollar editorial stock photo industry photobuyers are always seeking content-specific, hard-to-find images for their magazines, textbooks wed sites, blogs, TV documentaries, and book publishing projects.


The new use of the Internet for picture-search means the buyers come to you. You can afford to sit and wait for buyers to come to you because your promotional investment is no more than your cost to put your keywords and phrases that describe each of your photos, up on the Internet.
It’s a new way of selling photos, thanks to search engines such as Google, AltaVista, Yahoo, Bing and others.
And the prices are right. No need to sell your photos as royalty-free where you say goodbye to the image and sell it for only pennies. Instead, buyers who come to you are in great need of your photos and they are willing to pay $100 to $200 for one-time use of your images (all rights return to you). How do I know this? Because that’s the figure they consistently quote when they list their photo needs on our PhotoDaily marketletter. And, that’s a lot more than you’d receive if you place your images with iStock or similar royalty-free sites.
The Internet has allowed the market to explode for the independent stock photographer. It’s not uncommon for stock photographers to corner their local market, then branch out and sell their photos worldwide, thanks to this new photo-textcentric approach to picture-search.
* PHOTO-TEXTCENTRIC: Search engines are at the forefront of this new way of marketing your photos on the Internet. Looking for something? A photo product to buy? The e-mail address of a photographer you’d like to find? A photo of ‘elephants taking a mud bath Kenya’ (a typical listing)? You need only to type a phrase (text) using the key words of your choice into the search bar of Yahoo, Google or similar search engine, plus the word “photosource.” You’ll find the information or the image in seconds.
“Photo-Textcentric” is not a word you’ll find in today’s dictionary, but next year you might. I made it up. It captures the speedy method for finding the source of a photo by searching by means of text rather than eye-searching hundreds of images on on-line galleries.

Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of PhotoStockNotes, the newsletter that advises photographers on how to sell photos on the Internet. Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Telephone: 1 800 624 0266 Fax: 1 715 248 7394. Web site:


22 Sep, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes

The Magnet Effect

In the field of stock photography,
if you try to be all things to all photobuyers, you’ll have trouble achieving success and consistent sales. Instead, choose an area, or two or three areas, of specialization. To be successful, it has to be an area of specialization within a specialization. Not flowers, but prairie flowers, orchids, or tundra vegetation, etc.
If you have a passion for photographing in these areas, you begin to develop a deep selection of photos that buyers can choose from. You can become a magnet for photobuyers seeking these kinds of images for their publishing projects.
Have you ever shopped at a flea market? Thousands and thousands of objects, items, whatnots, tools, clothing, and auto parts. Visitors can spend hours, even days, roaming, looking and handling the items for sale.
People who visit flea markets usually arrive with a $20 bill and leave with a prized object they add to their collection, home, or garage.
The flea markets are growing. And unlike a 65,000 square foot Wal-Mart where merchandise is segmented by signs (“Household”, “Auto”, “Toys”), flea markets are an ocean of unregulated bits and pieces.
Flea Markets are a good example of what on-line Internet stock photo shopping has become.


As more and more people discover that their digital camera can match and reproduce the same visual quality of the images they see in magazines and books, these folks (we can rightly call them photographers) are discovering they can gain recognition for their art – plus, make a few dollars.
As a result, on-line galleries, like flea markets, are expanding. And more and more photographers are loading them with more and more images, most of them quite good.

It’s true that you can find treasures at a flea market. You can also find photo treasures on the Internet.
But will your photos in an on-line photo gallery find their place on a photobuyer’s desktop? Probably not. The reason is simple. In an ever-expanding supply of pictures, your chances of being discovered by a photobuyer become less.


Reverse the marketing process. Put yourself in the photobuyer’s position. First of all, if they need a picture of a rainbow, covered bridge or a seagull, they don’t need to go to the Internet to find it. They shout out the window of their office and 20 photographers will run to them with that kind of generic picture.

However, when we’re talking about the primary photo needs in the editorial stock photo buying process, photobuyers always need a specific picture to illustrate their project (magazine article, cover, web page, book chapter head, etc.). The photo need might be a specific African musical instrument, or a toy used by children in Peru, or a plant that is only grown in the Galapagos.
To find the specific-content photos they need, photobuyers usually find themselves engaged in an extensive search. They want to make the experience worthwhile and as effortless as possible. They use a search engine such as Yahoo, Bing or Google.

They usually find a particular picture that 'almost'fits the bill. They are not quite satisfied, and they know, thanks to the Internet, they can do better.
Their next step is to contact the photographer of the photo they found, to learn if he or she is a specialist. If they are, the buyer knows the photographer probably has a deep selection of photos of that particular subject matter.

Here’s where your marketing strategy comes into play.

Because there are thousands (soon to become millions) of photographers displaying their pictures on on-line galleries,photobuyers as quickly as possible avoid the galleries and gravitate to the photographer who specializes in the area of their interest and need.


If you’re been asking “how do I sell my photos in today’s on-line stock industry?” -- you need to become a magnet to the moving hordes of photobuyers who are continually scouting for the “just-right” photo for their current project. (And they will need more pictures tomorrow.)
Since we all come from a culture where we expect to sell our wares to the local community, it’s a stretch for us to imagine that somewhere in the world a buyer is looking for a particular picture that’s in our database right now. Making the match is the mission, and describing your picture (metadata, keywords, tags, labels)is the method.
The time has come for you to focus on one or a select few specialization areas of particular subject matter that you like to shoot. Begin developing a deep selection of pictures in those specific areas. Pick an on-line photo site or create your own site, that makes available search-easy keywords that describe the photos you have available -- listing descriptions for each of your photos. After you slog through getting your initial numbers of pictures entered, little by little adding additional picture descriptions fits into a workable system for you, and becomes business-as-usual.
This way you position yourself to become a “magnet” for photobuyers worldwide, who need your kind of pictures, and will appreciate being able to come back to you again and again.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Rohn Engh
, is publisher of PhotoStockNOTES from He is the founder of the PhotoSourceBANK, a website visited daily by hundreds of photobuyers, where photographers who want to sell photos can list keywords describing their photos.


15 Sep, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes

Picture Fee vs.

Cost to Find the Picture

Freelance photo researchers and staff photo editors are discovering that the time spent searching for and acquiring a hard-to-locate image may sometimes be more costly than the cost of the picture itself.

Microstock photos are inexpensive, but going to microstock can be a trap to picture acquisition professionals. For the photo researcher attempting to find that “just right” photo through the microstock route, the process often requires them to sift through scores of images, most of which are generic standards, without the special details of content that the photobuyer needs. It also doesn’t help that the buyer is not able to communicate directly with the photographer. It can be a frustrating and expensive time-consuming procedure for the photobuyer.

For this reason, more and more photobuyers and photo researchers are finding that thanks to the Internet they can deal directly with individual stock photographers who already specialize in the subject matter the researcher is looking for. This process is now fast and easy and is proving less costly, time-wise, than taking on the arduous search of a microstock portal to locate an “on-target” image. And with direct communication with the photographer, buyers can acquire a specific image that more effectively complements their project.

There several reason for this.

1.) New text search innovations on the Internet (Google, Yahoo, Bing) and increasing numbers of Internet-savvy photographers, make it much easier to speedily discover (through a multiple keyword search) which individual stock photographer or photographers have photos of the subject matter buyers are seeking.
2.) Independent stock photographers have now mastered keywording techniques that effectively describe the photos they have available.
3.) These photographers have websites tailored and SEO-ready (Google finds them easily for page 1 results) for each of their stock photo subject-matter specialties. They can provide buyers with a deep picture selection of the topic, with LightBox presentations, hi-res 24/7, and overnight delivery worldwide.
4.)Because the photographer specializes, he/she is often an expert on the subject and can be responsive to the photobuyer’s needs, as well as give consulting help.

It stands to reason more and more photobuyers are using Google and other search engines to locate and purchase those hard-to-find photos quickly, and often for less overall cost than the full cost of searching the microstock sites.

To check out the search system to find specific photographers for a specific subject area, type in a multiple keyword selection describing a sample photo to find, into the Google search bar, then put a colon, and then the word photosourcebank. If a PhotoSourceBANK member has your selection, his/her name and contact details will appear on your screen.
EXTRA: By the way, you can use this principle to test how much competition you might have if you're new to selling your photos. Type into the PhotoSourceBANK website (or to Google) some keywords that best describe your niche area of photo marketing. If not too many photographer names come up, you have a lot of elbow room to expand your photomarketing business.

Rohn Engh is publisher of PhotoStockNOTES and director-founder of the PhotoSourceBANK, a compilation of over 2 million key words and key phrases describing photos available from stock photographers worldwide.


08 Sep, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes

Handle Them With Care

The scene: an important high school basketball game, and you're arriving to get photos of the opening tip-off both for your stock sports file and an assignment. You'll leave the game as soon as you get the pictures -- so you have no reason to pay admission. You enter by a side door and you are met by an attendant with an officious, "Where do you think you're going?" expression.
You are not going to let this fellow to steal precious minutes from you so you attempt to ignore him. You walk right past him. "Wait a minute!" he says, insulted that you have not recognized his importance. He has the right to detain you, and he does -- long enough that you miss the tip-off shots.
Sound familiar? It is, unless you have learned this stock photographer secret: "Officials: Handle With Care."


As stock photographers, it's rare that we can get our pictures without first having to get permission from someone. Security is getting tighter and tighter in many sectors, and it's understandable. Because of past abuses, increase in population, and new emphases on Home Security -- it's becoming necessary to screen those who take pictures. You'll encounter officials in many forms: gate keepers, receptionists, policemen, bureaucrats, teachers, secretaries, security guards. You'll even encounter unofficial officials: janitors, ticket takers, bystanders, relatives of officials, etc. But no matter who presents her/himself as an 'official' (barrier) to your picture-taking, handle them with care and allot an amount of time that you sense will appease their "need" to detain you.
One of the easiest officials-eliminators is the "I need your help" scenario. In the case of the basketball attendant, you say, "Could you help me? I need to get a picture of the tip-off (you look at your watch) for _______ (your assignment client or name of publication) -- could you tell me the quickest way to center court?" When you encounter an official who isn't cooperative -- try offering to give him/her a copy of the picture you're going to take. But don't take his/her name on a piece of paper. Such papers either get lost or add to your office work. Instead, offer him your business card and say, "Here's my address. Write or e-mail me in about a week -- I’ll be back in the office by then." Experience predicts you'll never hear from him/her.
If an official wants to know something about you -- why you're here, what the pictures will be used for -- here's the answer for that one: "I represent the John Doe Stock Photo Agency -- and I'm John Doe -- these pictures go into my on-line gallery of over 3,000 stock photos -- they're used in magazines, books, posters, calendars, textbooks, you name it! "-(smile)] -- explain everything to the official, the same as you would to a corporation executive you might be planning to photograph. Often, secretaries (who are 'officials' too) will know more about the schedule, commitments, etc. of the boss -- than he does. It's wise to cultivate officials who could have access to information helpful to your picture-taking assignment.


Should you carry a press card? For large, important events, written permission from headquarters is your best introduction to on-site officials (headquarters usually issues its own press cards, letters of introduction, tags, stickers, etc.) But for the 999 other events you'll attend, officials don't ask for a press card -- if you're carrying two or more cameras (around your neck), that's official enough for them. If you don't have extra cameras, buy a couple professional-looking (inoperative) ones at a flea market. They'll be your passport to most any public event you want to photograph.
So if you've found "officials" to be resistant -- try the "handle-with-care" method. However, there's an exception: If an official demands: "Wait over there; fill out this form; stand in line; I'll put you on 'hold'; I have to check with my boss first; " -- then take a different approach: try a different official. In the case of the basketball attendant -- if he were uncooperative -- walk away, find another entrance to the building. In the case of an uncooperative receptionist -- wait 'til she goes on coffee break, or lunch. The replacement person might be more cooperative (or you might figure out a better approach). Use your a cell phone; get the name and number of the CEO and put a call through to him/her. Generally you can get instant permission if your assignment is for a publication that has widespread influence in his/her trade area.
And what if no officials are on the scene? Don't go out of your way to find someone to ask permission. Volunteers may have no authority (a waiter in a restaurant, an attendant at a conference). Rather than take no pictures (because you didn't have permission), use your First Amendment Rights and begin photographing. An official will usually come forward -- and before he gives you his "routine" -- you give him your "I need your help" routine.

Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. He answers those who ask, “How do I sell my photos?”


01 Sep, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes

The Model Release Myth

The myth I’m about to write about
has caused hundreds, even thousands, of potentially excellent, award-winning photos, never to have been taken. Why? Because we let it happen. No area of editorial stock photography has been more misunderstood than the model release issue. Here’s some clarification:

Photo columnists, unaware of their First Amendment Rights, have been fanning the fires of this issue for decades. A wall of mythology has built up around the subject, and I'll make the first move to break it down for you. To start off with: No, editorial stock photographers: you do NOT need model releases.
You may now get up off the floor and take a seat. I'll ask you to be open to a re-programming process. First, a couple questions: Have you ever seen a newspaper photographer ask for a model release? Did the video photographer in the Los Angeles Rodney King case ask the policemen or Mr. King for a model release?

If your photo is informing or educating the public, you do not need a model release.

And this is where the confusion comes in. About two million dollars a day are spent in the publishing of editorial stock photography, whose essential use is to INFORM and to EDUCATE. Photobuyers in this arena rarely require a model release, unless the photo is so sensitive that it might compromise a person in some way. Short of highly sensitive areas such as drug abuse, sex education, mental retardation, you won't find your buyers asking you for a model release. Here at PhotoSource, where we deal primarily in the “inform and educate” arena, buyers rarely ever ask for a model release.

You ask, “How and why was I under the impression that model releases are always required?"

Part of the reason is that most teaching and training in the USA for working photographers, is slanted to COMMERCIAL photography, where you always need a model release. As stock photography has grown and become more prevalent, commercial photographers expanded into media photography, and brought along with them the rules for commercial photography: i.e. you need a model release. Since most classic stock photography is used for commercial purposes, these photographers are right, you do need a model release if you are photographing in the commercial sector, where stock photo usage centers on promotion, advertising, and endorsement.

Some photographers, editorial stock photographers, that is, would have it no other way. They always get a model release. As my friend, Jim Cook, author of THE METAMACHINE, says, “My accountant loves me for getting model releases; so does my wife.” That way any editorial photo can be used for advertising purposes.

Some photographers can wear two hats, commercial and editorial. Try it. You might be built for it. Personally, I’m not. I stick to just the editorial side of selling stock.

You, as an editorial stock photographer who is informing, educating, and entertaining the public, operating a business in a free enterprise society – you have a powerful ally on your side, namely the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment in effect says you can freely photograph in public (no model releases needed) as long as you are not breaking any local laws, such as trespassing.

Large publishing houses, which spend $50,000 to $150,000 per month for photography, are vigilant about protecting their First Amendment Rights, and in so doing, they protect your First Amendment Rights. If Pearson, Harcourt Brace, etc. were to require model releases for all the pictures they use, they would soon go out of business, because editorial photographers would not put up with the chore of getting model releases for slews of editorial, “non-posed” pictures.

Most of the horror stories that you read about concerning model releases have had to do with commercial photography (advertising, concerning sales and products for purchase), where YES, you do need a model release. Not so in the book and magazine illustration field.

The million-dollar-a-day book and magazine and on-line publishing houses fill swivel chairs at long oak tables with legal advisors, who remain steadfast in protecting their clients' side of the First Amendment, which is, that when you are informing and educating - - a model release is not necessary. The only exceptions would be those aforementioned rare cases involving highly sensitive subjects such as sex education, drug abuse, certain medical issues, and religion. A good rule of thumb would be to ask yourself, “Would a newspaper photographer ask for a model release in this situation?” whatever the case, take the picture anyway; the photo editor will let you know if the picture can be used.

So then, this opens the window and lets in some fresh air on this issue. If you've been relinquishing your First Amendment rights up to this point, I hope this article helps you regain them. Go out and photograph freely in public, you’ll be in the good company of Margaret Bourke-White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, and others.

It would be a bureaucrat's dream for officials to be able to say, "You can't photograph in my school, my police precinct, my park." In reality, these people (school principals, policemen, etc.) work for you. They are your civil servants. Your taxes pay for their buildings, equipment, and salaries. As long as you are not interrupting their normal course of duties you can photograph them.

There have been rare lawsuits, yes. But if you examine each case (we’re talking editorial stock, not commercial), the plaintiff always goes after the publisher with deep pockets, not the photographer. We're back to the long oak table with swivel chairs filled with experts. And the plaintiff rarely wins.

The bottom line is that you should break through the wall of mythology that for years has surrounded this model release question, and go out and photograph freely in public. The world will be a better, more informed, educated, or entertained place as a result of your efforts.

Rohn Engh, veteran stock photographer and best-selling author of “Sell & ReSell Your Photos” and “,” has helped scores of photographers launch their careers to sell photos. For access to great information on making money from pictures you like to take, and to receive this free report: “8 Steps to Becoming a Published Photographer,” visit