Archive for November 2010

24 Nov, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes

If It Is To Be

I’d like to address this week’s commentary to many of you who are working as a team in your stock photography. My headline might not be grammatically correct but the meaning behind it certainly is. I have the license to do this because Jeri and I have been working together 51 years. Over a half-century!
The title above, of course, comes from that fortifying phrase, ‘if it is to be it is up to me’. In those formative years long ago, Jeri and I agreed to work as a team, including marriage. We recognized that the core of our togetherness was our desire not to just make a living, but to make a life.
But what happens when youthful dreams do not sustain you? People get older.
Or when what you’re doing becomes routine, even boring. In our case, we have silently asked ourselves…Are we still on the right track in our desire to ‘make a life’ together? To engage ourselves in what we love doing? Can we overcome this hurdle or that problem?
If it is to be it is up to we.
Rohn and Jeri Engh
The telephone company has sent us a pink slip, the bank has given us 30-days to come up with the overdraft money, the IRS wants us to come in for an audit, a subscriber has written us an unkind letter.
Sure, we have now and then gotten off track in those 51 years. That’s part of being human. But we always came back to the same question, “Are we making a life that’s worth living?”
If you assumed that living on a Wisconsin farm is all peaches and cream, well, yes, most of it is. But not 100%.
We’ve had our ups and downs. As man and woman, our emotional needs periodically differ (Men Are From Mars –John Gray), or we’ve had those predictable crises (Passages –Gail Sheehy). But we have always been saved by the strength of our shared desire to live our wonderful lifestyle on our rural farm.


There will always be depressing days. But you know something? When you’re working as a freelancer, you can always look forward to the something good happening, too. An unexpected check will come in the mail, or a new client will phone you.
Look at it this way: whether you’re at a high (100%) or a low (1%), the middle is 50%. If you’re experiencing a 45% day, figure out some way you can get it up to at least 51% –and that’s positive. Many an election or game has been won by 51% -and that’s a positive on Monday morning.
My Dad always used to end his letters to us, “Keep in a good frame of mind.” We keep that in mind when vicissitudes of grappling with challenges, handling responsibilities, unforeseen curve balls, try to get us down.
If it is to be it is up to we.


And then there’s the physical frame. There may be another hurdle to confront us tomorrow, but the biggest hurdle we’ve faced so far began in 1966 when our then-three-year-old, Jim, developed seizures. Pediatric neurology was in its infancy so we took it upon ourselves to look for help through the media. Newspapers, magazines, TV (we even appeared on the Today Show for a 9-minute segment). We established a newsletter for parents dealing with similar challenges. Medical science has not come up with an answer for Jim, who is now 47. Jim’s seizure problem has not improved, but we haven’t let this interfere with our aim for Jim and ourselves to live a life worth living. Jim keeps experiencing his own successes. He wakes most mornings with a smile.
I’m now 81 and Jeri is 72. Society has a way of pressuring us to ‘act our age’. But that’s usually defined by the previous generation’s conception of what “old” is. Because our parents physically fell apart just after retirement (there was little emphasis then on nutrition, exercise, and healthy living), today’s pop culture regards as “old,” someone with aches and pains and on medications. Or at least that’s what the TV commercials would have you believe.
We may have a health problem emerge tomorrow, but right now we are healthier than when we were in our 30’s when we were racked with colds, headaches, and allergies. The answer may be in the dozen or so vitamins and minerals that we take daily (for forty years), or in our affirmative attitude of ‘keeping in a good frame of mind’ -- or a combination of both.
We are both physically active (when you live on a farm, there’s work to be done). Jeri is a talented pool player and a 15-year member of the WPBA –the women you see on ESPN. As I write this, she is playing in a regional tournament in Tucson, AZ.


If you are two stock photographers, working together as a couple, I hope you will tack this phrase up on your office wall and read it when things look dark...
If it is to be it is up to we.
Couples: You have a long and fruitful life ahead of you and I hope the unexpected curve balls that freelancing sometimes hands out to you will not deter you. I hope my writings will steer you away from the negativity that can distract you daily in the media.
Whether you have chosen to live in an urban high-rise in Atlanta or a mountain cabin alongside a trout stream in Colorado, if you both engage yourselves in something wild horses couldn’t pull you away from, you’ll find that a lot of good fortune is going to come your way.

Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. E-mail: info[at]photosource[dot]com . Fax: 1 715 248 3800. Web site:


17 Nov, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes

Marco Polo revisited. . .

Give ‘em What They Want

How many times can you photograph a young business-type looking at an iPod? Or senior citizens bicycling along a scenic roadway? Or the Eiffel Tower or the Lincoln Memorial?
In the past decade we have seen a proliferation of these microstock generic pictures available on the Internet, and you’d think an art director at Getty, Corbis or Shutterstock or twenty other stock agencies, would say, Halt!– We have enough.”
If you think you have found the secret to stock photography success by making this kind of stock photo, be prepared to make a detour. This kind of stock photo cannibalization will soon come to a halt.


In the previous century, the selling and buying marketing processes for photographer and client in the stock photo industry entailed these tried-and-true techniques:
portfolio presentations,
direct mail campaigns,
PR telemarketing,
rep visits,
CD's / DVD's
magazine ads,
sell sheets,
banners AdWords
news releases,
post cards,
file cabinet magnets,
PHOTO: Petr Kratochvil

calendar reminders, etc.
In recent years we’ve all seen these “hot” marketing methods give way to more efficient methods now provided by the Internet.
Unfortunately, some veteran stock photographers are still holding on to the former way of marketing. Some are still taking generic photos and as a result have relinquished their hold on the market. Sales are dwindling and they declare, Stock photography is dead or dying.” This prophecy can certainly become true for those photographers if they market their work in the old marketing model.


What has died, or is dying, is the age of the “name photographer” in the stock photo arena. The old model was to “sell yourself” and to “sell your images,” implying that a unique image or unique stock photographer would do the job. This system promised, “Take a good picture and the world will beat a path to your door.”
Yes, aspire to be “a name photographer” in other areas of photography, but in the area of stock photography, the field is wide open. No longer do you need to have a big name to be successful. The Internet has leveled the playing field.

Discover what your prospect needs.

More important is to discover what you are selling. If it’s
pretty pictures of generic covered bridges and seagulls, sunsets and
hot air balloons, then be prepared for a lot of competition.

In contrast, the stock photographers who will succeed in the coming
decade are those who focus on having deep coverage of specific subject
matter. Those who specialize will be able to ‘speak the language’
of their segmented buyers. They will, in effect, own a monopoly in
that niche market. And they will sell their photos not at micro-payment
prices, but at rights-managed fees.

All the world is specialized –medicine, legal matters, agriculture. (A sugar beet farmer in North Dakota would be at a loss trying to plant and harvest sugar cane....seeding, cultivation, harvesting, distribution would all be a mystery...)
We all turn to the ‘specialist’ when we want the latest
information and technology. If you have a passion for a select few
special interest areas that you like to photograph, you’re lucky.
Why? Because you separate yourself from the competition who are still
trying to sell generic images.

The buying and selling premise hasn’t changed since the days of Marco Polo, who traveled east to Asia for spices, silks, jewels, and perfumes in the Middle Ages. What has changed for stock photographers is the selling model.
Internet marketing
says, “Why waste valuable printing, mailing and phone costs on ‘shotgun’ marketing (and get a 5% response) when the Internet model can find who your target markets are at almost zero cost?”

In today’s Internet environment, we have a much better chance of learning what the customer wants. It’s called Reaction Marketing. At least, that’s what I call it. You use search engine techniques to get the reaction of your prospect first -- before spending any energy or dollars on marketing.

Whether it’s Marco Polo or you attempting to sell something, the age-old marketing idea remains the same: target your market, understand what the customer wants, gain the trust of your client, keep all the promises you make.

This is easier than ever to do, thanks to the Internet.

And what are these processes for making sales? From time to time I’ll be discussing these in my reports to you. Here’s a sampling: AdWords; Ebay; search engine optimization; joint ventures; Reaction Marketing; PR news releases; no-cost publicity; Internet YouTube videos; E-Books, Twitter; FACEBOOK to name a few.
If you haven’t heard of some of these, type the phrases into Google or your favorite search engine and go from there. See how the process can fit your new marketing strategy.


We are talking here about the winning strategy of American business. Reorganize and win. Follow the trail almost to the edge. Whether it’s a small business or a huge corporation, those who continue to survive have applied and adapted the new Internet techniques to their business. They have not resisted change.

All of this implies a re-structuring of your marketing working model and selling strategies. It means the effort of having to re-tool to go with the flow of the Internet river. Is it worth it? If continuing to successfully have fun with the challenge of doing something you love doing matters most, the answer is yes.

Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of ; Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. E-mail: info[at]photosource[dot]com. 1 800 624 0266; Fax: 1 715 248 7394. To answer your question, “How do I sell my photos?”


10 Nov, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes

Just Starting Out?
What Impression Do You Give?
Look Like A Pro

Some basics about contacting a photo editor

You can get your foot in the door of a photobuyer if you "look like a pro.”
In today's world, photobuyers at book and magazine publishers rarely have face-to-face meetings with their photo suppliers. There's no need to. The Internet provides the contact for them. If you supply on-target photos – the photobuyers will supply checks.So the "foot in the door" strategy translates to the techniques you use to attract the attention of the photobuyer. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance at a first impression. First of all analyze what your “brand” is (your market specialty – the subject area you like to photograph).

Second, use Google to find out who needs your specialty.*After you have found several publishers of books and magazines that need your specialized area of stock photography, prepare CD’s of samples of your photos. Include only photos that match each buyer’s interest area. If you have two or three specialty areas you like to pursue, then make two or three CD's, and two or three web sites or blogs.
CAUTION: Don't be tempted to make one CD to include all of your interest areas. The photobuyer will not be interested in spending time, combing through your images to find something of interest to the photobuyer.

Your package will include a cover letter that will introduce yourself. Include your CD disk, plus your URL to your website where you display your most recent images from an assignment or vacation. Use a search on Google to find where to get mailing envelopes and CD materials.


If you want first class attention from a photobuyer, you'll want to give the photobuyer first class treatment by sending him/her a first class package. In my thirty years of dealing by mail with buyers, it's extremely rare that anything gets lost by the U.S. Postal Service. Other means of delivery -- Fedex, UPS, etc. -- have good track records, too, and are certainly convenient, but they may not be in your budget. U.S. mail does just fine, with some assistance from you. First of all, don't package your material in brown envelopes (manila, craft, etc.). The color brown connotes third class. You want the photobuyer to think of you and your work as first class. Use a white heavy-cardboard mailing envelope. To add additional support, place a piece of corrugated cardboard inside. Photobuyers tend to "judge a book by its cover." Their reasoning is that if a photographer submits his/her work in a professional-looking package, (s)he's probably a hassle-free supplier. Editors don't have time to train anyone or hold their hand through a transaction. It's crazy isn't it...? You produce award winning photography but if your package looks amateurish, you'll be turned away at the starting gate. If your package signals that you are a hassle-free experienced photographer, you will move to the head of the line.


If this is your first contact with the photobuyer -- your letterhead will have as much impact as the quality of your images. Consult with a graphics person to design your logo and letterhead. (You are now "branding" -an important key in your future success.) If the cost of a graphics artist is too high, use your talents to barter. The graphic artist may appreciate a photo, a portrait, or a family group shot, in exchange.
Always include your address, phone and fax number, e-mail address, logo, and web address on your stationery. Tailor your cover letter to the photo editor you are contacting. For example, if you're contacting a magazine dealing with horticulture, incorporate a flower design in your logo. A jet airplane would be used for an aviation publisher, and so forth. The editor is going to say, "this photographer speaks my language!". Your envelopes, labels, business card and other business forms, should also signal ‘quality’ and ‘professional.’ as well. By looking like a pro with all of your materials, you'll experience quicker response from photobuyers. –RE

*Use Google to find which magazines or book publishers will be looking for your work. In the search bar of Google type in a long phrase such as “(your photo specialty), publisher, guidelines, etc.”

Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. He has been helping photographers sell photos since the publishing of his book Sell & Resell Your Photos back in 1981. Email: info[at]photosource[dot]com, 1 800 624 0266, Fax: 1 715 248 3800. Web site:


03 Nov, 2010 | Posted by: psnotes

The Case Of

The Broken Printer

Advance Notes: When your printer says, “I quit,” don’t believe it. There are remedies for “failing” printers (just like there are for “failing” computers). Here’s one:

After a few spurtings, coughings, and hic-cuppings, my color printer (XYZ r77) rolled over and played dead. It lay there with a slight grin as if to say, “Going, going…”
I flipped through the Manual of Resuscitations For Printers and found mention of a few Band-Aids. None worked. But a faint heartbeat in my printer was still there.
A warning message appeared on my computer screena guy with a hammer about to hit a printer that said, ‘certain parts in my printer had reached their normal life span and would now have to be replaced.’ UGH! What the printer (the manufacturer) is essentially telling me, is that I ‘have to buy a new printer.’
And my little pea brain is telling me, “I have to buy that same printer, because I have a barrel-full of color cartridges I just bought that fit exactly into my singular XYZ r77. What’ll I do with them…try to sell them on eBay?
Nice going XYZ… You’ve devised a marketing strategy that will marry a customer for life to your company of printers!


Enter Bruce, our ace technology expert here at Photosource International.
Bending over and stretching to pull plugs, flipping panels, access doors and buttons, Bruce scratched his head. He put my printer through a few routines with his stethoscope, to no avail. Nothing was happening.
Then he grinned back at the r77. He sat down and started pecking away at the computer keyboard.
That’s when I left to go back to easier jobs like dumping the cat litter box.
No word from Bruce.

About a half hour later, he emerged from the operating room.
“It’s fixed.”
“How’d you do it?”
“I found a hack for it.”
“What’s that?”
Bruce said, ‘I went on to an Internet chat group for XYZ printers, and found a Russian guy who figured out the software code to counteract the XYZ trojan that was telling the printer to shut down and the customer to get new expired parts.”
“You mean the printer wasn’t really ready to call it quits?”
“You mean XYZ puts a built-in obsolescence code in their printers?”

And that’s not the end of the story. We also have another “dead” printer of the aforementioned brand name that had sputtered and died last year. We’d stashed it away covered up in a back room. Bruce takes it out, applies a similar hack code, and yes, there IS an after-life for printers. The Russian guy had a resurrection code for that one, too.
And, it gets even better. We had a boxful of color cartridges for that printer too, about $150 worth.

By the way, I’m printing this message to you on my ol’ XYZ r77.

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