Archive for May 2011

25 May, 2011 | Posted by: st

Microstock…good or bad?

Those eWarehouse Pix

By Rohn Engh

The warehouse is growing. Some say by 45,000 new images a day. I’m referring to the collective storehouse of all the photos in the online photo storefronts, the stock photo agencies, Flickr, et al.

This mass of unrelated images can be tapped into in milliseconds, thanks to search engine technology. And such access is becoming easier and easier by the minute.

Never before in history have photos been more accessible to art directors, photo editors, and private consumers.
All these pictures can of course be categorized in several ways. But keep in mind that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.What is one person’s treasure is another person’s trash.

So let’s take an overview of what we all, as editorial stock photographers, have played a part in getting us into.

We’re talking ‘microstock.’

Microstock photos. Are they good or bad? Yes, they are good or bad. This article maintains that microstock sites embrace only a certain mode of photography: standard clichés, tourist destinations, fantasy, generalized photos (beautiful scenics, etc.). This ever-popular cliché style of photography is becoming "staticized" (new word). It's being catalogued into microstock e-warehouses and cemented onto static polyester CD-ROM and DVD discs, and other digital storage formats.


Where do you find microstock in the media?

Microstock photos are the generic photos we see in trade magazines and travel brochures, in websites and catalogs, in ads and newsletters and office announcements. They're everywhere. And now that they've become more available, we're going to be seeing even more of them.
Does this affect your stock photo business?
It could. It depends on the way you are doing business.

If you are threatened by microstock, it's probably because you've been producing microstock-type photos your entire photography career and haven't realized it.
In my book, Sell & ReSell Your Photos, I describe what is now defined as microstock photos, as "Track A" pictures-- the lovely exquisite cliches, the generic pictures that fill the pages of most advertising agency brochures and postcard mailings (sunsets, covered bridges, clouds, trees, office products, mountains, -many with an animated young couple or healthy seniors in the composition).


Opponents of microstock usually make a distinction in their assessment of this segment of stock photography.

On the one hand they declare the lower-priced microstock discs ($39.95 and lower) as inferior and not worthy of stock photography. On the other hand, they assess high-end discs ($250 and up) at high value. In reality both types of discs contain typical "Track A" pictures. The major factor that differentiates these two microstock categories is their technical quality.
High-end microstock discs are usually produced by industrial-strength flatbed scanners or by drum scanning (equipment cost: $25,000 to $75,000), and because of their quality can substantially short cut the production process, saving the photobuyer hundreds of dollars. Low-end discs are scanned on low-end equipment (equipment cost: $1,500-$3,000). The resulting images usually can't be used larger than a quarter page, or are used in projects where professional reproduction quality is not paramount (newsletters, brochures, websites, etc.).

Want to read more ?

18 May, 2011 | Posted by: st

It Couldn't Get Any Better...

Triple Marketing



In the early days of Hollywood,
grabby movie producers signed
promising stars to long term contracts -- not unlike slavery. The next wave of actors saw what was happening and elected to become independent contractors; able to pick and choose their future scripts.
Maybe our stock photography industry is evolving in a similar vein.

In the wake of the rush toward automation in the commercial stock photo industry, it will be interesting to see if this kind of merger will represent an example of how mid-sized agencies will combine forces to offer convenient, personalized services to local and regional clients, much like how "quick-stop" grocery stores survive very well in the shadow of massive food chains.


History has shown us that consumers will often choose convenience (speed) of some products over other buying choices: price, brand, and quality. With regional stock agencies in the mix, it means that you, as a freelance stock photographer, will have three ways to market your photos: 1.) You’ll send your commercially oriented generic stock off to an automated, digitized giant (Getty, Corbis, Alamy, etc.); 2.) Send your regionally-oriented stock to local regional agencies; and 3.) Market your highly specific editorial stock photos directly to special-interest buyers and publishers whose needs match your personal coverage areas.


Here's the advantage of this three-tier selling strategy:
Number 1 will pay the bills. Your commercially-oriented stock photos will go stale after five or six years, but you'll continue to keep on top of the fads and pump them out.
Number 2 will enable you to anchor yourself to something other than an email address. You'll give personalized service and receive first-name attention from your regional agency.
Number 3 will allow you to photograph in the areas of editorial stock closest to your heart (environment issues, developments in education, Native American issues, archery, the homeless, rodeos, gardening, and so on). These photos will eventually become of historical significance and you can pass their value on to your heirs.


In my eCourse and in my earlier marketing book
, “Sell & ReSell Your Photos,” I emphasize that in order to be successful in the world of editorial stock photography, you should choose a special interest area that is of special interest to you, and focus on photographing in that field. Eventually you will amass a large file of specialized photos that will be of great interest to a specific segment of the photobuying universe, especially if you have a deep selection they can choose from. Your customers will be world-wide and your free promotion for your specialty will be through Google.
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Most photographers I meet, and who attend my seminars, are more interested in short term monetary gain. They ask me, “What sells best?” I interpret this to mean that they will then enter that field of stock photography, whether it matches their interest area or not.
This is a recipe for failure.

If you have a talent for photography and you match it with an area of interest that you love photographing in, you’ll be able to withstand the pitfalls and roadblocks you’re bound to meet up with.
LESSON: Choose a specialty area that appeals to you, one that wild horses can’t pull you away from. In the short term, it might not be highly profitable, but in the long run it will pay off, because you’ll have enjoyed every minute of it.

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Rohn Engh is the best-selling author of “Sell & ReSell Your Photos”
and “” He has produced an eBook, “How To Make the Marketable Photo,” and an eCourse, “How To Market Your Photos.” For more information and to receive a free eReport: “8 Steps to Becoming Published Photographer,” visit
800 624-0266.


11 May, 2011 | Posted by: st

Are they gone…?

The Stodgy Photo Agencies

Automation in the stock photo industry is making it simpler and easier to process and deliver photos that have gone through the digitalization process.

Stock photography, once a labor-intensive commercial enterprise, is becoming an automated industry.

The stodgy stock photo agencies of the early 1990's, who had no time to welcome newcomers to
the field, are seeing those same newcomers turn to
multiple-use microstock (Royalty Free) markets that deploy state-of-the-art technology.

As long as automatic controls on cameras make it easy for anyone with an eye for commercially acceptable stock photography to make pictures, newcomers will be attracted to microstock.

But automation has its drawbacks, as we all saw in the event and portrait photography field, where in many cases, wannabe photographers entered that field with enthusiasm only to discover that the easy automated production line process reduces their photography to not much more than factory-like work.


Commercial stock photography, like the music industry, has become so inbred, so automated, that anything beyond the acceptable norm is dismissed, or at best, looked upon with annoyance. The bean counters in the ambitious corporate stock photo world discourage any risk-taking (and that includes creative stock photography). They smile on their way to the bank, as they prove, quarter after quarter, that the commercial stock photo industry should be market-driven, not photographer-driven.

That leaves photographers in a position of having to create within the guidelines of bean counters. Photographers who have a need "to take the photos they want to take" are not welcome. The bean counters direct the process with pronouncements such as “we exist to continually look for ways to improve the bottom line.”


Editorial stock photography on the other hand, is driven by another need: the public's need to know, as well as the photographer's own need to know and express him/herself.

The editorial stock photo market is vast. It extends from your immediate community to across the nation, and around the globe. Your markets demand authenticity, documentation and accuracy. They also appreciate good story-telling. They love insights into how others are living their lives -- locally, nationally and internationally.

The success of TV's 60-MINUTES, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and the afternoon and late-night talk shows, attest to the unquenchable curiosity of the public to learn about the world around them. Generic pictures from a commercial stock agency won't suffice. Content-specific photos (editorial photos) are what’s needed.

As automated digital delivery of stock photography becomes more commonplace, the need for editorial stock photography, contemporary and historical images, is growing exponentially.

If you have prepared well and honed your photography to target a specialized area, you'll be an important resource to existing, as well as future, media: cable, TV, Blogs, websites and satellite media, in their task of delivering information to the public.

Because automation results in swift delivery of images, and because digital archiving holds the promise of placing millions of pictures in a single location for lightning-speed access, editorial stock photography is going to be in big demand in the near future.

The stodgy photo agencies, on the other hand, will rarely play a role in this coming scenario. Generic, commercial stock photos aren't invited to the party.

Rohn Engh is the best-selling author of “Sell & ReSell Your Photos”
and “” He has produced an eBook, “How To Make the Marketable Photo,” and an eCourse, “How To Market Your Photos.” For more information and to receive a free eReport: “8 Steps to Becoming Published Photographer,” visit
800 624-0266.


04 May, 2011 | Posted by: st

Would You Hire

This Photographer?

(The case for specialization…)

by Rohn Engh

Over the past thirty years, I have championed the proposition that specialization is the route to take for success in the field of stock photography. My detractors have grumbled, “Hey, you’re always harping on this.”
Yes, it’s true. Specialization Because it’s at the heart of what works for the independent photographer, and a surprisingly large number of photographers lose years of their working life before they become convinced of the truth of it; if indeed they ever do.

It’s been distressing to me to see so many excellent photographers lose their enthusiasm for stock photography over the years. The reason wasn’t that they didn’t have talent or good business sense, but because they tried to be “all things to all clients.” They didn’t specialize. They didn’t produce a deep selection of photos and knowledge in one (or a select few subject areas.)

Now, thirty years later, hundreds of successful photographers are living proof of the success brought by specialization. > In other disciplines as well: doctors, musicians, attorneys, the military and so on. To rise to the top of their profession --they specialize.


The stock photographers who have turned out to be champions, are those who picked one topic, one area of stock photography expertise, a subject area that they loved photographing, and stuck with it. Their ‘brand’ is now widely known by the photo buying community. These photographers have built a deep treasury of excellent stock photography in their area of expertise. They have meshed their talent with markets that need the kind of photographs they’ve prefered as their brand.

This concept of specialization is not contrary to business school advice. It goes all the way back to the birth of merchandising: > Make an item for consumption that pleases you to produce, and determine if there’s a market out there. If by your research you find there is,


Of course here, we’re talking about selling your photos, building wealth, and sharing your expertise. I’m addressing working photographers, not fine art photographers who might today be at the top level of fame, -- but tomorrow in the bottom level of the income scale.
Is this idea of “specialization” outdated and “old school”?

I came across a video featuring a contemporary working photographer interviewing an art director, that I think would be of great interest you.

Go Here:
The working photographer is Chase Jarvis, a well-known commercial photographer ( And the art/creative director is Jason Sutherland of the company, REI, (Seattle, WA). Here’s the interview. It’s a lesson in why specialization is so important to your success as a stock photographer. Notice how the words “authentic ” and “legit” are used in their conversation (at 03:28), and notice how an art director will expect you to know the mission of their brand. Also, notice how an art director would hope you had knowledge of their theme, their subject area, even before you started your stock photography career.

PHOTO: Chase Jarvis

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Rohn Engh is the best-selling author of “Sell & ReSell Your Photos”
and “” He has produced an eBook, “How To Make the Marketable Photo,” and an eCourse, “How To Market Your Photos.” For more information and to receive a free eReport: “8 Steps to Becoming Published Photographer,” visit
800 624-0266.