Anyone can take a picture…that is the lesson Flickr and Microstock have recently taught us with a “pie in the face” method. It doesn’t take that much skills to create images that could use for licensing by someone else. Much less than painting, writing music, writing ( properly) or any other creative activity. Furthermore, technology has really improved the ease of access. Most images that we see today, even taken by pros, could have never existed 15 years ago because cameras, lenses and everything around it were just not available. However, as much as photography is becoming more and more accessible, great images remain an act of creative magic. And it’s a talent, if not a gift.
The same goes for licensing images. Everyone claims they can sell pictures. However, it is not true. let’s take a few example, if you don’t mind. Microstock shooters. Sure they can take equivalent quality pictures as your average traditional RF/RM guy. But can they sell it ? Nope. They have to rely on the savvy tech marketing magicians of microstock sites like Istock or Dreamstime to make that happen. They could start their own microstock site with only their image, priced at even lower than any competition and yet see nothing. Ok..not convinced. Well, let’s jump into photojournalism. We are all familiar with great images that never get published. Why? Because images do not sell themselves. It’s a tragic myth.
More and more, one can see popping up all over the internet, sites build by young geeky entrepreneur offering to let photographers sell direct and cut the “middleman” or agency. They make people believe the age old myth “if you build it they will come”. The more independent photographers create independent selling websites ( not the portfolio kind), the more they dilute and isolate their work.
Why do you think a lot of those database site scream high and loud how many images they contain ( 15 million, 43 million, 5 petratrillion..)? Because they understand that the promise of a wealth of content is more important to most buyers than quality. They are looking for a solution, not a great image. Something that will fit well and appropriately in that space. They couldn’t care less if it was used before as they couldn’t care less if it is mass produced and others have the same model with the same color.
Think selling images in a big database is the solution? wrong again. You can try, but there is no guarantee. Furthermore, the bigger the collection, the more chance your images have to be ignored . Great IPTC info ? Depends on what you call great: what you put in or what those guys in Bangalore put in ? Or those so self-proclaimed expert? Mmm.
So what is it ? Great marketing ? Sure…but do you know what that is ? and how to achieve it ? Probably not. If you did, you would not be reading this but instead, be enjoying a nice cocktail on the porch of your summer house looking at the sunset dip into a deep blue sea.
Admit it. You don’t know. You have no idea how to sell images. It takes talent, like shooting great images. Whether learned or natural, it’s not something most photographers have. Great athletes have agents, great actors have agents, why do you think photographers don’t need any ?
Because building a searchable website with a shopping cart is easy, and cheap ? And that, with a kick-ass SEO strategy will make them millionaires? Well, let’s think of who have succeeded up to now…What? no names come to mind? However, photographers with crappy websites ( or none at all) that are doing very, very well…many.
So, next time someone comes to you with a turn-key solution that promises to cut the middle man and make you truly independent, you can believe them, because that is exactly what it will do for you. And nothing else.