Accepted at Photoshelter!

I’ve been accepted by Photoshelter!

While I just got accepted into Alamy less than a month ago, I really want to ensure that I’m marketing to the largest group of agencies possible.  However, I really didn’t want to follow the Royalty Free image marketing scheme.  Therefore, I decided that perhaps Photoshelter may be another great opportunity to sell the style of images I enjoy taking.

Photoshelter is a bit different than Alamy.  They operate more like a traditional stock agency where you submit photographs and they determine if they need them for their collection.  While the images must be good quality (sharp, proper colors and proper composition), they aren’t as rigorous with their upload policy as Alamy.  They also allow the photographer to set their own prices.

[Widget Removed with the demise of Photoshelter]

The above widget should update to show my latest images which have been uploaded.  I’m sure that at some point, I’ll incorporate it into the design on this blog, but for now, it gives an idea of exactly what I have available!

What makes good stock photos?

As much as I wish I could give an absolute answer, I’m finding that despite all of the research I did prior to joining Alamy, I’m still learning.  While I really didn’t expect to start making sales immediately at Alamy, I’m a little disappointed that I don’t have more views — one of the measures Alamy shows the contributors.

I’m starting to come to the understanding that images need more than just proper exposure and good subjects.  Good stock photography must either evoke an emotion, or attempt to sell a product or idea.

I know that this isn’t perhaps a perfect image.  But I feel that this one has potential to do well in the Stock world.  Not only is it properly exposed and in focus, but it has potential to be used for a variety of advetising uses.  Also, I think it’s a bit catchy but then again, I think I’m a bit biased.

While this image may not have as much advertising potential, I find it alluring.  Then again, I took it.  However, I really think it tells a story.  The worn building and the loading dock amist the signs of industry allows the imagination to wander.  The whole “if those walls could talk” mentality.  Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what it could be used for.

This is another image I really hope does well.  I wish the colors were a bit more punchy, but the lion just looks so peaceful — relaxed yet dangerous.  Hopefully, emotions may allow this image to sell.  We’ll see!

I try really hard not to let my emotions get in the way of my objectiveness, but it is hard at times!  Check out my Alamy Portfolio and let me know what you think!  Constructive criticism welcome!

Shooting Stock Photography

I feel it would be remiss if I did no apologize for the long time between this and my last entry.  However, with my acceptance to Alamy and my testing of SmugMug, I’ve been somewhat preoccupied.  In fact, I’m somewhat amazed at just how much time stock photography takes!

While Alamy doesn’t have overly difficult requirements to meet as far as image uploading goes, they do ask for a few simple things (once you understand them).  They require at least 48 megabyte uncompressed files saved in a high quality JPEG format.  They also ask that the files have no sharpening applied to them.  In my opinion, the hard part is finding technically perfect images which Alamy won’t reject due to image softness.

As an Adobe Lightroom user who shoots in the Nikon RAW format of either my D50 or my D200, I find this rather easy to accomplish.  Both of these cameras have an approximate 2/3 ratio of short edge to long edge.  For example, my D200 takes photos of 3,872 pixels by 2,592 pixels.  The D50 has a similar ratio.  Knowing this, if I resize the photos for the longest edge to a length of 5,128 pixels, my photos will be approximately 5,128 by 3,418 pixels or 17,527 pixels.  Given that a JPEG format has 8-bits of data per channel per pixel, that brings the file to around 50 MB.

Under the Lightroom export settings, I simply tell it to resize so that the longest side is 5,128 px and to export using the highest quality JPEG compression.  I’ve never had a Quality Control rejection using these settings.

It is important to note a few things.  First of all, the resulting JPEG will be around 6 – 10 MB.  This is because JPEG format uses compression.  That is just fine.  This is where a lot of people get hung up.  Second, if I’ve cropped the photo at all, the size may not be correct.  In these instances, it’s important to verify the actual uncompressed size of the final image.

After hearing a lot of people have problems with this process, it occurred to me that I hold very high standards when it comes to my Alamy workflow.  I won’t use any original files which need drastic cropping.  Even taking just a little off the side of an image will result in a drastic loss of pixels.  Also, I ensure that the photos are perfectly in focus and sharp.  So far, I’ve not had any problems so I guess it’s working!

I haven’t forgotten my SmugMug vs. Zenfolio debate either.  I’m currently in the process of evaluating them and will definitely be posting more information in the next day or so as to how it’s shaping up!

I’ve been accepted by Alamy!

As of this morning, I’ve officially passed the Alamy guidelines and quality control checks and I’m officially represented by Alamy!

I suppose I should back up a little.  I’ve been getting more and more into shooting “stock” photography.  What this means is that I submit photos I’ve taken that may be of commercial interest to stock agencies.  They market the images and sell them and the photographer is paid a commission.  There are two major approaches to stock photography — microstock and macrostock.  Essentially, microstock groups images quite cheap, generally on a subscription basis.  Graphic designers, PR firms and other parties purchase the rights to these images and use them in however they want (or as stipulated by the license agreement).  Money can be made by selling large quantities of images.

Macrostock, on the other hand, deals with generally very high quality images which can have tighter restrictions.  Images rights are purchased for a specific project.  Information such as size of image and production run are all factored in and the buyer is allowed to use the image for the specified time frame.  Alamy is one of the major players in the macrostock marketplace.

For more information, Wikipedia has a good description of stock photography.  Alamy themselves have a good description of exactly who they are.

In order to get accepted by Alamy as a contributor, one must submit four photos for quality inspection.  If any of the four aren’t perfect, they reject the whole batch and you have to start over again.  Judging by some of the forums I’ve read, this can be a somewhat troublesome task.  Thankfully, I didn’t have any trouble so I either got lucky, or my photos are better than I thought.  Now that I’ve been accepted, I can submit larger batches of photos (which still have to pass random spot checks for quality) and I can begin hopefully, selling images.  Time will tell how well this plays out!

As I write this, my images are in the queue to become publicly viewable within 24 hours.  With that said, the logo below is a link to my Alamy home page and should begin to have pictures listed very soon!

Stock photography by Mark+Wood at Alamy

Since this is a numbers game (the more photos I have for sale the more I’ll sell), I will continue to upload so this page should have more and more photos as the weeks go by!

I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted if I make a sale!

Photo Hosting: Zenfolio vs. Smugmug

Update: Part 2 and Part 3 of the review.  Also, 11 month follow-up posted here!

While I plan on selling most of my photos via stock photography site such as Alamy, there are times where I’m sure I’ll need to be able to host photos for sale which perhaps aren’t stock related.  Not that I have such an occasion at present, but if I were asked to shoot an event I would like to be able to put up proofs, allow people to order and accept credit cards.

There are a few serious considerations here.  First off, I have no interest in storing any contact or credit card information myself.  In today’s digital era where identity fraud / theft is a threat, I really don’t want to be responsible for the safety of other’s personal information.  For this reason alone, I want to find a solution where I can allow a professional third party to accept the credit cards and shipping information.

Second, I want a solution which included the option of automatic print fulfillment.  This way, I’m not required to manually order prints for clients and ship them.  In this way, sales can occur with minimal intervention on my part, and clients will get maximum quality at fair prices.

Third, I want a well integrated solution with my current web site.  I don’t want the site to look obviously different and I want to be able to customize it to suit my needs.

Fourth, and possibly more important once I start becoming serious about this, is that I want to be able to set different pricing options for different galleries and have the ability to password protect these galleries.  Why?  Well, I think that a photo from a wedding which requires time and effort to retouch and careful preparation should cost the customer more than a casual snapshot I might put up for friends and family where I really am not interested in making a profit – only allowing them to order prints if they so choose.  With regards to password protection, I feel that privacy on the internet is key.  If people don’t want their wedding photos available for all to see, I feel that I should be able to give them the option to have them password protected.  Same with friends and family.

There are numerous solutions available to photographers.  Zenfolio and SmugMug both come to mind as two of the major players in this market.  They both offer print fulfillment and they both have numerous themes to choose from.  I’ve done a fair bit of research into the pros and cons of each, but I really feel that I’m going to have to take them both for a trial spin (I know Zenfolio offers this options and I would assume SmugMug does as well) and see for myself.

Right off the bat, looking at the different sites created with both options leads me to believe that Zenfolio has faster galleries which seem to have a better interface.  However, they only offer themes and no full customization of the look and feel.  SmugMug sites on the other hand seem a bit slower to load.  However, they are really customizable and seem to offer a truly integrated solution.  I’m going to attempt to keep my initial impressions unbiased as I go forward with this so I’ll be sure to continue to blog about any and all findings!  Yes, I’m that much of a dork.