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September 17, 2014
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How To Sell Your Own Stock Photographs

Stock photography used to be a great source of income for many photographers, and some made all of their money from stock. But things have changed over the past few years.

The stock photography industry had gone through major changes due to five main factors:

  1. Photography went from film to digital.
  2. Microstock sites came into being.
  3. Royalty free images were offered.
  4. Getty Images’ embed feature lets people use images on blogs and social media for free. Some claim this was meant to put the small stock agencies out of business as their main income is from sales to blogs and social media sites.
  5. Everyone, and their cousin, putting photographs online.

These changes have reduced the income from stock sales for most photographers. I know of some photographers whose stock sales used to be 80%-90% of their income, but now make up only 10%-20% of their income. They’ve had to totally redesign their photography business model to generate income from other sources.

I never focused on stock sales, but I did get occasional sales over the years. But for the past ten years I haven’t had even one enquiry about stock usage.

It’s tough out there, but stock sales can still be a viable revenue stream, and you have three options to do this:

  1. Sell through a stock agency. Prices here are usually set by the agency and you don’t have a lot of say.
  2. Sell through sites like 500px.com, where you set the price.
  3. Sell images on your own website, where you also set the price.

I’m going to explore the last option here. The first two are topics for future blog posts.

Unless you have some unique kind of photographs, which are in demand, like American Eagles, icebergs, erupting volcanos or movie stars, you will most likely sell few if any stock images. The competition is just too steep, and too many people are giving their images away. If all you have is generic images, like landscapes, travel images from Hawaii, etc. you may be out of luck.

When selling from your own website you will need some things.

  • A form on your website where clients can tell you what images they want and how they will be used. You can see mine here http://www.jeffcolburn.com/StockOrderForm.html
  • A contract between you and the client stating all the details about how the photograph will be used. I email the contract to them as a PDF (already signed and dated by me) and have them sign it and email it back. After I get the contract and payment to my PayPal account, I send off the image.
  • A spreadsheet or database to track sales and clients. You want to stay in touch with the companies who buy from you.

Stock pricing is pretty complex. It depends on the image:

  1. Size
  2. Placement
  3. Circulation
  4. Number of uses
  5. And much more

To decide on an industry standard price, you have three choices:

  1. If you’re a member of an organization like ASMP, you can use their price calculator https://asmp.org/links/32#.VBI1JmPqXe4
  2. You can purchase price calculating software and services like the Stock Photo Price Calculator http://stockphotopricecalculator.com/ and fotoQuote pro http://www.cradocfotosoftware.com/fotoQuote-Pro/index.html
  3. You can use free online price calculators like:
    1. http://www.humanistic-photography.com/pricing/pricing.htm
    2. http://photographersindex.com/stockprice.htm
    3. http://www.pacificstock.com/pricecalc.asp

On your site you can have set prices, but you need to be able to negotiate too. You may want $1,000 for a cover image, but if they want to buy additional images for inside the magazine, they may want a discount.

If a nonprofit wants free images in exchange for offering you great exposure to people who will hire you, which almost never happens, ask them this:

  • Do you have a salary?
  • Does the CEO have a salary?
  • Is the organization’s rent and utilities current?
  • Then why can’t you afford to pay me?

I do provide a 10% discount to nonprofits, but you need to decide what you want to do.

Since your sales will likely be small, don’t invest much money in a website and shopping cart until you see a consistent volume of sales coming through. When sales start to grow, you can invest in a site that has a built-in shopping cart and fulfillment, like http://www.Photoshelter.com. Or you can buy your own shopping cart from places like http://RedCart.com.

I wish you the best of luck.

Have Fun,
Jeff

August 28, 2014
by admin
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Do you need photographs for your business? Then you need to know this

Your company needs a photograph of your town for a brochure you’re going to use to promote your business. You contact a photographer who supplies you with the perfect photo. When you get the brochure printed up, the photograph looks so good you decide to put it on your website.

A week later you receive a bill from the photographer for several hundred, or thousand, dollars for the right to use it on the website. But wait, you paid the photographer to use the photo; you should be able to use it any way you want, right? Wrong. It all depends on what rights you purchased. It can be an expensive lesson for you and your business.

The first thing you need to realize is that when you pay a photographer to use one of their photographs, you are leasing it, not buying it. And you don’t own the copyright, they do. You can only use the photograph according to the contract you signed. It’s the same as if you rented a moving van for the weekend. If you decide you really like it, you can’t keep using it for the next five years, or even one more day, unless you pay for that additional usage.

When leasing a photograph, or hiring a photographer, you need a contract. In that contract it’s essential that you spell out exactly what rights you need and how the photograph(s) will be used. This prevents confusion on both sides, and keeps you from getting a surprise bill, or lawsuit.

Don’t only think about how you want to use the photograph today, but how you will want to use it in a month, or a year.

You want to have a very clear picture in your head of what you need, what you need it for and for how long. Know that the more you want, the more it costs, so don’t ask for rights that you aren’t going to use. You can always lease the photograph at a later date for any new project you may have.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where will it be used? In a brochure, flier, magazine article (local, national, international), advertisement, billboard, newspaper, website, trade show, etc.
  • How long will you need it? Is this something you want for a one-time ad in a local newspaper, or will it be on your website for years?
  • How large will it be? Do you need a 1″ x 1″ image, or something big enough for a billboard?
  • How many people will see it? A photograph used in a small community newspaper will cost less than that same image in a major national newspaper.
  • How exclusive do you want the photo to be? You can get exclusive use, so no one else can use it while you are. Or you can get it exclusively for your industry. If you lease a photograph to promote your bakery for a month, no other bakery can use it for that month, but a butcher shop could use it because they are in a different industry.

This will give you a good head start on what you need in a contract. Right and usage can get pretty detailed, but if you know what you want you’ll be miles ahead of most businesses.

Have Fun,
Jeff

August 9, 2014
by admin
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August Computer Wallpaper Is Ready

I just put up the computer wallpaper for August. After several days of rain, mushrooms popped up everywhere at the Lamar Haines Wildlife Area near Flagstaff. These tiny mushrooms were growing out of a fallen log.

Head on over and get your copy of this month’s wallpaper at www.jeffcolburn.com/wallpaper.html

Have Fun,
Jeff

Wallpaper-2014-08

August 6, 2014
by admin
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What To Charge For Your Prints

An opportunity has presented itself, and you are asked to sell your prints in a gallery or a business. But what should you charge? Set your prices too low, and you’ll go broke. Too high, and no one will buy. What is a realistic balance?

The answer to that question is as much magic as science. The problem is that there isn’t a hard and fast rule to determine pricing. Instead, it’s what the market will bear.

Here are a few things to consider when it comes to setting a print’s price:

What does it cost to make a print? Many photographers have no idea. I’ve gone into stores and seen an 8×10 print, double matted and framed behind glass for $15. If the photographer isn’t losing money, he’s only making a couple of dollars. He also gets all of the local photographers mad at him for selling his work so cheaply, because it devalues their work in the eyes of the consumer. This is no way to run a business, and when you start selling photographs, you’re running a business.

Some photographers think that selling in a shop or gallery makes them a pro, but if you can’t live off of these sales, then you’re still a hobbyist. You’re feeding your ego, not your wallet. And it’s your wallet that you want to be fat and happy.

What commission will you pay to a business or gallery? Probably 50%, 40% if you’re lucky. That’s the dark side of selling through a gallery or shop. If it costs you $25 to print and frame an 8×10 print, and you sell it for $50, you make no money. You’ll spend your $25 to replace the print you just sold, and have nothing in your wallet. Sell that same print for $100, and you get to keep $25 before taxes. How many of those prints do you have to sell to make a livable $30,000? About 1,200 prints a year. Do you think you can do that? Neither do I. That’s why your photographs need to have a decent profit margin.

Use the calculator above to determine your business expenses. They will be much higher than you think. Save money where you can, especially when you first start your business.

A good starting point to setting your prices is to see what other photographers in your area, with similar subject matter and framing, charge for their work. This also gives you an idea of what the public will pay for photographs. When my work was going into a gallery, I visited galleries and shops in a 20-mile radius and made notes about what everyone was charging.

A couple years ago, I also talked to a local artist who had work like mine that she sold in art shows. I found out that the price point that people will buy at was $99. She sold plenty of prints for up to $99, but almost none over $99. This was valuable information for me, and made me decide to put off doing art shows until the economy got better. I just couldn’t make the income I wanted with $99 sales.

When you start out, your prices will be low. But remember, you can always raise your prices, but never lower them. Imagine how angry people will be if they paid $300 for one of your prints, then come back to your gallery a few months later to find that same print is now $200. You better have your checkbook ready because you’ll be giving a lot of refunds.

Start low, but have a fair price. Increase your prices by about 5% once or twice a year. You can also increase your prices as you get into more galleries, your sales increase and your notoriety grows.

You can charge more for limited editions too. And as the edition sells out you can increase the price of the remaining prints. You can have anywhere from 5 to 250 prints as a limited edition. I like the 20 to 50 range.

See what your local market is like to see if you can make a decent income. If not, check markets that are further away, but in wealthier communities.

Don’t stress over what to charge. Set a price, see how it works and start increasing your prices from there.

Have Fun,
Jeff

July 26, 2014
by admin
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New Lightning Photos

I finally had the chance to use my Lightning Bug lightning trigger and I love it. No more holding the shutter open for 30 seconds hoping to get something. No going out and taking 100 shots to get 3 photographs of lightning. It was great.

Here are two photographs taken at the Little Painted Desert about 15 miles from Winslow, AZ.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Lightning0169

1/4 second at f 4, ISO 200, 24-70mm f/4 L EF IS (USM) at 31mm

 

Lightning0172

3/4 second at f 4, ISO 200, 24-70mm f/4 L EF IS (USM) at 31mm

July 19, 2014
by admin
5 Comments

How To Sell Products From Your Website

Selling products from your website is a great way to add another revenue stream to your business. You can sell physical products and downloads with ease. On my site I sell ebooks, greeting cards, stock photos and prints with ease. But to do this, you do need to take credit card payments and have a shopping cart.

There are two ways to accept credit card payments:

  • Have your own merchant account
  • Use another business’ merchant account

To create your own merchant account, you need to set up a business checking account at your bank. Then set up a merchant account with them. When approved, you will pay a monthly fee and a fee per transaction. The transaction fee us usually a percentage of the sale, plus a flat fee per transaction.

Having your own merchant account is fine for larger businesses, but can be expensive for one or two person businesses. In that case it’s better to just use someone else’s merchant account.

There are a lot of companies that let you do this, including: PayPal, 2Checkout, Authorize.net and ClickBank. When deciding which one to go with, don’t only compare their fees and price per transaction, but what other features they offer.

For example, PayPal offers Buy buttons, printing of invoices and mailing labels and more. Also, go online and do a search for “Complaint” and the company name. All of these companies have complaint sites about them; just see if what people say is something you can live with.

Next you need a shopping cart, and possibly a fulfillment service. Fulfillment is when a company sends out the purchased items for you. Some of the merchant account companies offer this, or there are other companies that specialize in this service. I found that E-junkie worked great for me because they could deliver purchased ebooks without me having to lift a finger.

There are website companies that offer shopping carts built into the websites they provide, like Photoshelter, PhotoDeck and Zenfolio. Other companies offer stand-alone shopping carts, like E-junkie and RedCart.

With places like RedCart you pay once, unlike companies like Photoshelter, where you pay a monthly fee. Some of these places include additional features, like a pricing module. So if a client wants to buy a stock photograph from you, they put in the usage they want, and a price is automatically calculated so they can buy instantly.

Which way you go depends on your needs. It’s best to make a list of the features you need to automate and not automate with these services, and then find the company that best meets those needs at your price point. Keep in mind that online sales are usually pretty low, so don’t spend a lot of money until your online income justifies it. You can always add features as your sales increase.

So what do I do? I mainly sell ebooks and prints from my website. While I wanted my ebooks sales to be automated, I didn’t want print delivery done that way. With prints, I feel it’s necessary to examine them before shipping to a client to be sure they meet my standards. While this can also be automated, I didn’t want to run the risk of a bad print being sent out.

I set up a PayPal account to handle my credit card sales. Then I created an account on E-junkie for fulfillment. I started out using PayPal for my Buy buttons, but I’m switching over to E-junkie because their buttons let me offer coupons, discounts for high volume sales and more.

E-junkie is linked to my PayPal account, so when someone buys an ebook:

  1. E-junkie sends the sales request to PayPal.
  2. PayPal tells E-junkie when the sale is complete.
  3. E-junkie sends an email to the buyer with a unique link where they can download the ebook(s).
  4. E-junkie sends me a copy of the email that the client received.
  5. E-junkie and PayPal send me emails telling me what was sold.
  6. E-junkie deposits the money into my PayPal account where PayPal takes its transaction fee. E-junkie takes a flat monthly fee out of my PayPal account. I can sell one copy of an ebook a month, or 10,000 copies, and it’s still the same flat fee through E-junkie. Their monthly fee is based on how many different products you sell.

All of this happens in the blink of an eye. I just check my emails once a day and see how much money I’ve made in the past 24 hours.

For prints, I use a Buy button and complete the order manually. It takes a little more work for the client, which may cost me sales, but the volume is so low that there’s no reason to automate the process.

This system works well for me, it may not work well for you. Only you can decide.

Do keep one thing in mind. When you use a website like Photoshelter you’re pretty well locked into them. If you decide to move to a different provider, like Zenfolio, you will need to upload all of your photographs again, put them in their proper folders, add titles, keywords and more. That’s a lot of work.

Your options for making sales online are anywhere from almost free to expensive, so choose well and balance your needs with the costs. Happy sales.

Have Fun,
Jeff

July 12, 2014
by admin
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Monsoon Lightning Photographs

It’s monsoon season in Arizona, and so far we’ve had some some storms. A storm with a lot of lightning came through on July 5th, and I caught these lightning bolts.

Yesterday my Lightning Bug lightning trigger arrived in the mail. With this, I should be able to capture even more lightning. All I need now is a lightning storm.

If you want to try your hand at lightning photography, check out my article, How To Photograph Lightning, And Live To Tell About It. And be very careful.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Lightning0160
7 seconds at f 11, ISO 100, 24-70mm f/4 L EF IS (USM) at 24mm

 

Lightning0162
9 seconds at f 11, ISO 100, 24-70mm f/4 L EF IS (USM) at 24mm

 

Lightning0163
5 seconds at f 11, ISO 100, 24-70mm f/4 L EF IS (USM) at 24mm

 

Lightning0164
8 seconds at f 11, ISO 100, 24-70mm f/4 L EF IS (USM) at 24mm

July 7, 2014
by admin
2 Comments

Press Releases: Including Photographs Is Vital

As I do with every one of my new projects, I sent out a press release which included a link to several photographs. A few days later, I received a call.

“Mr. Colburn? This is Mr. Wood. I’m a reporter with the Cottonwood Journal Extra newspaper. I just saw your press release covering your new ebook about Jerome and I want to interview you. A photographer will also contact you to get some photographs for the article.”

That conversation led to a half page article about me and my new ebook.

Press releases are a powerful promotional tool for both large and small businesses. I’ve used them for years with great success. My press releases have appeared in newspapers, magazines, websites and more. On several occasions they have also resulted in me being interviewed for articles in magazines and newspapers.

There are millions of press releases out there right now, and you need to find a way to make yours stand out so that it will be published. The first step is to be sure the press release contains all the information the recipient may need. This includes:

  • All contact information
  • A title with a hook
  • Quotes
  • Location information

Once this is done, you need photographs. There are two types of photographs you need:

  1. A photograph of yourself. This puts a face on the news of your press release and makes it more personable.
  2. One or more photographs of your product or event.

These two types of photographs will give publications a good selection of images to illustrate your press release.

What if you don’t have a product, but a service? You can always show photos of you at work, or your area. If you’re a tour guide, show photos of you giving a tour, stock photos of people taking a tour in your area, or beautiful scenic photographs of the area.

A few key points about the photographs are:

  • Have several photographs if possible. The more choices they have, the more likely they are to find one or two images they like.
  • Use big photographs. A publication or website can easily make a big picture small, but they can’t make a small picture big and still look good.
  • Make sure the photographs look great. They need to be properly composed, in sharp focus and have well saturated colors.

The easiest thing for everyone involved is to put these photographs on a web page. Here’s one of my photo pages I sent about the release of one of my ebooks, The Vanishing Old West Jerome. www.jeffcolburn.com/pr15.html

And this page was for an interview of me that appeared in Shutterbug magazine. www.jeffcolburn.com/pr13.html

Supplying photographs makes your press release more attractive to the people who may want to us it. And a photograph next to your press release in a publication or web page will draw a lot more attention than just text.

Have Fun,
Jeff

June 29, 2014
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July Computer Wallpaper Is Ready

I just put up the computer wallpaper for July. It shows a Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) at South Kaibab, Grand Canyon. This guy and several of his friends were running around one side of the parking lot for a few minutes. I was using my special moveable tripod technique when I photographed him. That is, my camera is on a tripod, but I don’t lock down the head. I was moving around the parking lot and pivoting the camera from one place to another trying to track them all. This technique gives me good stability while letting me shoot quickly in a lot of different directions.

Head on over and get your copy of this month’s wallpaper at www.jeffcolburn.com/wallpaper.html

Have Fun,
Jeff

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)