Seems that Seth Godin’s recent post fits with my analysis of the stock industry (and the photo industry in general).
Archive for February, 2008
We’ve all heard by now that Getty has been sold. I still think this is the beginning of the end of the humongous stock houses and that is a very good thing for photographers. Rob Haggart recently posted his list of stock houses (but don’t call them agencies, they’re not anymore*) with their “rankings” (in his opinion). The comments in this section (see esp. #59) I think back up my contention that big houses will die (or just suck so much they’ll be strictly volume sellers) and individual photographers will continue to license stock especially via companies like PhotoShelter and Digital Railroad — this is the future of stock. Smaller houses will specialize and people will go to the right source for the images they need, rather than a one-stop-shopping alternative.
PS and DR will back up photographers’ own presentation and marketing of their own stock to their own clients/targets, and thus be highly targeted sources of material for stock buyers.
But the big companies are too filled with crap to be able to differentiate themselves in the market by any other means than price, and we all know how that will work out.
So smaller houses like BigShotStock.com and others will have their niche and do fine–relatively speaking (the stock industry will never be what it once was–almost a retirement plan–but it can be an additional income stream). Same for photographers licensing their own work via PS and/or DR.
* The word “agent” or “agency” has a specific legal definition that includes the concept of having the best interest of the client, in this case the photographer, first in mind. Stock houses (esp. the big ones) now have legal language in their contracts that says, essentially, “we are NOT an agent or agency for the photographer.” In other words, they don’t have the photographers’ best interests as the basis of their negotiations, etc., but rather are going to make their own money doing whatever they think is best for them and to hell with the creative “content providers” involved.
It seems that kids today have as their career goal to be famous. Not to cure cancer for the good of humanity, or defeat world hunger, or be the best baseball player ever, but to do whatever is necessary in order to be known…with, hopefully, a TV show to go with. And, even more importantly, a pile of money. Sad, but such seems to be the case.
I can understand the draw of fame. Doing these SB2 events has led to some situations I never, ever, thought I be in, like being in some public place with my brother and having some photographer say “Your sister is famous!” in a very kind way (this happened yesterday to me). While I am deeply, deeply flattered by those comments, so far at least I’ve managed to keep my head in the right place. I know that while I may be relatively well known in our circle of photographers, nobody “on the outside” would ever confuse me with someone really famous like Angelina Jolie or Mother Theresa (and yes, I know MT is dead).
Even within our world, I am just one voice. Yes, I have experience and confidence that I am giving good advice to my clients and you readers (and the SB2 folks), but I am not an oracle. I’m imperfect and always will be.
So are you.
This is how we can keep our heads about us if we “hit”–remembering that we’re all imperfect and that no matter how good you get and how famous you are, you’re just another human being.
That also works on the other side–that is, if you are “just” a working photographer in some small (or mid or large) city, working to pay the bills and doing the best you can, you are no worse than the David LaChapelles and Annie Leibovitzes out there. You are as valuable on a human level as they are. Sure, they are making more on their projects and are famous, but they all started a hell of a lot lower on the food-chain and, more importantly, you are perhaps a better human than any of them (please note, I am not implying that DLC or AL are bad people or asshats, I’ve never met them, though I have heard some stories about her that will raise a Buddhist’s eyebrows, so to speak [smirk]).
Everyone has her/his first big gig…and second…and, eventually, last one. It’s who you are as a person as you go through this life that really counts. Don’t be a jerk and don’t take yourself so seriously. Remember that it’s not the fame that counts, it is the work. So take the work as seriously as you choose and remember to pat yourself on the back for making great work, even if it is never seen by anyone else or doesn’t generate a dime for you.
Look at yourself honestly in the mirror from time to time, especially if you “hit;” and don’t forget to ask “Does this attitude make my ass look big?”
One of the things that I (and many others) preach is that today geography doesn’t matter. Now, of course it matters if you are driving near Gila Bend and are low on gas–the location of the nearest station is vital–but if you are creating intellectual property (i.e., photos, books, articles, music, illustrations, software, etc.), then where you are is mostly unimportant.
Yesterday, I was contacted by someone in Italy about what I do. I’ve worked with clients in South Africa, Copenhagen, and Antibes. I’m writing this from Atlanta, though my office is in San Diego. Where I am doesn’t significantly alter what I can do and do do, and the same is true for creatives.
Of course where you are may affect your images but only to the extent of, say, a travel shooter in Bali will make different images than when s/he’s in Vancouver, or a fashion shooter doing shots on the streets of Paris versus Los Angeles. But, for your marketing, it’s not very important.
If your work is of a certain level (or better), there is no reason why a photographer in Kansas City, MO can’t work with clients from NYC, or Dubai for that matter. The only thing is putting your work out there so that these targets can match you with their needs.
And if your work is not at that level, then you need to work on your art. Why sit on your butt and make do with difficult local clients, making work that doesn’t challenge you? What is the point of being a creative then?
I’d like to apologize for the lack of posts in the past week and a half or so. The traveling and the ASMP SB2 events took over my work life and, well, the postings suffered for it. Bad me!
I will say, however, that the Atlanta event was exciting and the people wonderful. I had a great experience and, like in LA, so much of that was due to the attendees. Thanks to all of you who came! I’m looking forward to the next one in Philly in 10 days (and Chicago in April)!!
Now, about the blogging…not posting frequently is really bad. If you are running a business and include a blog amongst your marketing materials, you simply must update it regularly. If a potential client goes to your blog once, then returns sometime later to find that there has been no update, they will very likely never return. Ever.
The great thing for you photographers reading this is that your blogs need to be photoBlogs–with few, if any, words. Further, the images you post on your photoBlog can be “sketches” or other roughs–shot with your phone or whatever. Buyers who check out blogs see the work posted there as part of your process, not your final product. So you really have no excuse not to post regularly. You can post snapshots of you on a project, personal stuff, pre-conceptual bits you plan on working on later, anything at all, really.
So, get out there, shoot some stuff, and post…post…post.
Okay, maybe you can’t dance to it, but it enhances the flavor of fine foods.
Okay, maybe not; but, if you drink enough beer, I sound kind of like Lauren Bacall.
On the train. Yeah, I’m in the middle of, I believe it’s Missouri now and all this traveling on the train is making me think about success, and you got your photographers. One thing you guys should really keep in mind is that if you are putting food on your table, if you are managing to make a living at any level, doing what you’re doing, you are already so far ahead of the game it’s not even funny. You feel a lot of poverty along the side of train and you have to realize that you’re not only getting to do what it is that you love, but you’re making a living at it. So why not take this opportunity to celebrate that a little bit. Just a thought. listen
Powered by Jott
I’m headed out on the road again. This time I’ll be in Atlanta for the ASMP SB2 event next weekend (2/21-24), doing one-on-one Test Drive meetings on 2/25, then visiting with some friends and family in that fair city until I head to Philadelphia and the third SB2 event there in early March (and on-site Test Drives there too–sign up now!).
Yes, I’ll be out of the office for some time and, because I travel by train, my connection with the world will be somewhat limited. There are places where even the iPhone won’t work. But that’s okay. I’m not going to ruin my business by being out of touch a bit here and there.
The Dalai Lama said that whenever you have a problem either you can solve it or your can’t; and either way, worrying about it isn’t logical because either you can solve it or you can’t. I take the same attitude about being out of touch. If I can’t help someone because I’m out of touch, then I can’t help them and worrying about it isn’t going to make it any better. Besides, it is extremely rare when there is any issue or problem that really needs to be solved right this very second.
We put a lot of power and importance on some of our issues when, in the big scheme, they really just aren’t that important. For example, getting any one client or project. We often put all of our mental eggs in one basket when we have the chance to get a project, turning just another project into the most important thing in the world. Like if we don’t get this one project, our business will fail. In almost all cases, that is just not the truth. Sure, it sucks not to get a project, but you’re not going to end up on the street if you don’t get one project (and if you are, then you have deeper biz issues than getting clients).
Some psychologists call that “globalizing”–thinking that one thing equals all things, in this case one failure makes you a total failure–and it is not the most healthy way to think. If you don’t get this one project, what are the REAL chances the phone will never ring again? Really, really teeny. Infinitesimal, I would wager.
And that’s the way I think about my being out of touch a bit when I travel. If someone can’t wait to work with me, then I can live with that. I hate not getting a client as much as the next person, but I can’t be on 24/7 anyway and so I’m going to lose one here and there. That’s okay.
Anyway, enough of the psycho-babble.
I will be in touch as much as I can, including Jotting some of my blog postings from the train. Please forgive any typos or odd bits of language in those posts–Jott is great, but it’s not perfect.
And, as Stuart Smalley says, that’s okay.
Rob Haggard of aphotoeditor.com points us to a new company that is providing a new model for licensing images for web use. It has loads of potential, I think, with the photographer getting paid based on CPM, that is, the number of impression of the image. The site for gumgum.com is terrible–they really need to get more info out there, like how one gets paid (check? PayPal?), etc.–but the basic concept is intriguing and, I think, hopeful for the future.
As if spec wasn’t bad enough, along comes a site that offers “prizes” to its content-provider winners (that would be you creatives, btw). Pixish (I won’t put a link to them…why should I help?) is the name of this den of thieves and, luckily, the low-life nature of their business is getting out there. I first heard of it from Åsk who had a post on her Adland site (good news that advertising folks think it sucks too). Soon I saw blurbs about it on ASMP’s Pro/Student forum and APAnet. John Harrington has a particularly scathing (and accurate) post about it as well.
Let’s hope these bastards go under faster than you can say Pets.com.
Lastly, it’s Valentine’s Day and though I don’t celebrate it personally, I do want to use it as a reminder to thank all of you who write me and post comments and, of course, work with me. I hope you all have a life filled with love and, if you want it, chocolates and/or lingerie.
Denise Crew sent me this link to an article from the LA Times about how an author got royally screwed in her deal with Dinsey. The devil is in the details, as they say, and clearly she did not have the best entertainment attorney or agent on her side as someone with more experience would clearly have known that you want “points” not a percentage of the profits when it comes to movies. In fact, if I were her I’d consider suing my original attorney for malpractice in this situation because everyone out here knows about “points” and how no movie ever makes a profit in the studio’s books.
Anyway, what can we learn from this? When you are not familiar with something, hire the best pro in that area that you can possibly get; and that is especially true in legal things. It may cost you something (more) now, but it can save you or make you loads more later. Remember, it’s important to keep your focus on the long-term, not just the here and now.
Remember also that contracts you sign are written by lawyers with the best interests of THEIR client in mind–not yours…unless they are your contracts drawn up by your lawyer, of course.
Think about that the next time you sign a contract from some magazine client without reading it or signing a PO without reading the back or when you click “accept” for the T&Cs for some website (like Facebook, where you will have just agreed to let them use any image you post however they want forever without paying you). These aren’t just words, they are legally binding agreements and they can significantly impact your business. Read everything and if you don’t clearly understand anything, call your attorney.