Jason F recently commented on my Master Class in Stock Photography and added in a series of questions that he would have asked if he had been there! By the way, I screwed up on the “Pay what you want” price – I had intended the minimum price to be $0.49. I’ve fixed it now. But back to the questions. I’ve split them up to allow me to put my thoughts against each one.
1. What are some more examples of reworking your existing portfolio? I have seen that some people simply add fake lens flares, other light leaks, and color changes. Have you had success with quick and easy things like that?
I do make a habit of looking at each sale in Microstockr Pro at the thumbnail level and I try to assess whether the thumbnail is really telling me what the image is about, and I also think about what the buyer might have licensed it for and whether I could do something different to get more sales from that image. I have recently been doing that with artificial oceans in front of city skylines as an example. I saw this image selling reasonably frequently:
I took this back in 2010 and I made a pretty “over the top” HDR conversion of it. It has earned $315 and still sells. I decided it would be easy to use the Flood plugin to enhance the water and give it more drama and so I reprocessed it to tone down the HDR and replaced the water by an artificial sea. I mentioned that in the description by the way. This is the new one:
It only went live this month and has sold 9 times on Shutterstock for $6! With the poor performance of most new images on that site, I have high hopes for it in the coming months and years! I did some of Chicago while I was at it, and those are now live as well.
Another example – I noticed that there is increasing interest in the US about Social Security and its financial issues. So why not slot a social security card into other photos? This is an example of what I mean – created in 5 minutes in photoshop:
Not a great seller yet, but at least it has sold!
2. Cropping is a sort of remix. Do you send in multiple cropped versions of photos? I love to make outrageously large panoramas that I can then crop 10+ compositions out of. I am about to go through my entire portfolio and make crop versions of anything I can. Does that sound like a decent strategy?
Sometimes. Adobe doesn’t really like this – I have had rejections for an image cropped from an existing one. However, I do often take a panorama of an interesting scene and sometimes crop different versions from it. Each image needs to be “interesting” in its own right though.
3. Keywording seems to be the vague part of my work process. The common belief is that more is better, but I watched a KelbyOne class for Adobe Stock Contributors that made me think differently. The instructor says that he changed his mind after speaking with some people at Adobe Stock and now only recommends something like 10-25 very specific keywords.
For example: In the course he talks about a model photo of an African American woman. He says to keyword it as “African American” NOT: “African”, “American”. Because someone searching for “American” or “African” might want something else.
I am currently working on a large batch of “cropped” images that are from old images in my portfolio. I plan on keywording them extremely minimally and making their titles and descriptions higher quality than my usual stuff.
This is difficult. I know that some agencies search for compound keywords like the African American example you give, but I’m not sure that all agencies search and return that phrase and so I often put in the two separate words as well. I know that means that the buyer will see inappropriate shots – but they are probably seeing lots of those anyway! So there is always a conflict between keywording to work well on one agency with the desire to do the job once and meet the needs of all agencies. I always try to get the main keyword or concept in the description though. I think most agencies (and Google obviously) search there. Two other tips – it is worth going to the Shutterstock site and type in your main keyword in the search box. SS have an auto complete function that suggests their chosen spelling of that keyword. I notice that the word “blockchain” is suggested to be “block chain” and you get different results between those two options. So really you need to make sure that the SS suggested phrase is in your list as well. Finally, iStock is a continuing pain – words that don’t match their vocabulary don’t get forwarded from StockSubmitter and so your images will often not have the main terms if they are unusual. Another reason to have those words in the description.
4. My main question is still what to shoot. I think that is probably where everyone is at!
I’m a firm believer in closely watching what is in the news (I use Flipboard to quickly see what images
are illustrating topics of interest) and try to make sure you have interesting images for both current (and what you guess may become future) items of interest. Those may not be difficult to do, and they have a chance of picking up before the media really gets hold of a story.
Hope this helps!