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October 23rd, 2014

How to Boost Traffic to Your Site and Increase Print Sales

Sponsored by Zenfolio

You may be the most talented photographer in your genre, but unless you have an excellent web presence and advertising put in place, no one will know you exist. Here, we provide four crucial steps to get more exposure to your site, gain and retain customers, and boost sales for a profitable photography business.

1. Create an SEO-friendly website.

When potential customers are searching for a photographer in their area on Google or Bing, will your website show up? Aside from referrals, discovering photographers on search engines is the top way clients find who they want to hire, so making sure your website is SEO-friendly is key. Providing relevant keywords and text on your pages, such as geographic location and genre, will help. Zenfolio is built with HTML, so it automatically submits your sitemap to major search engines and lets you know which fields are important to fill out and display on your pages.

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2. Give People Incentives to Buy.

Now that people are on your site, how do you get them to buy? Creating time pressure, offering a special promotion or bundling products into packages are all great ways. To get customers to act, set an expiration date on a gallery so that they have a limited amount of time to purchase before the images go away. If you decide to offer a special promotion, create early bird coupons for those who make purchases within the first week photos are online, or include a gift certificate. Bundling products is great because people want more for their money. Create a package of prints and products, and lower the total cost of what customers would pay for the same items à la carte. Zenfolio has all of these features, including shopping cart reminders, so that a customer will receive emails reminding them of their unfinished orders, encouraging them to complete checkout.

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3. Follow Up with Offers.

After a sale has been made, it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. People are always in need of a gift for the holidays, anniversaries or birthdays. Offer discounted items or rewards for referrals, and keep in contact with clients on a personal level. With Zenfolio, you can set up a contact list that captures visitors when they come to your website, so you can send emails to them later.

4. Have Flash Sales.

Having several sales throughout the year is a great revenue boost. During the holidays, offer a big discount for presents, or participate in Cyber Monday or Black Friday. Put photos back online for a limited time, or offer new products, as framed prints or canvas wraps. With Zenfolio, you can easily create gallery banners so visitors are aware of the sale.

In order to be successful, it’s crucial to make new customers want to work and buy from you. Make sure your website is set up to sell and can easily be tweaked and changed as necessary.

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Get started on your own website today and save 25% on a Zenfolio account with the code getstarted25 at checkout.

October 6th, 2014

Nature Photographer Quits Business, Blaming Copyright Piracy

Photographers have complained plenty about online copyright infringement, but so far, the problem hasn’t driven many to quit the profession, or discontinue posting images online.

Nature photographer Alex Wild says he’s had enough, though. In an essay titled “Bugging out: How rampant online piracy squashed one insect photographer,” Wild says infringement of his work has contributed to his decision to quit photography for a position “less prone to the frustrations of a floundering copyright system.”

Wild asserts in the essay, recently published on arstechnica.com, that “For practical purposes, the Internet has become a copyright-free zone.”

He goes on to provide a long list of unauthorized commercial uses of his work, and describe the futility of his efforts to stop it.  “I send, on average, five takedown notices to Web hosts every day, devoting ten hours per week to infringements. Particularly egregious commercial infringers get invoices,” he says. “Copyright infringement drains my productivity to the point where I create hundreds fewer images each year.” Just ignoring the infringements is a bad option, and so is suing them, for several reasons he explains.  For one, his business competes with “uncredited copies of my own work.” As he explains, “Who wants to pay for an image that is already everywhere?”

Wild concludes by calling for copyright reform that provides “reassurances that the mere act of participating online won’t force [artists] to choose between bankruptcy and chasing infringers through the rabbit hole of ineffective copyright enforcement.” Which is just the kind of reform that photographers’ trade groups have been chasing for years through the rabbit hole of Washington politics.

October 1st, 2014

To Attract Business, Food Photography Duo Builds Dream Kitchen for Food Stylists

BurkleHagen's dual kitchen. ©Andrew Burkle and David Hagen

BurkleHagen’s dual kitchen. ©Andrew Burkle and David Hagen

When food photographers Andrew Burkle and David Hagen formed a partnership last year and began planning their 6,000 square-foot studio space in Cleveland, they asked food stylists for ideas and input about how to build the kitchens. Burkle, whom we recently interviewed about his transition from assistant to professional photographer, explained that when food clients are planning ad campaigns, they often hire food stylists first, and then ask those stylists for recommendations for photographers. “We want to make the stylists happy,” Burkle says. “If they’re happy, they can be the best sales force in the world.”

We followed up to ask Burkle: What did stylists request? And what did you incorporate in your studio design based on their input? Here’s an edited version of Burkle’s email response:

We only shoot food, so we wanted our kitchen to be the focal point [of our studio]. We wanted to present it like a lit theater stage as soon as you enter the studio. We wanted it to look great, work great, and be comfortable and efficient for all stylists. While planning the kitchen we interviewed [about a dozen stylists] on the phone or in person. We just asked, “What is your ideal work kitchen?” and “What works well, and what makes your job difficult?”

[They requested] a lot of counter space, a bright, very well lit work area, large sinks (multiple if possible), enough floor space to be able to move around with multiple people in the kitchen, two refrigerators and two freezers, and lots of pantry and cabinet space. Other small things were more electrical outlets to plug in small appliances, close proximity to the sets, and a separate prep area hidden from clients.

[The work space] is basically two kitchens. Each side has its own 4’ x 10’ island, double oven, 5 burner cooktop and hood, dishwasher, large farm sink, and pull down (retractable) extension outlets from the ceiling. The [tops of the] two kitchen islands  are made of restored bowling lane [flooring]. Both islands are on casters [so the space arrangement is flexible]. We designed the islands for stylists’ legs to fit underneath, while optimizing storage space for pots, pans and utensils in custom-made cabinets and drawers. I guess many stylist work at studios where the work stations don’t  have leg room [so] they have to side-saddle the table and it creates an awkward work position.

The floor of the kitchen is different from the polished concrete of the rest of the studio. We put a high density foam down and then covered it with wood paneling to give it a ballet floor feel. Food stylists are on their feet the whole day, so the floor is easy on their feet and back.

Behind the back wall of the kitchen, hidden from the view of clients, is a pantry, and a prep room. The hidden pantry is a precaution in case we are shooting for one client, but we are also stocked with a competitor’s product (it happens). The “contraband” will be out of sight. The prep area has a desk, and stylists often use it as an office.  If they need to take a call or send an email, they can [do so] and not have to be seen by clients.

The kitchen has been a big hit. After every shoot we try to ask what is working well, and if there is anything that we can fix to make it better.  We ask if there are any appliances, dishware, or utensils that they wished they could have had. We want to keep improving.

So far, food stylist really like working here.  We really want to do everything we can to keep it that way.

Related:
From Assistant to Pro: Andrew Burkle, Food Photographer
Studio Tour: Jody Dole’s Dream Studio (for PDN subscribers)

September 24th, 2014

New Forest Service Directive on Still Photos Worries Reporters, First Amendment Activists

Proposed changes to United States Forest Service rules for photographers and videographers have some first amendment groups concerned that journalists could be required to obtain permits and pay up to $1,500 in fees to photograph within national forests, according to a report by The Oregonian.

The Oregonian quotes first amendment groups and politicians who are expressing concern about a vaguely worded directive, which could be interpreted to require special permits for all uses other than breaking news situations. Other news situations would appear to require a permit, The Oregonian says.

According to current land use requirements, special permits are  required for “use of still photographic equipment on National Forest System lands that takes place at a location where members of the public generally are not allowed or where additional administrative costs are likely, or uses models, sets, or props that are not a part of the site’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities.”

Special permits are also required currently for the “use of motion picture, videotaping, sound recording, or any other moving image or audio recording equipment on National Forest System lands that involves the advertisement of a product or service, the creation of a product for sale, or the use of models, actors, sets, or props, but not including activities associated with broadcasting breaking news.”

The proposed directive “would make permanent guidelines for the acceptance and denial for still photography and commercial filming permits in congressionally designated wilderness areas,” according to US government website Federal Register.

The new guidelines for granting a special use permit ask that applicants meet several requirements. Applicants should be promoting wilderness and outdoor activities, be doing work that doesn’t damage the environment or get in the way of the general public, and shouldn’t use vehicles or other machinery, among other requirements.

The Oregonian article stirring up some furor argues that “a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone.”

Maybe. The Forest Service’s special use requirements appear to be targeted at commercial photographers, not journalists engaged in legitimate news gathering. But The Oregonian report did make one rather interesting point: The maximum fee for permits is $1500, while the maximum potential fine for violating the requirements is $1000. So yes, it’s potentially cheaper to break the rules and pay the fine.

Those who wish to comment on the proposed directive on still photography and commercial filming permits can do so here.

September 24th, 2014

PDN Video: Marcus Smith on How to Attract the Clients You Want

Marcus Smith: How to Get Hired by the Clients You Want from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

When photographer (and sports fan) Marcus Smith stopped assisting to go out on his own, he wanted to shoot for Nike and other national athletic brands. But he was an unknown photographer with almost no sports photography in his portfolio. So he took some wise advice that his mother gave him about how to succeed in business, started a personal project, and soon had assignments from Nike and its subsidiary Jordan Brand. Busy with advertising assignments ever since, Smith explains how he got the attention of the clients he wanted.

Related:
Personal Work That Lands Assignments: Marcus Smith (for PDN subscribers)

August 21st, 2014

Has a Textbook Publisher Trampled Your Copyrights? There’s a Solution for That.

Photographers and stock photo agencies have filed dozens of lawsuits against textbook publishers in recent years, alleging reproductions of photos the far exceed the limits of usage licenses. Courts have ruled in favor of photographers in many of the cases. Robert Frerck, for instance, won summary judgment this month on his copyright claims against Pearson Education, and won a settlement from McGraw-Hill last May on another claim. Despite all the claims and settlements, new claims continue to surface.

Photographer Joel Gordon recently filed his third copyright infringement lawsuit this year against a textbook publisher. The first two claims were against McGraw-Hill and Pearson Eduction; both cases are still pending. Gordon alleges in his newest claim, against Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), that between 1990 and 2008, he granted photo usage licenses that “were expressly limited by number of copies, distribution area, language, duration, and/or media.”

HMH ultimately violated those limitations, according to Gordon’s claim. He does not specify the extent of the alleged infringement, explaining that only HMH has that information. But he cites a previous claim against HMH by photographer Ted Wood, who had limited use of his photographs to 40,000 copies, only to discover that HMH had published more than 1 million copies. Wood won his case on summary judgment.

Gordon goes on to cite another 25 claims of copyright infringement against HMH, and he accuses the publisher of having a business model “built on a foundation of pervasive and willful copyright infringement [that] deprived Gordon and hundreds of other photographers and visual art licensors of their rightful compensation and unjustly enriched HMH.”

He is seeking unspecified monetary damages, and an injunction to bar the publisher from further use of his photographs.

Attorney Maurice Harmon of Harmon & Seidman LLC, the lawfirm that represents Gordon, Frerck and many other photographers for claims against textbook publishers, explained via e-mail why these types of claims persist, and how photographers who believe their copyrights have been violated by textbook publishers can protect themselves.

PDN: Why do these claims by photographers against textbook publishers continue to trickle out?
Maurice Harmon: Photographers have only gradually come to realize their photographs have been infringed. Once they know of the individual infringements, the photographers have three years to file a case.

PDN: Do any publishers make good-faith efforts to settle the claims before photographers sue, or before claims go to trial?
MH: That varies greatly—but we always try to negotiate a fair settlement at every stage and 98% settle before trial.

PDN: What must a photographer be prepared to endure, in terms of an investment of time and money, and/or mental anguish—to take on a textbook publisher with one of these claims?
MH: That also varies greatly. Some cases are resolved quickly without anything more than sending us the invoices. Other cases require more documents and a deposition. We advance all expenses, so there is no out-of-pocket cost to the photographer.

PDN: What is required for a photographer to make a strong claim?
MH: Invoices/licenses with terms that identify the specific licensed photographs that limit the uses a publisher can make of those images. Each photograph must also have been registered or can be registered with the Copyright Office.

PDN: What can photographers expect to recover if they win in court?
MH: That depends on the extent of the unauthorized uses, the license terms and conditions, the registration status of the photographs, etc., but it has proven to be well worth our —and the photographers—time.

PDN: If a photographer never registered his or her image copyright, or registered after a textbook publisher misused them, does that make an infringement claim more difficult than it’s worth? [editor’s note: Filing registration before a proven infringement makes copyright holders eligible for statutory damages, which are often much higher than actual damages.]
MH: Sometimes, but not always—it depends on the number of infringements after registration and the license terms and conditions.

PDN: Aren’t these claims subject to a statute of limitations? When is it too late to make a claim?
MH: The photographer has three years from the date he or she knew, or reasonably should have known, about the specifics of the infringement to file a case.

PDN: What percentage of these claims are successful? What are the most common reasons they fail—ie, they’re dismissed by a court, or a photographer recovers little or nothing in the end?
MH: The cases we bring have all been successful unless the plaintiff is determined by the Court to lack standing; that is, to lack ownership of the photographs.

PDN: How have textbook publishers changed their license agreements to avoid these claims in the future?
MH: The textbook publishers are now demanding rights so broad it is almost impossible to overrun the license.

PDN: What’s your parting advice to photographers who license images to textbooks?
MH: Act immediately to find out and protect your rights.

Related:
Appeals Court Upholds Copyright Infringement Damages Award to Louis Psihoyos
Judge Refused to Let Book Publisher Weasel Out of Copyright Lawsuit
 After Flouting Print Run Limits, Publishers Face Dozens of Lawsuits

August 4th, 2014

In Image Library for American Airlines, Erik Almås Discovers His Other Style

It’s a challenge for photographers to evolve creatively and keep up with the changing tastes and expectations of the market, while maintaining their brand identity. But photographer Erik Almås happened upon a new style while shooting for American Airlines, and he’s now using it to reposition himself.

Over the past 18 months, he has shot a number of assignments for the airline’s print campaigns and corporate image library, photographing everything from interiors to runway and in-flight beauty shots of jets. The shoots included two days with a Boeing 777-200. It was a big deal for the airline to take the plane out of service, Almås says, so he took advantage of it. “I had the camera going whenever I had the chance,” he tells PDN through his rep, Bennie de Grasse at Vaughan Hannigan.

An image for American Airlines' branding campaign. ©Erik Almås

An image for American Airlines branding campaign. ©Erik Almås

The images he produced for AA campaigns are tightly controlled, and reflect the hyper-real style for which he’s known. But while he was re-visiting his AA archive in search of images for his portfolio, he discovered that he had two separate bodies of work: the “studied” work used for the AA branding, and “more random shots” that amounted to unintentional personal work. The latter are quiet, contemplative images that Almås recently described in his blog as “the moment between the moment[s]” that comprise an “alternative narrative” to the campaign images. They were “somewhat unexpected for my style of image making,” he wrote.

He’s been posting those images on his Instagram feed every time he boards a flight to an assignment, which is frequently–he traveled 270 days last year. “Instead of posting the classic pictures of clouds out of the plane window with the wing in the corner on social media I would go through the American Airlines images and post some of those instead,” he tells PDN.

©Erik Almås

©Erik Almås

The process of reviewing his files with Instagram in mind “has brought a great awareness to how I edit,” he says. And Almås and his agent are now capitalizing on his more personal style.

The interest among advertisers in an “amateur” (i.e. “snapshot”) style “is accelerating due to the advancing of smartphone and camera technology,” de Grasse explains in an e-mail. “People are beginning to get used to this look and feel,  which creates a growing need for more images for more platforms.”

Almås adds that clients now expect photographers to shoot motion, behind the scenes images, and social media content–in addition to images for print campaigns. “If I can [let clients know] that I can give them all of this as a content provider I’m in a good place for the changes we already see happening,” he says.

©Erik Almås

©Erik Almås

©Erik Almås

©Erik Almås

July 29th, 2014

How Much Do Editorial Clients Pay? “Wiki” Gives Names and Fees

Editorial clients are reluctant to publicize information about rates for photo assignments. But photographers need to know who pays what, in order to figure out which clients are worth shooting for, and to help them negotiate assignment fees.

A Tumblr site called Who Pays Photographers? helps bridge the information gap with a wiki-inspired spreadsheet listing fees paid by numerous publications, both online and in print. The site also provides information about whether the client pays expenses, how long they take to pay, and what photographers like and dislike about the client. All the information is uploaded anonymously by photographers who have shot assignments for the clients.

But users, beware. The spreadsheet, which lists clients more or less in alphabetical order, is disorganized, and a challenge to scroll through (and it can’t be downloaded). The client list is long but not exhaustive, updates are infrequent, and some of the reports are several years old. Moreover, the information provided is unverified.

Still, Who Pays Photographers? can be a useful starting point. Photographer Anastasia Pottinger says she came across it when she was trying to figure out what to charge photo blogs to publish her portraits of centenarians, after the project went viral.

“[The site] gave me a better idea of what to expect.  I had read a few blog posts out there where people were getting $150 per image and maybe that’s true when it’s just one image, but I was not sure what to charge for a whole set of images,” she says. For online publication rights to ten of her images, she says she negotiated a $375 fee from Huffington Post, after Huffington Post asked (as it usually does) to publish the images for free.

The anonymous owner of Who Pays Photographers? said in an email that he (or she?) is a working editorial photographer, with limited time to maintain, improve or promote the site. (The Who Pays Photographers? Twitter feed and archive were last updated in February.) “I welcome input and any help in running” the site, the owner says.  See our earlier Q&A with the owner for more information.

July 10th, 2014

PDN Video: Mary Virginia Swanson on Selling Prints to Corporations

Mary Virginia Swanson on Selling Prints to Corporations from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

The corporate market for fine art prints has expanded on two fronts, says art photography consultant Mary Virginia Swanson. Corporations and corporate art consultants are both big purchasers of art, including photographic prints, for the walls of hotels, healthcare facilities, office buildings, and other business settings. In this video, Swanson explains the markets, and offers advice about how to tap into them, and price your prints for corporate buyers.

Related:
What to Expect from the Photographer/Gallery Relationship
Mary Virginia Swanson: How to Get the Most Out of a Portfolio Review
What Collectors Want (for PDN subscribers)

June 18th, 2014

NY Times Highlights Instagrammer Working For Met, Other Institutions, For Free

There was an article in the Art & Design section of the New York Times yesterday highlighting the social media photography that an Instagrammer, Dave Krugman, is doing for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New York Public Library and other cultural institutions in exchange for special access.

The article is full of language that suggests it’s Mr. Krugman’s great privilege to work for these institutions for free. “The Metropolitan Museum, for instance, allowed Mr. Krugman and his band of Instagram stars into its halls outside of normal business hours,” the author writes. She also quotes Krugman’s own post thanking the Met for the “opportunity.”

These are institutions with resources to pay for the social media communications work they do. Krugman isn’t a photographer by trade, he’s a retoucher, the article says. But he’s allowing these institutions to pay what the market will bear for this work: zero.

It would be interesting to know what the photographers and photo editors on the New York Times‘s staff think of this article devaluing the work of photographers.

“With his growing reputation, Mr. Krugman has begun thinking about charging money for his Instagram services,” the article concludes. Will these venerable and wealthy institutions pay, though, or will they just hire the next person with a big Instagram following who doesn’t know enough about the business of advertising and communications to charge for his or her work?