Everything that's hip and cool from EyeEm this spring and summer.
When Flickr and Getty announced earlier this year that they'd not be renewing their licensing deal, I suggested that it might not be long before Flickr unveiled its own in-house licensing project. With well in excess of five billion images on its servers, Flickr has a huge stock library waiting for exploitation: easy sales for Flickr users and a cut for Yahoo! is a win-win situation. We had a four-and-half month wait for the grand reveal: today, Flickr announced its Curated Connections project. Well, I say it was a grand reveal, it was more of a swift overview.
What is Flickr offering photographers who sign up to the Curated Connections project? It's a good question that doesn't have an especially solid answer, for the announcement is curiously light on specifics. The Flickr blog post tells us that they are: 'excited to introduce a new way for you to partner with photo agencies, editors, bloggers and other creative minds who are seeking original content like yours.' But there's no indication of what this new system is or how it will operate.
Flickr's curatorial team will be there to 'provide assistance, outreach and connectivity to help you get your photos licensed!' But it doesn't detail what this will entail. It's hardly surprising that with such a vague outline of what they're planning there isn't any significant information concerning such trivialities that interest photographers, namingly licensing terms. We're told that they'll be transparent and easy, although as things stand the terms remain mythical beasts.
The sign-up page tempts users with suggestions that their images might be used by media behemoths including the BBC, Gizmodo, the New York Times, and Reuters. There's even a mention of previous licensing-partner Getty. As you might expect from a Yahoo! owned company, there is potential for your images to be used on other Yahoo! owned, sites, too. Part of the 'outreach and connectivity' that Flickr hopes to offer are opportunities to complete commissions and assignments. Flickr's definitely talking the talk here.
Being able to share your images and make them available for licensing in one place is appealing—and it's something that other photo-sharing sites, for example 500px and EyeEm are also beginning to entertain—but so much of that appeal is going to depend on how the deals are cut and the terms under which images are released. Allowing Flickr to deal with the tedium of bureaucracy might not be suitable compensation if the remuneration is insufficient. Will it walk the walk?
So do tell us, Flickr: what exactly are you proposing here? There's a lot of ethereal chatter and not much substance. I'm sure that you're excited by your new project and you want us to be excited about it, too, but it rather helps if you share with us the pertinent facts. It's something of a half-baked non-announcement at the moment. We've no idea if the cake's carrot or chocolate or something else entirely. Provide us with an actual announcement that you've baked and iced and we might be slightly more enthusiastic. Or not. Depending on what you suggest (I prefer lemon, for reference).
If you are interested in Flickr's Curated Connections, you can sign up here.
There have been at least two pieces of news this week featuring companies that sell stock images created on mobile devices: first, EyeEm announced that it has redesigned its Android app and has partnered with Uber to offer new users a free ride to let them go places to take photos; second, Fotolia has also released a new Android app—Fotolia Instant—to complement its iOS version, which allows photographers to upload and sell their mobile images via the stock site. This got me thinking: how many stock agencies are mobile photo-friendly? Or where can you buy images made on mobile devices if that's what you want or need? I did a little digging and a little thinking and put together this list. I've tried to limit it to agencies or sites that are mobile-specific, have dedicated mobile collections, or easy means of uploading mobile images. There are sites such as Picfair that readily accept mobile images, but that's just part of its library.
EyeEm is a mobile photography sharing app and community that launched Market, a platform for its members to sell their photos, earlier this year. Invitations are still being issued to join Market, but it's simple enough to request one.
Scoopshot expands on Foap's model, with buyers setting tasks for photographers in order to acquire the images they want. If someone sees a news image that they think is vaulable, it can be sent to the news task. Scoopshot doesn't go in for manipulated or filtered images; they prefer fresh and newsworthy content that meets task criteria.
We took a look at Twenty20 last year and while we thought its simple pricing structure for selling mobile image files was great, the sales mechanism required some refinement. It's still in the beta stage, but it is there!
The more traditional Alamy stock agency has embraced mobile photography and its photographers can use the Stockimo app to upload their mobile images for sale amongst the Alamy library. Buyers can look for mobile images in the dedicated Stockimo collection.
Depositphotos is a microstock agency that sells images under royalty free licences. It has a dedicated mobile photography app and collection: Clashot.
Fotolia is home to over 20 million images and it's prepared to add mobile photos into that mix. You can find all its mobile images in its Fotolia Instant collection.
Getty, including iStock by Getty
When people think of stock agencies, they think of Getty. If they don't think specifically of Getty, they might well think of a Getty subsidiary. Getty photographers are being invited to join Moment, along with the old Flickr collection, while new photographers should be able to join in due course. Whether or not you want to get involved with the Getty licensing machine is another matter.
Any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments section!
A few weeks ago we published our guide to selling stock images, with content suggestions, style advice, and labelling tips, among other hints. This week, iStock by Getty Images has released an infographic documenting the eight leading trends in business imagery that they've charted over the past year. If you're looking to sell business images, these are the kinds of subjects that buyers are after:
- Transparency and openness - business-type scenarios shot through windows and glass
- Show me "Innovation" - unusual concepts, unusually shot
- The New Leader - think start-up trendy rather than power-dressed exec
- Service-oriented workforce
- Dads on deck - or hands-on dads
- Women in power - we're growing in number
- Hipsters are taking over - beards, bikes, and coffee (apparently)
- Working from home - more of us are doing it, so it needs to be reflected
Get cracking, then!
The terms and conditions under which photographers sell their images via stock agencies are frequently criticised and as a consequence the money that they can make from sales is often lamented. For one day only, however, iStock by Getty Images is trying to make photographers feel better about the deal and their contribution to the stock business. As part of its celebration of Small Business Week in the US, it has declared 14 May 2014 to be '100% Royalty Day'. 100% Royalty Day means that:
- 100% of sales on all exclusive/only available from iStock content sold through cash and credit file downloads will go directly to iStock by Getty Images artists
- double royalties will be paid to artists whose exclusive content is sold via iStock by Getty's new subscription scheme
However, it's not quite the gold-plated celebration of small businesses that it appears to be at first blush. That pesky word 'exclusive' makes all the difference. If you're not afraid of a little stock agency promiscuity then you won't be eligible for any extra pennies accrued. And of course, it's not exactly easy to encourage people to select your content for download on 14 May; they'll download it at their convenience. Still, if you are an exclusive iStock by Getty contributor, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Feature image: Amesy/ iStock by Getty Images
Love them or loathe them, stock agencies are a significant sector of the photography industry. How else do people who are looking to buy images for use in publications, in advertising campaigns, or on websites acquire them without commissioning a photographer? For some photographers, then, selling stock imagery can be an important source of income. It might not keep the wolf away from the door, but it could well keep the candles burning. In which case, how do you make the best of it? If you're looking to make a bit of pin-money selling your photos, what are the dos and don'ts? If you're already in the stock game, how can you do it better? I spoke to a variety of stock agencies—Alamy, Shutterstock, and EyeEm Market—who kindly shared their words of wisdom to help you make the most out of the stock market.
It might come as a surprise, or it might not, but stock agencies need photos of anything and everything. That's pretty much the entire point of them, you see. Alan Capel, Head of Content at Alamy says: 'Everything can be updated, good photographers will look for a new take on old clichés.' Like me a few weeks ago, people need generic photos of the father-of-the-bride. However, there are particular types of imagery that are preferable and subjects that have growing demand. So think about producing:
- Real-looking, natural-feeling photos; posed and staged photos aren't so in demand
- Photos that are out-of-the-office and out-of-the-ordinary; think oil rig as opposed to desk, farm yard instead of back yard, mountain-top rather than table-top
- Images from the emerging markets: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa
- Healthcare and medical photos
- Anything that documents culture and diversity
- Photos local to you - who else is there to shoot them?
'We’d love to see more adventurous shoots in more unusual locations/scenarios!' says Capel. While he knows that might be easier said than done, 'Photographers are tenacious and resourceful and they will find a way.' And if you're pursuing the emerging markets theme, that should include lifestyle and local culture as well as business and industry photos. Remember: there are consumers in those emerging markets, too!
Is there anything that absolutely should be avoided? Well, if a photo's good, anything goes. But over at EyeEm, they warn people off of pets, pot plants, and predictable self-portraits.
It's probably a good idea to keep one eye on what's happening now and another on the horizon. Scott Braut, VP of Content at Shutterstock, recommends using social media to gauge trending topics and examining news headlines for common themes (for example politics, pop culture) to help you pick out favourable subjects. But at the same time, think about what might be happening in two, three, or four years' time: Olympic Games, World Cups, centenaries, and anniversaries.
It's always best to stick to what you know best, which is your own style. But Capel says not be afraid of adding another string to your bow by including mobile images—Alamy has the stockimo app for that, and there's the new EyeEm Market, too—and Braut says that photos with Instagram-esque filters are popular.
Be ruthless when it comes to submitting photos to stock houses: if something about an image doesn't feel right, it's probably wrong. Don't include it.
And both Braut and Capel say the same thing about repetitious photos: don't do it! Make sure that each photo you submit is distinct, so that they don't detract from each other.
People need to be able to find your images to buy and use them. This means that they need to be identifiable through tags, labels, and key-words. Capel suggests thinking along these lines:
- Literal - what is actually in the shot
- Conceptual - what moods, emotions, concepts does the shot evoke
- Photographic – predominant colours, any techniques or treatments used
At EyeEm, their top search terms include the abstract, such as 'happiness' and 'hope' as well as more descriptive, for example 'family' and 'fitness'. Spread your net far and wide, but make sure your terms are accurate.
And don't be afraid to re-visit and re-label photos after you've submitted them. You never know what you might think of with fresh eyes.
Photos that have people in them will require a model release if they're to be used commercially. Logos have to be rights cleared and securing that can be a proper pain. It's much better to do away with labels on bottles, use plain clothing, and hide obvious branding.
The word that came up again, and again, and again was 'real'. Buyers want imagery that's natural and believable, not contrived. There's a whole world out there waiting to be documented, so go explore!
Did you hear of Instacanvas? It was a canvas printing company devoted entirely to Instagram images. You could link your Instagram account to their website and choose your favourite filtered, square-cropped photo to hang on your wall. Or, you could establish your own gallery and let other people wander through your photos and select your Madagascan sunset to adorn their living room. The idea was that it freed people from the tyranny of mass-produced images supplied by Swedish furnishing behemoths and instead provided them with the opportunity to choose from millions of photos created by people like them. Matt Munson and Instacanvas' other co-founders wanted to let people buy and sell images without a curatorial middleman. Smartphones have brought photography to everyone; why can't everyone benefit from the plethora of photos?
Plenty of people agreed with that sentiment.
Instacanvas has grown enormously since those first heady days when it went public in May 2012. Its range of products has grown, although your public gallery remains Instagram-only you can upload photos from other sources to print for yourself, and the number of photos on its books is in the region of 30 million. It's perhaps this achievement, and the potential that it holds, that has led to Instacanvas' next steps.
It's now called Twenty20 and it is venturing into the stock image market. With a book of images to rival Fotolia or Shutterstock, how are things shaping up for this 13-person operation based in Santa Monica?
I have to say that my first experience with Twenty20's website didn't get off to the greatest of starts. For anyone who lives in a cricket-playing country, your first Google hits for 'Twenty20' will be about the limited overs form of the game. Don't forget to modify 'Twenty20' with 'canvas' and things should be better. When you hit the splash page you're faced with something attractive, but utterly uninformative. There's no mission statement or suggestion as to what it is or does, there's no 'About Us' link or 'Contact us' option, and there's no indication as to how to access what lies beneath. How frustrating!
Eventually, I learned that in order to be able to find out what Twenty20 is all about or just to peruse its wares, I needed to register. My gut reaction to this was that it felt in someway deceptive; now I'm more inclined to perceive it as absurd. Why actively try to prevent people from learning more about your company by demanding information from them? I persevered because of professional interest, but would someone who's casually looking for wall art?
Taking this a stage further, would someone who's looking for stock imagery be bothered to sign up and then navigate to the stock pages when you can rock up at Shutterstock, Fotolia, or iStock, type your desired subject into the search box on the front page and be presented with pages of findings immediately?
Munson told me that forcing people to register is a recognised tactic to encourage interaction on social media sites and it's something that other social media sites employ, for example, Twitter. It's an interesting theory, but I'm not sure it's quite the right approach for Twenty20. For a start, Twitter's splash page isn't link-less or a desert of information, and Twitter is rather more well known than Twenty20. When your aim is to convince people to part with their money, you need to do everything that you can to lure them in, rather than push them away. Twenty20 might have its roots in social networking, but ultimately it's about sales and this has to be as easy as possible.
Once people have been lured in, selling products via Twenty20 is refreshingly simple. Signing up with Instagram means that your images are there, ready and waiting to be made into prints or prisms to hang on your own walls, or to be curated into a gallery ready for anyone else to peruse and transform into something to hang on their walls. You don't set your own fees, they're standardised, which makes it easy for buyers and you know that you'll always take a 20% cut of the sale.
Although the pricing structure for digital image files is uncomplicated: $20 per image, with discounts for bulk buys, acquiring them isn't quite as easy. You need to contact the Twenty20 team to proceed. I'm hoping that this is merely a teething problem in Twenty20's new venture. First because it puts it on the back foot when compared with other stock houses; second because this is where I think that Twenty20 could excel. Imagine how much easier it would be to buy and sell news-oriented Instagram images via Twenty20, rather than have them used fee-free by news publications? Wouldn't it be great if your skinny-no-foam-latte photo is the one favoured by wannabe-hipster food blogs? (If they were real hipsters, they'd be using their own Instagrams, clearly.) But this relies on the system becoming faster and easier to use: instant access to your Instagram images.
When you have crossed the drawbridge, negotiated the portcullis, passed through gatehouse and into the bailey, and finally made your way into the keep that is Twenty20, there are some beautiful products for purchase and a welter of images for sale. It's such a shame that Twenty20's website design has made everything so inaccessible. Indeed, it's ironic. It's a company that's built on the principle of bringing the wealth of gorgeous digital media that languish in the aether onto people's walls and breaking down the barriers that sit between digital artists and their potential clients that have been erected by the curators of galleries and stock houses. There might not be any curatorial gate-keepers accepting or rejecting images, but there are technological ones discouraging people from making use of Twenty20.
If Twenty20 wants to truly realise its vision, I think it needs to follow through with its technological accomplishments to the same degree as its ideological principles. The theory's simple; keep the practicalities that way, too.
Mark Kologi buys and sells found photographs. If not millions, then many thousands of old pictures have passed through his hands over the years. Forgotten bits of people's lives move from one place to another, one life to another. He speaks about his trade, and whether or not he takes liberties with people's lives, in this video made by Ben Kitnick and Saxon Richardson.
As someone who has pondered the fate of old photographs, in my possession but not taken by me, his musing that it's better they find new homes rather than be binned struck a chord. I do wonder how I might feel if I found a photo I'd taken, or a photo of me or someone I know, amongst his stock. You?
(And remember, don't use a found photo for commercial purposes, you could end up in a Vampire Weekend of trouble.)