How Crowdsourcing Can Benefit You

Photography: apes_abroad

Photography is usually a pretty lonely craft. It’s often just you, your camera and the setting sun… or a wedding reception full of half-drunk guests.Crowdsourcing might be important if you run a microstock agency or sell paparazzi photos, but for most photographers, who plan and shoot their images alone, it can’t offer much.

Or can it?

More Eyes in the Market
One of the biggest benefits of crowds is that they can spot business opportunities for you. Put a photographic series on your website or Flickr page showing rainforest life in Sarawak, for example, and you can expect not just views and compliments but also suggestions on where to publish it.

That’s more likely to happen if you ask.

Every time you upload an image that you’d like to sell and put it in front of lots of people, ask your viewers if they know an outlet that might buy it. The more views you get, the more likely you are to land realistic suggestions from people with the right contacts and specific market knowledge.

And other members of the crowd will then be able to weigh in and tell you if it’s a good suggestion.

More Objective Eyes than Yours
When it comes to judging the quality — and marketability — of those photos though, your opinion isn’t always the best. You’ll often be too busy remembering how you shot them and what they mean to you to understand the effect the images have on someone seeing them for the first time.

Your viewers are more objective. If you ask them which they think are the most sellable images on your site, you might well be surprised… and save time trying to sell a favorite shot that would have few takers.

Improve your Photos
Crowds aren’t just capable of giving your photos a quick thumbs up or thumbs down. They can also tell you what it would take to make your shots better.

You have to be careful here. Ask someone how to improve anything and you’ll always get an answer — whether the advice is good or not. That’s where crowdsourcing really comes into its own. If one person tells you that you should have upped the f-stop, for example, you don’t have to listen.

If twenty people tell you that, they might be onto something, and you could be on your way to a better photo.

Find Subjects, Scenes and More…
So the masses can help you to track down markets and make improvements. But they can also help you to identify people and places to shoot. If you want to know where to photograph surfers, sandcastles or sailboats, the best places to look aren’t maps and guidebooks. They’re forums where people who take these sorts of photos like to hang out.

Again, you won’t just be getting advice from one person. You’ll be getting tips and reactions from lots of people, helping you to filter out the worst and focus on the best.

Know the Law
So far, we’ve discussed how crowds can help photographers find markets, understand and improve their images, and track down subjects. They can also solve problems.

Photography today can be a complicated process. Forums are full of photographers describing how they were hassled by security guards who didn’t want them shooting their buildings or by policemen who told them they were breaking the law for carrying a camera. It’s hard to find one photographer with experience in every aspect of photography law. But photographers’ combined knowledge can give them a pretty powerful weapon against people who want to put their hands over the lens.

It might not have been around for long, but crowdsourcing has already had a massive effect on photography. The stock photo market has been changed by it and sites like Flickr have become knowledge-sharing sites as much as photo-sharing sites.

Photography might be a lonely art, but with the clever use of crowds, a lot of knowledge can go a very long way.

Got a photography business idea? Test it on crowds at Cambrian House or Spigit and tell us how you get on.

[tags] scoopt, crowdsourcing [/tags]

One comment for this post.

  1. Anna Said:

    Great post! I've noticed many photographers are very much against crowdsourcing, so I guess they need to hear about the benefits you enlisted, and which are very reasonable.

    Another thing I would tell them is that crowdsourcing is not about crowds replacing experts, but rather an efficient mechanism for identifying them in the first place.

    And even if the market and technology changes, talented people who are doing a good job will always be appreciated.

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