We’re always banging on about the importance of niches here. When the market’s crowded, being a small fish in a big pond can be much easier – and a lot more profitable – than trying to steal scraps from the big boys. It’s why we’ve seen photographers choosing to specialize in rock climbing, astronomy and car photography.
Interestingly, though it’s also an approach that some photography services are taking.
Pikeo is a photo-sharing website that was launched in Beta form last year. The principle is simple: upload images and let anyone view them. That also makes it very familiar and if that was all the site did, it would be hard to see how it could catch up with the giants of the photo-sharing world like Flickr and PhotoBucket.
Flickr’s center however, is its groups – the places where photographers get together to swap ideas and admire each others’ images.
Start with a Map
Pikeo’s center is its map. Upload an image and you’ll be asked to place tags that answer the questions “Who?” “What?” and “Where?” Enter the place name and immediately, you’ll be offered a map on which you can stick a pin marking the spot. When you log in, a Google-style map is one of the first things you’re offered.
“[Pikeo's] key differential is the ‘geo-tagging’ feature, which allows users to create a visual map of their travels,” Kevin Fitzsimons, a spokesman for the company said. “This is an especially useful tool for travelers.”
Flickr, of course, offers geo-tagging too, but it’s not a feature used by everyone and it feels like an additional option rather than the heart of the site. By placing an emphasis on the map feature, Pikeo is able to position itself as a photography site for people on the move – an image that no doubt satisfies its parent company, France Telecom. Although Pikeo operates independently, it’s no surprise to learn that Pikeo’s members can upload images directly from their mobile phones anywhere in the world.
Pikeo’s market position as a site with an emphasis on travel images is also determined by its promotions. The site is currently running a competition together with Lonely Planet, publishers of travel guides for backpackers. The four winners will get to see their images used on the covers of Lonely Planet’s Encounters guides to London, Paris, Istanbul and Barcelona. Although they won’t be paid for those images, the winners will be able to choose a prize from trips to India, the Serengeti, Morocco or Russia – a reward that could be worth as much as $2,400 depending on where they decide to go.
A stack of runners-up prizes include Lonely Planet guides and photobooks created through Photobox.
No Cheesy Tourist Shots
The competition is free to enter. Entrants need only sign up at Pikeo, join the relevant Lonely Planet Competition group and upload up to five images of the city. With the images required consisting of some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it’s no surprise that the judges – representatives of Pikeo, Lonely Planet Images and the British Association of Photographers – are going to have to look at an awful lot of photos.
“We’ve received thousands of submissions and expect to receive thousands more in the final days of the competition,” Kevin told us. “It’s been incredibly popular.”
The competition site includes tips from Lonely Planet for taking a winning image, which suggest shooting from a street perspective, using “iconic sights or architecture in everyday context,” and interestingly, “always have a person or people within frame.” Clichés and “cheesy tourist shots” are out – which will probably cut a large number of submissions.
Perhaps the best approach to take when considering which photos to submit is to look not just at the text on the tip sheet but the sample covers. All of them make the viewer feel as though he or she is in the city. (And although they all contain people, none of those people is recognizable, avoiding the difficulty of trying to land model releases.)
Obviously, entrants have to own the copyright to the images they submit and while Pikeo and Lonely Planet make no rights claims over submissions, the four winning images will be licensed exclusively to Lonely Planet for publication “subject to an agreement reached between the winning photographers and Lonely Planet.”
The competition closes on September 8 which means you’ll have to move fast to get your images in in time (although entering only takes a few minutes.) Even if you don’t win though, it’s still worth looking at how Pikeo operates to see how you too can give yourself a unique market position by placing an emphasis on just one of your services.