Photography: Joe Thorn
One of the things that makes photography special is that it’s an activity that many people pay to do and some people are paid to do. It’s a business and an industry, as well as a passion, a hobby and a pastime. Usually, those two elements don’t mix. Photographers who shoot stock might enjoy their shoots but they’re rarely taking the kinds of pictures that they’d create for fun. They’re taking pictures that sell. The same is true of event photographers, commercial photographers and even editorial photographers. Services like Microstock and especially Flickr have narrowed the gap a little in the last few years, enabling enthusiasts to sell images that were taken for fun but there are a few other areas where business meets photography in surprising ways.
Flickr’s Business Potential
Bookstore shelves now groan under the weight of books promising to teach entrepreneurs how to market with social media, and conferences are packed with speakers who can’t wait to explain how tweeting, Facebooking or being active on LinkedIn can bring sales and boost profits. But no one ever talks about one of the most effective and long-standing of social media sites: Flickr. While photographers and buyers have been quick to pick up on the value of the kinds of creative images posted on the site, businesses have been slower to make use of a resource that allows them to share pictures of their product, their venue, their conference activity and the people behind the logo.
And Flickr even offers businesses much more than most social media sites. The site has just brought back referrer data to stats, allowing Pro members to see who’s viewing their submissions — and businesses to do some smart, targeted marketing. That’s not something you’ll find on Twitter.
Microstock Gets Moving
Although microstock sites will accept images shot for fun and which might have some business use, most photographers find that the biggest profits come when they shoot photos specifically for sale. The kind of business-oriented images that Yuri Arcurs shoots for example, are clearly professional rather than images that he created in his spare time. But while microstock photos clearly have a use for businesses, it does appear that microstock companies are now looking for other ways in which entrepreneurs can use their images.
In February 2010, for example, Fotolia launched Flixtime, a free resource that allows anyone to turn their still pictures into a short promotional video, complete with backing music. A quick look at rival site animoto, which charges $249 a year, gives a clue to the direction Fotolia is moving: towards turning still photographers into creators of images for promotional videography.
Kodak Turns Pets’ Eyes
Kodak, perhaps one of the biggest victims of the move away from print photography, has had to change its photography-related business but it has managed to adapt. The company’s Picture Kiosks now boast social connectivity so that users of Facebook, Kodak Gallery and Picasa can access their images and print them, even on greeting cards, DVDs and calendars. Its Video Snapshots feature does the opposite of Flixtime, allowing owners of videos to print stills. But its most surprising new offering is Pet Eye Retouch.
While features that beat human redeye have now become standard on even the simplest digital cameras, Kodak’s new offering ensures that cats, dogs and other animals can now look their best on film.
That might sound like a waste of effort but according to Kodak’s own market research, the US alone has about 71 million pet households, and pets rank in the top four of all captured images. The company has also found that 65 percent of consumers would use a feature that turned their animals’ eyes the right color, and over a quarter would go to another printer to get it.
Pets might be as much fun as photography but they certainly affect business too, even the business of photography.
Photoshop Goes Mobile
iFart Mobile might be the most (in)famous app to hit the iPhone charts but while the app store’s electronic whoopee cushion has been making all the noise, a better-known product has been quietly blowing it out of the water. According to Techcrunch, in the six months since Photoshop.com Mobile was put in the app store, the free photography app has been downloaded more than 6 million times. The app gives users access to 2 gigabytes of images stored on Photoshop.com’s servers, allowing them to do simple editing. Layering and other complexities might kill an iPhone, but the app does allow cropping, rotating, effects and borders. Photographers then can shoot pictures on their iPhones, upload them to Photoshop.com and start editing.
Although the app itself is a simple enough tool that anyone can use to improve the look of their photos, the familiarity that it brings to non-professionals who may then graduate to the full version of Photoshop is clearly invaluable to Adobe. It could also have an effect on the photography business as a whole. At the moment, photographer’s assistants can charge a little more if they bring technical skills to a studio in addition to the ability to carry heavy lighting gear, and time that a photographer might have spent in a development lab is now often spent in front of a monitor.
With 6 million people playing around with Photoshop, many for the first time, it’s just possible that those skills will become more commonplace, allowing photographers to focus on the shooting while assistants do the cropping. That’s certainly Adobe’s hope anyway.
Photography might be both a passion and a profession and those two aspects of image-making might meet in some familiar ways. But if you can spot places where the love of photography coincides with a business opportunity, you can increase your ability to generate more revenue from your pastime.
Photopreneur’s new range of ebooks are now available from Scribd. Covering Flickr for businesses, pet photography, microstock photography, and Photoshop, the ebooks contain explanations and case studies to help anyone understand the opportunities available in those photography-related fields.