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Author Topic: Stock buyers are geeks...are you?  (Read 7890 times)

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Yuri_Arcurs

  • One Crazy PhotoManic MadPerson
« on: April 18, 2009, 10:48 »
0
HI guys. I just did this post on your buyers... (Geeks). Perhaps it is a little above what most people in microstock like to consider before going to a shoot, but here it is anyway. Hope you enjoy.

And buy the way: Subscribe to my blog or you wont see this kind of stuff:  www.arcurs.com

Here goes:


Have you ever stopped to really think about who your buyers are? Well I have and guess whattheyre design geeks. Design geeks are a breed of their own. They care more than you can imagine about small details, and they love images with subtle messages that dont bonk them over the head. If you can learn how to give design geeks what they want, microstock will be very kind to you.
I have a "test group" of some of my most prominent buyers. I often discuss specific shoots with them and I sometimes like to pick their brains in general interviews. The info they give me is crucial and very very very (very) helpful. In this post Ill give you an overview of things theyve told me that initially came as a surprise.

1. Subtle is better then loud... (Yes....we get it, alright!)
When it comes to a really great stock image, less is more. Let me just say that again: less is more. Really. Have you never done a shoot and thought, "I nailed it! This will sell like hotcakes," but when you got it online sales were dismal? In this case, maybe your images were too literal. Designers will often provide comments like: "no no no... this is too corny, too bold, or too straight forward." Translation: if you spell a concept out too plainly, your image has no magic. Subtlety equals sophistication.
Consider the shot above of the couple holding hands. We don't need any more information to understand that this is two young people in love relaxing on the beach. Because the image is subtle, it appeals and actually speaks volumes. In it there hints of things we don't see but are led to imagine, which is great.
You know how when you read a great book and then see the movie, its the movie that often disappoints? Well, why were you disappointed? Because the literal interpretation wasnt anything like what your imagination could cook up. The subtle images Im talking about are more like the intriguing book and less like the literal spell-it-out movie.
An image where less is more screams "fill in the missing slots yourself" and suddenly youre involved and you love it.... Well no wonder! You designed it in your own imagination.



2. Its about the story
In microstock everybody tries to make blockbuster superhit images (me included) but lately Ive come to realize that if I want to be a step ahead I need to shift gears... downward. Today my shootplan is nearly empty. It contains hardly any pictures that I want to redo. What is does contain is a lot of text. Now in my planning, I focus on telling the story of a shot. How did the people get here? What are the still-life images in the environment that support the story? What are the props needed for making the shot look real? With this kind of planning I can shoot a concept and end up with many images that will convey a running story using the same subject matter.
Why do I do this? Its because my buyers constantly keep saying the same thing: "when we find an image we like, we will most often need more then one image from that shoot and we often cannot find even the most simple images from such shoots." My buyers say they will pass on a great image if the rest of the images from that shoot are missing or not usable for some reason.



3. Be different or be dead
My buyers tell me they are simply sooooooo tired of seeing the same shots over and over again. They say microstock lacks creativity. I will rephrase this, because I personally dont think microstock lacks creativity, however I do agree that its missing a certain something. That something is shots done outside the photographers comfort zone.
When big traditional agencies talk about the characteristics of great stock photographers, they dont mention the ability to create stunning photos. They do mention the ability to create rare shots. If you want to stand out from the crowd instantly, execute shoots that are hard to plan, hard to shoot and hard to do.
Many microstock photographers have had their photographic self-esteem shoot through the roof over the last couple of years. Theyve jumped from amateur to pro, and theyll often approach traditional agencies with gusto and then be baffled as to why their application was turned town.
Well, the bad news for these photographers is that the big agencies do not consider them to be true professionals. They are "comfort" shooters, and these are a dime a dozen. There will be very little room for comfort shooters in the future of microstock and I predict we will see a lot of forum whining as these kinds of shooters start losing income, fast. The good news is that if youre willing to go the extra mile, you will be one of the few and youll face less competition.

4. The devil is in the details
Often, buyers say: "I was just about to download this perfect business shoot and when I looked closer, the girl had a freaking tattoo on her neck!" In a way weve never seen before, microstock is the "handyman, improvised, mixed together, do-it-yourself" of stock photography. Tennis socks showing under business suits, overt sexuality in the wrong context, inappropriately young businesspeople, weird looking clothes, weird looking models, weird location, weird haristyle. etc. are a huge turnoff to buyers. Be critical of your pictures. Scrutinize them and decide what does and doesnt belong.
And speaking of leaving a little to the imaginationThe biggest and most ironic error I see all the time is the cleavage mistake. While shooting serious subject matter a photographer gets carried away a little and thinks "well if I like what Im seeing, chances are that other people will too!"... Um, NOOOOOOOO! They won't! EVER! I have seen so many micro photographers' shoots start out really neat and professional, and then step-by-step denigrate into what looks like a softporn covershoot. Sheesh. Keep it inside your pants and focus on what youre doing!



6. Too "model looking"
An interesting trend Ive noticed is that when it comes to models, there can be too much of a good thing. Contrary to what you might think, models with the widest appeal are not of the uber-high-end-four-coats-of-varnish variety. In fact, real, down-to-earth, everyday people are what sell. Our buyers want healthy, friendly and energetic models with a genuine warmth and a personality we can all relate to. The quintessential girl or boy next door with a twinkle in their eye. These people translate as more real and they naturally bring an open warmth that everyone can feel.
Look at the couple on the beach below. Does this look real? These two people just look like two models on a beach in my eyes....which they are. They are toooooo good looking to be real, approachable and genuine.
Think about beauty campaigns put on by big cosmetic companies. Who are their models? Scary looking runway vixens? Uh, no. More like real people that you or I would love to hang out with. When youre sourcing your models, keep this in mind. And when youre shooting, remember that this natural genuine energy is what youre going for. If your model starts with the plastic fake posing, stop them, engage them (get them relaxed and comfortable), re-set, and start again.



So, to recap, put yourself in the (stylish, high-end patent leather) shoes of your design-geek buyer friends. Give them intriguing images that hint at a story. Give them rare shots they havent seen a million times. Consider and tend to all the little details that might ruin an otherwise great picture. And give them warm, friendly, down-to-earth models. Give them what they want wrapped up in a nice package and youll not only stand out, youll become indispensable.


« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2009, 11:28 »
0
All good advise Yuri and thank you for that.

But what I am reading out of this is: The design geeks as you call them, are looking for traditional stock quality but only want to pay pennies for it from a mirco stock agency.

Message to all the 'isolated on white apple' shooters out there. Shoot more difficult stuff ;)

vonkara

« Reply #2 on: April 18, 2009, 11:39 »
0
I have seen so many micro photographers' shoots start out really neat and professional, and then step-by-step denigrate into what looks like a softporn covershoot Sheesh. Keep it inside your pants and focus on what youre doing!

XD That's probably why I never shoot people. Still too young for doing this correctly
« Last Edit: April 18, 2009, 12:27 by Vonkara »

« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2009, 15:20 »
0
Why are you giving all your secrets away? I'm guilty on all accounts.  ;D

Seriously, I will subscribe. Some people charge 1000$ for 1% of this kind of info.

« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2009, 15:22 »
0
XD That's probably why I never shoot people. Still too young for doing this correctly

I guess I'm too old for doing this correctly  ;D

« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2009, 15:55 »
0
Thanks for that Yuri!

Still you have to admit that you do employ outstanding models!!! I doubt that they still do TFCD and how could one like "us" afford professional, "next-door" look like models???

It does take a determined and eager and suited model (including the proper wardrobe...) to get the shots that you do. I've met too many (almost only) "models" and/or "actors" that just won't pull off what your models are doing...

I still believe you have to have the luck of meeting the right people for the job in order to nail it.

Anywho. Great read! Keep up the outstanding work! All the best to you!

« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2009, 18:18 »
0
My thoughts...

1. Subtle is better then loud... (Yes....we get it, alright!)

An image where less is more screams "fill in the missing slots yourself" and suddenly youre involved and you love it.... Well no wonder! You designed it in your own imagination.

I agree to a point, but there is always a market for the obvious.  Sometimes buyers just want an image that screams "I'm a doctor", or whatever.

Quote
Why do I do this? Its because my buyers constantly keep saying the same thing: "when we find an image we like, we will most often need more then one image from that shoot and we often cannot find even the most simple images from such shoots." My buyers say they will pass on a great image if the rest of the images from that shoot are missing or not usable for some reason.

I disagree with this.  I've seen a lot of my images in use, and most series of mine tell a story of some kind, but the "in actions" are mostly of one shot per use.  It is very rare I see more than one shot from a series being used.  I see this usage for things like articles, where you have several pages to tell the story, but most ad use is a one shot deal.

Quote
3. Be different or be dead
My buyers tell me they are simply sooooooo tired of seeing the same shots over and over again. They say microstock lacks creativity. I will rephrase this, because I personally dont think microstock lacks creativity, however I do agree that its missing a certain something. That something is shots done outside the photographers comfort zone.

Rising to a challenge most always brings out the best.  Sometimes it brings disaster, but there you go :).

Quote
4. The devil is in the details
Often, buyers say: "I was just about to download this perfect business shoot and when I looked closer, the girl had a freaking tattoo on her neck!" In a way weve never seen before, microstock is the "handyman, improvised, mixed together, do-it-yourself" of stock photography. Tennis socks showing under business suits, overt sexuality in the wrong context, inappropriately young businesspeople, weird looking clothes, weird looking models, weird location, weird haristyle. etc. are a huge turnoff to buyers. Be critical of your pictures. Scrutinize them and decide what does and doesnt belong.

That's all pretty obvious stuff, so yep, yep.

Quote
6. Too "model looking"
An interesting trend Ive noticed is that when it comes to models, there can be too much of a good thing. Contrary to what you might think, models with the widest appeal are not of the uber-high-end-four-coats-of-varnish variety. In fact, real, down-to-earth, everyday people are what sell. Our buyers want healthy, friendly and energetic models with a genuine warmth and a personality we can all relate to. The quintessential girl or boy next door with a twinkle in their eye. These people translate as more real and they naturally bring an open warmth that everyone can feel.

Again mostly common sense.  People want to see themselves in what they are viewing, and it helps if the people look like them.  However, there's always room for the glamorous types as well.  That's the cool thing about this business - there's something for everyone, and there's someone for everything...

batman

« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2009, 20:30 »
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Taking Yuri's advice at face value, I tend to agree with everything he said. Same for sjlocke. As both of you are experienced micro stock sellers.
Only one thing bothers me about your unanimous opinion. ie. If you suggest we be creative and be unique and work outside the box, so to speak, then why are there so many clones of Yuri and SJL still being encouraged by the Big 9 ?
I m sure many of us have been trying to fit a niche with our own style and not to be a copycat, but these unique images are constantly being rejected by the reviewers in preference to the same carbon copies of "best selling images".

On one hand, Yuri, you are telling us to work outside of our comfort zone, which many experienced photographers who just entered the micro markets are trying to do, which is what made us successful as working photographers.
But on the other hand, the reviewers are only accepting those images that are not unique and not against the comfort zone of each contributor.

I can attest to this, as I find that for months, my approval has been more or less guaranteed, AS LONG AS I SUBMIT CLONES of you people.
I would love to see the day arrive that each photographer is accept based on their own unique style, and most copycats will be discouraged.
But you would have to convince me that the reviewers are thinking the same way as you here.

I can't wait for that day to arrive.

« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2009, 21:44 »
0
The microstocks really only want what they think they can sell next week.  They  don't know what their buyers "want", they only know what they bought last week.  The microstocks aren't  pushing creative new imagery.  They don't "push" anything, it's a totally passive sales model like a big self-service warehouse.  They just want to get more of what's been moving well, and to quit spending time and money reviewing everything else.  It's not a system that actively encourages creativity.






« Last Edit: April 18, 2009, 21:50 by stockastic »

« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2009, 22:35 »
0
If it's really different and unique, all stock sites will accept it no matter the technical flaws (within limits). Istock once sent me back a shot that had technical flaws that could be corrected with some work, complete with screenshots and remedies. Not your standard rejection. You could feel they really wanted it. I wouldn't blame the reviewers by default. They can be much more objective towards our own work than we ourselves.

« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2009, 01:08 »
0

2. Its about the story
In microstock everybody tries to make blockbuster superhit images (me included) but lately Ive come to realize that if I want to be a step ahead I need to shift gears... downward. Today my shootplan is nearly empty. It contains hardly any pictures that I want to redo. What is does contain is a lot of text. Now in my planning, I focus on telling the story of a shot. How did the people get here? What are the still-life images in the environment that support the story? What are the props needed for making the shot look real? With this kind of planning I can shoot a concept and end up with many images that will convey a running story using the same subject matter.
Why do I do this? Its because my buyers constantly keep saying the same thing: "when we find an image we like, we will most often need more then one image from that shoot and we often cannot find even the most simple images from such shoots." My buyers say they will pass on a great image if the rest of the images from that shoot are missing or not usable for some reason.

Basically you are saying, tell a story in a series.  But then comes the hardest part... mayby you don't have a problem with it, but most of us find it hard, almost impossible to submit more than 10 images from one shoot to Fotolia.  The "     Hello, We regret to inform you that photo xxxxxxxx was not accepted because the same or similar photograph was already submitted to Fotolia. You may not be aware but if you submit two of the same or similar photographs, Fotolia chooses only those with technical or esthetic qualities that meet our needs and are the closest to its category selected.

We invite you to submit other photographs to Fotolia. "


Spreading them over different batches, mixed with images of other and different shoots doesn't help.  Same lame rejection reason.

Patrick H.

Yuri_Arcurs

  • One Crazy PhotoManic MadPerson
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2009, 03:41 »
0
Only one thing bothers me about your unanimous opinion. ie. If you suggest we be creative and be unique and work outside the box, so to speak, then why are there so many clones of Yuri and SJL still being encouraged by the Big 9 ?

Dear Batman. I am not suggesting you do anything. This is up to you. I am giving you a breakdown of what an experienced stock photographer get's out of interviewing his buyers. Take it or leave it my friend. :)
Regarding the clones. I only wish that cloning tendencies of microstock would get under control. It really is damaging.
Thanks for replying.

RT


« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2009, 04:09 »
0
Yuri,

I agree with a lot of what you're saying but this line "In fact, real, down-to-earth, everyday people are what sell." has been going around since the dawn of stock. Unfortunately as great as it sounds it's not true, what buyers actually want is shots of good looking models made to look like real, down to earth everyday folk.

I don't need to tell you that the biggest problem with models is getting them to stop modelling, for some reason they can stand, sit or behave normally but as soon as your finger goes near the trigger they strike a pose!

As for the part about being subtle, I'd agree with what Sean wrote, sometimes the image needs to scream a concept for it to work.

Listening to buyers and designers is good and can provide some valuable information, listening and learning from the target audience of advertising is more valuable, one of the biggest mistakes both photographers and designers can make is to base our judgements on what we know, your average Joe public doesn't work within this dizzy industry and sometimes they need it spelled out for them in order for it to work.



« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2009, 04:55 »
0
Interesting stuff...

I agree with both teams here, but  RT have a very good point.  It really needs to be "models"

Some may say your stuff on white look cheesy and boring after seeing it over and over again.  But its
different seeing it "live"

Theres this free magazine where I live that always use your images, and every time I see one, It looks really good and professional.  That is what I would have bought if I were a buyer.

Theyre like popular radio hits. Everyone loves em, but dont wanna talk about it...

lagereek

« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2009, 05:04 »
0
Famous Fashion photographer Helmut-Newton once said.

"ordinary people"??  no I dont like photographing cows, Im a fashion photographer.

« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2009, 10:11 »
0
I agree with a lot of what you're saying but this line "In fact, real, down-to-earth, everyday people are what sell." has been going around since the dawn of stock. Unfortunately as great as it sounds it's not true, what buyers actually want is shots of good looking models made to look like real, down to earth everyday folk.



Nail on head.   Except they're not even "made to look like" ordinary people. Just made to look like they're pretending to be looking like ordinary people.  I will never do people shots for stock because I can't pay for models, and I don't know any good-looking people  :)


alias

« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2009, 14:39 »
0
Regarding the clones. I only wish that cloning tendencies of microstock would get under control. It really is damaging.

It is an inevitable and integral part of the model which you have to build in to what you do. It is as natural as capitalism. If someone comes up with an effective concept or style then it will be copied and adapted. You might as well regret the tides and your business model has to be built around it.

It is no different from what happens in all other areas of the commercial creative arts. Remember 'the yank' - a few years ago all the fashion mags had their version of that. Now it looks like a joke. At some point that must have been someone's great idea.


batman

« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2009, 15:58 »
0
Only one thing bothers me about your unanimous opinion. ie. If you suggest we be creative and be unique and work outside the box, so to speak, then why are there so many clones of Yuri and SJL still being encouraged by the Big 9 ?

Dear Batman. I am not suggesting you do anything. This is up to you. I am giving you a breakdown of what an experienced stock photographer get's out of interviewing his buyers. Take it or leave it my friend. :)
Regarding the clones. I only wish that cloning tendencies of microstock would get under control. It really is damaging.
Thanks for replying.

Hey Yuri my friend. thanks for replying.  Don't misunderstand me. I am not saying you're talking through both sides of your mouth, I fully aknowledge the validity of your advice to us. How else are we to be as successful as you are.
I also believe that your info is genuine and is taken from genuine buyers looking for differences from the masses.
ONLY ONE PROBLEM, my friend...
we still have to get past the reviewers. and if the reviewers do not want to get these story telling
images or images that appeal to geeks, it won't be available for the buyers.
From examination of the new images of each site of the Big 9, you still see the same "one thousand and one variations of clone of Yuri Arcur, and other successful microstock sellers".
How do you expect any contributor to try not being a COPYCAT ? the reviewers approved all those , didn't they?

In a nutshell, your idea is only sustainable if you can convince the reviewers to think outside the box. But until we see less of a flood of your clones,
i don't think it will happen.

Mr. Arcurs, you start your own micro stock and you train your reviewers to get those DIFFERENT images your buyers told us to make. I will be the first one at your doorstep.
 ;)
« Last Edit: April 20, 2009, 16:03 by batman »

tan510jomast

« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2009, 16:10 »
0
YURI said : Give them rare shots they havent seen a million times.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
My silly question is , " Yuri,  how is that going to happen when every site is selecting the same images ?"
 Look at the featured images. They are all the same images from one site to the other.  I've seen it "a million times"   ???
« Last Edit: April 20, 2009, 16:13 by tan510jomast »

« Reply #19 on: April 21, 2009, 01:24 »
0
Yuri posted the same post at Istock and it looks llike it has been deleted. ???

alias

« Reply #20 on: April 21, 2009, 01:30 »
0
Yuri posted the same post at Istock and it looks llike it has been deleted. ???

Are you sure it was him and not one of his fans? I cannot imagine that he start spamming forums?

« Reply #21 on: April 21, 2009, 01:36 »
0
Yes sure.  His post is still up on the SS forums in his name.

alias

« Reply #22 on: April 21, 2009, 01:43 »
0
Weird. So now he's a spammer?

« Reply #23 on: April 21, 2009, 03:31 »
0
So how does posting helpful and relevant advice on several relevant forums make one a spammer??!!

« Reply #24 on: April 21, 2009, 06:12 »
0
Yuri posted the same post at Istock and it looks llike it has been deleted. ???

Are you sure it was him and not one of his fans? I cannot imagine that he start spamming forums?

Yes, it was dated sometime in October. 


 

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