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Author Topic: People as best-selling subject - truth or myth?  (Read 12656 times)

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« on: February 04, 2010, 15:14 »
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It is considered "common knowledge" that people shots - lifestyle, business, medical - are best selling subjects in stock industry. It is definitely way easier to get them approved. Most of the best-selling photogs have their portfolios almost entirely consisting of people shots. And yet, I have my doubts!:)
First, look at the size of those portfolios. Most of them are way over 20,000 files. Last time I looked, Yuri Arcurs's was over 27,000. Second, when you specialize in one subject, you unavoidably get better and better at it. Some of Yuri's people shots sell very well simply because they are great shots. But do they have to be people? He has a shot of a coffee cup that's one of his best-sellers on Shutterstock. I bet it was way cheaper to produce than multi-model shots in specific setups.
My own portfolio is over 10 000. I am an "omnivore":) I shoot anything I think may sell. I do try to do people shots on a regular basis, but none of them became my all time best-sellers. Surprisingly, it's nature (!!!) and food and sell best for me. Even a good old travel shot would occasionally perform better than people. So is true that what most customers want is people?
Let's hear your thoughts:)


« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2010, 15:19 »
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I think having a diverse portfolio is the best strategy, but...

I did a spot check of kelly clines port on IS...her main focus is food, mostly without people. So I don't think it's necessary to have all people in your port in order to be successful.

« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2010, 15:25 »
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I don't do any people photos for microstock.  I think there is too much competition.  They might sell well but you have to be very good to be competitive.  There are too many people producing the same stuff.  The cost also puts me off.  I don't spend money on studios, lights, make-up artists, clothes, models, travel etc.

« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2010, 15:38 »
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It depends where you are coming from.

If you are professional photographer, you already got equipment and know-how. You probably have been shooting in studio for years. You figured out that there is another market you can sell your photos. Then you browsed top images from few agencies and there mostly business people shaking hands there :-) You keep doing similar things and it works. I do not know if Yuri was in this category.

On the other spectrum there is majority of others. They start with camera in hand and desire to earn some extra pocket money. They look at top photos and they see that they do not have means to shoot this type of images. No studio equipment, no will to spend on models. They figure out that some landscapes are on top pages so they start submitting their travel images. It does not work very well so they try to shoot everyday objects and isolate them. They learn how to use their friends as models. It is much slower to get results so most of them give up but there thousands of new ones coming every day.

« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2010, 15:40 »
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What about DNY59 (#3 on Istock)? She hardly does people at all, mainly simple objects and concepts __ but what she does do she does exceptionally well.

In my view the market has a tendency to even out. If there's a perception that people shots or whatever sell particularly well then more and more contributors start submitting them, usually until the point that the market is completely swamped. What really matters is quality and originality and unfortunately there are far too few contributors in microstock that actually understand that.

It's a sobering thought to me that lot of my best-sellers are actually from my earliest days when I still thought 'photography' was about going for a walk with my camera and trying to find creative angles to shoot whatever I came across. Although I understood precious little about stock I was fortunate enough to be shooting original stuff which had relatively little competition on the agencies. It was only long weeks of lousy weather that eventually forced me to buy some studio kit just so that I could keep producing. Of course using the studio kit has become the centre of my comfort zone simply because of the relative predictability. Note to self: Must get out more.

vonkara

« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2010, 15:42 »
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Way too much competition in the people category for me, plus a lot more expensive. No thanks

donding

  • Think before you speak
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2010, 15:45 »
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You gotta find something unique in your style and subject. Like everyone else said the market is saturated with people shots and the best of the best only causes your pictures to be put on the bottom of the pile.

« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2010, 16:11 »
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My people shots have always turned out naff, nowhere near good enough, so I'm still on a steep learning curve to get those right. In the meantime I make myself feel better by looking at the portfolio of a guy called "ooyoo" on IS......100K+ DL since 2007 and nearly all landscape shots. His top sellers are really well done shots of leaves.

I don't think you have to do people shots to do well in the top three. I like your portfolio by the way.

« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2010, 16:18 »
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As far as I know, Yuri also started  "with camera in hand and desire to earn some extra pocket money". Studio and expensive equipment came later. I am wondering if the reason he and other production companies like his are doing people shots mostly because agencies take them better. If you're running a production company, you can't afford shooting something different and risk being rejected and lose money. That would be bad business (you pay people to process your images, keyword them, submit them, etc...). However, why agencies take people shots better if - at least in my experience - they don't necessarily sell better?....

I have a studio and some decent lights, so it's not a problem for me to produce people shots. It's just I don't like doing it all the time. Being a "mom and pop" shop myself, I have more flexibility - if the image gets rejected, it's just some of our time spent with less profit than it could be. But never do a beautiful landscape because agencies think nature is not in demand? By the way, if it does get through, it sells very well. So I am still confused - why there is this perception that people images sell better?

« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2010, 16:29 »
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So I am still confused - why there is this perception that people images sell better?

There is a certain truth to it. If you look at the IS Most Popular list for this month then 10 out of the 15 have people in them. If you are fortunate enough to take a truly outstanding 'people' shot then it can sell in incredible numbers, almost invariably better than any other subject.

« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2010, 16:35 »
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My people shots have always turned out naff, nowhere near good enough, so I'm still on a steep learning curve to get those right. In the meantime I make myself feel better by looking at the portfolio of a guy called "ooyoo" on IS......100K+ DL since 2007 and nearly all landscape shots. His top sellers are really well done shots of leaves.

I don't think you have to do people shots to do well in the top three. I like your portfolio by the way.

Thank you:) I like "ooyoo"s leaves and landscapes, too. I have a similar shot of orange autumn leaves that sold really well everywhere - it took me a few minutes to frame and shoot, another couple of minutes to process. No money spent. I guess the secret is going in the opposite direction than everyone else....

« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2010, 16:38 »
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So I am still confused - why there is this perception that people images sell better?

There is a certain truth to it. If you look at the IS Most Popular list for this month then 10 out of the 15 have people in them. If you are fortunate enough to take a truly outstanding 'people' shot then it can sell in incredible numbers, almost invariably better than any other subject.

Ok, so looks like "truly outstanding" people shot would outperform "truly outstanding" landscape or food?

« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2010, 16:44 »
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Ok, so looks like "truly outstanding" people shot would outperform "truly outstanding" landscape or food?

I think so __ children and 'business people' especially.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2010, 17:03 »
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You gotta find something unique in your style and subject.
That's the easy bit. The difficult thing is the bit you missed out - "which buyers want to buy"! (The plural is essential in micro, not so much so in macro).

« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2010, 17:23 »
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Something to illustrate my point.

This is my number one selling image on Shutterstock:



This one is on page 5 (if you order my portfolio by downloads, 25 rows/page):


This one is page 11:


The first one is just green park with setting sun in spring. Tripod, 15 min, no money spent. The other 2 - paid models, on-location, took time and money to organize and shoot, not to mention dealing with kids, which are cute but are a pain in the neck (especially 2 year old with the ball:)).
Now why do people shots when some local park does so much better?:-)
Ok maybe my people images suck. Please tell me. I like them, but they are mine, so I can be biased....:-)

Xalanx

« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2010, 18:02 »
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What I would do:
- shoot the couple with the 2 years old and the ball on the grass in a courtyard, not near house / garage entrance
- the pile of people in the second shot is not a great idea in my view. They are dressed in jeans and shirts, on a blanket, on a beach. Something's not fitting.

First shot is great.

 :)

« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2010, 18:08 »
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there's also the question of what makes a best selling subject .. a subject that sells a lot simply because there's a ton of them or something that earns a lot even though it only holds a small percentage of the library? If I group my folio into subjects then people shots have the highest selling numbers as a whole. However, my RPI earnings for my smaller landmarks group is 14 times higher than my much larger people grouping.

This is where I think it becomes a numbers game. I'm guessing if contributors with larger people collections looked close at their RPI's they would be quite small when compared to other subjects.

Yuri for example has a top notch massive portfolio of 25,000 images on dreamstime with 174K sales .. mostly people. However, if you go there and sort his work by most downloads you'll notice that each images sales drops way down below 20 only 2,000 images into his portfolio. I wouldn't be surprised if he had 10,000 images that have absolutely no sales at all. What if his other 10,000 images just sitting there were of different subjects .. industrial themes, landscapes, and everything else that has been purchased in the last few minutes? His profits would skyrocket.

The downside to that possibility is time spent. It's nothing to do a model shoot for an hour and slam out 100+ images that will all be accepted into an agency with flying colors. If only half of them sell who cares .. you're dealing with quantity. If you think you can do the same thing in the same time with other subjects .. it just ain't happening in many cases.

So are all these people shots top selling subjects or are there just too many of them cluttering things up to be able to figure it out? Who knows .. I'm gonna go take a picture of a pickle.  ;D


« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2010, 18:18 »
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my thoughts on the images (from someone who doesnt do much along these lines :))

expression on guys face in 2nd pic looks odd to me almost, 'come on lets get it over with', is it his child?

last pic, as said they are dressed wrong, cant see much of the beach. HDR? style processing (or perhaps just the lighting? I dont know enough here) which is very much a love or hate style. My first thought was the people were photoshopped in.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2010, 18:26 »
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last pic, as said they are dressed wrong,
Huh? I don't get that? How is that 'dressed wrong'? They're dressed casually for the beach. Would you expect business suits? ballgowns?

« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2010, 18:33 »
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there's also the question of what makes a best selling subject .. a subject that sells a lot simply because there's a ton of them or something that earns a lot even though it only holds a small percentage of the library? If I group my folio into subjects then people shots have the highest selling numbers as a whole. However, my RPI earnings for my smaller landmarks group is 14 times higher than my much larger people grouping.

This is where I think it becomes a numbers game. I'm guessing if contributors with larger people collections looked close at their RPI's they would be quite small when compared to other subjects.

Yuri for example has a top notch massive portfolio of 25,000 images on dreamstime with 174K sales .. mostly people. However, if you go there and sort his work by most downloads you'll notice that each images sales drops way down below 20 only 2,000 images into his portfolio. I wouldn't be surprised if he had 10,000 images that have absolutely no sales at all. What if his other 10,000 images just sitting there were of different subjects .. industrial themes, landscapes, and everything else that has been purchased in the last few minutes? His profits would skyrocket.

The downside to that possibility is time spent. It's nothing to do a model shoot for an hour and slam out 100+ images that will all be accepted into an agency with flying colors. If only half of them sell who cares .. you're dealing with quantity. If you think you can do the same thing in the same time with other subjects .. it just ain't happening in many cases.

So are all these people shots top selling subjects or are there just too many of them cluttering things up to be able to figure it out? Who knows .. I'm gonna go take a picture of a pickle.  ;D

It makes sense. If one could repeatedly produce 100 images per month that make 20 sales/month you might easily have $1000 per month just from them but if 80/20 rules takes into affect you might have around 20% of them producing result it's still $200/m.

« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2010, 18:57 »
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last pic, as said they are dressed wrong,
Huh? I don't get that? How is that 'dressed wrong'? They're dressed casually for the beach. Would you expect business suits? ballgowns?

they are dressed smartly and would be great for lots of shots but for me if they are on the beach I'd want it to say summer and either swimming gear or shorts and t-shirts etc not jeans and shirts. Here at least you just dont see people wearing those sorts of clothes on the beach.

« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2010, 19:09 »
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last pic, as said they are dressed wrong,
Huh? I don't get that? How is that 'dressed wrong'? They're dressed casually for the beach. Would you expect business suits? ballgowns?

they are dressed smartly and would be great for lots of shots but for me if they are on the beach I'd want it to say summer and either swimming gear or shorts and t-shirts etc not jeans and shirts. Here at least you just dont see people wearing those sorts of clothes on the beach.

In some places people hit the beach in the full blown nude .. but that totally would not work for this image either.  ;D .. I'm sorry that just slipped out

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #22 on: February 04, 2010, 19:12 »
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last pic, as said they are dressed wrong,
Huh? I don't get that? How is that 'dressed wrong'? They're dressed casually for the beach. Would you expect business suits? ballgowns?

they are dressed smartly and would be great for lots of shots but for me if they are on the beach I'd want it to say summer and either swimming gear or shorts and t-shirts etc not jeans and shirts. Here at least you just dont see people wearing those sorts of clothes on the beach.
Here you certainly do. I didn't even blink at what they were wearing. It's probably a latitude thing.

« Reply #23 on: February 04, 2010, 20:08 »
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last pic, as said they are dressed wrong,
Huh? I don't get that? How is that 'dressed wrong'? They're dressed casually for the beach. Would you expect business suits? ballgowns?

they are dressed smartly and would be great for lots of shots but for me if they are on the beach I'd want it to say summer and either swimming gear or shorts and t-shirts etc not jeans and shirts. Here at least you just dont see people wearing those sorts of clothes on the beach.
Here you certainly do. I didn't even blink at what they were wearing. It's probably a latitude thing.
oh! :)

« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2010, 20:47 »
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Hi All,

 I have been shooting people shots from the beginning of my stock career. We keep track of all our sales from the past 12 years and we learned an interesting thing. When I get to a location and the models aren't ready or the lights aren't set I run around and bang off what ever the location has to offer as stills.
 When we do our calculations on our best sellers over the years images without people are at the top of the list. I think you need to shoot what the buyers need and they always seem to need good property released interiors and conceptual still life's as well as Industry, transportation many subjects that relate to man but don't actually include man in them.
 Easy to produce but they still need to shine to get noticed over all the others in their category, property releases are a big key for locations that require them and stay away from art work on walls unless you get a release from the artist. I am totally down with just my camera and a building. No more groups of 8 children trying to get them all to smile and play. That is much harder work. :D

Best,
Jonathan


 

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