As you know, on October 29 we put in place a change on the NPN website - only members of the Nature Photographers Network are able to post in our forums and galleries. Within the greater context of how we envision NPN moving forward from here, this change is indeed a necessary one, but one that is really only an administrative detail. The purpose of this article to describe our vision of how NPN will continue to evolve into something greater than it already is.
The membership already recognizes what NPN is today - an extraordinary resource for amateur and professional nature photographers to share their passion and expertise in the art and technique of nature photography. The atmosphere in which NPN was created over ten years ago, a climate of civil discourse and mutual respect, has not only attracted the most talented nature photographers, but also those who are serious about maintaining this professional setting. It doesnít take long, even just by perusing our forums and galleries as a guest, to recognize this incredible, collective accomplishment. Itís not just the founding vision, itís not just the eschewing of blatant commercialism, itís not just the tireless work of the staff and contributors, itís not just the quality of participation by the members - the net result is even greater than the sum of these very substantial parts. In this regard, NPN has no peer.
The Unseen Audience
Though it has been mentioned occasionally in the past, another important aspect of understanding "the power of NPN" is to appreciate the high level of traffic the site attracts - something that may not be immediately obvious to the membership. Since the beginning of the year, the site has attracted on average 95,690 unique visitors each month. These visitors on average spend over 15 minutes on the site per visit, viewing on average 16 pages per visit for a total of 1.44 million page views on average per month. Bounce rate - landing on the first page and then going no further - remains under 20 percent. Top search phrases for the site are as follows;
Nature photography - 12.2%
Bird photography - 2.9%
NPN - 2.8%
Nature magazine - 2.5%
The strength of these key, broad-interest search phrases and the many others we have purposely cultivated over the years has resulted in a high level of well-targeted traffic and a high level of interest once on the site. For anyone who is searching for anything related to "nature photography" there is a very good chance they will find NPN. Based on our site stats, it appears that the vast majority like what they see when they get here.
Based on our collective successes described above - creating an extraordinary nature photography website and attracting tens-of-thousands of visitors to it each month - thereís no doubt that we have a very successful model on which to build. The Nature Photographers Network will always remain dedicated to the art and technique of nature photography, a resource for our members to take their photography skills to new heights. What we must now add to this formula is the awareness of the attention we attract - there are large numbers of non-photographers visiting us every month who enjoy the incredible nature photography we post on the NPN website.
A case in point - last year as an experiment, Bill Fach and I put together a Free Wallpaper Gallery. Since then, the eight files we posted for anyone to freely use have been collectively downloaded on average over 1,000 times each month. This much activity on a somewhat obscure page on the NPN website has not only generated a sizeable amount of activity, but has also proven a critical point - there is an interest in our work beyond just a 15 minute Internet session. Thus, moving ahead, our new additional goal is to create the means for us to promote our work to this enthusiastic, non-photographer audience.
This is where our work begins. Along with possibly expanding/improving the Free Wallpaper Gallery, there are other products that we can better promote to our guests, including prints, calendars, local slide show presentations, photo tours, etc. All of this will take some time and careful planning, but will certainly offer a win-win situation for both our members and those who visit us each month as guests to enjoy our photography.
Nature Photographers Online Magazine will always remain free of blatant commercialism. But at the same time, we will subtly evolve the site to better enable our guests to purchase a print, a calendar or other nature photography product from our members. Thus, the NPN website will also serve as a conduit for our members (who are interested in doing so) to offer their nature photography products to our very substantial group of monthly visitors. We have already begun to move in this direction on the Front Page, with the addition of the Nature Photography Products & Services section at the top of the page and the re-vamping of the Shop menu in the header navigation to direct our visitors towards these products and services. Now itís simply a matter of developing new sections on the site to market our products and services to this audience and add them to the Shop menu.
The original vision for NPN has succeeded well beyond what we had originally hoped for. We will now build on our collective success and begin our journey of sharing our passion for the art and technique of nature photography with non-photographers as well. As we turn from an inward-looking group to an outward one - and the possibilities that presents - Donna and I very much look forward to making this journey with you!
Note - we invite our members to freely discuss ideas on how we can market our work to our monthly visitors in the comments thread below. We look forward to hearing your ideas and suggestions!
Comments on NPN nature photography articles? Send them to the editor. NPN members may also log in and leave their comments below.
Comment posted by Jim Erhardt on 10/31/10 at 09:59 am
Thanks to all for taking the time to read this article and sharing your thoughts on these new opportunities we envision for the members of the Nature Photographers Network!
One of the first projects we are considering is the building of a Member Prints Gallery. Without a doubt, many of our visitors would love to have a print of the many extraordinary photos they view on NPN hanging on a wall in their home or office. This gallery would be intended to serve as a showcase for prints that our members are offering for sale. It would be very much like one of our current image critique galleries, except that (1) there would be no ability to leave comments; (2) anything posted would not appear in the All Photos gallery and (3) would not appear in your Personal Gallery.
In this gallery, you would upload a photo and then in the description box place some basic information about the print; sizes, matted or not, pricing, etc. You would then place a link to a page on your own website for the NPN visitor to make the purchase. In other words, the Member Print Gallery would serve as a means for you to promote your print sales, but you would handle the transaction and fulfillment entirely on your own. Of course, NPN would take no "cut" from any sale through this new gallery.
This is just one example of the type of opportunities we would like to offer NPN members and those who visit the site. We invite you to share your thoughts on this idea and offer any other suggestions you may have!
Registered on 11/01/03, 202 Posts, 2038 Comments Comment posted by Ezra Schultz on 11/01/10 at 6:39 pm
Regarding Jim & Donna's comment.
That sounds very similar to the PhotoPortfolios.net, except that it'd be more geared towards those of us who are more interested selling our work as "fine art pieces" rather than stock or for commercial use. I think it's a good idea in theory. How it'd work in actual practice though, remains to be seen.
Registered on 07/31/04, 26 Posts, 99 Comments Comment posted by Stan Rose on 11/02/10 at 12:57 am
One thing that has always struck me about the NPN group since I joined 5 years ago is the community aspect of the group, how everyone supports everyone else, even in personal crises in addition to our photographic pursuits. I envision somehow pooling all this varied talent into one collective effort. I'm not sure what form it would take--some have suggested a book by NPN members, or maybe a gallery exhibit, an international convention--I really don't know! But I'd want it to be big! As a landscape photographer, I see the more active participants in this group as a kind of 'Hudson River School'--in the sense that we are all in one location in cyber space. As such, I'd like us to make acollective statement, something that impacts our international audience in a big way. We all push each other to do better on a daily basis, I think if there was a way to channel all that energy and enthusiasm toward one united cause, it could be special. I'll keep thinking...
Registered on 09/15/05, 790 Posts, 16192 Comments Comment posted by Jim Erhardt on 11/02/10 at 09:05 am
Stan, I think your comment really touches on the essence of what we are. NPN has most certainly evolved beyond just an Internet forum into a group of talented individuals who share common interests.
Our goal is very much as you describe - to leverage our collective skills and passion into something larger. Offering our work to the non-photographer audience is a step toward expanding our recognition - and thus our influence and vision of the natural world - beyond just those who surf nature photography Internet sites.
Through our photography, we can generate additional appreciation for our natural world. Everyone is then free to take that interest and leverage it in any way they see fit. In this way we can share our work, increase awareness and also remain true to our apolitical stance.
Registered on 11/01/03, 202 Posts, 2038 Comments Comment posted by Patricia Brundage on 11/12/10 at 5:01 pm
Jim: As a member of NENP would you or someone else be interested in preparing and presenting a showcase of NPN members' work at our regional photographers' weekend at Ameherst, MA New England Camera Club Council? We have so many wonderful images to share and there are usually around 1,200 photographers who come from all over the US and Canada for instruction and inspiration each July. Possibility of being sponsored by Canon, Nikon or even Hunts Photo? I have not contacted anyone who organizes the NECCC to find out the process for applying for a chance to display our work as an electronic presentation, but would be glad to do so if there is any interest. Those doing showcase programs also have their books available for sale, so maybe someone would be interested in organizing that end. Well, I'm getting ahead of myself and just thinking out loud. Any interest?
Registered on 03/23/06, 960 Posts, 5262 Comments Comment posted by Jim Erhardt on 11/13/10 at 07:57 am
Pat, absolutely! If you have any contact info for us to pursue this, please forward it to us.
Registered on 11/01/03, 202 Posts, 2038 Comments Comment posted by Patricia Brundage on 11/13/10 at 09:17 am
Will email you once I have an answer from the NECCC leadership. I am pretty sure they have booked the presenters for 2011, but don't think we could get it together that quickly anyhow. Will get back to you soon.
Registered on 03/23/06, 960 Posts, 5262 Comments Comment posted by David Edwards on 11/13/10 at 8:32 pm
I agree with Stan regarding NPN being such a great community. Even though I'm on the other side of the world, it doesn't hinder the feeling of community and support I get from other NPN members, and it's great to see NPN moving forward to promote it's members.
I like Jim's idea of the 'Member Prints Gallery' for selling prints to the non-photographer traffic via members' own websites. Even though I don't have my own site yet, I still think it's a great idea and good step in helping members connect to an audience without NPN being blatantly commercial.
Considering that I don't know the logistics of the gallery page, one thing that concerns me is the number of images that may be shown there, perhaps swamping the gallery and potentially confusing the viewer. Perhaps restricting each member to one image might be more democratic and help the viewer find what they are after? However, it then becomes more of a photographer services listing rather than a gallery, with a possible alternative title of 'Member print services' instead. Just thinking out loud with Jim's idea, which is a good one.
I'll keep thinking on this.
Registered on 12/06/08, 133 Posts, 2424 Comments Comment posted by Ron Pederson on 11/14/10 at 07:54 am
Interesting concept and sounds like there's potential for a print gallery, but I'm not convinced as described it would be practical. I'm sure most folks would be happy to sell their work, but if no limits are set on numbers, you'd potentially have another version of PhotoPortfolios. Have you analyzed other aspects of the web visits? For example, how many folks visit a Member Gallery? What I'm getting at is perhaps there's a simple way to accomplish this without another gallery, i.e. include information and a link at each Member Gallery to contact them if someone is interested in purchasing a print. Of course this wouldn't work too well if Member Galleries aren't visited very often.
Another approach might be to have another box to check when posting a photo like "Available for Purchase" - that places an icon on the thumbnail page with the image...where a click allows them to send a blind email to follow up. This could be explained on the home page, or with a tag line on each page they view thumbnails. You could also set limits on this, like each member is allowed to designate one image per week per gallery that is available for purchase. Pull it after 30 days or 60 days....
Just thinking out loud here. I'm sure this idea will have legs, but how to best implement will take thought and planning. Good luck with this and thanks for continuing to work on improving member services and benefits.
Northern New York
Registered on 10/19/10, 95 Posts, 470 Comments Comment posted by Wayne Rhodus on 11/14/10 at 10:07 am
Jim, I like where Stan is going with his thoughts.
I'm thinking along the lines of pooling the collective talent of the NPN members to promote nature photography to the younger generations. You have already created an amazing online repository of images and photographic information so why not build on that foundation by creating an educational offering that could be utilized by schools at all under graduate levels. Exposure to nature photography subjects, technology and techniques through classroom internet access may cultivate interest in a small portion of the younger generation. That seems a much more valuable and lasting legacy to pass on than another marketing avenue to sell fine art.
My motivation stems from seeing the interest my 4 year old grandson has for making images. He truly enjoys tripping the shutter with papa so I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure his passion for nature and photography flurishes.
There has been a tremendous explosion of boomers pursing the art of nature photography because we have the time, resources and creative drive to want something other than chasing the next business dollar. But how many 20 or 30 something photographers do you see out capturing images of nature?
Those are my initial thoughts. I'm interested to see where this initiative will lead.
Registered on 11/16/03, 157 Posts, 3326 Comments Comment posted by Bill Brennan on 11/14/10 at 3:18 pm
I like the idea of a Members' Print Gallery with links to the members' sites. However, add a fee to participate to help raise funds for NPN.
Stan's idea resonates with me as an overall objective. However, do not hesitate to get the project started in a simple way.
Registered on 09/24/07, 2 Posts, 0 Comments
Comment posted by Tony Kuyper on 11/14/10 at 5:26 pm
This may sound odd, but there are times when I'm viewing pictures in ESS where, if an image were for sale right there, I'd buy it. When I go looking at images in real (non-virtual) galleries, there's always prices. So why don't we change the name of the critique forums to the critique galleries. And then, when pictures are uploaded, they can be tagged as FOR SALE or NOT FOR SALE. If tagged as FOR SALE, then the price should also be uploaded and listed with the image. Also, if tagged FOR SALE then a link is added for purchase, which NPN could facilitate, keeping a percentage of the sale price (please, not the forty to fifty percent of real galleries) and then pass the order to the photographer to fulfill. Global shipping could be a problem, but not insurmountable.
If there really are thousands and thousands of people looking here, we might be missing a significant marketing opportunity if we don't offer images for sale as they look. Sending people to another sight to purchase images doesn't make a lot of sense when the infrastructure is already in place to do it in the image galleries with just a few more upload and display options.
I know this feels kind of funny to be mixing the business side of photography with image critique, but that's what the Internet can do. It can combine things that aren't normally combined in ways that actually work. And what better promotion than to have the actual critiques to help influence sales.
I certainly have no idea if this would work on a large scale, but it could be an very interesting experiment and something unique to NPN.
Registered on 11/01/03, 306 Posts, 21208 Comments Comment posted by Jim Erhardt on 11/14/10 at 6:51 pm
Tony, good thought!
Others, let us know what you think of this concept. I envision including on the Post a Photo screen a "Print Available" check box and a field to include a link to the page on your site where you offer it for sale. This would activate the Print Available icon with your post and serve as the link to your web page.
Registered on 11/01/03, 202 Posts, 2038 Comments Comment posted by Brad Hill on 11/15/10 at 09:32 am
Hi Jim, Interesting idea about the Member Prints Gallery. A few of my thoughts:
1. Beware the hydra! I'd argue we should leverage (and strengthen) the existing galleries by adding the print purchase option to them rather than adding a new gallery. So often websites create new pages/links whenever a new idea comes up and often the result is a dilution of viewership and a website that resembles a hydra on steroids. And, I do think that by adding a well-placed and well-executed "Buy Print" option to the existing galleries we could potentially strengthen those existing assets (i.e., we may add NEW high-profile members when they see they can use NPN critiquing galleries to sell their existing products).
2. It SHOULD be relatively easy to add a checkbox and fill-in URL field to the "post image" interface and find a a good spot within the specific gallery interface. It could be as simple as the "View Larger Photo" option that appears if a member chooses the option to upload a larger image.
3. Keep it scalable. If this new "service" takes off, why limit it to just prints? Why not screensavers, cards, etc.? It's my experience that Limited Edition prints (at least high-end ones) sell better through brick-and-mortar galleries than virtual ones and that the reverse is true (online sales can be stronger than traditional sales/distribution models) for lower-priced products (like screensavers). The key point here is to keep the concept of adding other product categories in mind when designing the UI for the revised galleries (or even the new gallery if you go that route).
I have a few other ideas in mind, but shouldn't make this entry too long.
Registered on 05/29/07, 293 Posts, 4455 Comments Comment posted by Toni Lankerd on 11/15/10 at 10:05 am
My two cents worth:
Wouldn't it be easier to have a link in our Portfolios to buy prints that we have marked as being for sale? A simple link that people can click on with a pop up box to send us an email inquiring about a print....
Spring Lake, Michigan
Wherever we go in the mountains, or indeed in any of God's wild fields, we find more than we seek. ~John Muir~
Registered on 01/03/05, 360 Posts, 3998 Comments Comment posted by Preston Birdwell on 11/15/10 at 11:49 am
One of the things I really, really, appreciate about the main NPN site is the lack of advertising. In this light, therefore, I agree with Toni's suggestion to use PhotoPortfolios as a sales vehicle for items such as prints, calendars, stock, etc. and keep the main site free of overt marketing.
Regardless of which vehicle is used, I think it is a bad idea to display prices for work to be sold. While display of prices would encourage competition and give the prospective customer a heads-up as to price, I fear that 'low balling' could result. If a viewer wants to purchase work from an NPN member, a simple link to a contact form, below each image, as Toni suggests, would be fitting.
Please, let's keep NPN an 'advertising-free' zone.
Just my 0.002,
Preston Birdwell Columbia, California, USA
NPN 429 California Nature Photographers (CANP) Moderator
NPN 'Hot Topics' Moderator
ďIf you want nice fresh oats, you have to pay a fair price. If you can be satisfied with oats that have already been through the horse, well, that comes a little cheaper" Author Unknown
Registered on 11/01/03, 123 Posts, 1359 Comments Comment posted by Jim Erhardt on 11/15/10 at 1:08 pm
I am looking at this as suggested above - a simple "Buy Print" icon that appears with the photo and serves as a link to the member's own website. All the details (including pricing) and fulfillment is handled by the member on their own site.
So perhaps it works like this;
1. When you post a photo, you have an optional field to place a URL that leads to a specific page on your own website where the print is available
2. Filling in the field automatically enables a small "Buy Print" icon that appears next to the "View Larger Photo" link (to be replaced with an icon)
3. Additionally, filling in the field automatically places the photo in a new Print Gallery (just like all photos also appear in the All Photos Gallery)
4. If the member checks the Personal Gallery box, the photo remains beyond the 35 day auto-deletion
In this way, all that changes visually on NPN is the small "Buy Print" icon appearing with photos that are available direct from our members as prints. It does require that the member have a print gallery, pricing, shopping cart, etc. set up on their own site.
The new Print Gallery would be linked to from the Shop menu at the top of each page. However, it's not really "another gallery" just a place where all current photos that have the Buy Print icon enabled could be viewed together. Basically, it would work just like the All Photos Gallery for those with prints available - the photo would still appear in (1) the gallery it was originally posted; (2) in the All Photos Gallery and (3) in the member's Personal Gallery.
Discussions of printing material, techniques, etc. will continue to take place in the Digital Imaging forum.
I think this would be a reasonable approach considering the points made thus far. Feedback appreciated!
Registered on 11/01/03, 202 Posts, 2038 Comments Comment posted by Brad Hill on 11/15/10 at 3:10 pm
Your proposal seems to incorporate the key ideas previously mentioned and seems very sound to me. I'm personally not sure the new "Print Gallery" is needed, but as you say, it's not a a "real" gallery but rather just a place to view all images where all current photos with Buy Print button enabled.
Question: Will comments be permitted in the "Print Gallery" or would they all stem from the original "source" gallery where the image was originally posted? My guess is they're from the source gallery (but I see no reason why adding new comments should be disabled in the Print Gallery - it may encourage a little more cross-fostering between members that normally reside in only one or two galleries...
Registered on 05/29/07, 293 Posts, 4455 Comments Comment posted by Jim Erhardt on 11/16/10 at 06:08 am
Brad, good question. Normally, comments can be added both in the original gallery the photo was posted in and in the All Photos Gallery. Since the proposed Nature Prints gallery would need to be set up as a custom gallery by Dave The Programmer, I could have it so that no comments appear in that gallery. I think that could make sense since the Nature Prints gallery is intended as a showcase for our visitors to peruse the latest prints, not an IC gallery.
Also, to be clear, the small Buy Print icon would appear in all 3 galleries; the original that the photo was posted in, the All Photos gallery and obviously the Nature print gallery.
I'm really liking this concept and I will be having a conversation with Dave today. In the mean time, keep those ideas and suggestions coming!