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Photo Marketing Tip...

Text Copyright Rohn Engh
All rights reserved.


It is morning and as you finish your breakfast, in October of the year 2011, you click on your "daily revenue" feature on your keypad.

"My! That's a nice surprise," you exclaim. "But of course garden publishers are preparing for their year 2012 brochures, magazine articles, calendars and catalogs."

You are a gardening enthusiast and specialize in vegetables. Before you go off to your job as a biologist at a nearby college, you are examining your stock photo sales made last night while you were sleeping. Fourteen sales for a total of $307.16. That beats yesterday's sales of $215 for seven sales.

"I wonder if that company in Buenos Aires is still interested in the three dozen seedling shots I emailed them last week," you wonder to yourself just as the fax line rings. You watch as the machine curls out an order totaling $1,700 US. Not bad for 24 hours' "work."

You have been engaged in this kind of stock photo marketing for the past five years. You have developed a database of photos in an area (gardening) that you have special interest in and abundant knowledge about. You are not only a serious amateur gardener, but you also teach horticulture.

About five years ago, you began building a massive file, 10,000 photos now, capturing all aspects of vegetable gardening, from seed to mature plant. You researched the biological and common name of each plant you photographed. Because you live in the southwest desert area of the U.S., many of your images are unique to that part of the country. You have recorded the stages of various plants' growth, various insects that plague different plants, the resulting harm, and in some cases the effects of diseased plants on animals or people who eat them.

Your photobuyers, a select group of 42 photobuyers and researchers on your master list, call you by first name and you call them collect whenever you wish. You have become an important resource to them. You also deal with outside buyers. Every now and then you get an occasional one-time sale from a buyer who has used the Internet to locate you and your email address. A children's book publisher bought one of your beanstalk images, an advertising agency bought a tomato plant growth sequence for a pharmaceutical ad, and a close-up of a ladybug was used on a drug company's advertisement for a salve for freckles. But for the most part, your checks come from within your 42 mainstays who are prompt with their photo requests, and who know you do good work and provide accurate captioning.


And how did this system of acquiring that "just right" photo at an inexpensive fee all start? It was born of the revolution in e-commerce marketing at the turn of the century; inspired by the Napster music outburst back in 2001. Internet entrepreneurs realized that if you injected some democracy into music buying, more people could enjoy music at a lower cost to the consumer. And if you applied evolving Internet search methods, photo researchers and photobuyers, using the same basic technology, could use more illustrations because they were easier to find. A final advantage was micro-payments, a system of tracking multiple volume sales and controlling the bookkeeping through subscription services that provide royalty tracking and payments schemes, ensuring that the photos purchased didn't leak out onto the wider Web landscape.

In the first decade of the 2000's, the world of stock photography distribution changed. No longer did massive stock agencies, based on previous century technology, control the commerce. Photobuyers armed with Web search know-how, aimed their high-speed computers and bandwidth directly at individual photographers who were able to supply the highly specific images they were looking for. Everyone from school children to major book publishers, from TV documentary production companies to major advertising agencies, were customers.

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Rohn Engh, Photosource International.

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