Potential New Markets For Photographers

Posted on 6/22/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

After the recent CEPIC conference in Istanbul my wife and I joined a small group touring Turkey. The trip got me thinking about a potential future markets for still photography.

One of the people we were traveling with was constantly emailing pictures he has shot on his iPhone back home to family and friends. Of course most of those pictures didn’t really show the site that well given the crowds. In addition, often my traveling partner wasn’t there at the right time of day, or couldn’t get to the right angle for the best shot.

Another man with us was planning to create his own photo book using Snapfish when he returned home. He creates a different book as a memento every time he takes a vacation He was shooting lots of pictures, but of course had some of the same problems as the man above. Obviously, in his book he wants pictures if he and his wife at the various locations. But wouldn’t it also be great if he could also include, for a modest fee, a few great professionally produced shots of the kind found on postcards at the site.

Speaking of postcards, my wife bought quite a few and mailed them to family. You could buy the postcards for 10 for $1.00, but the postage to send one to the U.S. was also about $1.00. Wouldn’t an email of that picture be better?

As we were riding in a bus from site to site our guide would use his iPhone to look up research on the site where we were headed next. Then he would read out the information on the buses speaker system.

Looking ahead a few years, What If --

There was an online database of images that contained professionally produced pictures of every major and minor tourist location in the world. Such pictures are available. Go to any tourist site and you’ll find plenty of beautiful postcards. All the shots were taken in perfect light (most tourists end up at these locations when the light is not perfect). Some of the major locations are available on lots of stock photography web sites. In fact even some minor locations are covered pretty well, particularly on the microstock sites. But the potential customers don’t really know where to find them and they aren’t priced at a reasonable level for being included in individual emails, or use in a personal Snapfish book.

Ideally, there would be a single site that just deals with travel and has a comprehensive selection of every location in the world or at the very least country-by-country sites. Such sites could be promoted by the local travel community and tour guides.

Some of the people who produce images for postcards may not want to make their images available on web sites for fear of losing their postcard sales. But, I believe they are going to lose a huge number of postcard sales anyway because their potential customers will have other ways to get good pictures and deliver messages to their family and friends.

In most cases the fee for use of a single photo on a postcard is about $500.00. For that the publisher gets the right to print 10,000 cards, but we know that in many cases publishers print a lot more than 10,000 without paying any additional to the image creator. That works out to 5 cents or less per card for the photo. Considering, the cost of postage, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for customers to pay $0.10 or even $0.20 for the rights to use an image they send by email.  

In Turkey another thing that was on sale at nearly every tourist site was the photo book, “Turkey: A Complete Guide.” It has some beautiful pictures, but suffers from at least two problems. First, on the section on Pamukkale it leads with a spectacular picture of people bathing in calcareous pools on the side of the hill. The only problem with the picture is that such bathing has not been allowed for about 20 years.

In the section on Ephesus the book misses a lot of the spectacular views of that ancient city probably because when the book was designed a lot of what is available today had not been unearthed. Archeological work is going on constantly at Ephesus and other sites in Turkey so there is a constant need for updated photos – even of things that are 2,000 years old.

The problem with a book that is designed for tourists and aimed for sales through many small shops at tourist sites is that it must be generic, comprehensive and have a very long useful life so the publisher can sell enough copies to recover his costs. Thus, publishers tend to not cover many of the specifics in sufficient depth. Individual tourists may find it much more satisfactory to pick and choose from a larger selection of images those that fit with what they actually saw and create their own memory book. The cost to use each image in one copy of a custom book might be only $0.20 or $0.25 cents, but the price would be reasonable for the customer and the photographer has a chance to earn a significant amount of money over time.

For those bus trips from site to site wouldn’t be better for the guide to be able to show selected images on iPad rather than just reading off of an iPhone.

Photographers need to be thinking ahead and look for ways to more directly interact with consumers. With the advances in technology consumers are going to want their information and photos in different forms and formats. Already at some of the sites they were selling photos on CD, but I think that is already old technology. Photo distributors need to be designing systems, and recruiting contributors to make images available to customers in new ways.

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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