Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When should you use stock images?

First, let me just start by saying that stock imagery and proliferation of technically great photographs has changed the photography industry. Some say for better, some say for worse. I’m a big of a pragmatist. It is here, and we all need to learn make the most effective use for it. There are large stock imagery houses like Getty (higher end) and micro-stock distributors like iStock Photo and Dreamstime (lower end). Getty now owns iStock which should give you a sense of where the larger stock houses believe the market is moving. Regardless, they all basically do the same thing. They take images that are already produced and resell them which varying rights packages. The can be sold for as little as $1 dollar at the low end and several hundred to $1000+ at the higher end depending on rights purchased for the image.
As you can see, the costs to acquire an image can be very inexpensive when compared to a custom shoot. 
You might ask... “Why shouldn’t all our images come from stock houses?”
There are a few reasons...
  • Stock images are resold to many sometimes, hundreds, sometimes thousands of people to use. The most popular images are all over advertisements, marketing material, folder covers, etc.
  • There is a “stock look” photographers shoot for. This gives the images a “sameness” in similar shots.
  • Stock images don’t convey the uniqueness of your company. 
So, is there any time that stock can and should be used to keep costs under control? Absolutely! Graphic designers should use them when creating materials that are not unique to your company and blend both stock and custom work together to make a new look and feel for your company.
  • Backgrounds and textures from images have a more organic feel than vector or computer graphics. Use stock for sand, metals, water, or other interesting backgrounds
  • Objects such as food, sporting equipment, crowds, iconic buildings, etc. can often be found in stock.
  • Components to create a unique feel for an ad piece.
One caveat to the above though. If you are selling a product, shoot your own product. Your milk should be your milk. Your basketball should be your basketball. Your wiz-bang widget should be your widget. You get the idea.
In short, stock is a valuable addition to a designers toolkit, but it shouldn’t be the only thing. Use stock where generic images can ad to the piece. Don’t use exclusively to represent your ad or business or you will look exactly like the other hundreds of businesses using similar images trying to create similar ads and brands. 
Your business is unique and you should show it by smart blending of stock and custom imagery.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When does custom imagery matter?

Imagery goes with marketing, branding, communications, and PR like toast and jam. It tells your customers, employees, and other stakeholders a lot about your company. Are you: Multicultural? Client focused? Have a diverse customer base? Are you fun? Do you have a sense of humor? The list goes on and on.
Have a look at these images...

There’s really nothing wrong with them, but do they represent your company? They are all stock images and are used over and over in campaigns, advertisements, reports, and the like. And you’ve probably noticed, they have a “stock” look. I did not shoot them although I own them as part of my stock library I've accumulated over the years.
Custom imagery counts when you look to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Will images like these do that?
Instead of the general sameness of many images seen in many annual reports, campaigns, and PR, dare to be different. That’s how we all succeed in business and why custom imagery matters.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we explore when to use stock images versus when custom images rule the day. Till next time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shooting with the Denver Roller Dolls and “How to heard 100 cats”

If you haven’t seen Roller Derby or checked out it’s surging popularity, you’re missing out. I’ve shot derby for the last few years and have been blessed to have developed a relationship with the Denver Roller Dolls (www.denverrollerdolls.org). While action has been a blast to shoot, tricky lighting, action, tattoos, great characters in the crowd, I also get to make pictures with the teams and even the league photo of 100+ people. Do I have advise for pulling this off in about 15 minutes? My strategies for this go something like this...

  1. Have an assistant (or several)
  2. Know who the influencers are and enlist them to help
  3. Plan for shots you may be requested for, but your client hasn’t considered yet
  4. Plan for uneven lighting on big crowds
  5. Have a sense of humor (really important)

This picture required 1 assistant and 4 helpers to make a reality. Not too shabby for the amount of time to work with. Whenever you have time constraints, there are compromises, but overall, I’m satisfied with the result.

The refs got into the act too...

And of course, I’ve got to include a few favorite team shots from the year. The Shotgun Betties were a blast to work with, adventuresome, and oh so much fun. Check out a few  “for fun” pics...

Hay bales provided great elevation and stacking options. Hay isn’t the most comfortable thing to lay or sit on, so kudos to the ladies for putting up with me on this one.

I love the ax, I made a deeper shadow across her face for drama, and photoshopped a bit of red across the ax. Don’t worry, it wasn’t used for anything sinister.

Hanging from the rafters, literally.

Be nice to her...

That’s all for today. I know... A bit random, but I love shooting some subjects, and I couldn’t help sharing. These are some of the coolest ladies you’ll ever meet, and it is a “kick in the pants” good time working with them.

Until next blog...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How is your business unique?

Short blog post today friends...

USP or Unique Selling Propositions mean different things to different people and companies. I have had opportunities to see first hand how businesses try to differentiate themselves. Nordstrom is know for customer service, Southwest as a fun airline, Walmart for low prices, Starbuck’s for creating a third place and sense of community.

Now, what does this have to do with photography? Well, each of them carefully craft their images lots of different ways: training, employee investments, technology, procurement policies, etc. They also present themselves consistently through imagery, the atmosphere they create in their stores, locations, advertisements, etc.

Just one thing to think about today... I know each of your businesses are unique in some way. How are you communicating that through images, press, PR, marketing, branding, etc.? Share your thoughts. I’d love to hear them.