Monday, January 21, 2008

PhotoShelter and stock photography

Just a few days ago, I signed up with a new company on the stock photography scene known as PhotoShelter. PhotoShelter was created a few years ago by two photographers, and in addition to running a powerful online image archive, they have recently launched the PhotoShelter Collection, taking a bold step towards returning some economic balance to the stock industry. Microstock companies such as Shutterstock and Istockphoto have severely devalued photographer's contributions, selling images for $0.99 or worse, in unlimited quantities via a subscription model.
PhotoShelter represents an entirely different pricing model, allowing photographers to set prices for their images in a rights-managed environment, and allowing a minimum price of $50 for an image.
Many notable photographers and industry watchers have recently written about Photoshelter, including John Harrington's Photo Business News blog, Chase Jarvis, and the Strobist, written by David Hobby.
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to discuss PhotoShelter with David at the Strobist Seminar last weekend, and came away with two major thinking points, after the jump.

1) These are good people, running a good business, one that is designed to work for both producers and users of photography. Photographers will no longer be giving away their work for $0.99 and a photo credit, and end users looking for new, creative, and high quality photography will no longer be tied to a few legacy companies, which are currently deadlocked in a race to the bottom of the pricing barrel. If they can draw some major buyers in from the old guard agencies, and if photographers realize that their creative works need not be devalued to obscenely, Photoshelter stands to be at the lead of a huge upheaval in the industry.

2) If I want to take a serious part in the future of commercial, stock, or any type of professional photography, I need to specialize. I asked David what he thought about the future of stock in general, and commented that I had recently started uploading some stuff, and that "I have a hard drive full of photos that look just like what I see on the stock sites now."

His stark answer: "Then you're in trouble."


But almost certainly true.

There's untold numbers of excellent wedding photographers, fashion photographers, landscape photographers (Mark Adamus is one who's work consistently astonishes me) but how many people can conceive a series of a carjacking and robbery, shoot it all on a Hassleblad, and then compose 2,000 frames (including the set-up shots and outtakes) into a video and submit it as his Hasselblad Masters entry? Chase Jarvis can. He specializes. He shoots stuff that nobody else does, and once they do, they're just copying him.

I've been shooting seriously for about a year now, and although my fundamental skills are quite solid, I have been sorely lacking in vision. I personally resolving to continue to shoot, but to do it now with a mindset of finding, and developing, a niche, one that I love and can shoot better than anyone else.

I don't want to be another wedding photographer. I don't want to be another guy at the art fair selling landscape prints out of a van. I want to be Nick freakin' Davis dammit, and I want everybody in my field who pick up a camera and points it at their subject to be thinking, in the back of their minds, "If I get this right, everybody's going to think I'm copying Nick...."

I just re-read that carefully, and it sure sounds arrogant. I'm a nice guy, I swear. But I'm going to find my niche, I'll dig it out with an axe if I have to, and when I do, I'm going to absolutely own it.

Ken Brown, you've got your Gullwing Mercedes. Get thee to Pebble Beach and milk them for all they're worth.

I've just gotta find mine.

Oh, and there were gonna be photos here too. These are the eight shots that I uploaded to the PhotoShelter Collection a few days ago. They won't change the world, but they're pretty typical pre-resolution Nick Davis.

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