Friday, February 8, 2008

I'm Window Dressing My Stock Portfolio

My portfolio has tripled in the last year. Wait...let me correct that...tripled in the last week. As of now, I've got 527 stock images available for license.

While I'm not generally an obsessive person, I have been obsessing about uploading, keywording and monetizing my intellectual property. It's not that my kids are starving but more my pent up frustration with the lack of entrepreneurial options for photographers who want to license their images.

Most photographers using the traditional routes to image licensing like Getty and Corbis are keeping roughly 30-50% of the sale (details of which are kept from the photographer). If the sale is sub-licensed through some other agency, the photographer makes an even smaller percentage and has less control over the license and is paid anywhere from 60 days to one year. With Digital Railroad, I keep 80% of the sale, set my own pricing with complete knowledge of the details and paid in 15 days. Granted, agents like Getty reach millions of buyers a day but I'd rather keep my images rarely licensed at a premium than often licensed at a substantial discount.

There's a great interview with the legendary Tony Stone in this month's PDN magazine. In it, he discusses the royalty-free movement and the nature of photographers to be independent in all aspects of their careers. I think if Digital Railroad stays true to it's current path of empowering photographers to make a living with licensing, they are certain to succeed.

That being said, I'm going to get back to keywording and uploading. So far, all of my best images are included. If you don't believe me, just enter the word "beef" in the searchbox:


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Moscow to Miami, Non-Stop

In October 1962, President Kennedy went ballistic when he heard the Russians were in Cuba. How would he feel now about the Russians in Miami?

A Moscow-based real estate investor recently hired us to shoot 13 units at Miami's Aqua development. (For those who don't know, Aqua is the brainchild of visionary Craig Robins who developed a mini-utopia of residential tributes to Miami's architecture over the years.) The private island neighborhood is a real masterpiece and an educational pleasure to shoot.

The Russian firm hired a local interior designer to fill the units with only the most high-end modernist furniture, art and electronic gadgetry, all on spec. (Are these guys stuck in the pre-dot-com bubble or do they know something we don't?) They're confident they will sell all of the units not to New Yorkers or Chicagoans but...fellow Russians. It seems that Miami has great appeal to the Muscovites who battle winters that make Wisconsin seem like the tropics.

I'm hearing more of the Russian language in Miami these days so maybe it'll be the new Spanish one day. In the meantime, I'm happy to work with them and glad President Bush isn't feeling threatened.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Stock Market

I'll admit that while I've picked some good stocks like (AAPL) purchased at $30, I've also picked some dogs (EBAY) and (YHOO). Fully aware of my abilities (or lack thereof), I am more the hunter/gatherer type of nuts for the winter...make money the old fashioned way...time value...

With this in mind, I've never made full use of my library of stock photography. But without much of an effort, I have managed to license a few images with the biggest single license to Merrill Lynch for over $5,000 for one year of advertising.

I think it's time I jumped into the stock photography market head first.

I recently signed with Digital Railroad's system of online archiving and distribution. I spoke with a few of DR's current members and was impressed with their interface. So, starting with about 160 images in my little 'stock market,' we'll see how it goes. There are probably another 2,000 stock-worthy images I could license if these first few are successful over the next few months.

Its also been a journey back in time for me to keyword and upload some of the first shots I ever took as a new photographer. One early project had me wandering around Miami Beach's art deco district with my recently-acquired Hasselblad (and my recently-acquired wife as my assistant), shooting hotel facades on b/w Polaroid 665 film. I would peel and wash the negatives in my car as it accumulated parking tickets on Collins. Another time, I was on a cruise ship shoot as we docked in the port of Cadiz, Spain (some guy named Columbus used to dock his yacht there). When I carefully leaned over the balcony, I could see a warmly lit cathedral at sunrise and snapped a nice shot. So far it's been licensed by travel magazines based in Russia and the UK.

Most photographers wait until they're semi-retired before fully monetizing their stock library. Luckily, I've been too busy shooting to really take advantage of licensing and now plan to have both shooting and licensing as parallel businesses. With the small sales I've had, it looks encouraging. But as the stock market teaches us, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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