The Exploding Picture Sites

The Exploding Picture Sites
On-line photo-display portals are proliferating on the Internet. Not only the sites themselves are increasing, but the huge numbers of images available are staggering and continue to grow. “Something’s gotta give.”
The popularity of casinos across the land provides us with a parallel to what’s happening for on-line stock photographers. There are some big winners at the casinos. We always hear about them just as we hear about the big winners on the microstock portals. We seldom hear about the losers. Few artists or photographers like to brag about their lack of sales.
The other parallel to casinos is related to how they seem to multiply across the country, not only in numbers but also in size. If you’ve ever re-visited a casino, you are usually surprised to see how the facility has been increased in size.
On-line microstock sites have mushroomed in the same way on the Internet. Not only the sites themselves are increasing , but the huge numbers of images available are staggering and continue to grow. Some sites boast that they receive 1,000 new pictures a day. My arithmetic tells me that’s 30,000 pictures a month, or nearly 11 million a year.
Of course not all on-line microstock sites receive 1,000 new pictures a day, but let’s say they receive about 100 pictures a day. That ‘s 3,000 per month, or 36,000 per year. And, let’s not forget all of those personal websites that provide mini-on-line services to photobuyers.
Now if there were only 350 on-line microstock portals (there are many more), contributing 36,000 images per year to “DigitalCasinos,” plus all those personal sites, we would have a total picture count of … well, my pocket calculator can’t calculate that high.
Can the storage world of present-day servers handle these monumental numbers of images? If they can’t today, we know that so Moore’s Law, somehow, will figure out a way tomorrow to meet the expanding nature of Digital Photo Casinos.
And why do I say Digital Photo Casinos? Because for a qualified stock photographer, it’s a big gamble to put talent and labor into an endeavor where the law of probability is not on your side.

“The on-line proliferation of images is making
the Internet a big gambling casino.”

O.K. Digital cameras and upscale scanners are driving the number of available images upwards. Anyone with a quality digital camera and sensitive eye for imagery and a desire to figure out the technicalities of uploading images to an on-line website(s), can climb aboard, and they are doing so in droves. With this on-line proliferation of images, the Internet has become a big digital gambling casino.
Why a gamble? Like with any lottery, your chances are diminished by the expanding number of entries. It always makes big headlines when a person wins a lottery. The rest of us dig into our pockets for the next try. Should this be discouraging to you?
Not if you look at this phenomenon as a purely artistic endeavor. More so than ever, specialization becomes a key to escaping the lottery factor and getting your images published. The specialization approach has turned things around for hundreds of photographers. “Specialize and you will succeed.” Those who have listened to my drumming away about this concept have gone on to build deep collections of images, all focused on a few select subject areas – that they love photographing, and that build equity each time they are out photographing.
If you’re just starting out as a photographer, forget being all things to all people. Figure out what category you enjoy the most (education, medicine, auto racing, reptiles, skydiving, etc.) and concentrate shooting in those areas. Become a mini-expert in subject. Become a monopoly with few competitors.
And why is this important? As the Internet expands and on-line image sites expand along with it, photobuyers find it more difficult to use the old visual search method to find that just-right photo. They no longer wish to surf through hundreds of nature pictures when they are looking for a photo of, and I’ll use a sample keyphrase here, ‘Tapping Rubber Trees Rugen Island.’ Are there many on-line galleries that can indicate to you the source of that photo? Only those that have required their contributors to use highly specific key phrases to describe their images.
In the last century, locating a hard-to-find image was a luxury. Most researchers settled for “good enough”-and books and magazines from that era reflect this. Today, for photo researchers, Google and other search engines have become a magic wand for finding that precise hard-to-find image. Using a word-search feature on their computer, photobuyers are able to sift through hundreds, even thousands of keywords to locate the source of that exact photo-in just seconds. The laborious search process of the last century of sifting through bunches of on-line images is over. Search engines are teaching us that finding the exact location of a specialized photo quickly and easily through text search is only a matter of learning how to do it. To capitalize on the sales opportunities opened up by the search engine technology, however, photographers have to bite the bullet and enter key phrases describing each of their available photos that they enter on their website or a photo source site.
If this new era of stock photography has made photographers become pre-press specialists, it has also made photo researchers become library scientists.
Photographers are learning to become unique in their brand and picture content. By specializing in your photographic interest area or areas, you can escape the big digital-casino-in-the-sky and become an important resource to special interest photobuyers, who will discover you thanks to search engines and your photo description key phrases.
Rohn Engh is the best-selling author of “Sell & ReSell Your Photos” and “” He has produced a new eBook, “How to Make the Marketable Photo.” For more information and to receive a free eReport: “8 Steps to Becoming a Published Photographer,”

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