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Thomas J. Sebourn

The Cold Hard Truth About Low Sales

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5 minutes ago, Autumn Sky Photography said:

good point

My main interest is -- hypothetical -- discussion, whether this would help "market" the image that undeservedly got buried just because it got uploaded in the "wrong" time and didn't get these couple of initial downloads

I don't think there's a "wrong" time or a "right" time. An image will get buried regardless of when it's uploaded. 

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Just now, Patrick Cooper said:

I don't think there's a "wrong" time or a "right" time. An image will get buried regardless of when it's uploaded. 

not if it got couple of downloads and it acquired "popular" filter.  Then it keeps getting downloaded more and more.  I am talking from experience with my own images

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I like the idea someone else had: add an "undiscovered" search parameter. Or a way to sort search results from oldest to newest, rather than only newest first. I see they added a new search refinement tool, but it doesn't have a sort by ascending or descending.

59df0ea3d0dc8_ScreenShot2017-10-11at11_35_53PM.thumb.png.a94e3a4b71ef9a4743c9e6d88031d6f1.png

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oh yes, "undiscovered" would be fantastic !!!

I don't think I'll ever re-upload my old image because it doesn't somehow seem ... fair I guess.  But I am curious about the potential effect.  Here's an example:

 

If you do search for "serengeti"  on SS -- it will come back with 430 pages of results (!).  However my own image is in 1st row on 1st page:

stock-photo-elephant-and-acacia-tree-lan

It is fairly poor image, but somehow it "caught up" and now I am getting several downloads every week.   I have similar image I find more interesting:

 

stock-photo-elephant-and-acacia-tree-lan

This image didn't get that initial push and now its buried & doesn't' get any downloads.   So what would happen if I'd upload it again.  I don't know, but this is what I was getting at.

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Autumn Sky Photography said:

 

It is fairly poor image, but somehow it "caught up" and now I am getting several downloads every week.  

 

Definitely not a poor image. I think it's a great image that shows off Africa really well. Very bold and eye catching. I'm not surprised it's doing so well in terms of sales.

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1 hour ago, Autumn Sky Photography said:

oh yes, "undiscovered" would be fantastic !!!

I don't think I'll ever re-upload my old image because it doesn't somehow seem ... fair I guess.  But I am curious about the potential effect.  Here's an example:

 

If you do search for "serengeti"  on SS -- it will come back with 430 pages of results (!).  However my own image is in 1st row on 1st page:

stock-photo-elephant-and-acacia-tree-lan

It is fairly poor image, but somehow it "caught up" and now I am getting several downloads every week.   I have similar image I find more interesting:

 

stock-photo-elephant-and-acacia-tree-lan

This image didn't get that initial push and now its buried & doesn't' get any downloads.   So what would happen if I'd upload it again.  I don't know, but this is what I was getting at.

 

 

Beautiful!  Nice shots!

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12 hours ago, Authentic Creations said:

Image is absolutely not poor. Good composition and right to the point. Can be used in many way due the "simplicity"' Looks like a bestseller to me. 

Thank you;  I guess this is why it is never good to be one's own critic.   I skipped this image 3 times before I finally uploaded it, out of boredom 1 rainy day.  It is old (2010) taken with my old camera and  lens;  it all shows when you blow it up 100%;  spent over 30 mins in Photoshop fixing various things. 

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3 minutes ago, Richard Whitcombe said:

Given you can download every single SS image for free using a browser plugin from the facebook bug currently im not sure why people are paying for images at all!

 

 

 

The odd case of piracy doesn't affect the Music Industry, Hollywood, or Photographers.

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3 hours ago, farbled said:

I don't know if they still do it, but new images are checked against the database for identicals or resubmissions. I once pulled a niche subject off SS and then resubmitted months later when i changed my mind about it. They came back with a "previously submitted" warning. I also believe there is something in the TOS about gaming the system like that, but I cannot recall right off.

The other hard part is that too many people (in my opinion) rely solely on the keywording tools. That means everyone uses pretty much the same keys for the same subjects. If a buyer only gets crap when they search under a key, they will try a different one. Its your job to find those new keys if you want to have sales. :)

I have inadvertently submitted photos I had previously submitted and had them kicked back due to already being on the site so I don't see how people get away with duplicates but I did see some duplicates. Mostly the images I saw were very very similar. On one page there were 35 very similar photos. Only subtle differences between them. I guess if the file names are different it's ok. 

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8 hours ago, Leonard Whistler said:

The odd case of piracy doesn't affect the Music Industry, Hollywood, or Photographers.

Bands can't make a living by selling albums anymore, so they have to tour. Hollywood puts FBI warnings and pleas to stop piracy at the beginning and end of every movie. And any picture or graphic that's stolen and passed around the web takes money out of the pocket of the photographer or artist that created it. SS has a legal division that pursues copyright infringement. 

And you think there's no effect?

If SS and Hollywood didn't think the "odd case of piracy" didn't affect their business, they wouldn't put so much money and effort into stopping it. 

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Im not convinced it checks for similar or identical unless a reviewer does it manually.  In trying to standardise all my images between the various agencies i accidentally uploaded 10 photos to here that were on and had been live on here for several years.  All got accepted. (i deleted once i realised).  Filename and image would have been the same but keywords would have been different to the originals.

Other agencies do more in the way of checking.  The stock agency owned by "the makers of lightroom" i think is automated.  They're far stricter on similar submissions too.

 

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On 10/12/2017 at 5:04 PM, farbled said:

 

The other hard part is that too many people (in my opinion) rely solely on the keywording tools. That means everyone uses pretty much the same keys for the same subjects. If a buyer only gets crap when they search under a key, they will try a different one. Its your job to find those new keys if you want to have sales. :)

I agree;  keywording is critical skill.   But sometimes you simply can't "invent" that killer tag, because for certain subjects customers always seem to search in very generic terms.

 

Example:  Since I live in Canadian Rockies I shoot lots of mountain landscapes.   When I first started uploading to SS I'd keyword name of every possible peak you can see on picture.  Very soon I discovered this is bad practice;  for such images customers search for ultra generic words/phrases, such as:   "landscape",  "mountain",  "lake",  "snowy mountain" ,  "panoramic landscape",  "distant mountains"  and such -- which is ultra generic and can apply to just about every mountain shot out there!   I know this for a fact because for most of my landscape shots that sold,  SS reported one of above keywords!  

 

Real question is, and I pose it to everyone -- specially experienced contributors:  How do approach "marketing" of your image you consider very good in technical terms, composition, etc?  I.e.  high potential?  Here's example of shot I took just yesterday:

 

stock-photo-panoramic-landscape-view-of-

 

Problem:   Keywords you can use are quite generic  (you can check mine:   https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/panoramic-landscape-view-vermilion-lakes-distant-733457878?src=lTzRbdXbaha-DHOuuRpj2w-1-4  )then this place is fairly overdone since it is accessible.   As result -- even if photo is good I am 99% certain it will get no sales and fall in the pit very soon.

 

Would anyone like to comment?  I think these kind of discussions can be very useful for everyone that uploads good quality images, doesn't spam etc.

 

 

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On October 11, 2017 at 3:36 PM, Phil Lowe said:

I don't think that's true at all. We were all newbies once. What I don't like is how SS has lowered the acceptance and approval standards. I have lots of images in my port that have never sold, like the one attached below, but that isn't because it's a bad photo: it's just a photo that has never been discovered or needed by any buyer. It was one of my original eight that got me in the door here, and it's still one of my best and favorites. Will it ever sell? I don't know, but if it doesn't it surely won't be because it's a poorly lit, poorly exposed, or poorly composed image. IMHO.

stock-photo-beautiful-male-red-bellied-w

 

Yes I was unfortunate in the way I phrased it. Your wildlife photographs are very nice. Some might not sell for reasons other than the photograph quality itself. Keep up the good work. 

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farbled -- this is great response.  I haven't though of couple of phrases you mentioned, but I've been around for ~10 months only.  

I look at SS suggestions with similar images, but these are very often less than I already though about.

It is fantastic that on SS you can edit metadata for approved images;  with some other agencies  you can't . I almost think about starting separate thread where people would take turn in posting their images, and then rest of us would discuss & come up with "best" keywords. 

These kind of discussions could benefit everyone  (even if we are essentially competition to each other).   These "post your latest download" or "latest SOD"  "latest ODD" are fun to browse but of little practical value.

 

 

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5 minutes ago, farbled said:

There are good aspects to doing that, but there is the legitimate fear that finding a good niche or keys that work result in a lot of copying. If you find something that works for you, then decide if you want to share it with the world. :)

Think like someone buying an image. What scenario would they need your photo for, and cater to that. Hopefully it is popular to buyers but not to other sellers.

These are valid points. 

Overall keywording is essential skill.   UK agency which I can't name gives me stats for any time period of views/zooms/sales  & associated keywords.  This is great tool as you can also see what is currently popular.

One ultra generic phrase I keep finding in customer searches is  "great trail"  or "great trail canada".  So basically someone sitting in Europe, maybe editor of some magazine, knows little about Canada except that there is nature and mountains.   So this is what they search for & it can literally apply to any outdoor image.

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Ultimately both

I think "generic" is useful for new images, i.e. customer wants to see "serengeti" (ultra generic term) but something that was taken recently not 5 years ago. 

Here is one interesting example.   In June I got $20 SOD  -real pleasant surprise- for this ordinary image:

59e289df62ec0_ScreenShot2017-10-14at4_00_21PM.png.00e7ab6e6963a8cf727d8446b7ba67c8.png

 

Note keywords  -- can it be any more generic?  Probably 1000s of images out there with these keywords;  but customer wanted something recent.  This is why I said earlier I thought timing plays role as well.

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15 hours ago, Autumn Sky Photography said:

Ultimately both

I think "generic" is useful for new images, i.e. customer wants to see "serengeti" (ultra generic term) but something that was taken recently not 5 years ago. 

Here is one interesting example.   In June I got $20 SOD  -real pleasant surprise- for this ordinary image:

59e289df62ec0_ScreenShot2017-10-14at4_00_21PM.png.00e7ab6e6963a8cf727d8446b7ba67c8.png

 

Note keywords  -- can it be any more generic?  Probably 1000s of images out there with these keywords;  but customer wanted something recent.  This is why I said earlier I thought timing plays role as well.

The way I see it, the first 3 keywords were used in conjunction because they have the same %. So I think the customers probably searched with rocky canadian mountain and half the time they also included top. I would say it' very specific.

For example, the following picture only sold once and three keywords are listed.

Untitled-1.thumb.jpg.beeb5e17da7505c332e5cc9cdc5634e2.jpg

 

I'm sure most customers do their searches with multiple keywords in order to limit the numbers of hits. In the above case, if you search with only starling you get 14,516 hits and if you search with cape glossy starling you get only 200 hits. Specific rules. :)

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Hello, everyone! I guess, this is the right thread for beginners like me to get started. In 2009 I tried to pass SS test, but only 4 of 10 my images were approved and for some peculiar reason I took a second chance only recently. Many years ago I thought that I wasn't good enough for SS and it was somewhat true. I still have a lot to learn but hope that I've made some progress since then.

Looks like things have changed a lot in here due to lowered standards and many old-timers are rightfully frustrated with the quality of newcomers' works. Is there still any chance to get noticed if you're new and want to play fair (no similar photo spam, only relevant keywords, not bad composition etc.)? It's been a week since I've returned here and haven't sold anything yet. There're not many images in my portfolio so I'm not surprised. It all takes time. But if you could offer me some piece of advice I'll be very thankful, even if it will be some harsh criticism. I'm not afraid of a cold shower. Are landmarks/places/nature photos even in demand on stocks? I have a feeling that my works just got buried somewhere just like some of the good works you posted in this thread.

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20 hours ago, Claude Huot said:

I'm sure most customers do their searches with multiple keywords in order to limit the numbers of hits. In the above case, if you search with only starling you get 14,516 hits and if you search with cape glossy starling you get only 200 hits. Specific rules. :)

Agreed

I think 1 good way is to switch off from  "this is my image and I must keyword it for every possibility" mind set;  Instead ask yourself what would you search for? We all google things many times a day.  In case of your bird, I'd probably search for

 

"cape glossy"

"cape glossy bird"

"cape glossy namibia"

 

All other phrases i.e. "bird on a tree"  "bird perched on branch"  etc. are probably far less frequent.  I'd not type "Cape Glossy Starling"  thinking that "Cape Glossy" is enough -- but in your case it yielded result.

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Id agree in that most sales are for very generic keywords and phrases.  All my top performers meet that criteria and it makes sense, if youre too specific then you exclude too many images.

I get far more sales on an image for example for "turtle underwater" than for the specific type of turtle or any more descriptive location of it.  Occasionally you get a surge of specifics mainly for things in the news (example this month my Mount Agung photos have started selling using "Agung" instead of general "volcano" purely because its primed to explode soon.)

Generally though ive moved away from my old habit of going full scientific names, naming every lake and mountain in keywords into generic descriptions with only a few more specific names.

 

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Good comment Richard & I am with you, but I also think farbled made good point with 'building the niche' concept

btw I looked at your portfolio & this image of yours blows me away:

stock-photo-scuba-diver-and-a-southern-s

Something like this should never fetch 25 cents at lowest (or 33, 36, 38).  But this is whole different topic

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On 10/11/2017 at 2:43 PM, Phil Lowe said:

I agree. The problem is on the review side. I believe - based on the imagery I've seen lately - that the standards for approval have been lowered. And I'm certainly not asking to upload junk just because I got through on a tougher standard. I don't think that's what anyone wants.

High-volume, low-quality submissions do affect sales in two ways. First, small-volume, high quality producers get their new work brushed off the "new" page before it's even had a chance to be seen. In other words, good work gets buried under mountains of similars and substandard photos that virtually no one would ever  consider buying. Second, it harms the SS brand. How long do you think buyers are going to keep coming to a site where they have to wade through a lot of low-quality images to find a good representation of what they need? Buyers looking elsewhere for their media hurts all of us, not just the people getting poorly exposed, poorly composed, and poorly lit images through the review process.  If we have a responsibility to submit high quality images, SS has a responsibility to refuse low-quality images, not accept anything thrown their way. 

IMHO.

Two different things. Allowing new artists with a less stringent test, has no effect on quality. That, and we can all remember how flawed that entrance test was in many cases, where people would re-submit accepted images and have them not pass? Wacky, inconsistent and unpredictable.

Yes, once accepted if the reviews here have lowered standards, that's an issue, but it's not the fault of new people. What some here have written over and over is how new people who didn't have to pass the 7 of ten test are ruining things. That's impossible if the reviews are the same for all of us?

I personally don't like to upload too many similars. I don't think buyers like that either, but some people seem to think that more is better. I disagree. Better is better! ;)

Accurate keywords are better than the people who think they can spam their way into the eyes of buyers. Also if I'm looking for an apple and someone has that word in a picture of a watermelon, I'm not going to buy something "just because I saw it" when I wasn't looking for that. Same goes for a tiny apple tree way in the background of a field with a house. Buyers are generally looking for the main subject and using words to find what they want.

Same as images, it's not just how many, it's what are they. I feel that way about keywords. Less but concentration on accurate and relevant, is better. (opinion, there's no way to measure if it's really true)

I keyword with the main subject of the image and related words, not distant obscure words. Buyers don't use those abstract, distantly, possibly related words to find images! I think they will still use Latin names and positively accurate descriptions and specifics, like locations. It's always in our best interest to keyword accurately for good search placement, when a buyer uses good accurate, specific terms. Vague terms will just get my work buried in all the other vague terms and words. What I mean is, buyers are smart enough to avoid the pitfalls of common, vague terms, most of the time! Too many people think they can trick the system and get sales.

Lets not insult the buyers by saying that just because something comes up first in a search, they will buy some crap image, that isn't suitable. The argument that SS somehow favors some lesser images for some reason, is totally illogical, if the objective is putting the best match and best quality first? And back to, how dumb do some people think the buyers are, That they will buy substandard work? If you were a buyer, would you buy something you didn't like or need, just because you saw it?

There's no proof that keyword spam actually makes better sales, only that it can affect placement and be a distraction for buyers who are looking for some better images. And yes I agree, too hard to get through the bad keywords and descriptions and too many low quality or better put, low value images, will make buyers look elsewhere. I don't run SS, it's their decision to have 160 million images as a marketing point, instead of 60 million, strictly reviewed images. I don't know why, but we don't make those decisions.

How many times have we debated on the forums that better keywords and less spam would make any agency the tops in buyers minds. Not even debated, pretty much agreed that the place that gets the best search, where buyers could easily find what they wanted, fast... could eventually win the war? Yet the same people include irrelevant words and try to trick the system, so their images will come first? Like "re-upload and delete the old one"?

Years ago an agency in Canada, that had a huge part of the market, and by the way when I took design or Photoshop classes, was the only one mentioned. "if you need a background image don't make it, just go buy. We have a subscription for our company at ixxxxx" SS has surpassed that place, so I guess we're doing something right here? :D

I also mentioned to the owner/director/head of instructors, that they were missing Shutterstock which had what I thought was better quality and a better subscription plan.

So yes, the big can fall. I don't know who's on the heels of SS but I suspect another agency that's stricter about duplicates and if I submit an image "similar" to what they already have, not just my own, they will reject for too many similar. Funny how that place also made an app that searches SS photos for customers of the creative software. It could get down to the big two?

 

 

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