Sunday, August 19, 2007

Digital Railroad’s Marketplace - Photographer Experience

When they launched, I was a believer in the concept of paying a monthly fee to have my images online, and downloadable. As with my website, which was originally designed not “to be found”, but rather, as a URL I could provide to prospective clients to look at my work, rather than ship my portfolio. It worked great, and I got many a job from that. It wasn’t until later, that my site began ranking on the search engines, which brought in a huge amount of unanticipated assignments. As with my website, I kicked off my subscription to DRR before the Marketplace launched, to be able to serve my clients who wanted downloadable, secure access to the images I had shot on assignment for them. It is also important to note that at the same time, I also signed up with PhotoShelter, which I maintain today, as well. Whenever I was asked if I was making money off of having my images on DRR, I’d respond that that wasn’t where my sights were set – I was using them to service client review needs, and that was working great, and since that service is a part of my billable post-production workflow, the costs were covered and it was a profit center for me. Yes, there was a learning curve for the clients (and to some degree, there still is), however, it does work, and they are learning. As I was trying to get away from my aging transparencies and negatives, I began the arduous task of scanning and keywording them. I bought David Riecks’ Controlled Vocabulary’s software, which worked great, and made keywording not only so much faster and more efficient, but also, through the process, taught me to think in keywording terms. However, I just didn’t have the time or staffing, to scan in medium format images, so I outsourced that, as well as the keywording and analog-to-metadata caption transfer to Jaincotech’s Gautam Pai, who’s team did a fine job, and for a remarkably good price (which, by the way, is actually much lower now than what I paid even 9 months ago!). I uploaded those results, as well as the in-house produced 35mm imagery, which I could justify doing myself. When Marketplace launched, I had a solid collection of images, but I had no idea as to potential buyers. Sure, there were promises about a broad buyer base by DRR, but would the press release even come close to reality?

Enter Stephanie. One of DRR’s sales team members. It was 9:12 am east coast time a while back, and an e-mail hit my inbox from her looking for a variation on the image that I had shot for a magazine cover of Jamie Rubin (the one image I had was the one at left), at the time, the spokesman for the Department of State. Who knows what he’s up to now, but apparently, a newspaper in the United Kingdom was interested in what I had, and if I had any more. According to the email from Stephanie, the client “…is really after something more casual / less posed, do you have any other more casual shots…”. Sadly, I had two things working against me – 1) I did not have any casual shots, as it was a very time limited cover shoot, and this was all I had, and 2) the UK was on a tight deadline, and to make matters worse, I was on the west coast packing the family into a minivan for a trek up I-5 enroute middle-Oregon during my vacation. By the time I had called Stephanie to close the loop and tell her that I didn’t have more imagery I could upload, the deadline had passed without a sale. Yet, the effort she made while I was sleeping on the west coast at 6:12 am, was most appreciative, knowing further that at about 4am my local time, someone in the UK was perusing my archive and considering licensing my work while I slept. Nice.

Then, it also cuts in my favor. An image of mine at the end of last week was licensed for $150 for a small use in an educational video – probably not while I was snoozing away this time, but certainly without any additional effort on my part. Double nice!

Here’s a link to some examples of other photographers who’s’ images that have generated licensing revenues.

In addition, here's examples of the images from Marketplace turning up online, here's Clairy Moustafellou's RR credit, for one.

Another is Michele Westmorland's underwater image of a young boy, as the DRR credit is shown here.

The proof is in the credits (or the checks arriving in the mail), and that's happening.

Digital Railroad – All Aboard?
Digital Railroad’s Marketplace - Overview
Digital Railroad’s Marketplace - Getting the Word Out
Digital Railroad’s Marketplace - Client Experience
Digital Railroad’s Marketplace - Photographer Experience
Digital Railroad’s Marketplace - Summary

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