Category Archives: Friends of Cutcaster

Friends of the site

Join Cutcaster at Facebook

Have you joined the hundreds of Cutcaster fans on Facebook? Our Facebook page is a lively community of submitters and buyers who post timely articles and their latest Cutcaster images. We constantly search the Internet to find helpful design links and design tools to help inspire your creativity which we want to share with the Cutcaster Facebook community. Members are always sharing helpful advice if you need it. Each day we will keep our fans up to date with tips and news about industry events.

To join, just click on the Like button at the top of the page.

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If you’re already a fan, why not stop by and leave a post on our Wall? While you’re there, recommend a friend — click the “Suggest to Friends” link in the left-hand column.

Thanks for showing your pride in Cutcaster and for helping us spread the word.

http://www.cutcaster.com

Winner of the Picturehouse Amazon Kindle Raffle

We had a wonderful time at PictureHouse the other week and met a lot of people we have only spoken to over the phone or by email — it was great to see some old friendly faces and meet a ton of new potential users of Cutcaster (if you remember, we actually launched at last year’s Picturehouse event!). We raffled away an Amazon Kindle and we’d like to take this opportunity to name the winner. Drum rolll please…. The Cutcaster Team is proud to present Van Bucher of Carousel Research with a brand new Amazon Kindle! Thanks for joining the raffle and good luck next year!

Here is a link to Carousel Research www.carouselresearch.com

The Dynamic Duo of Danielle and Frenk- Introducing DNF-Style

DNF-Style is one of Cutcaster’s oldest contributors and stands for Danielle and Frenk who make up the photography team. Below is an excerpt of an interview we did with them last week that helps to educate other photographers and explains their background.

1. In today’s visual language, how do you make images that are authentic to “your” brand?

At DNF-Style, Danielle and I try to avoid acting emotional. Using ‘method acting,’ among other techniques, we try to get our model to experience the emotions we want to convey. ‘Method acting’ is a technique in which actors aim to place in their mindset the thoughts and emotions of the character they are portraying in an effort to create lifelike performances.

2. How do you, in this new media landscape, convey an image that “sells” and seems honest as opposed to the professional imagery of 5 years ago?

I guess not at all. We have always tried to achieve honesty in our work and that hasn’t changed the last 5 years. What has changed is that we have a better view on what sells and what doesn’t in general.

3. What’s changed in your mindset? Are all the images just personal based?

If we look at the last 5 years we got a better view on what is being sought by our buyers. Besides improving our technique, which is an ongoing business, it is mainly Danielle that does a lot of research towards finding examples of what sells best within certain settings. This means analyzing the top 50 sales within a setting and trying to find the common denominator of what sells and so getting an idea of how to approach our own.

4. What is the biggest challenge facing you in today’s market?

Trying to keep the sales up in a down market. After the first two months following the financial crisis, the downturn cost us about 30% of our income. Not only because of the setback in number of sales but also, and in a greater value, because of the devaluation of the dollar which we have to convert into Euro in order to collect.

5. What do you ask yourself when you are shooting an image?

There is one question that is continuously in our minds when shooting; “What will the potential buyer feel?”

We try to put ourselves into the minds of our viewer. We have to be able to take one step into the future, in order to see the end result of an image rather then the process we are in at that moment if that makes sense. When learning to shoot, this process gets easier and easier, while other attention points happen automatically. When someone first starts out, anyone can feel overwhelmed by how many facets one has to cover. Examining the end result while shooting is one of the final steps of this process.

6. Where do you sell more of your work, Subscription vs. a la carte downloading, and why do you think that is the case? What is your opinion of the different microstock pricing model’s and how they affect your bottom line?

Microstock has become a very big market in which everyone seems to see a lot of bread (cash). Every stock site now tries to find pricing models that will attract buyers of course. The big danger is that agencies price each other out of a market that is slowly reaching it’s saturation point. The bad I see at the moment is that Microstock sites, in order to survive, go towards a very low pricing model, damaging not only their contributors but also taking down other agencies, forcing them to follow their low pricing in order not to loose their buyers. In the end, the new microstocks do not survive but the ones that went down with their prices in order to keep in a competitive position can’t go up with their pricing tables to their old level without losing the buyers they tried not to lose in the first place. This results in an ongoing price battle in which only the one with the best quality images survives. As a photographer you feel like you are giving away your images for free and after uploading thousands of images it is not so easy to stop investing in the hope it will all get better. Bottom line for us is we also have to try to be the ones that can hold our breath the longest as we wait for this to play out.

7. What are some techniques you have learned over the years to help you get your images seen and sold?

Networking seems to be the key. However this is a kind of networking that can only be influenced by ones imagery. There is no contact with the buyer, no one to build your network on. You only hope that buyers see the quality of your work and start looking into your portfolio before doing a general search. There are many tools, like building lightboxes at Cutcaster. If one is an exclusive with one site it is easy to spend all time and effort on building these lightboxes and using all other promotional possibilities on the site to connect with customers. In our case, being involved in over 10 different agencies, makes that almost impossible. The time that takes in addition to our shoots, makes it so hard to complete everything. We strive towards high and solid quality and are considering thinning out our portfolio’s deleting all the older stuff which we feel does not reflect our quality standard we are upholding today.

8. How was studio started and who is involved in the business?

I have been photographing for 5 years now. Danielle has been modeling and photographing for 6 years now. When we became romantically involved we decided it was time to combine our strengths and start selling our work. Up until that point we both felt we still had stuff to learn (we still do but feel we are at an acceptable level). At the time we met, photography was not our job but our passion. When I got laid off February last year I took the opportunity to start taking photogs as a business. Sadly enough, a few months later, the crisis started. For those of you just starting off in the business, you will need to fight 10 times as hard to keep your head above water. After 18 months of fighting we managed to stand for 50% on our own legs but that is not enough. It seems the crisis is catching up with us now our reserves are almost dried out.

But that wasn’t really the question was it?

When we started it seemed like everything fell in place and all signs indicated we were doing as we were always supposed to. Almost at the same time I lost my job we got a great studio room offered for very little money. Of course we took this opportunity with both hands and started working building up a new network. This time a network of business people. The point we are at now is very frustrating. Everyone is telling us how good our work is but no one is buying or handing out assignments.

Our name, DNF-Style is a business name owned by me but I needed Danielle backing me up. Danielle works during the day at a photo laboratory where she has to correct and print thousands of photo’s. Therefore she has a very good eye for colors and is the one directing our processing. In her free time she is also continuously working on stock, finding ideas, processing shoots and of course organizing and shooting them.

9. You shoot a lot of people shots. How do you find your models and what do you look for in a model?

We are connected with a few major online meeting points were models, photographers and make-up artist are getting together, discussing each others work and answering each others questions.
We are happy to say that our work is up to a specific standard in which we do not have to search for models very actively. They offer themselves to us and are happy to work with us, getting our material in return for their own portfolio.
What we look for in a model is spontaneity and involvement. We are fed up with models that feel that being pretty is enough effort to get us working with them. If we can choose between a spontaneous model that knows what she wants, has her own ideas and is willing to actively search with us to build an idea towards an end result and a very pretty model who is just that, very pretty, then the first model has far better chance of us working with him or her then the last one. Of course any model has to be up to a sellable standards that is dictated by the market that purchases our pictures and the magazines they are in. There is no changing that.

10. Where do you see the microstock industry 5 years in the future?

Thinned out, like I tried to explain in question 6. Hopefully, we will then still be involved as well. But I’m afraid prices will not go up again when the survivors (agencies) are known.

To see more of Danielle and Frenk’s images at Cutcaster and see their DNF-Style check out their Cutcaster studio.

Photographer Makeover with Jack Hollingsworth

Jack Hollingsworth is putting together a ‘photographer makeover’ for any interested shooters down in Austin, Texas, on April 29-May 3. I’m sorry that I won’t be there but the five day jam-packed sessions will include all things web 2.0, as it relates to pro shooters. multimedia. digital cinema. social web. personal branding. recession marketing. Plus you get to hang out with Jack which is worth the price of admission alone.

I don’t have the address to Jacks’s blogsite, I think that link could be it but maybe Jack can add it in below, but his blog will be live and contain more juicy info within the next 7-10 days. He can only accommodate 60 folks so check it out soon if you are interested. If you’re a pro shooter and hungry to learn how to use web 2.0 tools, techniques and technologies to redefine and reinvent your brand and business it will be worth it to learn more about this event.

Email Jack at jack@jackhollingsworth.com.
www.jackhollingsworth.com
CONTACT:
512-320-0803/tel
512-320-0804/fax

Conversation with Large and Informed Buyer

Recently we had a conversation with a large and very informed buyer.  We wanted to pass along these nuggets of wisdom and knowledge (these are shorthand notes to help you the reader):

 

Looking for more diversity with university and middle school students.  For school kids, they need different types of schools…urban, public, etc and avoid trendy clothes and looks if they take off uniforms.

 

Need plenty of older and younger, not a lot in the middle.

 

Wood working class was too posed, and needed to have safety gear.

 

Too many posed shots and not enough looking like they where engaged.

 

School kids form other cultures like South America.

 

Looking for more disabled, not just the elderly, but all types of disabilities with them doing every day things (not focused on the disability).

 

Native Americans living in every day life with demographics in keywords

 

Need more photos with minorities in them and to be keyworded with the word ‘minority’ because this is a popular search term.

No monkeying around! These Photographers mean business!

In 2009, we plan to ask our Cutcaster photo buyers and contributors to share their knowledge and experiences in the image and vector licensing industry to help the entire community. We recently asked one of our newer photo contributors to Cutcaster, Monkey Business Images, a few questions about the changing landscape of the photography industry, their work-flow and process when deciding what/how to shoot and any advice they have to help the Cutcaster community sell more images. The folks at Monkey Business Images were kind enough to share their experience with us and we thought we would share what we learned with you.

1.       In today’s visual language, how do you make images that are authentic to “your” brand?

We strive to create images that portray an idealistic and aspirational lifestyle, but one that is potentially achievable to the viewer. This is achieved by careful selection of models, who we find from both professional agencies and by using friends and families and ensuring that our styling is just right.

An ederly man barefoot waterskiing with no hands

An elderly man barefoot waterskiing with no hands

2. How do you, in this new media landscape, convey an image that “sells” and seems honest as opposed to the professional imagery of 5 years ago?

As well as constantly trying to reinvent the traditional and popular subjects in a contemporary and relevant style, we always consider how images might be used before we shoot them. This ensures that we do not spend time on irrelevant subjects and keeps us thinking about what clients may want today and in the future. The uploading principle of microstock means that subjects can get from camera to client more quickly than in the traditional business.

Small school child at a computer

Small school child at a computer

3. What’s changed in your mindset? Are all the images just personal based?

Essentially our methods of selecting subjects and shooting have remained the same over the years. We take the view that it’s still the same clients buying pictures but they are using a different model to source the images. Regardless of the price clients still require the right image for the job and will not compromise on quality just because an image is at a lower price.

Image of a woman after yoga relaxing

Image of a woman after yoga relaxing

4. What is the biggest challenge facing Monkey Business?

Like all companies in the business we are working through a time of great change in the industry and economic uncertainty worldwide. I think these challenges are the same for everyone at the moment.

5. What do you ask yourself when you are shooting an image?

One simple question. Will it sell?

Paris Brest with mixed berries and cream

Paris Brest with mixed berries and cream

6. Subscription vs. a la carte downloading?  What is your opinion of the  different microstock pricing model’s and how they affect your bottom line?

The great thing is that both these business models offer real choice to clients. There are pros and cons to each one of course but by offering choice and variety to our clients creates many more opportunities for sales.

7. What are some techniques you have learned over the years to help you get your images seen and sold?

We have sold successfully over the years both through our own direct websites and through our distribution partners. Strong relationships with our partners have always been vital as it helps us to understand what subjects they need.

8. How was Monkey Business started and who is involved in the business?

The company is owned by Cathy Yeulet who was the creative force behind Bananastock. Bananastock was one of the most successful RF companies and sold to Jupiter Images. One of the reasons that Cathy chose to sell at that time was that she could see the market changing as microstock and subscriptions were beginning to emerge. After two years of shooting for Jupiter Cathy has chosen to enter the microstock industry and has been joined by Mark Butler in sales and Ian Allenden in production, the same team that made Bananastock so successful.

9. Image theft has been a problem for a long time. How would you suggest photographers go about protecting their work when they have found it misused or blatantly stolen?

This has been a long term problem and it will be interesting to see if selling images at  low prices has the effect of encouraging people who would have stolen images to pay. Either way any misuse should be robustly defended by both agencies and photographers.

10. Where do you see the microstock industry 5 years in the future?

Microstock is still developing and the business still has a long way to grow. It is an innovative part of the market and the challenge is to continue that innovation both photographically and through  sales models. Most importantly we need to listen to our clients to see what they really need.

11. How did you come up with the name Monkey Business Images?

We just like the name and it was a natural progression from the previous companies name Bananastock.

We like it as well and I hope this helps give some of the contributors at Cutcaster things to think about when planning and shooting what they think will sell.  To license Monkey Business’ Images check out there Cutcaster studio here.

The PLUS Coalition. Your thoughts?

I had a conversation last week with Jeff Sedlik from PLUS about using their licensing framework at Cutcaster. How many of you have heard of PLUS?

If you don’t know about PLUS it is an international non-profit initiative on a mission to simplify and facilitate the communication and management of image rights. So what does that mean in English…well, PLUS is a system of standards that makes it easier to communicate, understand and manage image rights in all countries.

What are peoples thoughts on using PLUS as an option for licensing images on the site? What do you feel are the pros and cons? I want to open this up to discussion because this site is as much yours as it is ours.

I think some really interesting news for people who are selling their images is that “three major publishers have called for the adoption of the PLUS (Picture Licensing Universal System) standards by picture archives, photographers and all other image suppliers. Representatives of McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson each announced that they will adopt the PLUS Picture Licensing Glossary definitions in their contracts, and that they encourage image suppliers to begin embedding PLUS license metadata in all images within one year.” Personally I think more will follow and this will be a good opportunity for contributors to Cutcaster but we are all ears here so let us know what you think.

For the latest news on PLUS to see what they are doing check this out.

Guest Blog Post- From hobbyist to professional artist

Whenever the microstock business receives a mention in the media, it is usually accompanied by the common description of microstock artists as amateurs, hobbyists, and stay-at-home moms or dads who have a consumer-level digital camera and some vacation photos they hope to make a quick buck off of. While those descriptions may accurately represent many artists working in the microstock field today, there are many others who consider microstock their profession. A number of things can factor into why the amateur title may be a fitting description for many microstock artists, but this does not mean that amateur status is permanent and are a few things that you can change today that will elevate your position in the stock imaging world. Changing your outlook on your microstock work and how you approach your craft can help to turn a hobby into a job.

There is a frequently used phrase in self-help and confidence-building circles: “Act as if.” You may have heard some slightly different versions of this saying, but in all of them the underlying principle is the same; How you conduct yourself has a direct effect on what you become and where you end up, in all aspects of life. In microstock, acting as if you are already a professional may spur you on to truly becoming one. Take a look at your typical microstock day and think about how an outside observer would regard your activities. Do you conduct yourself in your daily life like a hobbyist or a professional?

One of the quickest and easiest ways to transform your microstock hobby into a job (part-time or full-time) is to re-assess your work-flow and make changes that shift that work-flow into a more efficient, business-oriented process. If you are working in a cluttered area, with many distractions and very little organization, clean up your workspace and create an environment that is more like an office. Create a schedule for yourself, and stick to it. If you only have an hour a day to devote to microstock work, make sure that you put in that hour every day, and around the same time each day. Finally, make decisions based on good business choices, not personal preferences. Don’t limit your choice of agencies to work with based on your personal feelings about them. If you are only working with one or two agencies because they are your favorites, you are restricting your earnings potential and making an amateur decision. If you start to think and act like a pro microstocker, you will quickly transform your hobby into a job and your income will reflect this change.

Contributing writer Mike McDonald. Thank you so much, Mike. See Mike’s Cutcaster studio here and his website here. Come on Mike. We want some more of your awesome work here at Cutcaster.

Testimonial from user on how they used their Cutcaster payout

From: Fern
Subject: Be out for a while
To: john@cutcaster.com
Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2008, 2:46 PM

Hi John,

Just so you know – the check really came in handy. I used it to help with Hurricane Ike evacuation. We got hit hard. I have damages to my home, carport and fencing. We are without power, water, ice, and gas (only 2 gas stations open and lines are 2-3 hours long). Power should be back within 2-6 weeks so it may be awhile before I can upload more photos.

Fern

Just to give you a little background on this email I just received. Fern is one of our members and requested a payout by check from Cutcaster about two weeks ago after she sold over $220 in photos. Little did we know how handy that check would come in.

One thing I have to say about this tragedy is that, living in NYC, I thought I wouldn’t really be affected by Hurricane Ike outside of watching the utter devastation on TV and giving to the Red Cross to help the victims in a time of need. But starting Cutcaster has opened up my world in ways I could have never predicted and formed friendships with people all over the map. Some of whom were affected by Ike.

This is an almost surreal email for us to get to see how “We”, as an entire Cutcaster community, could help someone evacuate from danger’s way from a single payout on Cutcaster. I am glad to see our payout go to such an amazing use. I hope you all will take a moment to say a prayer for all the victims of Hurricane Ike and visit the Red Cross to donate anything you can spare.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by Ike.

Quotes like this from Getty really upset me

“Getty also runs a site called iStockPhoto, where amateurs contribute photos that the company markets at lower rates. The photos on Flickr are of sufficient quality to demand higher prices,” Mr. Jonathon Klein, CEO of Getty Images, said in a New York Time’s article.

What a way to market one of your companies assets while at the same time pumping up a potential partnership. That is a pretty big insult to any contributor there and will go down as one of the bigger foot in mouth incidents I think I have seen. I hope others are fed up with that type of attitude as well.