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. We always hear about them. We seldom hear about the losers without chat group members crow about their unsuccesses. However, few artists or photographers like to brag about their lack of sales.
The other parallel is related to how casinos seem to multiply across the country not only in locations but also in physical size. If you've ever re-visited a casino, you are surprised to see how the facility has been enlarged.
On-line photo-display websites have proliferated in the same way on the Internet. Not only the sites themselves are increasing, but the numbers of images available are growing. 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.
SOMETHING's GOTTA GIVE.
Of course not all on-line venues receive 1,000 new pictures a day, but let's say they receive 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 a mini-on-line service to photobuyers.
Now if there were 350 on-line stock photography websites (which there are at the time of this writing), 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 not calculate that high.
Can the storage world of present-day servers handle these kinds of numbers of images? If they can not today, we know that some way, somehow, they will figure out a way tomorrow to meet the expanding nature of DigitalCasinos.
And why do I say "DigitalCasinos"? 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. "
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 gambling casino.
Why a gamble? Like with any lottery, your chances are finished 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 aspect is one that I have preached for thirty years, "Specialize and you will succeed." Those that listened thirty years ago have built a deep collection of images, all focused on a few select subject —-_ ones that they love photography, and that build equity each time they are out photography.
If you're just starting out as a photographer, forget being all things to all people. Figure out what area of specialization you enjoy the most (education, medicine, auto racing, reptiles, skydiving, etc.) and concentrate on that area. Become a mini-expert. 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 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 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 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 for government-work" -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 hard-to-find image. Using a word-search feature on their computer, they are able to skip 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 is over. Search engines are teaching us that finding the exact location of a specialized photo quickly and easily is only a matter of learning how to do it.
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 unique in their style 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 specific photobuyers, who will discover you thanks to search engines.