For a very long time I’ve been dreaming of a site of my own where I could sell my images.
Not that I hadn’t tried in the past, but the results weren’t very encouraging: updating and maintaining such a site proved way too burdensome even after automating (well, partially…) the image uploading procedure.
As it is I gave up on it and put away that dream in a drawer – until recently a number of ideas (see below) induced me to dust it off and try once more.
And this time I made it!
Now to sell my own stock images I finally have a fully automated website, easily maintained and – if I say so myself – functional and enjoyable to use.
To get started I chose a pretty profitable niche product I particularly like: beautiful venerable images from ancient books (that I keep collecting maniacally), scanned at a very high resolution and then processed to spotlessness using a set of tricks and procedures I’ve perfected during so many years of experience.
A FEW CONSIDERATIONS TO START WITH:
- In these days the stock images market is saturated: just anyone can take excellent pictures today using a cheap camera or even a cellphone that does most of the thinking for them. Supply and competition are overwhelming.
- The stock agencies work with tens of millions of images (to say the least); to rummage through them all in search of the ‘right’ one is definitely no easy job for the customer
- IMO too many images produce a sort of boomerang-effect: after 4-5 online pages full of pictures and/or illustrations, the visitor’s attention tends to drop drastically. I’m wondering if the many thousands of images I’ve uploaded myself to the agencies’ sites are found at all despite all the care I took (and all the time I spent) to choose painstakingly the most appropriate keywords.
- To back up that doubt there’s the fact that, although I lately added another few thousand images to my accounts by the fistful of agencies still worth posting to, my return in terms of royalties hasn’t changed appreciably. Where did my images go?
- As I then read on the Wailing Wall the specialized forums have become, I cannot help getting a dark thought: not only are the current royalties quite measly, but also there’s no way to know how many of our images are actually sold – but for what the agencies themselves tell us.
Shall we really trust them?
Giving free rein to the fantasy brought up the thought of a very decent way to get out of this nasty pickle: an online cooperative of artists residing on a virtual mega-site where each one has an own site-space and an own personal specialty-niche.
Not really mine as a matter of fact: in a way this was also the basic idea behind Simbiostock, that apparently for some reasons didn’t work out – which should be ascribed more to the way it was implemented than to the idea itself. Their original intentions looked actually good: I even got to use their free image management plugin, although it looked somewhat cumbersome.
However that notion may be (with some luck) a promising second step but hardly the first one: the first one has to be an independent niche-centered stock images site that, once it’s working fine, can merge with ‘sister’ sites and grow up with them.
Thus, like a dog gnawing at a bone, I growled and faced the problem of a fully automated personal stock site by breaking it down to a number of simple well-defined tasks to be munched one by one.
THE WEBSITE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
- The site should be fast. Otherwise it wouldn’t be competitive and the search engines would penalize it – if not snob it at all. As such the host should be chosen with the greatest care.
- The site should use a safe connection: nowadays the SSL protocol is indispensable for any well-bred site, in particular for a virtual shop.
- The site should abide by the EU directives in matter of privacy and tax clarity.
- The storage space should not be limited to a few gigabytes – images take a lot of space.
THINGS TO BE OPTIMIZED AND AUTOMATED
- The images should be uploaded by chunks per ftp, the fastest available connection between your computer and the online server.
- The metadata should be extracted from the images offline and automatically; in particular the keywords, extremely important as TAGS to optimize the web pages for the search engines and crucial to locate an image amid millions of others.
- All the data (prices, keywords, sizes etc.) required to populate the web pages must be loaded automatically by means of an auxiliary text file. Generally used to this purpose are the Excel-generated .cvs files.
- The .cvs files in turn should be built offline upon the data hidden within the images and all the other parameters required by the shop web pages, of course still automatically.
Obviously uploading the images and preparing the single ‘product’ web pages by hand is still possible, but it would hamper lethally the swiftness of the daily site updating – as well as swallow plenty of one’s precious time that would be better devoted to sorting, processing and keywording new images. Firsthand experience, you may take my word for it 🙁
LAST BUT NOT LEAST…
A last most important requirement is that the initial financial investment be modest: even if you can afford it, you certainly do not want to put too much money in such a website until you see some promising return. Thus for now watch the costs: once your own agency takes off you’ll be able to loosen the purse strings at leisure 🙂
Next article: HOW TO GET STARTED AND BEGIN SELLING WITH $170.99 (no bul***it, it worked for me 😀 )