Location: Manchester, UK
Link to Bob's Portfolio
Davies is a programmer, stock photographer and web wiz from
Manchester, UK. Reading his great blog, I realized he's someone who
has done some hard thinking
about the stock footage world. He is the creator of several online of stock photography applications such as picNiche.com, a “stock photo analysis-engine". The “analysis engine” helps image creators identify unfilled stock photography market niches.
latest, picWorkflow, is a valuable time-saver for stock footage video
contributors. With picWorkflow, your stock footage clips are uploaded
once and then distributed to multiple stock agencies.
StockVideoSeller: How did you get started in
Bob Davies: I shot quite a lot since I was a lad, and have always enjoyed taking the camera for a stroll. My granddad has always been very keen on his photography, and it's always been something he encouraged heartily :)
StockVideoSeller: How long have you been involved in the stock industry? Why stock? Where you searching around for new income options?
Bob Davies: I'd never really considered photography as a viable option for me to earn a living, I don't have a particularly good eye for the 'art' of it as I'm really an analyst through & through. Then in 2006 my girlfriend introduced me to Fotolia (she's a photo-maniac and goes by @xtellev on twitter). I uploaded a few simple shots there and they were selling the very next day. A little Google-ing introduced me to Shutterstock, iStock and Dreamstime shortly after. Before leaving my corporate job I had splashed out on a DSLR and figured it was a good way to supplement my income between contracts and my own small projects.
StockVideoSeller: You seem to have an unusual combination of computer programing and photography skills. What is your programming background and why did you begin to apply it to stock photography?
Bob Davies: I've been programming about as long as I can remember, I think I grew up with the white-on-blue of the Commodore 64 BASIC screen burned forever into my corneas. It's one of the few things I admit to being good at (I'm usually more of a rabid hobbyist) and just seem to have a natural leaning towards the logical thought and abstract thinking programming requires. Most of my corporate background is in back-office systems, management software, work-flow and efficiency, that kind of thing. Carrying that on into a photography career was just the next logical step.
Could you please explain the picNiche.com application and how it works? How does it help a
photographer identify a unfilled niche and why is that important?
Bob Davies: The basic operation of picNiche is to look at the number of results (competition) and sales of those images for a given search term. High sales for a low number of images is a good conversion rate and shows a viable market, likewise, low sales for lots of competition is a bad conversion rate and is therefore a saturated market.
StockVideoSeller: picNiche looks like an application which may be able to help stock video footage contributors do some initial testing of niches for video also. Do you think video contributors can use it successfully? What are the limits of the app and what should video contributors keep in mind when they use it?
Bob Davies: The picNiche ratings are mainly geared for photography/illustrations as the footage market is (generally) not reaching the kind of sales numbers to be able to draw firm conclusions from that data alone. That said, there are certainly correlations between stills/footage which can be gleamed from the picNiche results to help, although you'll probably need a bit more thought about how near/far that correlation is based on the performance of your own portfolio.
This is one of the areas I hope to improve with the stats tools on picWorkflow, it will allow a better analysis of emerging markets where there currently is not a decent single-source with enough data to draw firm conclusions.
What other research can stock video footage contributors perform to
ensure they find a niche?
Davies: That's a tough one, my first step would be generate some
rough picNiche ratings to get a feeling for the topics I'd want to
shoot, then look at the search results pages of those terms for those
micro agencies selling footage already. Take a look at the sales for
any competing work and if it looks like there is space, such as when
just a couple of files are performing very well, or there are lots of
stills being sold with no motion in the mix.
It might also be helpful to check vimeo and even youtube to see what videos are out 'in that space' and the kind of quality they are offering. Remember: if it's on youtube, many stock customers who purchase stills already, may just embed the youtube version given the general lack of regard for copyright in online video. So not only are you competing actively with paid content, but often with free content (Stock photography may be getting over this hurdle but it's something footage producers might have a harder struggle with).
Have you been able to do any “backwards” verification on picNiche? That is, if I load in the principle keywords for some of my
best selling files my ratings on picNiche should come up winners!
Does it work that way?
Bob Davies: Yes and no really, there have been others who posted details about the correlation between picNiche data and their sales, but ultimately it depends on the quality of your work (judged rationally, not emotionally) as to what counts as a good rating for you and the topics you produce. I generally create work rating between 75-400 region, and my best-sellers are usually somewhere around 70-90. Though if you produce work twice as good (technically and conceptually) as the average stock video you will probably get your best-sellers around 30-50, and the bulk of your portfolio will target topics scoring perhaps 25-200. There is a lot more detailed info in an interview I gave for Photopreneur here titled Microstock Becomes Hard Work.
I often think, just because a category is saturated with competing
clips, doesn't mean it should be disregarded as a potential subject. At this point, deciding what to focus energy on is more an
art than a science. Excellent and unique shots, with a strong
storyline will always compete. But in general, would you agree that
stock video shooters need to focus more energy on research before
they press the record trigger?
Bob Davies: Research is one of the few things (beyond a natural talent) which will make the difference between stock footage producers who come up with the next generation of super-sellers, and those who re-produce the same average content which has been done to death.
StockVideoSeller: What are the differences in the markets for still stock photography and stock video footage? Do the same rules apply?
Davies: I'd say yes, in general the markets which will perform
well are the same for footage and stills, that's not from my own
footage sales experience though, just a hunch, so please take that
view with a pinch of salt :)
What trends in the stock footage industry do contributors need to be
aware of? What is the future of stock footage in micro stock sales?
Have we seen the peak yet as compared to stock photography?
even remotely, footage makes up a tiny proportion of paid licensable
content online, I think the peak is still to come, and it's a LOT
higher than where it is now :) I've heard similar from a few people
I've interviewed for the picNiche blog (they'll be published over the
I think we both agree the days of point and shoot and no research are
over. What are the major actions a new contributor to stock video
footage agencies can take to ensure success? Or, if you were starting
out from zero - knowing what you do now - how would you proceed?
Davies: Hmm, I can only say really for stills, but I think the
issue is the same: up your game. Either produce a decent quantity of
satisfactory content, or produce a little amazing content. The days
in micro of submitting your ugly dog in your scruffy back yard are
long gone. Everything you produce should be well lit, well composed
and steadily shot, with good key-wording and perhaps most
importantly... it should 'say' something.
Could you elaborate more on images saying something? Do you mean
they should involve the potential buyer or ultimate audience in an
interesting story? Why is that important?
Bod Davies: There are two key aspects in every stock image, the content, and the concept. The content (and quality thereof) is how it's shot, who or what is in the image, what are they doing, how it is lit, and technical factors. The concept is what the image is saying... is this person happy in what they are doing, are they achieving something, are they winners or losers. It is the backstory of the people or even objects in the image. Think of more than just the content, having a well defined message and a reason for content-buyers and their customers to connect to the image or footage and really 'feel' it, and you'll be leaps and bounds above the competition.
A perfect example of this is 'parked-domain-girl' who has become possibly the most famous stock model simply because the image she's in says far more than 'attractive girl with backpack', her image says she's on an adventure, she has somewhere to go and someone to become :)
StockvideoSeller: Could you tell us why you created picWorkflow and what it does? I was a big fan of iSyndcia before it went under. The iSyndica service, which as you know was very similar to yours, allowed me to save vast amounts of otherwise duplicated effort and submit my portfolio to all the major (and minor) sites. My income jumped! What is the same and what is different about your new service?
Bob Davies: iSyndica was a fantastic service, very well designed and built. Whilst picWorkflow currently offers it's core, there is a LOT more to come. I plan to excel over iSyndica did by following a few guidelines:
I am a photographer myself, and have some pretty indepth knowledge of what photographers really 'need', not just data brought back from focus groups and surveys (although I do ask for constant suggestions and feedback on upcoming and recent changes to keep them constantly developing for the better). Things like sales-stats are nice to have, and are coming soon, but I won't be spending too much time on them (any advanced features can be built by third-parties using the coming API)...
The main focus will be on adding tools for you to actually earn more from your stock content, both directly; by making it easy to promote your portfolio widely and get maximum exposure for your work by ensuring every suitable image/video is available anywhere that will sell it, but also indirectly by saving time on the laborious tasks such as keywording (coming in a few days) and critical-reviews and captioning (a couple of weeks away), submission (early in the new year), ultimately leading not only to higher RPIs (revenue per image), but also lower CPIs (cost per image). The combination of the two will give all photographers leveraging picWorkflow higher profits :)
StockVideoSeller: When you are not sitting at the computer programing new websites, what do you do for fun? What do you really enjoy photographing?
Davies: Honestly I've been so busy at the computer
programming new websites for the last 12 months that I've really
neglected photography. I really love what I do though so I'm not
Thank you so much for you time. Good luck with your new website!
Bob Davies: Thank you. I'm very happy to share what little I know. Cheers!
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