A lot of libraries tout about volume of images as some sort of competitive advantage. But at One Shot we don’t believe in having millions of images “for volume’s sake”. A few reasons for that…
a- The economic argument: every image has a cost of ingestion (from the submission to the keywording, the processing and storage) which is why we have to make sure we’re only adding images we have a reasonably high expectation they will sell.
b- The quality argument: because we work in a limited market, if we were to accept a larger ratio of images, we would need to “loosen” our quality criteria. Which would mean that by accepting a lot of images, the overall quality of our collection would drop. We want to focus on building a “quality collection” rather than a “quantity collection”. So we do not accept ALL the applications we receive (photographers who would like to join our team of contributors) AND why we are “picky” when we do our image selections.
c- The customer focus argument: clients actually hate having to wade through pages and pages of “dross” to find what they are looking for. They do not have the time, nor the patience. And if they do not find what they are looking for within the first few pages, the probability that they will close the tab / window increases …
We often get asked how we select images for the library. So today we thought we’d share an outline of how we edit and select images.
1- KIWI POINT OF DIFFERENCE
Our clients are looking for images that represent New Zealand, New Zealand people and the Kiwi lifestyle. So before you pre-select an image for a submission, ask yourself “is there something intrinsically or even obviously Kiwi about the image?”
If the person that appears on the image is “generic”, then we are unlikely to take it. If the background looks “generic”, then we are unlikely to take it. If the image was not taken in New Zealand and there is nothing that at least says “the image is related to New Zealand” then you’re heading towards our “rejected images” folder. But if the image shows our New Zealand demographics, our architecture, our lifestyle, our fashion sense, our “Kiwi flair” then we’re much more likely to select it.
Tip: we’ve seen an increase in requests of images of Maori, Pacifica, Asian demographics in the past year, especially mixed families and mixed groups of friends.
2- “WILL IT SELL OR WON’T IT”?
When looking at stock images for our niche market, it’s sometimes as simple as a Yes / No answer to the question “will it sell, or won’t it?
But how do we know? Well, it’s a little bit of a mix… First, it comes from 20+ years of knowledge of the market. Second, from what clients tell us they are looking for and third from the new emerging trends and directions we see in the industry – specifically our market.
With people and lifestyle images, easy! You can review our shooting ideas to understand what our clients our looking for and the style of images we need.
With landscape images it can be very hard – we review 1000’s of landscape images every month and at the same time, we represent some of the best landscape photographers in the country. So ‘competition’ in this genre is much higher and we are more selective. For landscape images, we select images based on
- the WOW factor. We see gazillions of landscape images. And trust us, in the sea of landscape images, many simply do not cut it. So, if we pause on your image and start wondering where this has been taken or how you took the image, usually there is a good chance we will accept the image.
- Rarity. Do we have a similar image already in the library, do we need to fill a gap? If so then the quality criteria may be relaxed in order to build that section of the collection.
- Appeal and commercial value. How often do we get asked for such image? How often do we see keywords related to this location or style?
Tip: A lot of photographers fail to tell us the locations of the shots they are uploading so sometimes it can be hard for us to tell – the more information you can supply – either in the metadata of each file or in the email you send us to advise of a new submission – the better!
3- COMPOSITION AND SPACE
This is a key element that is very often overlooked by photographers. Is your image dynamic and attention grabbing or is it flat and lifeless? Does it look like a hand-held snap from a wee-stop on the side of the road or has it been carefully composed? Are there any distractions like branches in the foreground or coming in from side of frame, sticking out of people’s heads, etc. And last but not least: is there adequate space to allow for clients to run headlines, slogans, logos, copy etc?
Tip: Make sure you supply different variations of an image to increase the commercial value of your series (see point 4.)
We love (and almost do the gigadance) when you submit a number of variations of the same image. This gives our clients options and increase the value of the series as well!
Tip: when you shoot your subject, make sure you shoot multiple variations: horizontal, vertical, wide, close up, subject left, subject right, negative space on the left or right, negative space at the top etc. Include all the relevant and quality variations in the same submission to make sure we see the full series.
5- COLOUR GAMUT
We always prefer images that give clients as much ‘raw material’ to work with as possible because an image with a wide colour gamut is more versatile and will appeal to more clients. If a client wants to reduce the colour of an image, their designers can always do this from the full colour image. But when the colour gamut has been reduced or flattened, or if the image has a particular strong treatment, it is generally much harder for them to add colour back into the image to fit the overall style and feel of their project or campaign.
Tip: try to limit the number of black and white images you submit. And if you think an image stands out more in black and white, feel free to submit it but just make sure you also submit the full colour version as well.
6- FRESHNESS AND STYLE
Some subjects or locations have been shot over and over again… but they are still in demand. So when this is the case, we ask ourselves “is it a fresh take on the subject / location or is it “same-old, same-old”?” Is the style contemporary, modern? Will the image appeal to a younger creative audience?
In addition, all images date – whether you like it or not. Fashion, technology, construction work often affect an image. Landscapes do have a longer shelf-life than people or city-scapes but, to be honest, there are only so many images of ‘View across Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook’ that we can take!
1- Read our newsletters and have a look at our shooting ideas, visual trends, and tips and tricks for photographers available on our blog.
2- When reading magazines, when surfing the web, when walking in the street, make mental notes of the style of images you see in adverts and magazines. This should give you an indication of the trends and the style that appeal to clients.
7- TECHNICAL QUALITY
That’s the boring part… and very often, the frustrating one for us. Why? Because we see a lot of mind blowing images on social media (Instagram, Facebook etc…) but when we run our quality controls on the hi-res file, the image simply does not cut it. From dust spots and other nuisances, to sharpness and chromatic aberration issues, a lot of technical / quality issues can trigger a “rejected file” (or “rejected application”) response. This is how we often judge between a good and an inexperienced photographer. And this is a key point for us: our clients choose to come to us because they know that the images they license on One Shot will go the distance. Which is why we need to make sure that images will reproduce equally well on a social media post and on a large billboard or large interior wall display, if needed. So make sure you edit your images and correct anything that will affect the quality of the image before submitting to us or it will be rejected. Simple.
1- always inspect your files in an image editor (photoshop, lightroom etc) at 100% and work using the grid tool to make sure you do not miss a section of the image.
2- Make sure you read your camera manual and learn how to use and master your camera settings too. Finding the right balance between ISO, aperture, shutter speed, depth of field etc is key to take high quality images. For instance, too often we see images that look “grainy” when inspected at 100%, because of an ISO set too high (and most of the time, unnecessarily).
3- Use the Lens Correction tool in Lightroom to fix chromatic aberrations as much as possible.
8- HE TANGATA / THE PEOPLE
People images are the goldmine of the stock industry but we all know how “tricky” it can be to work with people. Not only because of the paperwork (a.k.a. model releases) but also because finding the right talent to work with is crucial. When choosing your models, make sure they are comfortable in front of the camera. If you are working with non-professionals, it is sometimes much harder to make them look authentic as they become self conscious and start making faces or have forced expressions. So don’t be shy and direct them if you’re not getting the expression you are looking for.
When pre-selecting your images for your submission, make sure that all the people appearing on the image have a consistent expression (all smiling, all happy, all eyes open, etc.). Inconsistent or lack of natural expressions are common reasons for images being rejected.
1- Your models should always be doing something or communicating a concept on your image (e.g. teamwork, togetherness, strength, fun, concentration, planning, etc) rather than “just standing there, smiling” or ‘standing there doing’. Often it is the concept that sells the image not the subject or action.
2- The best shots of people doing something are often the ones on which models are “actually not doing it”, but you can tell they have been/while doing it just by looking at the picture. For instance, surfers not actually surfing but taking a break and hanging out together by the cars, on the beach.
The One Shot team