Going Indie – Building It Right

by valrac4_a3kqdy
You clients will never see how well refined your inner workings are, but they will most certainly know. Your website will be your lifeblood – don’t cheap out with a D.I.Y. unless you absolutely know what you are doing.

Your clients will never see how well refined your inner workings are, but they will most certainly know. Your website will be your lifeblood – don’t cheap out with a D.I.Y. unless you absolutely know what you are doing.

Alright – let’s take the plunge!

You have done your homework. You have commissioned a critical analysis of your capacity and capability with disciplined enthusiasm. Your business case revealed you could compete in the stock photography business. You have dedicated considerable time and resources in developing a business plan. You took that business plan to a local lending institution (commercial bank) seeking an operating line of credit and were successful.

Doing your due diligence, you should have realized there are a few options with respect to going live online. You can either develop your website from scratch, you can contract with a host provider, or you can create a hybrid of the two.  In speaking with my photographer friends, I found no one approach was preferred over another; the correct approach was a matter of individual circumstances.

As you review your options, you should keep several topics in the forefront: brand maintenance and continuity, built in e-commerce and licensing capability, low upkeep maintenance and effective search engine capacity are but a few of the considerations. What you will require is an online presence that will permit you to work creating images while the website works creating revenue.

There are many applications and outlets available to assist you in this endeavour. Let’s review just a few of the more popular.

One of the most popular applications is PhotoShelter.  This private company must be doing something right: more than 80,000 photographers worldwide use their service. I have used PhotoShelter in the past, but only from the perspective of uploading a clients’ images and developing the various galleries to accommodate those images according to a predetermined set of protocols.  I found the process very easy; moving images around the portal was quite intuitive via a drag-and-drop process. The images are stored on a cloud service, which makes high resolution files easily available for client downloading. I could regurgitate everything on their website, but won’t. Just go check them out, and if you think it might meet your requirements you can give the platform a 14-day free trial before making an investment.

A huge consideration for the indie stock photographer is the leading edge pricing calculator, fotoquote, that is built-in all three versions of PhotoShelter. I’ll write more about fotoquote later in this post.

Another nice feature about PhotoShelter is their network of certified consultants. If you don’t know how to write custom script in HTML5, for example, their services could be the perfect solution. Essentially these folks are independent web designers who can build your online presence by incorporating PhotoShelter as your stock library manager and having it quietly working in the background. Meanwhile your public face remains intact through a customized WordPress template, for example, to avoid a cookie-cutter look. Integration between your frontend and backend should not be noticed – that is a hallmark of a well designed site which exudes professionalism.

Another application that deserves a solid review is Stockbox Photo. When I was first reviewing applications for a client several years ago, I was keen on Stockbox Photo for two primary reasons: 1. They are Canadian, and 2. Unlike PhotoShelter they did not retain a percentage of every sale I might make (avoiding agency commission payments is one of our primary purposes for going indie). The primary reason we couldn’t use Stockbox Photo at that time was due to its inability to complete image quoting in an autonomous manner for rights-managed licensing. Stockbox Photo is now claiming to have improved their pricing calculator, so future review is warranted to see how well it is integrated and how it compares to the long identified industry standard – fotoquote.

Reviewing a selection of Stockbox Photo example websites appears to be a little “clunky” when the site(s) switch from the frontend public face (most appeared to be WordPress sites) to the back end library. Without having a web designer review the scripting, I suspect this awkwardness is more a result of poor web design than Stockbox Photo’s inability to seamlessly integrate. A good designer should be able to custom code this transition so it appears seamless.

Final analysis: I would recommend you give both PhotoShelter and Stockbox Photo serious consideration.

I first used Cradoc Bagshaw’s software when he was working out of Vancouver, I believe it was. Let’s just say it was Cradoc Caption Writer delivered on a floppy disk, and the printer was a dot matrix machine. How’s that for giving away my age?

Over time Cradoc developped another software called fotoquote, which earned a well-deserved reputation as the king pricing calculators for stock photographers. In as simple of terms as I can put … you cannot operate your stock photography business without this application. I can’t write enough good things about it. You will do yourself a huge favour if you can get your web designer to embed this application into your web presence.

This is a very small sampling of applications that you might wish to consider. Let this be a gateway to further review and analysis of applications available. As you research more, always keep in mind that you will be competing with the big boys: Getty, Corbis and Shutterstock. Your web functionality will be compared to these well-financed machines, but don’t let that deter you.

Now get busy; get to work.

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