Selling images on Twenty20
Authentic Stock Photography
If you are a hobbyist or professional photographer in today’s era of social media, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of images that are being displayed daily. New images are being uploaded minute by minute on such platforms as FaceBook, Instagram, Pintrest, and Snapchat.
If you are interested in selling your images to make a little extra money or to establish yourself as a photographer or an influencer in the marketplace, then you have several options. Besides setting up your own e-commerce website, there are many websites already established to help you sell your work.
The pros of establishing your own e-commerce site is that you control your profit margin and you have exclusive imagery that buyers can’t find elsewhere. The pros of these photography websites are many, one being that they have established buyers. The purpose of this article is to share some experience directly related to Twenty20, although these principles may help you in general.
The basics… (Hint. It doesn’t matter what camera you use)
I started with film cameras when I was very young. Grandma gave me a vintage Brownie camera with a giant flash reflector attached to it and I was hooked. When she saw how much I loved it, she surprised me with her old 110 film, Kodak Instamatic! Through the years I have had many SLRs and point and shoots and then like a lot of us I got an iPhone. The iPhone 4s was my best photographic companion. I was never without my camera. This made me more “aware” of possible photo opportunities and increased my mind boggling fascination with the world around me, with the access to a camera at all moments.
When you look through your childhood images and family photo albums you will see some blurry shots. You’ll undoubtedly see ill composed photographs. Some will have lens flairs, people will be cut off and you might see an occasional thumb up close and personal! You LOVE all of those images! Why?
Getting to the heart of what I believe makes a great photograph is your choice of subject(s), your location, your reason for taking the image in the first place. All the technical stuff will simply ADD to this base. If you are just starting out think about what you are capturing more than what kind of camera you have. Down the road when you add lenses and you begin to understand light and when editing becomes second nature to you, you will be building upon this basic foundation.
What is your story?
… do the research
Since my background is journalism, let’s start with a journalism foundation, the 5W’s and H. What are the 5Ws and H? It’s Who, What, Why, Where, When and How.
This is something to think about when creating content of any kind and it works very nicely for photography.
So, your family photos are awesome to YOU! That’s important to understand! There is a reason why some people don’t love watching OTHER people’s home movies or looking through other people’s photo albums. If your gallery is full of photos only you understand or only you and your family can appreciate, there may be a disconnect.
Who are you taking the photo for? In this case we are talking about buyers. Do you know who the buyers are? Have you researched to see what companies Twenty20 has as customers? If you know who your buyers are, that will help you decide what kind of photo you want to capture. https://www.twenty20.com/customers
What do those buyers want? This comes in many forms like what style are they looking for (Look at their website and social media to see the style of images that company currently uses and what kind of images they typically use). Twenty20 is great at telling you what type of photos their buyers need and what kind of style they like, just look through the challenges and collections!
Where will those buyers be using these images? Will they be making brochures or do they want images for social media. What social media platform (it may make a difference to what kind of photo you take).
Why are you taking the photo? This one is my favorite. I put high priority on the “why”. If you understand the other Ws and H it will begin to paint a good picture of why you are taking a particular image. That’s the research many photographers don’t do. When you look for a subject, a scene, a circumstance, always ask yourself Why? What about this is appealing to your audience and why? Is it the color, the feeling, the subject matter? Is it an expression you need or is it something that should feel more distant? What “story” will your photo tell, and why?
When can pertain to timing. Timing of a certain subject and timing of day or night when you actually take the photo. Sometimes the “when” is so important for sales because of it’s timeliness. Are you taking Christmas images early enough for the Christmas photo need? Are you taking advantage of the brief Valentine’s Day season to capture the world around you during that holiday? How are you going to tell the story you want to tell? There are hundreds of ways to tell the same story.
What does Twenty20 do to help you?
Twenty20 is great at helping out photographers, so take some time to search. Many people don’t know, the Twenty20 App and the Twenty20 website are different. Your enjoyment will increase when you look at both places and use all the features.
On the website: www.twenty20.com
- Look at the Social Media Marketing Calendar online to help you plan: https://www.twenty20.com/social-media-marketing
- The Discover page has already curated collections divided up in categories, from Animals & Nature to Sustainability, Urban and Work. Within each category there are MORE categories. Check them out to see what kinds of images are most popular. Observe and pick up on something you might want to hone in on in your own photography: https://www.twenty20.com/discover
- The Photo Challenges page (this is also on the app) gives you a lot of inspiration. Here is where you can submit one of your photos to test it in the community voting. If your photo makes the top 20% your image will be put into a collection by the same name as the photo challenge. This is good because a lot of buyers will use these collections to find images they need. Helping the buyer find your photo is the name of the game and should be a high priority. What’s the use of taking great stock photography only to have it hidden from sight, right? There are three important parts here to notice. 1- OPEN is the section to find the new and upcoming categories. Look at it often because new ones are added all the time. Twenty20 gives you ample time to see a new open challenge category so that you have time to figure out how best to set up and take a great image that fits the image brief. Read the image brief and look at the sample inspiration photos to get a feel for what YOU want to enter! 2- VOTING. In this section is where the LIVE voting is taking place. You as part of the community vote up or down images as they appear on your screen. See where photos are ranking and notice the kinds of photos that rise to the top. Here is where you’ll see a wide variety of imagery and you’ll get to see what others interpretations are of the challenge. There is a lot to learn here. Again be observant and pick up on elements you think might help you in your own photography. 3- CLOSED. The closed section is ultra important! Browse it and view the top 20 images in each category. Go way back in time and see challenges from months ago. Study and take away something that catches your eye so that you can incorporate it.
On the App:
- Go to the home page (the bottom left icon that looks like a house) and tap on the magnifying glass at the top right, above the word “Following”. What do you see? That’s right! Trending Keywords and Popular Keywords! These are invaluable to see what buyers are searching and using. Start taking images that fit these keywords so that your image will appear in the popular and trending searches!
- Go to the home page again. Tap on the magnifying glass again. This time touch the word Photographers on the top under the search bar. This will give you a list of Featured Photographers. Scroll through their galleries and see what resonates with you and what take-aways you can use in your own photographs. Follow the ones you particularly love so that their new photos will be in your followers feed.
- Submit to the Curated Collections. This feature has to be unlocked. It’s unlocked when Twenty20 feels that a certain photographer meets a certain level of quality. At this point the photographer will be invited in by seeing these new collections appear. This is your chance to get your photo into a premium collection without being subjected to the community vote. This time only Twenty20 will be evaluating your image. Good luck and don’t give up hope if yours is not accepted. Keep trying.
Recently Sold. When you look through your Highlights page on the app to see all the beautiful Signatures in the Signature Collection, make sure you scroll down until you see a blue ribbon and the words RECENTLY SOLD. Touch SEE MORE and you’ll actually see a feed of recently sold images on Twenty20. This to me, is a primary source of information to observe. See if you can incorporate elements or if one of these inspires you to “do it better” or to do something similar but different. Maybe one of these photos will trigger a completely different idea based in some kind of commonality you see in a sold image.
Tags & Keywords
Be literal and creative at the same time.
Tagging your photos is critical. People buying stock photography search in curated collections and they also use the search field to find images they need by putting in keywords or “tags”.
Use your Caption to help you add keywords when your 10 word tag limit is reached. Think for a moment what YOU would search when you need a photo for a relationship blog for example. What keywords would you use? Whatever image you upload, make sure that you tag it with words that will help your photo be discovered.
Sometimes tags are literal. “Swimming”, “pool”, “backyard” and other times they are emotional, “fun”, “friendship”, “relaxation”. Get creative and put in words like “Summer”, “vacation”, “celebration”.
Be creative when it comes to what this image can say. Here is an example of a photo I sold today…
Look at the photo and then look at the keywords/tags as an example.
Loves, Honors, Comments, Collections, Model Releases, Image Size
These things can help you sell more photos.
Your photo ranks higher in buyers searches when your photo is: a large size; has honors; comments; loves; releases and has been collected! Whew. That’s a lot, but these things help you sell more photos because the higher you rank in a search the more likely your photo will appear as an option to buyers.
Buyers can’t buy what they never see. You might have the worlds best image, but buyers did not search far enough down in their image bank to ever find it. Work on all of these things and watch your sales start to increase.
Twenty20 buyers don’t want “Stocky”
Twenty20 prides itself as a provider of authentic, real world photography. Buyers turning to Twenty20 want to have believable imagery to represent their brands. You can find other sites that focus on either cheesy and stocky photography but that’s NOT what Twenty20 is about.
For a laugh look here at some examples of really cheesy stock photography: https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33886/13-hilarious-examples-of-truly-awful-stock-photography.aspx
Other stock sites might focus on Master Class Images that are over the top and over produced. A woman with perfect model make-up emerging from a foggy pool (something only a photographer would produce and nothing you would see in “real life”). Maybe there is an over abundance of props and gimmickry like a newborn baby in a flowerpot… again, something only a photographer would produce and nothing you would see in real life. Twenty20 is a free zone where every photographer has a story to tell and all abilities are welcome.
Unique and Underserved
Find a new category and run with it.
The categories and challenges and collections might begin to repeat and look similar the more you get familiar with them. People using technology, fitness and working out, kids, activism… Although popular, buyers need more than that. Try creating a new category that fits in your wheelhouse and be a pioneer in that section. Especially if you are intimidated by the images in any of the other more popular categories.
I’ve seen images that sell because there is not a lot of competition in a particular category. Another reason to search the collections is to see a collection that doesn’t have a lot of choices. Try your hand at submitting images with that in mind. Twenty20 will thank you because you are filling up their options for buyers and buyers will thank you for adding choices to underserved categories.
Tony Andrews is a Twenty20 Insider and photographer who goes by @tonythetigersson on Twenty20 and Instagram