Welcome 2011

May you be better than 2010…

I got caught up in all the holiday stuff, which is why I haven’t updated the site since November.  I did finally get the site moved to a new server, so hopefully it will run a lot faster.

I’ll have the November and December totals up in a day or so and then a 2010 summary with thoughts.  Thanks for hanging in there!

October 2010 Sales Report

October was a very welcome month with mostly higher sales across the board.  Pond5 led with a new “Best Month Ever” in both number of clips sold and sales dollars.  The only real bummer was the whole iSyndica thing… especially when it came time to gather the data for this months report.  Ugh!

October 2010
Agency Clips Sold Portfolio Size
Pond5 103 (+37) 1127 (+22)
RevoStock 5 (+1) 321 (+0)
ShutterStock 8 (+4) 159 (+9)
ClipCanvas 3 (+3) 308 (+77)
MediaStock 0 (+0) 78 (+0)
Can Stock 0 (-1) 48 (+2)
iStock 2 (+2) 17 (+0)
Fotolia 0 4 (+0)

Until a couple of weeks ago, Pond5 would manually process of all sales.  Which means sometimes several days would go by before we would know how things were going.  Finally, they heard our cry and automated the process.  So at 4:00am Eastern Time an automated script is executed to process new sales and send out the emails.  It is SOOOO much nicer to get those daily emails now.  One important note, sales are delayed.  Which means, if I buy one of your video clips today, it will not show up on tomorrow’s sales report.  Pond5 waits 2 to 3 days for the transaction to actually clear before it can be posted.  This is a measure to catch fraud and prevent refunds.  In all the years I’ve been with Pond5, I’ve never had a refund (that I know of)… I wish I could say the same for RevoStock or ShutterStock.  Getting that refund notice is a major downer.

I did manage to get about 50 new clips uploaded to Pond5, but I’ve been slow in the keyword process so only 22 new clips made it online last month.  Of course, it’s not helping that Pond5 is a week or more behind in processing clips.  But that’s to be expected as they are seeing a major rush of new artists from the whole iStock fiasco.  They also had some major FTP problems last month that took a little time to get worked out.  But, the great news is that sales skyrocketed there last month.  I hit a new BME in both number of clips sold (I sold 100+ clips in one month there for the first time) and in dollars.  I’ve said it before and it bares repeating… Pond5 knows how to sell footage.

Due to weather and car problems, I stayed home a little more than I would have liked last month and so I took that as an opportunity to get more clips uploaded to ClipCanvas.  Two my of my 3 sales this last month were from the new uploads, so I think it’s working.  ClipCanvas lowered their commission from 60% to 50% and that kicked in this last month.  I’m not happy about it because they really don’t do enough to earn 50% of my sales, but it’s still better than ShutterStock, iStock, etc…  To add insult to injury, this last week they started charging artists a payment processing fee.  So when a customer buys one of my clips, I have to pay the PayPal fee charged to ClipCanvas out of my commission.  Add to that, when I get paid by ClipCanvas, I also have to pay the PayPal transfer fee and a conversion fee from Euros to Dollars so that 50% commission is now actually around 40%.  So Clipcanvas isn’t looking as good as it used to.  They still have major issues with their artist interface and when I asked when those new features they told me about were going to get implemented, I was told sales were low and they can’t afford to do any more development right now… Of course, that does not include the development necessary to charge me for their transaction fees.  I wonder if they’re gonna start charging storage fees for my clips or charge me a percentage of the rent for their office space next…

I just missed payout at ShutterStock last month for a couple of dollars, but this month SS came roaring back with almost a new BME.  Like Pond5, they are very behind in footage reviews right now (about two weeks) but image reviews are moving pretty quickly (around 24 hours).  I had a couple of sales on iStock which was a nice surprise given how small my portfolio is there.  And I had +1 sales in October at Revostock, but it was still a very slow month.  I didn’t get anything uploaded, but with winter coming I’m planning on doing a lot of uploading to Revo over the next few months.  Hopefully that will start sparking more sales there.

Missing iSyndica

I feel like a drug addict going through withdrawal.  It’s not so much that I miss the ability to upload once and “syndicate everywhere” (I do miss that), more it’s a matter of missing the analytics.  Being able to log in every single day to check my sales stats not only helped me to track things, but it gave me a piece of mind knowing that somewhere I sold at least 1 item each day.

I’ve added the picNiche Toolbar to Firefox which does let me track sales on a number of sites, but a lot of the sites I use are missing and I’m not good enough with regular expressions to add those myself.  Additionally, there’s no history… there’s no total across all sites… it’s very frustrating.

While I would love to see someone else do something similar to iSyndica, the players who have talked about it all say that Video is their nemesis.  The amount 0f storage space needed is apparently expensive and those expenses have to be passed on to the customer.  So it’s not likely we’ll see anything similar to iSyndica’s upload capabilities for video that is affordable. I can probably live with that… I’ve gotten back into a routine for uploading files to multiple sites from my computer using a series of scripts that monitors an empty folder on my computer (I stick a file in the folder and my scripts automatically upload the file to numerous sites for me.)

What I miss more than anything is the analytics.  And I hope that Hugo from iSyndica sees this post and considers bringing back a new service which just does tracking the way iSyndica did.  Such a service would be FAR CHEAPER to run than iSyndica since there would be no file storage necessary beyond the database.  And it’s something I’d pay $10 to $15 a month for depending on how far it went.

First, it would need to support all of the sites that iSyndica did (which was 90% of the MicroStock industry) with regular updates several times a day.  The report would include how many files were downloaded from each supported site and the total revenue.  With support for historical data and basic projection of revenues each month.  All of this is what iSyndica did.  What it also needs is the ability to track portfolios.  I want to have a complete list of every file I have uploaded at every site and the ability to track which files are selling where. More importantly, I’d like to know which files I still need to upload to various sites and which files were rejected (so I don’t attempt to upload them again).  I imagine this would mostly be a manual process, but I’m fine with that as long as I can view and edit the data myself.

Unlike iSyndica which was primarily for file distribution, such a tracking site could run on relatively cheap hosting (you can get unlimited bandwidth/unlimited database for around $20 a month on many reputable web hosts).  The main expense would be a programmer to write all the code, add new features, and keeping it maintained.  But I would imagine such a site would have hundreds if not thousands of supporters which would cover the cost of a full time programmer and provide a hefty profit.

I know there are  a few other “stats” sites out there, but none of them go as far as iSyndica did with their stats and NONE of them support as many sites as iSyndica did (most don’t support video tracking).

More than I want a replacement for iSyndica’s easy uploading and distribution… I want a site to better track my Microstock statistics.  That is something I’d subscribe to “in a New York minute”.

Long Distance Relationships

When shooting video (or stills) on your DSLR camera, it’s always best to use a prime lens like a 50mm F1.8 or F1.4.  However, sometimes the subject you are shooting requires a zoom lens and prime zooms can be very expensive.  Fortunately both Canon and Sigma have zooms that are inexpensive (around $200).  When I first got my Canon T2i, a good friend of mine recommended that I get the Sigma DG 70-300mm lens for my zoom.  I did, and I’ve been extremely happy with it ever since (well, mostly happy).

The only problem is that the lens does not have any form of Optical Stabilization.  So when shooting video at full zoom, even the slightest twitch can cause major issues with the video. I try to shoot on a tripod whenever possible, but even then sometimes heavy winds can cause even the best tripod to shake a little bit.  And when using a non-stabilized zoom that translates into heavy camera shake in the video.  When that happens, you either have to trash the recorded video or use stabilization in your editing software which has its own issues.  And forget shooting handheld at max zoom, that’s a total nightmare.

Recently I ran across a really good deal on the Canon 70-300mm lens with Image Stabilization (usually sells for around $450), so I bought it.  I personally don’t think the image quality is as good as the Sigma lens, but the built-in optical stabilization is fantastic.  Check out this side-by-side comparison video I shot:

[vimeo width=”640″ height=”360″]https://www.vimeo.com/15161994[/vimeo]

I had the ISO set too high when I shot it (forgot to change it after shooting video the night before), so there’s some noise in the video if you watch it full screen.  But you can see the difference in how shaky the handheld video is between the IS and non IS lens.  With the Image Stabilization turned on the footage is actually usable.

I may sell the Canon IS lens and buy the Sigma version with “Optical Stabilization” simply because I like the look of the Sigma bokeh better.  But either way, for video, having a zoom with IS is essential in my opinion.

Batten down the hatches

In my little corner of the world, the weather is starting to turn colder and we’re getting more frequent storms.  Shooting footage and photos outdoor starts to become less of an option. So, I’m spending every good day out shooting new stuff and every bad day preparing for a long winter inside.

Fortunately, my skills include Cinema 4D which is a 3D animation and illustration program.  So I am not limited to just photography and video footage.  I am preparing a list of animations and illustrations I want to create over the Winter months.  Gathering up assets (buying models, textures, etc..) and making sure all of my software is patched and ready to go.

I’m cleaning up my studio… Well, the tiny part of the house I took over as a photo studio.  I’m making sure my backdrops are clean and wrinkle free.  Making sure I have all the lighting fixtures I need.  Making sure I have plenty of light bulbs (I use strictly 5600k daylight balanced bulbs).  I’m making a list of props I want to look for in thrift-stores or on eBay.  And I’m checking my equipment to make sure everything works and is ready to go.

The long winter is also when I do a lot of my marketing… sending letters and post cards to TV stations and companies that produce TV commercials. And it’s also when I do a lot of  market research.  I use excel to build a list of popular keywords over the past year and when they were popular… trying to find trends for the upcoming year.

I also plan to “catch up” on editing and submitting clips.  I’ve got several hundred that remain unedited on my hard drive because I’ve been concentrating on shooting as much as I can when I can.

What are your winter plans?