Author Archives: Craig Dingle

Fish Where the Fish Are

Here in Melbourne, Australia we are coming out of covid lockdown number 6. Vaccination rates are increasing and it looks like the economy will re-open fully. Photography business opportunities will vary and in the short term it is important to fish where the fish are.

What Do You Mean ‘Fish Where the Fish Are’?

The economy is opening at different rates with some things bouncing back immediately and others taking time.


A good example is sports, and my business is in sports photography. Community sport is beginning with training and a shortened summer season. It will be a little while until competition and tournaments commence. In other words, there is likely to be a delay until demand for team and action photography increases. There is not likely to be too many fish in the sports photography pond in the very short term.

Community sports are about to recommence in Melbourne

Where will there be opportunity?

I am seeing strong demand for kindergarten and childcare photography. The end of the calendar year is fast approaching and these facilities have permission to have photographers on site from November.

There is only a short time until Christmas. As a result, kindergarten and childcare photographers are likely to have a very busy final 2 months of the year.

This is an area where we will see very strong demand in the immediate future. If you have contacts in this space, now is an excellent time to touch base and see how you can help.

Kindergarten and childcare photography is an immediate opportunity

Making the Most of Short Term Opportunities

In normal times I recommend photographers stick to the area where they want to build their business. That means specialization and focus. Wedding photographers shooting weddings, sports photographers shooting sports, and family photographers shooting families. You get the idea.

My recommendation with 2 months to go in this calendar year is to be flexible and look for opportunities. Government financial support is coming to an end and cash flow is important. Fish where the fish are. All the best.

Outstanding Customer Service Experience

This week I have had an outstanding customer service experience. Let me give you the context, explain what happened, and consider lessons for photography businesses.

Context

Here in Melbourne, Australia the state government has taken a conservative approach to the coronavirus pandemic. ‘Lock downs’ are the tool of choice to contain and eliminate the virus. We are currently in our sixth lock down.

During this time I have started cycling. It’s a terrific way to keep fit, lose weight, and to enjoy the 2 hours of exercise time allowable each day.

When it comes to bike servicing, I have been going to the local bike shop. Cycling is enjoying great popularity right now, and bikes shops are busy. On my two most recent bike services, the bike has been in the shop for a week. That’s been annoying for me as I only have one bike and am keen to ride.

What was the Outstanding Customer Service Experience?

One of my cycling buddies recommended a mobile bike mechanic who comes to your home and fixes the bike on the spot. Not wanting my bike to be in the local shop for another week, it was time to give the mobile bike mechanic a try.

10.15am I call the mobile bike mechanic and it goes to voicemail.

10.20am My mobile phone rings. The mechanic is in my area and may be able to come today. They will get back to me.

11.30am The mechanic calls to let me know he is finishing his earlier job, and can be at my house in 15 minutes if it suits me. Yes, yes, yes it does suit me.

11.45am Bike mechanic arrives. We enjoy 10 minutes discussing bikes, and agree what will be done to mine.

1.00pm My bike is fixed

1.30pm I go for a ride!

What did this Outstanding Customer Service Experience Cost?

The irony is that it cost less than it would have if I had taken the bike to the local shop.

Yes, the bike was fixed 3 hours after I first left them a message, at a lower cost than it would have been otherwise. In addition to fixing my bike, the mechanic added value by discussing likely future service issues, and brands to consider when I come to purchase a new bike.

As you can imagine, I will be using the mobile bike mechanic again.

The mobile bike mechanic has provided an outstanding customer service experience (not me in the photo!)

Lessons for Photographers

This experience is a fantastic reminder that while my business provides digital images, prints, canvas prints, albums and other products – I am really in the business of customer service.

I want my customer to be happy with their images but I really aim for the experience to be so good that the customer doesn’t ever think about going anywhere else. That is the experience the mobile bike mechanic gave me.

If you’d like to read about other customer service experiences I have had please see these links. Investing in Relationships, and How Not to Run Your Small Business.

I hope this outstanding customer service experience lesson can be useful in your photography business. Keep smiling. (And if you live in Melbourne and need a great mobile bike mechanic – get in touch – I can recommend one!)

5 Lessons from Speaking to a Local Camera Club

Last month I was the guest speaker at the Maroondah Photographic Society meeting. It was fun to share images and talk about ‘action photography’. I particularly enjoyed the discussion and the questions, and while I was the presenter, I also learned a lot. Here are 5 Lessons from Speaking to a Local Camera Club.

Lesson 1 – It’s Fun to Talk with Other Photographers

My first lesson was more of a reminder than a lesson, and that is – it is fun to talk to other photographers. We share a passion for creating images, and I really enjoyed sharing images and talking with this group.

Lesson 2 – Photographers like to Know Your Camera Settings

During the discussion on action images, with nearly every image someone was asking about camera settings. It took me a little by surprise. Perhaps it’s due to experience (or old age!) but I rarely ask about camera settings. I have either experienced taking different styles of shots, or can estimate by looking at the image what the camera settings will be. That aside, the lesson was that the members of this club were interested in camera settings. Next time I will include them for each image.

Sports images are my main subjects and provide lots of material to discuss

Lesson 3 – Positioning and Timing

I mainly shoot sports images and so the discussion did focus on sports photography. Positioning and timing are key to generating high quality sports images. Two simple tips – images will be more compelling if you keen see the players faces, and if you can see the ball. Position yourself to capture both in your images.

Lesson 4 – Amateur Photographers Would Like to Know How to Generate an Income from Images

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been active in stock photography. There are many posts on Beyond Here which discuss the process of shooting stock images and uploading them to an image library where they are then available to purchase. In our discussion on action photography I mentioned that many of my wildlife images are available as stock. This drew questions and was a good lesson for me – there are plenty of amateur photographers interested in how to generate an income from images. See here for what to expect starting in stock photography.

Positioning and timing are important in action images.

Lesson 5 – Photographers Like to Know About Your Equipment

While equipment was not a major component of the presentation, it did feature and drew some discussion. I briefly covered the equipment we use for sports photography and more generally for action images. You’ll find it easier if you have a camera body which shoots a high number of images per second, have lenses which focus quickly and shoot at shallow depth of field, and use a mono-pod if you are going to be shooting for an extended time.

Thanks for reading these 5 lessons from speaking to a local camera club. To Neil and the photographers at the Maroondah Photographic Society – thank you for having me!

More Tips for Photographing Basketball

Here in Melbourne, Australia we are in Covid lock down number 4, giving me plenty of time to reconnect with my love-hate relationship with this blog! Prior to lock down it has been a super busy time shooting basketball, football, tennis and hockey. Through the local basketball club I have made a connection with another sports photographer who is looking for some advice on shooting basketball. Check out this post 5 Tips for Photographing Basketball. Below are more tips for photographing basketball.

Tip #1 – Include the Ball in Your Shot

Basketball – like most ball sports – revolves around the ball. As a general comment, images which include the ball are going to be more interesting than images without the ball. The ball provides context and focus for the action unfolding around it. Aim to have the ball visible in the majority of your images.

Tip #2 – Players Faces Make Images More Interesting

As a general rule in sports photography, images where you can see the players faces are going to be more interesting than players backs. For this reason I generally sit at the end of the basketball court and aim to create images of the team running towards me, where I can easily see their faces. Side on images can be interesting too, but if you want to see the players faces more consistently, shoot from the end of the court.

Shooting from the end of the court makes it easy to see players faces

Tip #3 – Look for Emotion

Basketball is a terrific game for capturing action and emotion as it all happens in a confined space. Displays of emotion are fairly predictable in a close game. Your can almost guarantee that there is going to be lots of emotion on display in the early stages of an important game, and at the closing stages of a close game.

Look for emotion on the bench and between players.

The bench is a great area to capture the emotion of the game

Tip #4 – Experiment with Slow Shutter Speeds

Basketball is a fast paced, high intensity game ideal for fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. Once you have plenty of those images, experiment with slow shutter speeds to create unique and interesting images. I usually look to a shutter speed around 1/20s but the exact speed you choose will depend on the age and speed of the players you are photographing. Pan along with the action as it unfolds. Expect to have lots of ‘failures’ with this technique, and a handful of winners which are unique.

Experiment with slow shutter speeds to create unique images

Tip #5 – Consider Your Background

It’s most common to focus on the subject of your image, and easy to forget about your background. Basketball can have a range of different backgrounds – crowds, signs, blank walls, other games – so consider what you what your background to be and the story you want it to help tell.

Consider the background for your images

Thanks for reading more tips for photographing basketball. Happy shooting.

5 Business Reminders from a Challenging Year

We will remember 2020 for the global pandemic and it’s impact on health and business. Photographers and other creative industries are hit hard with many relying on government support. Here are 5 business reminders from a challenging year.

Business Reminder #1 – Look for Opportunities

The first of our business reminders from a challenging year is that even in a global pandemic there are opportunities. In my sports photography business it has been a very difficult year with community sport cancellations applying for most of the year. The result? I’ve cancelled more jobs than we have actually shot. Where’s the opportunity? Although it has been a tough year, the opportunity has been to really connect with sports clients who are also going through a challenging year. I have been working on cementing relationships, providing support, and offering to help when more normal times return. I’m feeling positive and laying foundations for the year ahead.

In addition, there is an opportunity presented by the pandemic for stock photography. See this post for more details Ideas for Coronavirus Themed Stock Photos.

Be ready to accelerate when more normal times return

Business Reminder #2 – Be Ready to Accelerate

Are you ready to accelerate when more normal times return? Business is not going to bounce back immediately and the new year will bring new challenges. Some businesses will flourish and others will die. Are you ready to accelerate into the new year? Will your business be one that flourishes?

Business Reminder #3 – Follow Those Who Have Been Before

Not many know what it’s like to go through a global pandemic, but lots of people and businesses have been through difficult times. Do you know someone who has been through a tough business environment who can help you? Are there survival lessons to learn from them? Can they assist with rebuilding your own business?

Can you follow people who have experience with tough times?

Business Reminder #4 – Refuel Ahead of Time

It is going to be tempting to work super hard in 2021 to make up for 2020. While everyone is looking forward to being busy and good times returning, it is important to manage our energy levels and workloads. Refuel ahead of time rather than waiting for burn out to hit you.

Refuel ahead of time

Business Reminder #5 – Good Times will Return

Let’s remember the good times will return. People will continue to want high quality photography solutions. Be positive. There is opportunity in every situation if we look hard enough for long enough.

Thanks for reading 5 business reminders from a challenging year. Best wishes for a positive year ahead. Keep smiling.

Celebrating Being One of the Best Microstock Blogs

I have a love – hate, on again – off again relationship with writing this blog! It is exciting to see Beyond Here make this list of the best microstock blogs.

Today I’m celebrating Beyond Here making a list of best microstock blogs

Why Love – Hate, On Again – Off Again

Writing a blog is for me is a little like stock photography. There are times when the ideas flow, there’s lots of reader feedback, and it’s easy to generate new content. And there are other times when I struggle to come up with new ideas, or execute them in a way that generates quality content.

2020 has been particularly challenging when for a good proportion of the year here in Melbourne, Australia has been in coronavirus lockdown.

That has meant that the normal flow of ideas from being busy and shooting lots has not been there.

My recent microstock content has focused on coronavirus themed images

Using World Events to Drive New Ideas

New ideas have not flowed easily this year, and financial motivations have been challenging. See this post about changes at Shutterstock which negatively impact contributor’s earnings.

However, the smaller amount of new images have been very successful. Content relating to coronavirus and the world wide pandemic has been hugely popular, and will continue to be so. Make the most of this. Get a face mask for your model and think of stock themes!

Celebrating for Now

As we are coming out of virus lock down in Melbourne, Australia and heading towards summer I’m busy working on rebuilding my sports photography business.

I’ll celebrate Beyond Here making the list of best microstock blogs and begin planning my stock content for 2021.

Reading

There is great content on the list of best microstock blogs. I encourage you to read them and see how the content can be applied to your own microstock efforts. Thanks for reading this post. Best wishes.

Timeless Business Reminders for Surviving Tough Times

Around the world photographers, and many other industries, are feeling the business impact of the coronavirus. Where I live in Melbourne, Australia we are currently living with a curfew between 8pm and 5am, a limit of one hour out of home per day to exercise, and restrictions on the distance you may travel from home. Difficult times. It’s been a time to reflect on these business reminders for surviving tough times.

Many photographers are feeling the financial squeeze due to the coronavirus pandemic

Reminder #1 – Keep Overheads Low

It is now 6+ months since the coronavirus meant social gatherings and sporting events are cancelled to protect the health of the community. This has been impacting all types of events and photographers. While we hope the coronavirus is not with us for long, it’s a great business reminder to keep overhead costs low. We never know when business revenues will turn down, and I’m grateful to not be struggling with an expensive studio or office space when revenues have dropped.

Reminder #2 – Be Careful with Debt

Right now is a difficult time to have debt. Revenues have dried up, but debts still need to be repaid. Given the widespread impact of the coronavirus, many lenders are currently being flexible with loan repayments, but this will not last. Eventually, those with debts will need to repay them. Be careful with debt. In tough times, it is better to be operating with reliable old equipment than to have just borrowed money to buy the latest camera body or lens.

Many piggy banks are empty as the economic impact of the pandemic continues

Reminder #3 – Cash Reserves Provide a Buffer

Having some cash in reserve provides greater ability to survive tough times. Remember this when times are good, and tuck some cash away to help survive when times are not so good. While these business reminders for surviving tough times are not rocket science, it’s only in the tough times we find out how well our businesses are really running.

Reminder #4 – Be Flexible

In good times, it is wise to focus on the work you are best at. In tough times it’s smart to be flexible. My business mainly shoots sports. In Melbourne, there have not been community sports events for 6 months now. We are surviving be being flexible – selling prints, doing baby photo shoots (when restrictions allow), redesigning client’s websites, shooting stock images, and generating income outside photography. While it’s not easy, we will survive and sport will return. Can you be flexible and find new income sources?

Reminder #5 – Stay Connected to Your Customers

It is difficult times for everybody. Now is a terrific time to show you care about your customers, and connect with them. Can you generate reasons to be in contact with your customers? Are there ways you can assist them right now? In my own business we continue speak with sports clubs and update via our blog even though there is not a lot to say at the moment! Check out our blog over on Melbourne Sports Photography.

Thanks for reading these timeless business reminders for surviving tough times. These times will pass. Keep going.

Ideas for Coronavirus Themed Stock Photos

Here in Melbourne, Australia we are 3 weeks into a 6 week, level 4 restriction phase due to coronavirus. Under these restrictions we are only allowed to go out for 4 reasons – to do essential shopping, to exercise for 1 hour per day, for medical needs, and for education needs. As you can imagine that makes work as a photographer very difficult. With the absence of client contact and sports, I have been finding it difficult. I haven’t been very productive, and have only shot a limited amount of stock content. If you are looking for some inspiration, here are some ideas for coronavirus themed stock photos.

Lifestyle Themed Images

Ok, first up in our ideas for coronavirus themed stock photos is lifestyle images. Where I live we have restrictions largely keeping us at home, so I have not shot any of these recently. However, if you have greater freedom than we currently do (!) consider stock images of people going about daily life. Grab a face mask and have your model go about daily life – travelling on public transport, going to work, taking the dog for a walk etc.

An example of lifestyle images is in this previous post on Beyond Here, Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown.

Medical Themed Images

I have seen some very well executed images of drive through virus testing facilities. There is high demand for this type of stock image so consider drive through and testing based in a medical facility.

Business or Economic Themed Images

This is where I have focused most of the (few!) stock shoots I have done in the last few weeks. There is already a significant impact on the global economy which is likely to worsen in coming months. Some economic commentators are predicting a recession which will be the biggest economic downtown since the great depression of the late 1920’s and 1930’s. Wow! I expect there will be strong demand for images which capture the economic impact of unemployment, financial difficulty, recession, depression, property crisis, and difficult economic conditions.

Business or economic themed images are likely to be in demand for several years

Things That are New

We are starting to see unique things appearing as a result of coronavirus. While out walking the dog I have been noticing how many parked cars have face masks hanging from the rear view mirror. Have you been noticing things like that? Can you turn those ideas into stock images?

Thanks for reading these ideas for coronavirus themed stock photos. I hope that it has been helpful, and prompted ideas for how you might create popular content during this difficult time. Keep well. Happy shooting.

When Will Normal Return?

2020 has been a challenging year for so many industries across the world. The cancellation of sports events has had a major impact on my business. We can see light at the end of the tunnel with junior sport recommencing in July 2020. But the recent outbreak of coronavirus in Victoria has cast doubt on those dates, and left many people wondering, when will normal return?

Right now there is a lot of preparation for the return of sport. But will the recent second wave of coronavirus put back those plans?

Surviving the Coronavirus Shutdown

I have spent most of the last 4 months shooting stock images, family portraits, personal projects or organizing my images and filing systems for a time when we return to normal. It has been a challenging time and not one I’d like to repeat soon! (see background Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown)

I’m eagerly looking forward to the return of sports events, so that we can get back to photographing live sport. Like many sports fans, I was optimistic that time will be in July 2020. Now that date looks not so likely.

Although pro sport has re-commenced, Melbourne’s major stadiums remain empty with crowds not allowed

We are experiencing a spike in new coronavirus cases which looks likely to delay a return to normal.

Contingencies

I wish we did not need to think about contingencies! However, it now seems the global health concerns may be with us for some time. We may need to consider our short term plans more closely, and focus less on ‘when will normal return’.

What are your plans? Are you hoping for a quick return to normal? Or an extended time of implementing contingencies?

Shutterstock Makes Major Change to Earnings Structure

This week there has been a significant development in the microstock photography industry. One of the largest players upset many of it’s contributors by revamping their royalty structure. Read on to learn more about what’s happening and the reaction as Shutterstock Makes Major Change to Earnings Structure.

What is Shutterstock Announcing?

Shutterstock is announcing a major change to it’s royalty program for contributors. Previously contributors received a fixed amount for each subscription download depending on their level. The minimum royalty is currently USD$0.25. This week’s announcement moves away from a fixed amount to a percentage (also with different levels).

Contributors reactions have been angry with many proposing boycotting Shutterstock

How have Contributors Reacted?

Contributors have reacted negatively with a fear their income will be reducing. Most controversially, contributors percentage will re-set to the lowest level on 1 January each year. Regardless of your portfolio size and previous level of success, every contributor will re-set to 15% royalty at the beginning of each year.

When will the Changes Take Effect?

The changes will be effective from 1 June 2020. Although it seems barely believable, Shutterstock is introducing a major change with less than one week notice.

From this date, contributors percentage royalty will be based on the level of sales achieved so far in 2020. It will then reset to the minimum 15% from 1 January 2021.

Thoughts?

I have liked the certainty which previously came with a fixed royalty per download. If anything, it provided an incentive for Shutterstock to increase prices over time as this would expand their margins.

Unfortunately it seems they are interested in the same model as Getty / iStock who sell high volumes at very low prices, which in turn means very small royalties per download for contributors.

I believe contributors fears are well founded, and expect we will see a decline for contributors revenue per download.

Many Shutterstock contributors have already de-activated their portfolios in protest at this weeks announcement. We wait to see if and when Shutterstock responds.

Subsequent News

Earlier today another microstock agency, Dreamstime, announced an increase in royalties for contributors. The timing of this announcement can only be in direct competition with Shutterstock as they seek to benefit from the discontent Shutterstock has created with contributors.

Where to From Here?

I am going to wait and see what happens to royalties during June 2020 before deciding what actions to take with my small Shutterstock portfolio. If you are a Shutterstock contributor, what are you planning to do?

Thanks for reading Shutterstock Makes Major Change to Earnings Structure.