Strengthening your stock photography business through strategic alliances
Strategic alliances are important
“Strategic alliances are becoming increasingly important”. Can’t remember where I saw that quote, but it struck at the time, several years ago, as being an important one. With every passing month it seems to me the truth in those words increases. One way in which I am finding that quote to be prophetic is in my collaboration with other photographers. I have been shooting professionally for over 30 years. The vast majority of that time it seemed as if photographers had an uneasy truce with each other. It seemed that we all viewed each other as competition, not to be trusted on interacted with, except at the occasional ASMP or APA meeting. For me, that has all changed.
Shooting stock video
As I write this I am coming off of a week of shooting with one of my peers, David Fischer. Mostly we were shooting stock video. It was very much a collaborative process. I provided the video camera (a Panasonic HVX200 and an FS100 drive to record to) and the contract with Getty. David provided his experience as a commercial director. A friend of his provided us with the free use of a gyroscope to act as a steadicam for my camera. In return I provided the gyro owner with information that will help him improve the gyro mounts for cameras. We have, in effect, formed a strategic alliance that makes us all stronger and more efficient.
Gang shoots with other stock photographers
In the last four years I have done many group shoots. The largest of these “gang shoots” was organized by photographer Jack Hollingsworth, in Austin, Texas, for a group of Blend Images owners and contributors. I can’t remember exactly how many of us there were…something over a dozen…all of us sharing locations and models. It was great fun, very reasonable in cost (I believe it was about $1,500.00 each for a whole day of shooting) and has paid for itself many times over. I have routinely shot with two or three other photographers, pooling expenses, casting, location scouting and ideas. We have done gang shoots in Mexico, Argentina, Burma, Thailand, India and here in the U.S. I haven’t had a bad experience yet!
I have found that the gang shoots are more fun too. It can get pretty crazy and does have its challenges. For a shoot in Buenos Aires four of us rented a nightclub. We had the blaring music, smoke and light machines, and over thirty models. It wasn’t just a stock shoot, it was a party too! Difficulties that we had to overcome included finding an equitable way for each of us to get a chance in the best spots, avoiding having other photographers and photo equipment in our shots, providing equal access to the best models and so forth. To make these kind of stock shoots work we need to submit the images to the same editor of a given agency to avoid any possible “similar” problems. We planned ahead to make sure we weren’t planning any overt overlapping and checked in with each other during the shoots. By staying flexible and open to what was happening, and communicating effectively, we made it all work and we all agreed it was one of the most fun shoots each of us has had.
Shooting motion and stills together
I also participated in a stock production, again in Buenos Aires, in which two of us shot stills while a third focused on footage. In that case we rented an awesome Penthouse on the 43rd floor of the second tallest building in the city. Again we had a great time, saved time and money by working together, and came away with great shots. In the future I plan to do many more of these shoots that combine one person shooting motion and the other taking still pictures.
There are plenty of other ways to form strategic alliances that are mutually rewarding and can make shooting stock more rewarding in a number of ways. I will cover some of those ways in future articles.