Five Tips for Taking Better Stock Photos

Selling stock photos is a great way to earn extra income from your photography hobby. However, with a bit of practice and some tips from the pros, you can elevate your stock photos to the next level and get your pictures and images featured in advertising, web, and print.

taking better stock photos

1. Maximize Your Camera’s Capabilities
Set the camera’s resolution to the highest setting your camera will allow. Higher resolutions allow you to take pictures with finer detail and more vibrant colors. It also makes your photos more usable by designers and producers who need your photos to look great in digital formats and HD. High resolution photos are easier to edit and crop. If your camera’s resolution are limited, consider upgrading to a new camera. High resolution photos take up more disk space, so get a nice sized memory card, and possibly an external hard drive to store your shots.

2. Compose Your Shots With The End User In Mind
Snapping photos haphazardly might give you a nice bump in quantity, but quality is what sells when it comes to stock photography. Keep your end user in mind when dreaming up shots. Think of how your photo might be used. Consider the angle that’s not only interesting to the eye, but pleasing and usable from a print or advertising perspective. Often times, you’ll need lots of negative space for copy.

Use classical photography techniques to frame your shot. Use the rule of thirds to space out primary interest and focal points. Imagine your final image split into even thirds, and your primary subjects should sit on those lines. Try to avoid splitting the image in half with horizons, solid lines, and people. Keep your backgrounds simple and clutter-free so that the audience can focus on your subject matter. But remember, every situation is different, and sometimes a great photo will break these rules of thumb.

3. Get Close
Unless it’s a scenic shot, fill the entire frame with your subject. Photos taken from a distance look amateurish and cluttered. Simplicity is better in stock photography, especially because end-users want the photos they purchase to portray a single theme or subject. Put on that high powered zoom lens, and get as close as possible. You can use high resolution settings if you don’t have a zoom lens, as you can always crop a bit later. And remember, focus, focus, focus. No one wants a blurry photo.

4. Don’t add borders or Instagram-like effects.
Just don’t. Make your photos look clean and clear. Let the designers and producers affect the photo later if they want. Frames and cartoonifying a shot makes your photo look cheap, and niche, limiting its usability.

5. Be Stingy With the Flash
Take photos in outdoor, natural lighting first. Using flash in poorly lit locations can cause ugly reflections and other undesirable shadows, not to mention red eyes and pale faces. You can avoid using a flash with a slower shutter speed (just be sure to keep it steady), or with a higher ISO speed. That doesn’t mean never use a flash. Flash is great for eliminating shadows, especially in bright light situations that leave shadows in unsightly places (like under eyes, or in corners).

Check out this great video on taking better photos — and remember, practice makes perfect!

5 Ways To Record Better Sound Effects

sound effectsRecording sound effects or building a catalog of sounds to sell on some royalty free music or stock audio library sites? Follow these five tips for maximizing your library’s size and overal success. You’ll find that, with just a little careful planning and organization, you’ll be able to curate the sound library that your production business needs to succeed.

1) Make a list in advance. Just as film producers create a list of shots they need to complete a scene or a video, and optimize their lists to minimize shooting time (equipment rental is expensive, man), so should the professional sound designer. Whether your goal is to get a single animal sound, or a collection of city ambiences, know what you’re going for before you get on location. Make a list, and be specific! Do you need footsteps? Howling? Traffic? Once you’ve got your list, you can then optimize your locations — for example, you can get footsteps on a sidewalk, and at the same time get some traffic sounds if you record on a busy street. You can save time, and at the same time, get creative with your catalog. A little pre-planning can go a long way.

2) Invest in a high quality microphone and DAW. While technology is getting better and better, and cheaper quality equipment is becoming increasingly available, it’s still important for sound effects producers to invest in great gear. Do your homework, because just like quality gear is becoming cheaper, cheap gear is becoming more and more prevalent. Find microphones that have excellent reponse at all frequencies, a solid hard disk to store your takes to, and don’t skimp on your editing software. A quality digital audio editor such as ProTools or Logic can save you time and make your audio sound great.

3) Edit, Edit, Edit. Getting rid of extraneous noises is key in creating quality sound effects that are ready to use in production. No one wants footstep sounds with dogs barking in the background when they’re searching for footstep sound effects. Cut the extra sounds, and your clients will thank you for it. Reduce the ambient noise as much as you can, as this will allow your sound effects to be used in as many different projects as possible without much editing. Separating your sounds this way will also pay off big in the size of your catalog.

4) Master your recordings and create high-resolution mixes. Invest in some quality mastering plug-ins. This will make your recordings have the loudness they need, along with the equalization required to make them sound their best. But remember, don’t over-master. Chances are that whoever is purchasing your audio is likely to edit the effects to suit their specific needs. You can coun’t on them adjusting volume, changing reverb, or mixing with other sounds. The key is to give them the best base material possible. Along these lines, don’t forget to bounce to uncompressed formats like WAV or AIFF, which have far superior sound quality than a highly compressed MP3.

5) Tag and Describe your Sound Effects accurately. When you’ve completed your mixes, don’t just label your files Car 1, Car 2, Car 3. That doesn’t tell your customer anything about the sound they’re looking at, and wastes their time. If you’ve recorded a Ferrari Testarosa revving up it’s engine, label the file that way. People searching sound effects libraries have tons of material to go through, and need help finding things quickly. Similarly, you can save yourself numerous headaches when you need to dig up a file from your archives a year from now. With a little forethought and organization, you can build a better sound effects library with minimal effort.

Sell Stock Music and Sound Effects on Your Own Site

Now you can turn any webpage into your own personal royalty free stock media store, complete with production music, sound effects and audio, stock footage, and stock photos, thanks to our brand new remote store widgets. While setting up your own remote store widget it super simple, we’ve put together a short tutorial of how to get up and running in a matter of minutes.

admin menuStep 1: Log in to your Productiontrax contributor account, and click on the “Remote Store Widget” link in the main menu bar on the left side of the page. Don’t have an account? Create one — it’s simple and it’s free. From there, click the link to create a new widget, or select one from your widget list if you already have one set up.

Step 2: Once you’re in the widget editor, add a catchy title and tag line using the editor options on the right hand side, and select the contributor logo image you want to use on your widget. As soon as you make changes, your changes will save, and the widget will update automatically.

search filtersWe’ve added some display filters to the widgets that make them uber-useful for any contributor. First, you’ll notice a menu that allows you to either show media from just your account or show media from all of Productiontrax. The former will come in useful for those wanting to sell just their own stock audio files, while the latter option is great for leveraging the entire Productiontrax royalty free library, essentially creating a complete copy of the library on your site. You’ll also notice that you can specify which kinds of media to display in your widget – either royalty free music, sound effects, stock photos, or stock footage. You can select one, all, none, or any combination in between.

When designing your widget, remember that you can create as many widgets as you like, and put them on as many websites as you like. So, you might want to create a separate widget for your stock music and sound effects (or one for each), one for your stock footage, and a separate one for your stock photos. Figure out if multiple stores works best for your media, and if so, set your filters accordingly.

darkhive skinStep 3: Select your colors and theme out your widget to match your website. In most cases, you’ll need to use our color pickers or you’ll have to know the hex color codes to match your website’s look. Our editor allows for both, and we have some pre-styled buttons to match. Here’s where you can take a little shortcut, and use one of our pre-set themes (check out the dark hive theme at right). Using these themes are what we like to call inline style overrides — so any changes you make to your widget’s colors will be changed at launch time when a visitor happens on your your site. To use a style override, just scroll to the bottom of the editor, and pick the style you like.

checkoutStep 4: Get your code and paste it in to your website’s HTML. We provide the code you need to display your widget on your website seamlessly. And it’s a single line of simple HTML. Simply copy and paste from the code box at the top of the editor (or from the selected inline style override panel at the bottom, if you’re using one of those. Then launch your website, and bask in the glory that is your remote store widget.

Some features to note:

All credit card processing AND file downloading is done via SSL right in the widget. Your visitor never leave your site for any part of a transaction. The widget is a fully-featured track preview, shopping cart, checkout and download tool. We recommend strongly that you use HTTPS on your site, and an HTTPS connection is required in the widget’s src attribute.
• The widget is stretchy horizonatlly. It will expand to fill the space if you change the widget’s width attribute in the HTML code. The widget will not change height at this time.
• As of this writing, video playback may not work on all browsers due to a browser security restriction. We’re working on this, but the widget plays video on most browsers to a barebones extent.

Stock Photos and Pixlr: Editing Your Images for Free

Pixlr
Pixlr is an excellent online image editor for editing your stock photos.
If you’re like me, you’re on the go. A lot. I’m finding it increasingly more and more difficult to find time to edit media, let alone do my daily work! This is why I’ve been turning to more mobile services and making almost every aspect of business portable so that I can work wherever I am.

Enter Pixlr. Pixlr (http://www.pixlr.com) has been around for quite some time now, but has recently become one of my go-tos for image editing. Whether I’m cleaning up some stock photos, or working on graphics for the new Productiontrax design (unveiling very very soon!), Pixlr has become an invaluable tool, and I’m a huge fan.

Pixlr works exactly like Photoshop, minus a few higher end features and image exporting options (for example, it can’t add IPTC data or XMP tags, and you can only export to a handful of popular photo formats). Limitations aside, however, Pixlr is stable, solid, and well coded. It works brilliantly, and I can do just about anything I need to in order to create stunning images and stock photos, from gradients and fills, to transparency and high quality filter effects. And best of all, it’s free.

Don’t get me wrong, software developers deserve every penny they make from creating indespensable software, but after my 4th system update in as many months, and having to work in multiple platforms, I couldn’t justify another few hundred bucks to update Photoshop… again… or the extra licenses. Pixlr, on the other hand, is always there, right in my browser. And whether I’m at home on my computer, in the studio, or on the road with my laptop, Mac or PC, I always have an image editor.

No, Autodesk didn’t pay me for this review, it’s just that awesome.

Selling Royalty Free Music: Are You Giving Up Too Soon?

The following is a real life email from a real life customer on Productiontrax.com:

Hi Dave,

Last week I found some great music tracks on your website. The track ID numbers were 1234 and 5432. I tried out the free low-res demos and they worked perfectly in my film, and now I’m ready to license them and download the hi-res versions. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find them anymore on Productiontrax. Can you help?

Sincerely,

Joe Customer

It never fails. A composer puts some music up on PT looking to make a quick sale, and then hides or removes the track completely after only a couple of days, disappointed and frustrated that it hasn’t licensed yet.

Granted, there are many good reasons to pull tracks from your account: you signed a deal with an “old skool” library, you’re changing careers, you just licensed the same track to another customer on an exclusive basis. But what we tend to see are composers who get impatient, expecting customers to immediately buy tracks within minutes.

So what should you do? What is a reasonable amount of time to give a track to sell before considering other options? I suggest these following rules of thumb for selling royalty free music, sound effects, stock footage, and photos on Productiontrax:

1. Know your audience, and their buying habits. This is true for any business. Multimedia producers are just as finicky as you are, and they’re more of a perfectionist than you are. They want the music they buy to be perfect, and every hit, pulse, and beep should line up perfectly with all their edit points. They want free comps to test out for days, weeks, months, until they get the rough draft just right. Then they buy.

2. Diversify and build your library. It’s true, the more you have on PT, the more you sell. But you don’t need as many as you think. Don’t upload 37,000 garbage files, because then no one will buy your stuff, and you’ll just be flooding the marketplace with useless media. Focus on quality, and create media in a wide variety of styles and genres. Challenge yourself in new areas, maybe weekly, or even daily. Take each track you write, and make a :15, :30, and:60 cut. Make a stinger. If you write one song a week, you can make it into 5 useful tracks. That’s 20 tracks a month. That’s 240 tracks a year.

3. Be patient. Building sales consistency takes time. Consider leaving your files up indefinitely – you will see the return. What is it to you anyway? It’s not like you have to sit there and stare at the screen. Just upload and forget about it. The most successful contributors have racked up tens of thousands of dollars in sales over the course of just 2 to 3 years. They simply upload a lot of good useful music, describe and keyword their files well, and then they leave it up there whether it sells or not.

4. Be aware of seasonal dips and quiet production months.Many of Productiontrax.com’s clients tend to be professional media creators, or work for businesses. This means they go on vacations. They take holidays. Think of the times of year when you’re not working, and expect those few weeks to be slow for you – but don’t think it’s a sign that you need to move on. All good things take time.

Huh, huh, huh, fire, huh, huh.

New royalty free music on Productiontrax.com this week:
Be sure to check out our featured contributor of the day on Twitter for even more great tracks!

Royalty Free Music
New Royalty Free Background Music
Need something energetic, yet unobtrusive to sit behind a narration on a podcast or business powerpoint presentation? Or maybe you need a music bed for your next advertisement? Check out these specially crafted background tracks.

Arabian/Middle-Eastern Tracks – More Affordable Than Gas
The turmoil in the Middle East is on everyone’s mind, so we’re making it easier for you to produce projects about out of control oil prices. Fill up your tank with fresh Arabian/ Middle-Eastern World grooves without having to give up a kidney.

Sound Effects
Royalty Free Comedy Sound Effects
If your jokes just aren’t as funny as our marketing people think they are, nothing says “laugh now” better than one of our thousands of comedy sound effects. From laugh tracks to boings and arruuuuuuugggaaahs, we’ve got your stand-up arsenal covered.

Stock Footage

Stock Footage: Fire

We’ve got a collection of fire video footage that will leave even Beavis and Butthead drooling. Huh, huh huh huh, huh. Add some heat to your next project with these shots in HD and SD. Fire video also makes for awesome background projections for concerts and happy hour.

Stock Photos
Get Outdoors with Naturescapes Stock Photos
Whether you’re working on a print project for nature activists, or designing a vacation activity website, these stunning hi-resolution stock photos from professional photographers around the globe will add that natural outdoorsy feel with ease. No credits, no hassles — the best stock photo deal on the planet!

DJ Elements
New DJ Elements: Loops & Beats
Keep those turntables turning with awesome new beats and loops in the Productiontrax.com DJ Elements section. Perfect for mash-ups, live events, and anything else you can think of.

Thinking of Going Exclusive? Don’t.

Thinking of going exclusive? Don’t. Exclusivity can be good for some, but for most, it’s just a bad decision. In this day and age, with all the economic uncertainty, it baffles me as to why anyone would go exclusive in anything, let alone their music licensing. Before you sign that agreement, make sure you consider the ramifications of your decision, by examining each of these points in detail, so that you don’t lose out in the long run.

1. Commission Rate Bait and Switch
Most libraries and marketplace sites offer a slightly higher commission rate if you go exclusive. Many offer between 50 and 60% as opposed to their normal 25-50%. While this seems like a good reason to go exclusive, many libraries will give you this higher rate as an introductory rate, and then lower it dramatically if your tracks don’t sell past a certain quota. Then, you’re tied into an exclusive contract and making far less money than you were originally promised.

You should diversify your sales channels for the same reason your diversify your investment portfolio. If one library tanks, or if sales patterns change, or you don’t perform as well on one, the others keep you in the game. Furthermore, you can make a higher average commission and gross income by spreading out, rather than selling in one place.

FACT: Productiontrax always pays 65% commissions on the prices YOU set.

2. Number of Sales vs. Price per Sale
Some libraries are notorious for setting low prices to gain a competitive edge. They then lock you in to exclusive contracts to sell your music for a few bucks (some as low as $1) a piece. Think about this for a second. They are giving out sync licenses (which most artists get paid THOUSANDS for) for less than $10. While they may sell more tracks (until their marketplace becomes so bloated with tracks that you might sell one a month…) your music is being devalued, and given away. You also have no control over the price of your music. The library you signed with can set any price they want, and some strategically price it just low enough that you can’t make your payout balance.

My advice, don’t sign an exclusivity agreement unless they guarantee a minimum price that you are comfortable with. Some smart copyright owners also ask for a minimum payout guarantee every month.

FACT: You control your pricing on Productiontrax. Period.

3. Hidden in the terms of service…
Read your contributor terms of service agreements carefully. Some libraries have started working with a companies like GoDigital and others to “track usage in and be appropriately compensated for internet streams”. These companies employ a technology that finds your music (that you already licensed out) in your customer’s projects. They then insert advertisements (or just claim copyright infringement) and collect revenue. This seems wonderful, until you realize that the contract you signed allows your library to keep 100% of any advertising revenue generated by your music.

Not only are you getting screwed there, with your library making tons of money without paying you a dime, but your customers are not getting what they paid for – and they are getting angry. See if they buy one of your songs again, knowing that YouTube is going to hijack their project.

FACT: Productiontrax never hides your royalties. We do not work with these “monitoring” companies, and we advocate for BOTH our clients (who are also your clients) and our artists.

4. Competition
Before going exclusive, ask yourself how big of a contributor base does the library you are signing with have? The larger the base, the harder it is for you to sell because there is more competition. That means more of the same sounding music, more choices, and lower chances of being selected. Think about it: a customer is on a huge community library with 1,000,000 artists. They look for a piece of dance music, and get your track among about 5,000 other options meeting their criteria. That gives you a 1 in 5,000 shot of selling your track to that customer. Might as well play the lottery with those odds.

If you diversify, you give yourself a greater chance of success because your music is in more places. If you are on 10 smaller libraries and each has, oh let’s say, 500 matching options for a given customer’s music search, you’ve just increased your chance of selling to 1/50.

Think about what you can do if you have 10 tracks in every category, on every site.

Diversification just makes more sense. Unless a library is making some very specific guarantees that you just can’t get anywhere else, always stay non-exclusive. This way, you stay in control of your financial future, and your hard work.

Horror Sound Effects, Family Life Stock Photos & more on Productiontrax

The Productiontrax.com team has assembled a list of the latest royalty free music, sound effects, stock footage, and photos uploaded to the Productiontrax.com library. Click here to visit Productiontrax.com
Here is a sample of the newest royalty free media on Productiontrax.com:
News & Current Affairs Music
Royalty Free Corporate Music
Horror Sound Effects
Family Life Stock Stock Photography
Latest DJ Elements
For the latest Productiontrax news and information, or to leave us comments, visit us on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter or read our blog. And don’t forget to send information about your projects to yourproject@productiontrax.com.
Thank you for your continued support of Productiontrax.com. We look forward to providing media for all your upcoming projects.

Dramatic Film Music, Sports Sound Effects & more on Productiontrax.com

The Productiontrax.com team has assembled a list of the latest royalty free music, sound effects, stock footage, and photos uploaded to the Productiontrax.com library. Click here to visit Productiontrax.com
Here is a sample of the newest royalty free media on Productiontrax.com:
Dramatic Film Moods
Royalty Free Modern Rock Music
Sports Sound Effects
Portrait Stock Photography
Latest DJ Elements
For the latest Productiontrax news and information, or to leave us comments, visit us on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter or read our blog. And don’t forget to send information about your projects to yourproject@productiontrax.com.
Thank you for your continued support of Productiontrax.com. We look forward to providing media for all your upcoming projects.