Wayne: In terms of electronic archival and distribution, so far a lot of the changes have been driven by the large marketshare players (like Getty). The traditional photo agencies have also digitized. Where does the individual photographer fit in this process?
Allen Murayabashi: Prior to the maturation of the Internet, the individual photographer didn’t have a realistic means to distribute his work without an agency. He couldn’t realistically send out a book with 1,000 images from his archive. He couldn’t realistically research nor fulfill image requests. So the agencies provided a “bricks and mortar” distribution channel, along with value-add services like pro-active sales, and shoving images down a client’s throat.
But now, the Internet and services like PhotoShelter allow the independent to make his archive searchable online. Our e-commerce capability means that requests can be fulfilled for both print and electronic orders in an unattended fashion. Electronic files, regardless of size, can be delivered instantaneously. So the landscape is shifting. A photographer can continue to give up 50-60% of the sale to an agency in return for representation, or they can decide to market themselves and keep a much larger percentage. I don’t think any one option is better than the other, but the point is that there are options now that didn’t exist even five years ago.
Wayne: You and participants like Digital Railroad are effectively creating new electronic marketplaces for buyers and sellers to meet, but how do individual photographers overcome the more active marketing of larger participants?
Allen: The marketing issue will never go away. Getty is the 800 pound gorilla because they have a highly effective marketing and sales organization. They have exclusive deals with various organizations for access to events. So the successful photographer will always need to find innovative ways to market themselves to remain relevant. Services like PhotoShelter do provide a marketplace, similar to eBay, where individual sellers can take advantage of a single destination. And the more photographers that take advantage of PhotoShelter, the more the collective will benefit.
We all spend time and effort to build our brand and our websites, but if we were going to sell old camera equipment, we wouldn’t list it on our website. We put it up on eBay because we know it’s a marketplace for buyers and seller, and will receive much more traffic. So we feel the same way about PhotoShelter as a marketplace for photography, even though we recognize the need to provide features like our “seamless customization.”