He may be the official photographer for a number of Rutland racecourses and polo clubs now, but when UK equestrian photographer Nico Morgan attended his first fox hunt, he had no inkling that it would be the start of a fulltime career. When orders came rolling in, he was caught off guard."I had no e-commerce capability set up at the time, so it was a wake-up call!" he admits. Since developing an ecommerce website with PhotoShelter, he's never missed another sale and his hobby has developed into a successful business.
Nico uses PhotoShelter's Chill instant template as a base for his website's design, but has made a number of manual tweaks to the overall layout. He was so pleased with his modified Chill design that he carried it over to his blog, which he has integrated with his PhotoShelter site. Nico runs the PhotoShelter SEO Grader periodically to make sure he's keeping on top of his SEO. It's important for Nico to maintain a well optimized site, he explains, because he works in a competitive industry and "the SEO brings in the potential clients for both print and editorial sales."
Beyond SEO and the occasional direct pitch, Nico generally relies on social media to keep his latest work in front of people. He links to his own Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and LinkedIn pages from his PhotoShelter homepage, and has amassed over 3,700 Facebook fans thus far. His existing clients frequently make use of PhotoShelter's social media tools to share their favorite photos with their own networks as well.
Nico's primary source of revenue is assignment work for individual riders and equestrian publications. He uploads his commissioned images from Adobe Lightroom directly into his PhotoShelter archive. He then FTPs the images directly to his clients from his archive because it's faster than relying on his own connection. As long as the negotiated rights permit it, he adds the photos to the over 30,000 searchable images available on his site.
In addition to his commissioned work, Nico also relies on a steady number of print sales as an income source. The majority of his print buyers are participants in the hunts and shows that he shoots. Once a purchase has been made, Nico receives an email notification and he opts to self-fulfill the orders so he can quality check each one before shipping it out.
"For editorial clients, Photoshelter is invaluable," Nico has found. When he receives an inquiry from a photo researcher, he uses his internal archive search to pull a set of images which meet the requirements. He then places the images in either an invitation-only or password protected gallery with downloads enabled. Nico also occasionally uses PhotoShelter's Trusted Client feature to grant his regular clients permission to download any of the images they find on his site. Because many editorial clients are buying on behalf of larger publications and cannot pay with a credit card, he lets them take what they need, keeps track in the download statistics area of his account, and invoices them later.
"Try to capture what nobody else has caught."
Nico recognizes the benefits of identifying his niche and running with it. "Concentrating my work has meant I have been able to get established relatively quickly, published every month, and commissioned more often," he reflects. Although he focuses on the equestrian market almost exclusively, the opportunities for work are still varied. In the past few months, he has landed several magazine covers, the US equestrian media has shown increased interest in his work, and he was hired to develop a website for Gaby Cooke, a top international event rider. He decided to use his own PhotoShelter account to host her photo galleries, and then embed them as slideshows directly onto her site.
It is requests from riders that often lead Nico to hunts or events in new locations. Building relationships with the riders increases his reach in the industry, and can even affect his photography:
When it comes to equestrian photography, I think it is the timing of a shot which separates one photographer from the next. I spend a lot of time with professional riders who give me feedback on what they like and dislike in terms of the exact moment a particular horse looks its best.
Nico works hard to differentiate his work from his competition, which can be difficult when they are all covering the same events. A great photo loses its value when three other photographers have an identical shot. "Try to capture what nobody else has caught," he stresses. "If all the other photographers at a big International event are going one way, I will generally walk the other."
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