A camera is a photographer's worst enemy, as editorial photographer Bram Belloni well knows. His challenge to portray his subjects faithfully, without any of the uneasiness a photo shoot might cause. Although Bram would like to remain as unobtrusive as possible — like "a fly on the wall" — a big lens and lighting setup can easily intimidate subjects. He combats their apprehension by shooting them in their own environment, observing them as they behave naturally rather than leading them, and remaining "neutral" so as not to manipulate the direction the shoot takes.
Growing up in Amsterdam, Bram got his start in a darkroom he set up himself at home. At that time, without the visual smorgasbord known as the internet at his disposal, Bram found inspiration in his father's National Geographic magazines. Although he was initially drawn to editorial work, Bram worked in commercial photography for a number of years in order to establish himself. He found himself in Kyrgyzstan in 2005, covering the elections which followed a bloody revolt against former President Akayev. As the only Dutch photographer covering the story, Bram's work received national exposure and gained him representation with the photo agency Hollandse Hoogte. After that break, his transition to editorial photography was much easier. "Commercial assignments do pay-off really well compared to editorial work. But," he adds, "with climbing archive sales through my agent, Hollandse Hoogte and my own PhotoShelter online archive, there is a lot of potential in this editorial work after the initial assignment."
Indeed, Bram does not rely solely on his agency to generate work for him. In 2007 he joined PhotoShelter, primarily because he needed a way to deliver images to his clients efficiently.
Online file delivery was my main reason to start using PhotoShelter. Client specific galleries sent by invitation (maintaining an online archive for the client) are an enormous time saver. No more CD burning, downsizing images, and sending through email. And no more calls for older images or lost files. Clients log in, can use the search function and will get to them by themselves, when they want and where they want. The cost of a PhotoShelter subscription is nil compared to the cost of the DVD, postage, and time involved.
Bram gives clients the option of licensing his images directly off his site using fotoQuote's rights managed calculator, yet much of his revenue comes from assignments or stock sales to large publications and organizations that are unable to pay by credit card. He prefers to let such clients download what they want immediately, and invoice them later offline. All downloads are recorded in his account statistics, so he can refer to his records once he is ready to send out invoices.
Bram jumped on the opportunity to integrate his PhotoShelter site with his Graph Paper Press blog. "I could get it exactly to my liking; one overall design on my blog, portfolio and archive and all very easily updated through WordPress and PhotoShelter galleries," he says. Whenever he completes a shoot, he uploads his images directly from Photo Mechanic, and puts together a new gallery for the client in minutes. Clients navigate between their gallery and his latest blog posts in one single, integrated visitor experience.
"As a 'visual specialist' — which is what you are supposed to be as photographer-you can help [the client] and together you can produce fresh multimedia content."
Bram also looks to PhotoShelter as an authority on SEO. Through PhotoShelter's webinars, free reports, and videos he has educated himself on what goes into building good SEO, and he uses the PhotoShelter SEO Grader to ensure that he is doing just that. He sees the results everyday. "Thanks to the PhotoShelter's SEO, my publicly searchable images draw a lot of traffic (at least much more compared to my old site)," Bram reports. "I've already received inquiries, often resulting in direct sales."
Looking towards the future, Bram is not threatened by dwindling opportunities to work with print publications. Rather, he is excited for the opportunity to reinvent himeself and embrace digital media. By experimenting with new approaches to display and presentation, he can meet the demands of clients that have already moved in that direction, and shepherd those who have not along the way. Many media clients are still in the learning phases themselves when it comes to the digital world, and Bram sees that as an opportunity to build collaborative relationships. "As a 'visual specialist' — which is what you are supposed to be as photographer-you can help [the client] and together you can produce fresh multimedia content," he explains. Bram's ability to adapt to the changes in his industry, as he adapts to demands of his shoots, ensures his continued success.