Browsing through GreenFuse Photos' website is like a gulp of fresh air; fresh air from one of the many lush gardens and fertile farms shot by Canadian photographer Laura Berman. Having spent 20 years working in such environments as a landscape architect and horticulturalist, her unique perspective and immense collection of stock images stands out in a crowded niche. Her work appears frequently in a number of farming, gardening and general consumer publications, including Canadian Gardening, Urban Farm, Garden Making and Brooklyn Botanic Garden publications. Most recently her photo of a young girl holding a carrot (below) was commended by the International Garden Photographers of the Year competition.
Although photography had always been a hobby, it was not until she was far along in her previous career that Laura realized, "photography was the one thing that connected all of my interests." In 2004, with no formal training and no SLR to call her own, she gave herself a two year deadline to decide if she could turn to photography fulltime. She bought a DSLR, scoured the internet for any technical and business resources she could find, and never stopped shooting. Once Laura established a number of client relationships within her local community, her work began appearing regularly in a number of magazines and book series, and she was able to ramp things up.
I contemplated joining a stock agency but that was at the beginning of the great change in stock and I was reluctant to go the microstock route with such a specific niche — making a dollar or less per photo seemed ridiculous. I started reading about PhotoShelter, an alternative that made a lot of sense to me. I could be my own agency, licensing directly at prices I set myself. I joined in April 2007. It was a great business decision and makes my stock business possible in a way that really works for me.
Laura uploads photos directly from Adobe Lightroom into her PhotoShelter online archive. At the moment she has nearly 20,000 photos archived, almost all of which are searchable from her public site. She is currently using the Chill design, one of the ten instant website templates available to Standard and Pro subscribers, but has made a few custom tweaks. Laura recruited Murenbeeld of TouchWood Design to design GreenFuse's logo. The custom logo paired with her tiled photo wall lend a personalized touch to her site.
Laura makes it easy for buyers to license stock right off the site by pricing her images using fotoQuote, the rights managed pricing calculator included with every PhotoShelter account. She also has many editorial clients that prefer not to pay by card, and in those cases she turns to the Trusted Client feature. By marking her contacts as Trusted Clients in her PhotoShelter address book, she allows them to download any image they want from her site, any time they want. In some cases, she permits them full hi-res access, and in others, she limits their download permission to low-res files which can be used for mockups, requiring them to check back with her for the full sized files. The statistics inside her PhotoShelter account allow her follow up to invoice clients as needed.
In addition to stock and assignment work, Laura also sells prints. Her print orders are fulfilled automatically by either EZ Prints or BWC Photo Imaging, both partners of PhotoShelter. Once her clients place an order, the files are sent directly to the labs, requiring no intervention on Laura's part. One of her 2011 goals is to significantly increase print sales. She can make use of marketing tools like discount coupons to encourage print buyers to make a purchase.
"Helping photo buyers to do their jobs efficiently and easily is what gets repeat business."
Laura relies heavily on word of mouth marketing."Professional photography is a service business — helping photo buyers to do their jobs efficiently and easily is what gets repeat business," she insists."I've gone the route of sending out mass emails to attract new clients and that's not really gotten me much. But word of mouth from happy clients has." Laura also relies on the guidance provided by PhotoShelter to develop her marketing and business plans. "I love the commitment to communication and education by the PhotoShelter team — they aren't just a web host," she says. Laura employs a number of search engine optimization tactics to reach potential clients through Google. She credits PhotoShelter with keeping her informed through educational videos, downloadable reports, and the built-in SEO Grader which analyzes how well optimized her site is at any given moment.
PhotoShelter has educated me on the best ways to accomplish good SEO and provides excellent tools to make my website findable. It's brought me 5 new steady editorial clients and several more occasionals within the past year and a half.
Laura has found that the key to establishing longstanding working relationships is "being flexible and willing to do what is needed in order to get the job done; delivering work quickly, easily and when I say I will." PhotoShelter helps her do just that.