Like so many photographers, Randy Santos sees the world just a little differently, "Everywhere I go and everything I look at I see the details, whether it's a piece of architecture, a leaf, or a landscape. It's hard to explain, but it's just how I see things." Randy's been able to translate that unique perspective into a successful career as a photographer. Randy's thriving stock photography business focuses primarily on imagery of iconic Washington, D.C. architecture. He uses the PhotoShelter account he's had nearly as long as PhotoShelter's been around, to power his business: housing his impressive stock archive, powering his SEO (a must for stock photographers), licensing images, selling prints, and delivering files to his clients. Here's how he's built his impressive stock photo business.
Randy's real-world photo education started when he talked his way into working for a well known commercial studio in D.C. at the age of 19. He suddenly found himself shoulder to shoulder with the old-time D.C. shooters, photographing dignitaries, pundits, and even then President Ronald Reagan. Randy considers himself "fortunate to have learned on a Canon FTB - when everything was completely manual and to be good, you needed to really understand the fundamentals of photography." He also learned how to handle difficult situations and difficult clients on his feet. "[Those] lessons stuck with me and they're a big part of how I do business today," says Santos of his early days in the trenches.
As his career as a commercial photographer progressed, constant travel kept Randy away from his wife and three sons for weeks at a time. The hectic pace began to wear on him. Then, five years ago, a chance email arrived in his inbox and drastically changed the direction of his photography business.
A designer had found his online archive of images taken in and around the D.C. area. He was looking for tight shots highlighting the rich patterns and textures of D.C.'s iconic architecture for a corporate client. The images were to be used as large format prints in a "corporate hospitality" installation, and it paid well. Randy closed the deal, delivered the files on time and to spec, and created a strong relationship with his first major stock client.
When he realized his personal brand of D.C. stock photography appealed to a large corporate market he began to shift his attention away from commercial shooting to devote more time to stock photography.
Today stock image sales account for nearly 99% of his revenue. His photography is in high demand by a broad range of clients from four star hotels, to creative agencies, web design firms, book and calendar publishers, as well as retail stores nationwide. If you've stayed at the Sheraton Washington, JW Marriott, or Shoreham Hotel, chances are you've seen his work in the lobby or your guest suite.
Randy's independent stock success is due in large part to new buyer traffic his website gets from search engines, thanks to his dedication to SEO. Randy relies on Google Analytics to study the keywords people are using to find his work and understand how art buyers are searching for the images he shoots. He then turns to PhotoShelter to implement his keyword strategies throughout his image and gallery captions so they are visible to Google in key website locations, "I work really hard to get the keywords right and get them strung together properly," says Santos. "PhotoShelter enables me to keep everything categorized, keyworded, captioned, and fully searchable… PhotoShelter has been really helpful because it allows me to get as much keyword-rich text as I need on the page to have my work found by Google."
Randy also does his fair share of outbound marketing to his impressive list of long-term clients. "Once I've established trust, by delivering exactly what I said I was going to deliver, when they need it, I make myself a go-to resource." Randy sends regular emails, postcards, and custom galleries to his clients. "People aren't thinking of you all the time" he says, but by getting his images in front of people regularly he creates opportunities that may not have existed if he relied on his clients to do all the outreach.
"I usually look for opportunities to expand the scope of images they are licensing from me. I do this by sharing more images if I know there's a need, and by using PhotoShelter's tools like lightboxes to help facilitate their project and make their lives easier. If I can make them look good for their client or boss, they generally want to do more with me."
Randy's three children are a constant source of inspiration for him. "I'm strongly motivated to succeed for them," says Santos. "I have a desire to run a business that affords me the time to spend with them." In the past few years Randy's oldest son Brady has picked up a camera himself. He recently launched his own photography site with PhotoShelter too bradysantos.com and although it's a "work in progress" it seems he may be following in his father's footsteps.
To learn more about how Randy drives the growth of his stock imagery success, read Building a Monumental Photo Business on the PhotoShelter blog.