The Photography of Sam Bloomberg-Rissman

A Visit From SpainA Visit From Spain Hosted on Zooomr

I had a good time having lunch yesterday with Sam Bloomberg-Rissman (also known as Ropeboy on Flickr and Zooomr). That’s him above in tiny little photo that I took through the bottom of a drinking glass (thanks for the idea Kristopher). Here’s actually a more natural portrait of Sam as well. Last year Sam shipped out from the Bay Area to Spain to go pursue his dream of being an international stock photographer. Sam mostly sells his stuff on Alamy and has some of the most creative photography around.

You should definitely check out Sam’s stuff if you are into fine art photography. You can see his own website here and his Zooomr and Flickr streams here.

Sam and I talked a lot about the future of the stock photography business. One of the things that I believe in is that there is a big future in the stock photography business for what the market calls the advanced amateur. The advanced amateur is someone who might not be shooting for Getty or Corbis right now and maybe is not even doing photography full time, but is producing work that is right up there with the full time pros and is every bit as good. I think that there ought to be a way for these kinds of individuals to make more money on their photos than the microstock sites which I think are a complete rip off.

This is one of the things we are working on in the background at Zooomr right now — trying to figure out a way to build a system where you could turn a photo sharing site into a secondary vehicle for advanced amateurs to offer their work up for sale at much fairer prices than the microstock sites are paying out today.

A model like this would most likely represent a threat to both the high end of stock photography business as you could charge slightly less than Corbis and Getty for Corbis and Getty quality work as well as a threat to the microstock business by filtering out the best photographers who are contributing to these pools today for the peanuts that they pay.

It certainly won’t be easy creating an agency like this. There are all kinds of legal issues (photo releases and liability). There are marketing issues (even if you have a ton of great shots for sale how are marketers going to know that they are on Zooomr?). There are editorial issues (how do you best organize a collection of photos from a photo sharing site to best market stock?) And there are just plain old regular business issues (someone needs to answer the phone and take questions from potential buyers, etc.).

But the stock photography business represents literally a multi *billion* dollar market. And even the smallest little sliver of that pie to share between Zooomr and the advanced amateurs out there could be something that would be mutually rewarding and satisfying for both.

Corbis and Getty are essentially gatekeepers. I’ve never tried selling my own work through them but theirs is a system of exclusion. You have to be approved and accepted by them and it’s not easy. It’s similar to the art photography market in my opinion where who gets famous is largely a matter of what a handful of gallery owners in New York and museum curators think ought to be shown.

I think that it’s time to democratize the stock photography business in a good way. To bring down gatekeepers as only technology can do.

peek a boopeek a boo, by Sam Bloomberg-Rissman Hosted on Zooomr

Right now Alamy probably has the best deal out there for the advanced amateur. Sam sells his stuff through Alamy. Alamy has some of the highest payouts out there and is generally where I point people for now who want to try and sell their work online. Alamy pays 60-70% out to the photographer depending on how you structure a deal with them and they seem to be pretty open to the advanced amateur market. But still something else even better could be created and that’s one of the things that I’m working on behind the scenes at Zooomr.

If you are an advanced amateur and take shots like Sam I’d encourage you to sign up for Zooomr and start uploading some shots. If you have a blog (and we especially love photobloggers) we are also offering free Pro accounts. We are not there yet today, but we are going to get there and it would be good for you to begin building a library and getting your work visible in the Zooomr community.

Thanks for the lunch yesterday Sam. Safe travels back to Spain and good luck with your excellent photography.

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  1. Chris says:

    Thanks for that report Thomas; I hope zooomer can crack this problem because there are many talented photographers out there.

  2. darth says:

    If Zoomr (or even Flickr) can successfully navigate the fine line between web 2.0-style social network/photo sharing, and commercial stock photography marketing, it could be huge. Besides all the issues you mentioned, how do you do it without running into the whole paid contributors vs. free thing which tends to roil the social networking crowd (not too unlike that Digg/Netscape thing)?

  3. Thomas Hawk says:

    Darth, I think the difference between the paid vs. free thing in social networking has to do with the ancilary nature that stock photography would be to a social network.

    Netscape is trying to buy news diggers for the sole and primary reason of getting them to contribute on their site. I would hope that stock photography on Zooomr could be an ancilary benefit for photosharers and entirely optional. We would merely be fascilitating this market for those already talented enough to be in it.

    It would not be here we are giving you money to make Zooomr better and for no other reason. It would be more like lets partner together so that you can get the true value of your photography in an inaccesible market.

    It’s still a ways off for us but it’s definitely doable.