Flickr and You, Part 3: Case Study - Sara Lando
In each of the final two parts in the Flickr series, we'll be looking at a photographer who is also a Strobist reader and using them as an example to explore some specific ways they could be better use Flickr to reach the people who may be interested in their work.
Milan-based, up-and-coming photographer Sara Lando is quickly developing into a one-woman force of nature. If you don't recognize the name from the Flickr Strobist group, she may be better known to you as rent-a-moose, one of a half-dozen or so people in our group who choose the moose as their mascot for a Flickr name.
Sara publishes several websites - including one under the Moose Rental identity. She also blogs in both English and Italian.
As if that's not enough, Sara has just published a book via Lulu.com, entitled "Faceless." She is getting noticed in the photo world, too. Her work is part of this display at VisualContest07.
With all of these irons in the fire, the goal I would suggest for her would be to use Flickr to unify her different exposure venues. But, more important, to better use metadata on Flickr to introduce more of the right kinds of people to her work. By "right kinds of people," I mean the people that will either buy the rights to reproduce her pre-existing work, of commission her to create new images.
There are two steps to this process.
1. Use tags to funnel people to her work.
2. Use her Flickr profile to establish her strengths to prospective clients.
Funnel is a Verb
Let's back up for a moment.
Flickr has millions and millions of photos in its library. Many of them are very high-quality images - certainly worthy of sales and/or publication. It is inevitable that some sort of monetization scheme will develop around them. There is too much at stake for Flickr (which is owned by Yahoo) not to do it.
But how will people search for these images, and what determines which pictures they will find? More than anything else, the pictures that appear will be determined by proper tag selection and "interestingness."
To illustrate a point, let's look at this photo from Sara's stream as an example. When I choose the photo on Sunday afternoon, it had 517 page views, and the following six tags:
All appropriate tags, of course. But would they lead a photo researcher to Sara's work? Probably not.
To improve Sara's position in Flickr's search results, I would suggest adding the following tags. The parenthetical comments are my reasons for adding a given tag. Note that quotes are used for multi-word tags.
"Sara Lando" (Don't ever want to forget that one)
"Lando" (In case researcher could not remember, or misspelled, Sara's first name.)
Milan (Sara's location - very important for local assignment work.)
Italy (See above)
Portraiture (Sara's specialty)
Portrait (See above)
People (variant on the portrait theme)
Sofa (Content previously tagged above, expressed differently.)
Masks (Do not limit yourself to singular nouns.)
Identity (Conceptual theme)
"Conceptual Photography" (Genre)
Chicken (Mask-related content - you never know.)
"Sun Dress" (Content)
"Pink Dress" (Content)
Starting to get the idea? Structuring your tags to respond to varied - or specific - and complex - or simple - searches help people to find your photos. Leave bread crumbs so they can find you.
And it is critical to have your name as a tag in your photos. This allows people to branch out laterally to see other images in your file.
So, given all of these terms, who is going to come out on top of the searches?
Well, that depends on how the researcher organize the results. You can choose "most relevant," which will return (on a quality basis) a pile of unranked crap. Which is why a professional would not be using those parameters.
They would more likely rather see the results ranked by "interestingness," a nebulous term that partially depends on how many times the photo has been viewed. Flickr very smartly uses you - its members - to help create a hierarchical ranking for its photos.
Which is why how many times a photo has been viewed matters greatly. And that, as you can probably now guess, is why I linked to the Sara's photo rather than just display it. By looking at it, you gave Sara a "view," which moved her up in her search results.
You want to funnel people to a selection of your best photos by whatever means possible to improve your placement in the search results. This may mean linking to them on your website, if you have one. Or submitting your best photos to as many appropriate groups as possible.
If Sara had a more sophisticated tag structure on the photo, this exposure could work for her in a big way. Appearing in a search result means someone is one click away from learning about Sara and seeing her photo stream.
If you do not believe me, consider this. How many photos do you think have been tagged as "Mountain Dew" in Flickr?
Thousands, actually. Yet click here to do a search on Mountain Dew and see who comes up on the front page. It's yours truly, with my beverage of choice.
Is that the best photo on Flickr of a Mountain Dew can? Certainly not.
But the exposure and page views that it has previously gotten means that it gets displayed on page one of the search results.
Bear in mind that you do not have to generate huge page views with all of your photos. But you do want to concentrate page views on a few of your best photos. This makes it easy for people to find your photos, which will lead profile to your profile and Flickr stream and contact info. You can see why you would especially want to carefully and completely tag your most-viewed photos.
Fortunately, it is easy to retroactively add tags to your photos. And because of the interestingness thing, re-tag your most-viewed photos before the others. Always go for the low-hanging fruit first.
Your Profile, Your Doorstep
Okay, now that you have gotten them to your Flickr page, what's next?
You want to establish your name and your availablility to shoot photos for other people. Beyond that, you should highlight your strengths and the qualities that separate you from other shooters.
In Sara's case, her intimate portraits and her whimsical illustrative style make her a strong candidate for many kinds of editorial and advertising assignments. Her unique style is her greatest asset. But just as important is her Milan location.
Why Milan? No reason, actually. She could be anyplace and her location would still be an asset.
Now obviously, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a photographer in a fashion center like Milan. And I am sure that there is fierce competition for local assignments in that market. But that is not what Sara should be going for at this point.
Her goal should be to be as many out-of-town companies' person in Milan as possible. Because then, she is not competing with all of the locals. She is competing with the out-of-town photographers who will be adding travel-related fees to do a job in Milan.
Hopefully, you are starting to at least see why you should have geographic terms in your tags. With proper use of tags, Sara instantly vaults ahead of every Milan-based photog on Flickr who does not use geographically based tagging.
She may want to consider "geotagging," too. This is just a graphical representation of the word-based version.
Back to the profile.
At the time of this printing, Sara's profile offers two fact about her: She is female, and taken. Other than breaking hearts all over Flickr, the profile accomplishes very little.
Consider this alternative:
My name is Sara Lando. I am a Milan-based photographer specializing in people and conceptual illustration.
I was recently chosen as an exhibitor in VisualContest07. You can learn more about me on my other sites, either in English, or Italian.
I can be reached at (contact info.)
Then, directly under that, I would place the same text in Italian.
(UPDATE: While photographers are clearly hooking up with clients on Flickr - including the widely publicized Toyota campaign - it is technically against the current TOS. The wording of the TOS seems to be more tuned to yard sales and the World's Oldest Profession.
So, while you can clearly identitfy yourself as a pro, you may wish to not be explicit about availability and pricing in your profile or captions.)
Sara might choose to include or exclude some of her websites. The blogs were used as an example.
But the important thing is that in a brief summary she establishes herself as a professional who is available for assignment or stock. She demonstrates that she is bilingual - a very important asset for foreign clients, with English being the new Esperanto of the internet. She points to objective and positive assessment of her work. Finally, she provides contact info.
By simply restructuring her tags and profile, she has jumped to the head of the Flickr class for potential clients looking for a Milan-based photographer.
Next: Part 4 - Case Study: John Dohrn