Jonathan Ross in stock photography

Jonathan Ross is one of the most successful traditional stock photographers in the United States. His photography business is called Anderson Ross. Jonathan works primarily in traditional RF and RM areas but tries new directions too like microstock or video. In microstock Jonathan operates under nickname avava.

I knew Jonathan since his appearance in internet forum microstockgroup.com couple years ago. I met Jonathan in person for the first time at CEPIC conference in Dublin a few months ago where he was one of the presenters. And finally I met Jonathan a few days ago at microstock conference STOCKinRUSSIA in Moscow (Russia). Jonathan was invited as one of the key speakers, and also gave a masterclass on stock photography. You can see a short interview with Jonathan that I took during the break:

I’ve written down a few bullet points about what I heard from Jonathan (combined from Dublin and from Moscow):

  • Be ready for change. Traditional stock photography market changed a lot last years but it still alive and isn’t dying; microstock market keeps changing too. Be ready and look for opportunities.
  • Jonathan regularly puts aside a part of his budget to try new things. He made successfull micrstock experiment back in 2008; the next test was video, and so on.
  • Plan your shoot. As Jonathan works on location, the team visits the location in advance, take some snapshots to visualize and to remember the place. Then the shoot list is written with every future picture described in 1-2 lines. The list for 5-hour-long shoot typically takes 10-12 pages.
  • Be prepared with your plan, do follow the plan, but be open to variations and new ideas during the shoot. And don’t be afraid to skip some pictures if you see something doesn’t work – don’t spend too much time trying to make adjustment for one picture, just move on to the next one.
  • It takes time to rearrange the light setup, so when you are doing the shoot, maximize the use of each setting before you move to the next one.
  • You will find yourself repeating your own pictures again and again – with new models, in new locations yet similar to what you’ve done before. This is perfectly fine for several reasons.
    • Nothing is truly new in photography, so you can’t be “original” with every new photo;
    • Buyers need variety. Same buyer needs same subject again and again, but they want a new picture;
    • Styles change – cloths, cars, mobile phones, etc. So same photo taken again in a couple of years will be quite different;
  • Microstock experiment Jonathan made was very successful. Jonathan produced around 3500 photos (meaning final processed portfolio); production cost was around $16.50 per photo (which is very high in microstock’s standards). What Jonathan said in microstockgroup forum: “I have returned over $120,000 in two year since my upload of the 3500 with another 2000 to upload at Istock I hope that helps give a base of what my returns are. This is also slightly before 2 years so I can’t say till we get to December what my 2 year sales are, I can only share what I have made to this time.”

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