Future of picWorkflow? Need your opinion

picWorkflow has been running now since 2011. In that time, the technology it’s built on has moved on, so I’m thinking what to do going forward and I really need your input.

The site just about makes enough to keep the servers up and running as-is, though they’re starting to age (we had some bumps last year as a result of them ageing). The more it ages, the more time it takes to maintain, but as picWorkflow is not my main income, it’s hard to schedule over paying work.

There are a few broad options available:

  1. Keep running as-is, no site changes, upgrade to new servers as needed, some unavailability (~hours). This is pretty much the ‘maintain business as usual’ option.
  2. Do nothing. Let it deteriorate until it falls apart and/or someone else builds a product to replace it, probably switch off credit purchases and will vanish in a couple of years.
  3. Minimal change rebuild just to move to ‘cloud’ infrastructure. Start splitting the site into different services, maintain existing data. Can just about find time for this without business model changes, though will take a few months and some unavailability (a few hours here and there).
  4. Full rebuild. Move to new technologies, native builds (or react-native at least) for mobile apps (Android for sure, probably iOS, possibly desktop) and a more basic web UI. Reduced functionality compared to current but will mean I can redesign to more modern/simple UX and focus on key-objectives (the current site IS hard to use). Database and data structures will need to change, data may not be portable across old/new versions so old histories would probably be dropped to move to more immediate-action data rather than lifetime display.

What’s the result?

Options 1 and 2 are basically change-free, interface won’t change but conditions might deteriorate.

Options 3 and 4 will certainly involve changes to the site’s interface to get used to, and would mean some promo content, new apps and ways of doing things. I like the pricing model at the moment so wouldn’t look to change the base 1c per upload or the captioning/keywording price models, but may look into additional opportunities (not just microstock) to support the cost of the extra time.

Based on site metrics and previous feedback, any new build would be limited initially to the batch-first image collections, FTP uploading, keywording and captioning services. I might be able to add support for automated submissions on some agency sites, though it’d be tough to maintain so I couldn’t guarantee at this point (so also still no model release support).

I’m not hugely committed to any particular option at the moment, I think the site deserves a rebuild but it’s pretty much down to feedback on what I’m going to do with it. I can find a month of dev time over the next six months or so, which is enough to sort out any of the options listed.

What would you prefer?

Any questions, concerns, or things you’d specifically like to see (or not see) removed, replaced or improved?

Please comment below, or email bob@picWorkflow.com or contact me on @bobbigmac on twitter

The results are in

Thanks everyone who answered the poll and sent me feedback. It’s looking like refactor/rebuild are pretty balanced, though there’s some resistance to needing to learn a new UI.

I’ll do some tests over the coming weeks on the best way to approach and will post again when I’ve a plan set.
Thanks 🙂

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Stock Photo Research Tool – Retired

Update: Unfortunately the agency who provided the underlying data for the research tool have revoked my key, it’s not going to be possible in future to get data for new searches. Cached searches will still give results (for a while) but there will be no new data :/

It’s highly unlikely I will be able to provide a replacement tool, sorry about that. As alternatives you could try Stock Performer or Microstock Analytics to analyse your own portfolio’s sales.
Also Keyword.io is basically a (better) copy of this tool (though I don’t know if their data is from the same agency so results may not be comparable).

I’ve built a new research tool prototype with new tech, to help you find ideas/topics/subjects for your stock images, i.e. what to shoot. The old one was hitting the database too hard, and built on difficult to maintain technology, so it’s time for an update.

Since I put it live yesterday I’ve had some positive comments about it’s speed and clean looks, but also got some complaints about how it’s no longer possible to copy/paste keywords in bulk from the page, and I wanted to address this particular issue because this is intentional:

Keyword Spamming is BAD

The keywords displayed on the old picNiche tool were never meant to be used in bulk as keywords for stock photos, they are related to the original search made in the tool, but applying them in bulk to photos is equivalent to keyword-spamming (which I am very strongly against) which directly harms the quality of search results presented to image buyers, and harms conversion rates for sales (as buyers then have to spend longer wading through images before they find the ones they want).

Every time your image appears in a search because of a keyword, but is not purchased because that keyword is not relevant, that image is downranked by each agency’s algorithm, and so appears and sells subsequently even fewer times.

For keyword suggestions I highly recommend the stock photo keywording tool provided by MicrostockGroup which provides a more accurate way to select only keywords relevant to you image, and by applying only relevant keywords (not just popular ones) you will improve your sales significantly. Or of course if you don’t want to take a little time to keyword your photos yourself, you can buy keywords from picWorkflow’s highly experienced keywording team 🙂

How to use the research tool to decide what to shoot?

The stock photo research tool gives you an arbitrary rating for possible search queries, (i.e. the ‘conversion rate’ of images matching that search at a popular agency). Enter a search query you think an image buyer would enter, and the ‘rating’ column shows a number predicting the chance of a sale if the buyer used that search (so be mindful of spelling, and use common sense).

If you’re a really awesome photographer, anything over about 20-25 is good; if you’re producing average quality then something over 100-200. Anything over a few thousand is probably a false-positive with either too few images to predict reliably, or unlikely search phrase; though again a little common sense is needed… use search queries a human being might actually search, this tool will not help you ‘game’ the system.

More features will be added

I’ve not finished the new site yet (it’s just a prototype) so will update the page with some more information in future. As suggested by others today I will be re-adding the rating-over-time graph and a shorter set of keyword suggestions to help with quicker checks on related niches/topics/ideas (but I will intentionally make it difficult to copy/paste keywords in bulk to discourage keyword spamming). I will also have it suggest related niches from the search history once a bit more data has been gathered (that I can test suggestion algorithms with).

Please give it a try then let me know what you think, I’ll try and accommodate any (except of course the spamming helper) suggestions or requests 🙂

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Stock Performer: Best of the Best

Luis and Oliver from Stock Performer gave a fantastic presentation at Microstock Expo (if you couldn’t attend, the full conference videos should be online in the not too distant future, you should totally check them out, since I’m in there too ;)) and published their raw data and full analysis on a very thorough and detailed blog post: Keywording for Success.

I caught up with them at the expo and we threw some ideas back and forth on where the best opportunities are, so I figured I’d do a quick run through their data with what I have here, then flag up some of their suggested topics you really should be shooting.

You can also grab the raw combined data in spreadsheet form here.

Flagging Easy Wins

I pulled out my weighted (by search volumes) ratings for all the suggested terms (good and bad) so have a confidence rating for each term (it’s quite a vague indicator, but good for our use here) and by looking at the 200 best converting topics from SP. I pulled the top 40 topics across both our systems:


Not quite sure why handshake is in there, presumably there is still demand beyond quality of the supply which is surprising, but the rest look pretty awesome to me.

They’re generally quite plain topics, no skydiving or boar hunting for example, which may suggest stock’s core rather than it’s more creative edges, which hints to me some of these topics may be coming back from the dead because of many contributors moving out the middle and demand picking up in new buyer spaces 🙂

Stock Performers Analytics Tools

If you’ve not tried Stock Performer yet, give it a go. They have way more agencies supported than I thought possible, their stats are fantastic and they’re really helping photographers to focus on subjects to shoot for the best sales, not only broadly like by sharing this data, but specifically for your own portfolio too.

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Introducing: Kozzi Images

Quick interview with Dan Kosmayer, founder of a new agency kicking into gear: Kozzi.com

I’m finding his heavy use of technology driving growth at Kozzi to be an interesting and positive approach for a new agency, so figured I’d share this interview since Kozzi is now accepting all contributors 🙂

Bob: What’s the background on Kozzi? Who are are you, where are you based?

Dan: First and foremost I love photography – I have been doing photography since I was 15 years old (35 years). I have a BA in economics, engineering, and a masters in business administration. We are based in Toronto, Canada with an office in the Philippines.

I spent most of the 90’s as a financial/software consultant to fortune 100 companies where I travelled 48 weeks per year. Photographing everywhere and honing my skill in “street photography”. 4 years ago sold off most of my interests and wanted to focus on photography. Started researching the microstock market and was intrigued to say the least.
Taking my top software engineers with me, we started to design Kozzi.com from the ground up. We have been developing the software for the past 3 years and we are still not done. Kozzi is extremely robust, scaleable and feature rich. Our philosophy — extreme automation (low cost operations) and flexible algorithm (firm belief that user behaviour determines what constitutes great and relevant imagery).

Bob: What’s your strategy or tactics for approaching the microstock market?

Dan: There are very good companies out there providing excellent services to their customers. Their infrastructure is robust. Their cost structure high and we feel their distribution of revenue as a percentage of total revenue to contributors – low.

Our approach at Kozzi is a streamlined operation through automation hence passing that saving on to the consumer while still maintaining solid payouts to contributors for their images. Our approach to marketing is volume sales through aggressive traditional and affiliate marketing.

Bob: Where do you think the microstock market is going?

Dan: I am excited about the future of the micro stock industry. The world is moving online — nothing new in that; but with that move the traditional media outlets are being marginalized. Print will be extinct one day. However, we now have hundreds of millions of people from all walks of life becoming the “new” media. Hundreds of thousands of websites, blogs and apps are replacing traditional media. They all need imagery — still and motion. But they need it in a package that is affordable and flexible.

Our experience is all the millions that steal images from the search engine image index prefer to purchase images legally if they can afford it. This is the market Kozzi is targeting.

Bob: How are you attracting buyers? What makes you stand out from other agencies?

Dan: Our operations are streamlined; designed from the ground up to be slim and low cost. We are just in the early stages of Kozzi’s marketing strategy and that is utilizing fully the affiliate marketing network. Even at this early stage our user base is near 220,000 registered members.

One of the features of our marketing efforts is a 7 day free trial. We pay contributors for each and every free trial download. We feel we would rather pay contributors and affiliates rather than the millions some firms spend on advertising on the major search engines and sites. There are many facets to our software infrastructure include a very robust fraud detection program enabling Kozzi to pursue marketing strategies that other firms simply could not pull off.

Bob: What are your curation criteria? How are you marketing to buyers?

Dan: We rely on our algorithm to push the best content to the front. As a result, we accept a greater number of images than most other agencies. We are not trying to compete with the top 3 in the industry in giving their customers what they have determined to be the most suitable (best) content for their customers. We want to do it cheaper in front of more people.

The demand for diverse imagery is expanding. With hundreds of thousands of users of imagery, what they are looking for, and what they feel is good, falls outside the traditional rules of what makes a great image. Along this line, Kozzi accepts editorial content beyond the generally accepted news-worthy content that other agencies accept. Kozzi accepts a diverse range of images and typically only rejects images on the basis of technical consideration – focus, lighting, etc. How many times have I heard that we are not accepting this image due to “commercial usability”.

We feel that the image-buyers will determine what is right for them.

Bob: Cheers Dan 🙂

A message from Kozzi to all stock creators:

Do you want to know what wasn’t around three years ago? Kozzi Images, and since then, our new upstart Microstock agency, which only began accepting contributor content a little over a year ago, is now reaching one million images. In Internet terms, our microstock website is in its infancy stages, but we are growing rapidly! This year, we’ll be present at the Microstock Expo 2013 in Berlin, so come down and see us!

As contributors, the name of the game is to upload your content to the top microstock agencies out there to get the most downloads and the biggest bang for your efforts. Kozzi Images is the up and comer, and already we host some of the world’s biggest contributor’s content. We work fast; we work for you. As a rapidly expanding business, we rely on talented contributors such as yourself to add to our images.

Why be a Kozzi contributor? Simple. We make it easy by doing the work for you. We want to make adding your content as simple as possible, which is why you only need to have the basics done, such as having your title, description, and keywords included in your metadata, and model release if it applies. The processing however? That’s where we handle things. Everything from categorizing and submission, to hosting, is on us, and we work fast.
Now, want to talk numbers?

For each download, you receive 50% commission on all credit sales and $0.25 per download on subscription sales. All you need to do is upload and we will do the rest.
Can’t wait to get started? Just upload your images (or your entire portfolio, we can handle it) to http://contributor.kozzi.com, or better yet, upload your content via picWorkflow for free. As a member of picWorkflow you can upload unlimited images to Kozzi for free. We’ll get your content, and at Kozzi, we will process them in record time.

Need more info or have any questions? You can email the founder and CEO directly at dan@kozzi.com and he will personally respond to all of your questions.




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Completed: picWorkflow Server Upgrades

Website under construction with webserver

You’ve probably noticed the picWorkflow website running ever more slowly recently, sorry about that, the demand for the distribution service has been steadily growing over the years. picWorkflow runs on a pretty slim margin and was originally built pretty quickly (2 weeks for beta version) so I’ve had to hold back from spending on major upgrades and just fill gaps as needed, but it has finally reached the point where I’ve exhausted every optimisation I can add to the main server so I’ll be upgrading picWorkflow’s infrastructure and extending some of our cloud-connected features over the next week or so.

I can’t say specifically when each downtime will be (I’ll be testing a few ideas so may have to rollback some changes), though the site will usually be be back within 30 minutes, I expect a couple of hours (probably during early morning GMT, late night US) on Monday 23rd September and Friday/Saturday 27/28 as I put the final parts in place.

Thank you very much for your patience, we’ll be back up and running harder, better, faster than ever before as we get into October 🙂

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Why picWorkflow?

I saw this video today, and it got me wondering… Why do I do what I do? At first glance it seems pretty obvious, I run my own small business because it a) gives me interesting things to do, b) keeps me motivated to improve my skills, and c) helps pay my bills. But that’s why I run my own small business… that’s not why I run this small business.

Everything I’ve ever done has had one real goal… to help people save time. To help people focus on the things they do best. I did this for the large companies and clients I’ve worked directly with in the past, through process improvement, workflow development, and through the creation and introduction of tools to make that happen.

That’s fine, but why picWorkflow?


picWorkflow saves you time, lots and lots of time… and for the first time, I’m not alone in this…


picWorkflow connects the good people who want to, and need to save time directly with people who know how to do this best. People who do this day-in day-out, and really are experts at what they do.

So, What?

What picWorkflow does is connect people, really really good people… with each other.
Why? Because I want to help you take back your time.

I think that’s something to be proud of, for you, for myself, and for the rest of the team stood beside me 🙂

Ask yourself this question…
Why do you do, what you do?

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Microstock Expo 2013 – Don’t miss it!

Just announced today the dates, speakers and programme for Microstock Expo 2013 in Berlin. I attended and spoke at Microstock Expo in 2011 (and will be doing both again this year) and it was freaking awesome.

I’m really looking forward to it again this year. I hope to see you and many other picWorkflow members there, and I’ll be available to anyone with questions to ask, issues to raise or anything else you might want to speak about. Come along and say hey 🙂

Use code PWF2013 for 20% off the standard ticket price.

What’s on the programme this year?

  • Unique presentations from top authorities on increasing revenue and improving skills,
  • Educational panel presentations from the best experts in the microstock marketplace,
  • Masterclasses and portfolio reviews from luminaries in video, photo and illustration,
  • A dynamic exhibit hall with some of the top vendors and service providers in our space.
  • MEXPO Awards in 10 categories ranging from the serious to hilarious in stock,
  • Plenty of time to make friends, reconnect with old ones and plan your professional future.

Early bird tickets are €249 + 19% VAT, until June 1st, when they increase to €299. The andel’s hotel offers a rate of €99, including breakfast and in-room Internet. Lunches are included with the conference passes.
The schedule, speakers and sessions will be regularly updated on MicrostockExpo.com as November draws closer.

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Top 2000 Image-Buyer’s Searches vs Keyword Popularity

I’ve been playing around with some of my data the last few days (having a bit of an overhaul to get picWorkflow running faster) and before I archive off some of my data-tables I thought this one might be of interest to you 🙂

The list shows the top 2000(ish) short-form searches (no more than 2 words) made by image-buyers on my various search tools, and the rank (i.e. relative popularity) of that search in my dataset of a somewhere near a million searches. The far-right column shows it’s comparison to the popularity of that word’s usage on stock images (collated from various agency’s over the years, across about a quarter million images).

This is essentially an epic update of my previous post from 2 years ago: TOP 1000 Stock Photo Buyer’s Searches – THE List, that post contains a lot more details about the data quality, relevance, demographics and more.

How to read the data?

A green entry suggests the search is more common than the keyword, a red entry suggests the keyword is more common than the search. It’s not bulletproof as I haven’t vetted the raw data too heavily, but it IS a good quick-reference to many of the most popular stock photo ideas and whether they’re under or over supplied.

What do you think?
Any gems in there for you? 🙂

Top 2000(ish) Image-Buyer's Searches versus Applied Keywords Popularity

Please feel free to share with others; published under Creative Commons (CC-BY) so you must state it’s by me if you republish it (or derivatives). Would be great if you can drop me a link-back to here or the homepage too 🙂

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