Aaron Kupferman started a company called Motorsport Lens, and is one of the many people who have made great use of the ‘Personal Use’ download option within PhotoShelter. He spends many of his weekends shooting images during “amateur track day” events, where normal people get to take their cars for a spin on a real racetrack .
His day job? Creating digital visual effects for feature films and commercials. Before that he worked at A&I Color in Hollywood
as a Technical Supervisor and Custom Printer.
I noticed that he was selling a lot of Personal Use downloads, so I fired off an email with a bunch of questions in it. He replied with a bunch of answers, and now I get to share them with you.
Grover: Who are your customers, and how do you get your images to them? What works, and what doesn’t?
Aaron Kupferman: For my business, Motorsport Lens, I attend “track days” at various California race tracks and photograph people’s cars as they drive the track. Many owners of performance cars take their cars to the racetrack for a fun and challenging experience and often want to purchase photographs of themselves driving on these various race tracks.
Traditionally, most other track day photographers sell their photos at the racetrack during the same day they are photographing. They usually have a few computers where people can browse through the photos and make purchases on site. A few photographers even have air-conditioned trailers with networked computer systems and printers to sell whole packages right there.
When I decided to do track day photography as a side business, spending the capital to sell images at the track was never an option for me. I always had in mind a different business model, consisting of heavy advertising at the track and online after the event and selling the photos exclusively online after the event. With the online sales model possible through PhotoShelter, once I sort and upload my photos, almost all of my image sales are hands-off.
Grover: Please explain the depth of your individual interaction do you typically have with your customers, if any. Does more individual attention result in higher revenues? How much is done online, and how much is done in person or on the phone?
Aaron: My initial interaction with my customers happens at the race track the morning of the event. I attend the drivers’ meeting and make an announcement to everybody that I am taking photos that are for sale online. It is important for them to put a face to the photographer and they can also come up and talk to me afterwards. I also have a large banner up next to the registration desk to promote my company name even more.
After the event I primarily deal with customers via email. If they are interested in a package price for the full day’s worth of photos, they generally email me the description of their car and I create a private gallery for them. I have found that it is very important to reply to emails very quickly. Customers appreciate efficient service and are more likely to complete a sale if they are taken care of well.
Grover: What “products” do you sell/deliver to your clients? (Example: Prints, Royalty Free downloads?)
Aaron: I would estimate that a majority of my sales are Personal Use downloads with about 20-30% in print purchases.
Grover: How would you describe your overall diversification? (Example: Are you selling mostly prints, some stock, some editorial, some assignment work?)
Aaron: Currently about 90% of my work is selling photographs at amateur track day events. I have done a few editorial assignments covering professional racing events and am looking to expand in the editorial and commercial market to cover more professional races.
Grover: Are you seeing any trends in your business? Are there any portions of it that are growing faster than others? Are there any products that are more popular with your customers than others?
Aaron: Until a few years ago, almost all photo sales at track day events by other photographers were delivered on a CD. When I first started my “download only” business model of selling photos, some people liked it and others were resistant. Over the last year, as I have shot about ten events, my customers have become generally comfortable and happy with purchasing and getting their photos completely online.
Grover: How do you promote yourself? In what ways do you market yourself?
Aaron: There are two primary places where I promote my photography to potential customers at the race track. The first is during the day that I am shooting at the race track. The most important promotional tool is getting up in front of the drivers (the potential customers) during the drivers’ meeting. I introduce myself and let them know that I am shooting photos of them that will be for sale online. Because of my different business model, I always make sure that I stress that the photos are only for sale online after the event. At the track, I also have flyers on the registration desk, a six-foot banner on the wall behind the desk, and a digital photo frame with a slide show of my best work. I’ve seen people stand for five minutes at a time watching my slide show.
After the event, the most effective tools to bring people to my website are an email blast by the event organizer and a link on the home page of the organizer’s website. Good cooperation with the event organizer is key. I also post sample photos and links on a web forum that a lot of the drivers frequent. I definitely get the largest spike in traffic when the email blast goes out though.
Grover: What is your workflow like? Can you talk about the steps you take, and the products you use, to get from the camera to the customer? Have you discovered any time-saving methods?
Aaron: A little while ago I shot a large event with a lot of cars. My total photo count for 16 hours of shooting over two days was 12,400 images. I usually shoot in Raw format, but for events like this I have to shoot in Jpeg. During the day, I download my photos onto a Digital Foci Picture Porter Elite 120gb. Not only does this keep my memory card count to reasonable levels, it also speeds up the transfer to my computer when I get home. I just plug the drive in and hit copy. No swapping cards for hours.
Once copied locally, the photos are imported into Lightroom. This unfortunately can take hours and I am hoping that future upgrades of Lightroom will address the performance issues. My first and largest task is to sort out the keepers by adding a star rating to the photos that are sharp and decent enough to sell. Out of those 12,400 photos a few weeks ago, I ended up with 4100 that I considered good enough to sell. I then add keyword tags that allow me to sort the photos on my website through keyword searches. After some lightweight color correction I export full resolution jpgs and upload them to PhotoShelter with the PhotoShelter Uploader. Once the photos are uploaded, the hard part is done.
I can then price the photos and put them in their respective galleries. Finally, I create links on the front page that allow customers to click through directly to predetermined search galleries using the embedded keyword metadata. A few sample photos and links are added to the site and I am ready to sell.
Grover: How did you learn your craft? College? Learn by doing?
Aaron: When I graduated from high school, I was planning on going into Engineering – Electrical or Mechanical. All of this was spoiled when my parents gave me a Canon Rebel X 35mm film camera. I took two photography classes at a community college and ran with it from there. I upgraded to a Canon A2 body with a few mid-level lenses and shot a ton of chrome for several years.
I considered going to a college for photography but ultimately combined my technical and artistic abilities and attended Otis College of Art and Design for a four year Bachelors Degree in Digital Media. My day job now is creating digital visual effects for feature films and commercials. Even though I was not specifically studying photography at Otis, the basic art and design education contributed greatly to how I saw things through the camera.
Probably the largest impact on my photography came from the year I worked at A&I Color in Hollywood as a Technical Supervisor and Custom Printer. Working with the equipment at such an in-depth level taught me a lot about the technical details of photography and printing. I learned the most by working side-by-side with some of the best printers in the industry and printing the work of some of the best photographers in the industry. That is also when I got addicted to shooting in Medium Format.
Grover: Where do you go and/or what do you do to learn about new things, and keep up on the latest happenings in the industry?
Aaron: Although I still occasionally pick up magazines from the racks, almost all of my news and education comes from the internet. RSS feeds of blogs and news sites and web forums like FredMiranda.com and Photography-on-the.net provide my daily dosage of photography info.
Grover: Where have you found creative inspiration?
Aaron: A lot of my creative inspiration comes from looking at the work of other photographers, past and present. Most of this comes from looking at new work being posted on web forums like the Automotive Photography Network Forums. (http://community.automotivephoto.net/forums/)
Grover: In general, what would you say are the most important things for your customers? (Example: Ease of use? Quick turnaround times? Variety of products and services?)
Aaron: The most important thing that I need to give my customers is easy access to find and purchase their photos. Having everything in online galleries is most efficient way for me to make this happen.
Grover: Are you keeping track of your website statistics, your Google rankings, and overall trends? If so, what tools are you using, and what kind of things have you implemented/changed/improved as a result?
Aaron: I use a PHP-based tracking software called BBClone to track the traffic and details of use of my website. (http://bbclone.de/) This allows me to track a wide variety of global as well as detailed information. Check out the demo to see what it can do. http://bbclone.de/demo/
Aside from general traffic information, the most important thing I keep track of is when people link to me. BBClone allows me to click back to the page where somebody else has a link to my website. This lets me see if somebody is posting a thread on a web forum about my work or linking to my site from another website. I can listen in to the word on the street pretty closely with this tool.
Grover: Do you have any interesting success stories to share as a result of using the PhotoShelter Personal Archive?
Aaron: My entire business is a success because of the PhotoShelter Personal Archive. There really are no other websites out there that allow me to operate the way that I do with PhotoShelter.
Grover: What was your business like before PhotoShelter?
Aaron: I would not have been able to start my business without PhotoShelter. The startup costs to sell images at the track would have been prohibitively expensive. The online photo sales through PhotoShelter is the only way I could have gone.
Grover: What features of the PhotoShelter Personal Archive do you use most often, and why?
Aaron: I use Public Galleries and Personal Use image sales the most. I also use the Invitation Only galleries to create private galleries for customers purchasing a photo package.
Grover: Is there anything else you’d like to say or share? Feel free to say whatever you want — I’m listening.
Aaron: Although the photography industry seems like it has become saturated with “good enough” and “anyone can do it,” we live in a visual culture. The general population will always appreciate great images, even if they can’t identify why. Quality will prevail.
See Aaron’s Motorsport Lens website.
See Aaron’s SportsShooter member page.