Today we are very happy to be talking to Jacob Lund, a top stock photo and video producer. Jacob is a successful non-exclusive producer with a very high quality production workflow. He also sells his content directly on his own website: https://jacoblund.com/
We can learn a lot from him!
Thank you for joining us in our series of customer interviews! Tell us, where do you live and where are you from?
I’m from Denmark and most of the year I live in Copenhagen. This is the place I consider my home. However for the past years I’ve spent about 5-6 months a year in Cape Town, South Africa. So I guess by now I consider that my second home.
When did you discover your interest in photography?
I used to do parkour, martial arts, and stunts. Together with my brother I founded a group named “Team JiYo”. I think this was around 2006. To promote ourselves we invested in a DSLR camera to photograph our tricks to put on our website (this was before Instagram).
I found that I really enjoyed taking pictures and capturing the right moments of our sports, and from there on my interest in photography started to grow into shooting other subjects as well. But back then it was just for fun.
How did you find stock photography and why did you get involved? Has it changed your life?
When I first decided to try a career in photography I did all work I could get my hands on. Weddings, events, portraits. Basically whatever anyone would pay me to do. I had no other income but I was confident I could make a living as a photographer. I was young, inexperienced, and very naive.
After a few months like with that as my only job I ran out of money – I was completely broke and had to resaddle completely. I hit the reset button. I moved to a new cheaper place and started as a recruit in the police academy in Copenhagen. I stayed in the police for about 6 years.
But my interest for photography was still there, and while I was working as a police officer I managed to find time to shoot on my days off. However working in the police I never really knew my schedule or whether I had the weekends off. So here I found stock photography to be the perfect match. I could shoot whenever I had the time.
I started slowly building up a portfolio which gave me an income on the side. When the time was right – I decided to quit my job in the police. It was a hard choice to be honest, as I really liked that job. But leaving that job enabled me to really work hard on building a good portfolio.
You have an impressive portfolio of a very high quality. From a photography point of view, where do you feel you are in your photographic voyage? Do you feel you can still improve your photography?
YES – most certainly there’s plenty of things to improve on. I still see every shoot as an opportunity to learn and get better. That’s the beauty of what we do. Styles, trends, and aesthetics keeps evolving. So there’s always new things to learn.
You have managed to achieve both quality and quantity. When you look back at your evolution: did you ever prioritise one over the other? What are the challenges of achieving both?
The longer I’ve done this the more I’ve realised that I prefer quality over quantity. Mostly because I cringe when I see images in my portfolio that I’m not satisfied with (and there’s lots of them). The quantity just came with putting in the hours. Consistently putting in the work. A long slow and steady production of work.
Thank you for your image! What inspired you to take this picture?
This was my first time trying to shoot a Christmas themed shoot. I tried to capture the feeling of Christmas I grew up with in Scandinavia.
What does this revenue chart tell you?
The revenue chart teached me a lot about seasonal content. When the sales starts to pickup, but especially interesting to see how sales decreases to about half on second season, and another half of that on third season. So you really have to do well the first season!
Did you expect such a revenue chart? Are you happy with it?
I’m happy with the performance the first season, however I didn’t expect such a strong decrease in sales from season to season. I think this is because search algorithms prefer newer content.
Do you travel to produce stock photography? Or do you work from your home base?
I’ve done most of my shoots in either Copenhagen or Cape Town. I haven’t done a lot of travelling to produce stock. I’ve tried it a few times, but it’s challenging and takes time to start up production in a new place as you usually start from zero with no network, no local knowledge, etc. But it’s something I would like to do more in the future.
How are you organised? Tell us about your team and their roles and the processes which help you produce.
Now I work closely with another photographer, Courtney Gretchen, who was previously my intern for 2 years. Then we have a small team who support in the post-production aspects (RAW developing, retouching, keywording, uploading).
As your business evolved, when was a good time to employ someone new (freelancer or full-time employees)? What advice do you have for our readers pondering whether to employee somebody or not?
As soon as I could afford it I started hiring people to assist me. First with keywording, then uploading / distribution, then retouching. I pretty much outsourced from the moment I could afford it, so for the first years any profit from sales would go back into the business. I had the chance to support myself with my salary from my job.
Advice to readers pondering whether to employ somebody or not? Figure out what you really want with your stock photography. Obviously upscaling enables you to produce more content. But upscaling is not for everyone – with hiring people comes more administration and management responsibilities. If you can afford it – maybe try hiring someone to assist you and find out if it’s right for you. Personally I’ve been downscaling the past few months to find a level that suits me better.
You have a large portfolio available on many different sites. Do you submit only non-exclusive content? Or do you do a mix of non-exclusive and exclusive content? What is your motivation behind that strategy?
I submit mostly non-exclusive, but also have some exclusive content on Stocksy. I started off as non-exclusive and got all my momentum in that direction first. I believe it’s very risky to move content around and that’s why I’m letting it stay as it is.
When would you advise our readers to be exclusive and when to be non-exclusive?
I would’t give any advice on that decision as I honestly don’t know what is better. I’ve only seen the one side of it. All I can say is that I don’t think it’s smart to move a big portfolio from one to the other – as I think there’s a huge risk of images being “lost” in the search algorithms if you upload a big portfolio over a short period of time.
You also run an online store at https://www.jacoblund.com to directly sell your content. Why did you take the step of selling direct? How do you find your customers? Has the effort been worth it?
I started to see some clients emailing me directly looking for specific images or wanting to buy a bulk amount of images. It felt frustrating spending an hour helping a client, and then seeing that it would eventually lead to a tiny subscription sale on e.g. Shutterstock or Adobe Stock.
So being able to present our portfolio on our own platform was something I really wanted to do for years. It was only in 2018 that I discovered Shopify and the possibilities with their e-commerce platform. But there was quite a few things that needed to be done in order to make it work for selling stock content.
I reached out to a good friend of mine who’s a developer. Long story short – we ended up with an app that you could install on Shopify that automated the upload process and product creation. So basically we can drag and drop images into the app, and it extracts all metadata into the relevant places in the shop. Our plan was to make this app available to the public, but unfortunately we haven’t had time for that yet.
Has the effort been worth it? I think it has. I’m happy to have our own website to showcase all of our work.
The micro stock market is huge and with lots of supply. How do you decide what subjects to photograph and film?
I get this question a lot. But to be honest there’s no particular strategy. Sometimes it’s looking at current trends and demands, sometimes it’s finding projects that will challenge us, sometimes it’s what we feel could be fun.
How important is data analytics in your workflow? Where does it play the most important role and bring you the most benefits?
It’s very important in terms of running a healthy business. We monitor costs of every shoot vs. RPI. It’s important to know if our work is actually profitable. Nowadays I try to avoid looking too often into the details such as daily sales etc…, I focus on the bigger picture.
Where do you think the stock photography and footage market is going? How do you see the next years?
It’s definitely becoming more and more saturated. I’m also seeing strong competition between stock agencies, and especially the rise of free sites and agencies trying to get the competitive advantage with “unlimited download” subscriptions.
These models are not sustainable in my opinion, and the fact is that anything that is not sustainable can not exist. So if we all want to be in business in a few years from now – I believe we must take a stance and show that we are not supportive of these business models.
What is your advice to remain a successful stock producer in coming years?
As mentioned in the previous question I think we all have a responsibility of choosing “the right” agencies. New agencies will try and push prices down and offer “unlimited downloads”. But without our content they have no leverage.
But if these players do get the leverage, eventually the other big stock agencies will have to follow. Which ultimately means less royalties for photographers, which means less chance of survival in a market where many photographers already struggle.
Tell us, when you are not doing photography, how do you relax and enjoy your free time?
When I’m in Cape Town I enjoy the nature – like a good hike up the mountain, or running by the ocean. I’m very much into movies, music, and non-fictional books well.
Thank you very much!
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