Interview with Jan Keteeler
Jan Keteleer is professional photographer who started a very exciting project to promote skilled photographers. We have conducted an interview with him:
We saw your impressive ‘Black and White’ photography series at the Brussels Airport, could you tell us more about the awards you have won before and after your work was chosen?
When I was 12 years old, in 1972, I have won my first National Award. I remember this very well because I was at school and a teacher of me was reading the newspaper and he came to me and said that my picture was on the frontpage. He was proud because he was the guy who had taught me to develop a film.
During my career I have won several awards, national and international, however the award that make me really proud was the S.PE.S. Award in 2007. This international contest hands out an award every year for the best artist in his/her field. I’m very proud that I won in 2007 in the visual arts category.
You just started a new project called Photographers' selection. Could you tell us more about it?
Since 1984 I have been a commercial photographer and for years, my art and social photography have been represented by art galleries and is part of several museum collections in Europe.
The fact that I am now successful resides in a number of factors. Everyone knows that the photography industry in the year 2011 is no longer the same as, say, 10 years ago. However, a good picture 10 years ago is still a good picture.
I have found on the newsletters of Photo Shelter and in conversations with the marketing people of Bayer and Deloitte, who are both global companies, that the demand to work directly with a photographer is growing.
According to the marketing people, companies are overwhelmed with the same style of photos offered by photo agencies that are no longer distinguishable from other companies. This, for them, is the reason why they work with me.
As an example: my animal calendars I make for Bayer Animal Healthcare. These calendars consist of very ordinary black / white photographs of real vets who actually do their everyday thing. In contrast to the beautiful full-colour glossy calendars which their competitors make, my calendars are effectively found in the vets’ practice.If they work with agencies, this is mainly for internal communications and reports. The use of micro agencies they do for a minimum (only internal) and agencies such as Getty and Corbis they use for recruitment advertising and purchasing of exclusive images for some product advertisements. You must always realise what kind of money is involved when such a business places an ad in a national magazine. The price in Belgium is as high as $30,000 for one placement per week. They are really not using micro site photographs for the low price.
The reality, however, is that they are too afraid of the individual photographer. This is mainly due to the quality, not technical but mostly legal (Portrait rights, etc.). The credibility of the photographer becomes increasingly more important than the technical quality of the photo and the price.
On Photo Shelter can be found the individual photographer, working independently and competing with the big agencies . Photo Shelter offers its members advice on how to sell photos, and it is up to the individual photographer whether or not to follow these opinions.
(photo: Vittore Buzzi)
For some years now I have been a member of Photo Shelter and my biggest concern is that I need people to visit my website. No visitors means no sales, which makes sense, and if I have a visitor, I must make him/her see that I am credible. To build credibility you must do as large companies do (Bayer, Deloitte as an example) by working off and online. The individual photographer does not have the budget of a big company, but the internet gives him or her the same opportunities. To attract more visitors who are interested in your photos, you must give your website a good SEO.
(Search Engine Optimatization)
The basics of SEO are easy to do yourself, just follow the guidelines of Photo Shelter, but the hard part is to create your own credibility.
All search engines give you a higher place, credibility, calculated by several factors with the most important, of how many other websites links to your website (back links). One-way back links means that there are no link exchanges between sites.
These back links can be created using different techniques. These techniques usually involve spending a lot of time or stupidly buying them. I see now on the forum of Photo Shelter that many have done the stupid thing and now Google Panda does its work. They all have a sudden drop of visitors.
Google panda is simply the way Google sees false credibility. You know them, the companies that offer thousands of back links for a few dollars. These companies operate on the frustrations of people like you and me and the fact that we do not have the budget for a serious SEO company as the big boys do. So they offer links that they put on so-called link farms. These are Websites which are meaningless and contain just a little bit of code. To create your real back links you can either spend an enormous amount of time or work with a serious SEO company, who will do it manually.
These two possibilities, for the individual working photographer, are not feasible.
I have spoken with SEO companies who work on behalf of my big clients. They can easily work on behalf of multiple websites simultaneously under one contract. These websites must have a common point in their name or a common market. In addition, we all have our photoshelter.com website name or are connected with it plus photographs, everyone in its niche, are our common product.
My idea is simple.
First, I make a blog in a form similar to that which is used by search engines. This blog leaves out all of the flash and fancy stuff, so that all types of tablets, cell phones, and so on, are compatible. Second, I select photographers on their quality and thus the credibility of the site will be good and the back link from the site to your site will be of high quality.
Finally, I make contracts with serious SEO companies to put together a mix of good techniques and services. These services are costly, but you can share the amount.
So for an affordable amount everyone gets the same quality S.E.O. as a large company pays for.
How do you respond to the challenges of copyright in this digital age?
Not so long ago it was difficult to copy a picture without quality loss. This is the only change, there is between analog and digital photography distribution. Today you can copy a picture from the internet and use it on your website repeatedly pretending it is yours. This is a big problem for a lot of artists. My answer is simple. First of all, make only pictures that have an outstanding quality, not only technically because that is easy, however, make them original in composition because this will set you apart from an amateur and make it recognizable.
Secondly change your thinking about disabuse. When a student “steals” a picture from me to use it in an article with my name in the colophon, I will see this as promotional. Only when someone wants to make a profit of it, I will react.
As a photographer, what do you think are the advantages or disadvantages of dealing with a regular agency?
In most present image agencies you are overwhelmed with pictures of a lower quality, not technical but more and more in design and composition. It is a fact that design and composition are the most important qualities that make a picture a selling aid and that is what you are looking for.
Selling your product is the goal you have in mind when you make the huge investment to advertise in the media. The image you use in that advertisement has to be of outstanding quality. Why do a lot of people invest thousands of dollars and choose a picture of lower quality because the price is low and think “this will be good enough?” Is this not taking a big risk?
Photographers’ Selection only allows a small group of professional photographers with impeccable skills to show their work. These are photographers of different niches; however, all have outstanding quality. It is a group of very talented individuals making pictures that sets them apart from amateurs.
As a designer or publisher you will deal directly with them, the photographers, not with someone sitting at a desk deciding what picture he wants to sell to you for his own benefit because he has a commission on every sale.
Dealing directly with the artist has some advantages that a regular agency cannot offer.
• First of all, you can find high-quality images with no agency commission to be paid.
• Secondly, you are able to get in contact with the artists yourself to discuss changes or even ask for a unique image to be made especially for you.
As a group of individuals we created the Agency, Photographers’ Selection, to show our work. You can search our site just like any other agency by keyword and create light boxes, but all of this comes with the ability to get in contact with the artist.
Our photographers operate from all around the world, and many of them are always traveling. This means that you can request new images to be photographed from many destinations. If you want a request sent to all of our members please contact me.