Sometimes it seems the Internet was made just for photographers.
On a social level it lets us share photos with friends and families, we can get together and talk camera gear and photographic technique, and it helps a lot of us overcome the 'isolation' that often goes hand-in-hand with a photography career.
On a professional level, it provides the means to showcase our work to Clients, access new markets and conduct the entire stock photography sales process without leaving our desks. It also offers the means to monitor trends, see what our peers are doing and see what our customers are buying.
And for all that, the sad reality is, for many photographers, the pure volume of information and options becomes more of a hindrance than a help. They only have so many hours in a day, and deciding what's worth their attention and what isn't becomes a chore, and as a result they tend to brush over the important stuff and get way-laid with the trivial.
Well if you ever find yourself in that situation, here's a bare-bones list of the 5 essential website 'types' every freelance photographer should have bookmarked and should be using regularly. Have a look, see what you think and be sure to leave your thoughts and suggestions for each in the comments below:
Few freelance photographers wouldn't have a stock library presence of some sort, but plenty of part-timers still leave it as something to do later when they're more established, or have more photos.
These days that's just not necessary. It's much easier to get into and you don't have to have thousands of images ready before you start. In fact,it's much easier to start early and add to it gradually, than wait until you have tens of thousands of images to submit.
Stock is a long term business though, so do take your time and find a library that suits your work and your style. Make sure it leaves you in control of your work and doesn't expect you to give up your rights, or sell your work for peanuts, just to be involved.
To that end, make sure you bookmark a good online stock photo price calculator. There are a couple of great ones out there that calculate prices based on photographer feedback, so the information is an accurate reflection of current market prices. Be warned, most people are blown away when they first use these... simply because most photographers seriously undervalue their work.
If you've never looked at a Stock Photo Price Calculator before, I'd suggest you make a list of 5-10 of your main markets, and then list a couple of 'average' usages for each. Then open the calculator and work out a price for each usage. Keep it handy and you've got a ready-reference guide if a Client ever puts you on the spot, but more importantly, you'll get a whole new insight to the value of your photography.
3. Photography Business News & Information
If you're keen -- and you don't mind sitting at a computer all day -- you can subscribe to dozens of different newsletters and services to try and start up to date with goings on in the industry. Or you can find a single Photography/Business site that does it all for you.
There are quite a few really good websites out there if you go looking. My suggestion is to check them out and follow a couple until you find one that does the job right for you, your field of work, your interests, your location etc. The good ones will give you all the important stuff in a nutshell, the include links for more information if you need it, so you can stay up to date and get all the info you need, without the information overload.
4. Shopping & Auction Sites
It's no secret, photographers are gadget-junkies! We're always searching for that next piece of must-have camera equipment that we simply cannot function properly without. The fact we've already functioned quite alright for years without it doesn't matter... once we know it's out there we have to have it. Sound familiar?
The flip side is, quite often we've got just as much gear we should really get rid of... and again, if the internet was made for us then I'm sure the creators of eBay are either photographers themselves, or they have a few in the family.
There are other auction sites around, and I know a few people swear by them, but I think for shopping for new gear and selling old gear, the sheer size of eBay makes it hard to beat. So bookmark it and use it. Especially if you have a cupboard of old gear that's not been used in years... get it out and post it, while it still has some value!
Freelance photography is often a solo career so the ability to interact with your peers online should not be taken lightly. We all see hundreds of images on any given day, but to be able to look at new images and talk about them with other photographers is priceless.
Pre-Internet, it was something that only happened at 'Camera Clubs', and it tended to stop as soon as the photographer 'went pro'... but the online forums and portal sites now give working photographers to ability to interact with their peers, share ideas and information and really grow as artists. And if you're not making good use of them, you're quite possibly stagnating!
Well that's my top 5 must-bookmark website types. The internet offers us the opportunity to 'round-out' our photography businesses in ways we never could before, so make sure you are getting maximum value from the time you spend online... and remember all work and no play, make's for a boring photographer!