Design and Proofing Woes for the Small Business — Why Micropayment Stock Photography is a Godsend

A rant by Todd—

As designers, we all know how difficult working with the public can sometimes be. Many of us learned this first-hand as teenagers in our first job at the local grocery store, fast food joint, or gas station. But, hey guess what? This is just a fact of life, and that same 'can't please everyone' sort of situation carries on from our first jobs into our careers--especially as creative professionals. Sure, there are times when the first proof you send over to your client gets a, "wow, that's so cool! I love it!" type of reaction. But unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.

More often than ever, you get to work with small business owners that don't know what they want. It could be something as simple as a small, quarter page ad to run in a newspaper or magazine, or a larger identity project like a brochure or letterhead. You email over the first PDF proof only to find that they give you a one sentence response. "Okay...let's try again."

You send over a few more variations, trying to figure out what part of it was 'okay' and what part was 'try again'... but your client just isn't able to articulate their specific desires. It seems like they don't know what they want until they see something that they don't want!

When I was new at this whole game, I figured that the more versions I showed the client, the easier it would be to find out exactly what they were looking for. Man, was I wrong. I personally found out that the more variations you send along, the more confused they get and the more they want from you. It's like a "do-everything" administrative assistant in a company that does more and more and more, only to find that the expectations of their superiors have now been elevated. Sometimes the more you do, the more people expect of you. The customer figures that if you supplied them with 3-5 versions the first time around, it won't be a problem to get even more nit-picky (and request another 3-5 revisions) in the next round.

"What the heck does this person looking far?" you wonder. You've gone through the images that your company has in its collections, or from the RF images you've personally collected. These are the times when sites like this are a godsend. If you said to your boss, "Hey - I need to buy a physical therapy image for $80 for this client (who only paid $500 for their quarter page ad, including the design)", your boss would go ape on you. He'd similarly flip if you asked him to buy a collection of medical images that costs hundreds of dollars.

Thankfully, micropayment sites allow us designers an easy way to grab low-res comp images in order to proof out ads with our customers. Once they're happy, then we log on and spend a couple of bucks for the high-res image. The customer usually has no idea where you purchased the image, or how much you paid for it. And most of the time they aren't large enough as a company to even care about anyone else using the same image. You haven't broken the bank, the customer is happy, and you've got an image you can use again in the future on another project. Life is good!

I am a full-time graphic designer that works for a large publisher of custom magazines. In my spare time he enjoys long walks on the beach, ice cream, video games, and digital photography.

Your article must be written in English

September 07, 2007


Also - to add to what Photojay is saying, it's no doubt a pleasure when someone shows us how they used one of our images. What a thrill!

August 10, 2007


No doubt! I am also a contributor - check out my portfolio :) Best of both worlds baby. I am paying a large amount of bills each month from my micropayment industry's a godsend in THAT way, too! haha

August 10, 2007


Glad we can help you out! As easy as it is for you to "grab" these images online, it is a little more involved for us to create these images and upload them. I try to put this plug in as often as I can: We don't necessarily want more money (although who wouldn't, right?) but if you throw us a bone once in a while and let us know where we can find these images (especially if your design will be featured online) it means a great deal to the photographers and graphic artists who contribute to your gain. Just a thought. I know its not possible all the time, but if you have a 'big fish' client, that earns you a big fee, it may be worth your time to share that end result with the people who helped piece together the puzzle. Thanks for thinking of us. ~jay

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