19 May 2008 Ask a Guru Challenge

Guru, Silvia BorattiThis week I’m challenging you, and myself, to ask five questions that will substantially forward your microstock success. One for each day of the week.

But sending five emails or making five phone calls isn’t difficult. The challenge is in creating a question that derives a response, and that the response enables you to significantly improve your microstock portfolio, workflow or strategy.

Since starting this blog I’ve received more advice from industry leaders than I can recall, so thankfully much of it has gone into blog posts. The requests for this information all had three things in common: they come from industry gurus, masters and leaders; they asked something useful; and, the questions were asked respectfully. Here’s some more information on those three things to help you meet the challenge of receiving five pieces of advice that make a meaningful difference to your microstock career by the end of the week.

Where to Find Microstock Gurus

To get the most out of this challenge you need to aim high, so pick ‘gurus’ and notice if you find yourself picking safe options.

You may already have people in mind whose work you admire. If not, simply find out who possesses a skill or characteristic that you wish to develop. It might be photographic skill, knowledge of the market, or a personal characteristic such as dedication or attention to detail.

Other sources of inspiration are my series of Microstock Celebrity profiles and the lists of top microstock contributors which can be found at some microstock agencies.

While microstock contributors are an obvious choice, don’t overlook the wealth of information to be found among microstock agency executives and industry commentators.

It’s usually easy to contact such people via sitemail on a microstock agency website or via details on a website contact page. If you’re having difficulty contacting a particular person and you think it might be someone I know, send it to me and I’ll forward it on if I can or let you know if I can’t.

Ask Something Useful

In my experience gurus are both generous and busy. I recommend thinking carefully about your question so that you can maximize the benefit you derive from the response without requiring too much of the guru.

Some suggested topics are workflow technique, preferred metrics, management issues, what it takes to succeed, and opinions on the industry.

Honor and Respect

This is the most important part. Gurus become gurus through working hard and working smart. To honor their achievements and improve your chances of getting a helpful response you need to be respectful. Some simple guidelines to respectfully asking a question of a guru:

  • Avoid asking personal questions, questions about earnings, or anything that would divulge a competitive advantage
  • Ask just one short question but make it a good one
  • Read their website/blog/profile first as they’re less likely to respond to requests for information that is already publicly available
  • Make it as easy as possible for the guru to give you a meaningful answer by preparing and checking your question, providing your contact information, and avoiding requests which take time (such as “can you review my portfolio?”)


I’ll share my outcomes at the end of the week, but I’m interested to see what others will be asking. Leave any suggestions of gurus, topics and questions in the comments.

  • MikLav
    Posted at 17:46h, 19 May Reply

    Oh this is is really tricky. I am used to searching information around proactively, so most of the time I have a really meaningful question I can find an answer myself.

    One of the things that remains could be something about particular habits/practice of a particular guru… I mean even if I already know how can I do certain thing, it’s often interesting to know how professionals are doing the same thing.

    Would my recent questions to Ron Chapple count for this challenge or do I have to make the new ones? 🙂 I mean some of Ron answers at stockxpert conference were answers to my questions.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 21:00h, 19 May Reply

      Hey Mikhail,

      You make the rules. You’ve already asked a guru, and even did it face to face!

      But I think you can do five more. Depends how much you want to learn. 😉


  • Bob Davies
    Posted at 17:26h, 20 May Reply

    I have an unusual question I guess, more for anyone who actually figures out stuff to shoot, then goes hunting for good shots.

    How do you find a microstock niche? Some way of knowing, that if you expend the time, energy, and resources to take a shot, how do you know how well it is going to sell?

  • E
    Posted at 16:44h, 21 May Reply

    I think my question would be more along the the lines of, how do you cross over from shooting kitchen vegetables and what-not to shooting people in business suits. What are the biggest obstacles? Any advice? How do get a sense of how much to pay the models? This point is important since you are actually the client, where a fashion photog would perhaps use an agency and charge a client for everything.

  • Mikhail Lavrenov
    Posted at 12:12h, 03 July Reply

    Surprisingly the response to this challenge was quite low. I expected more active participation. Does it mean the readers of Microstockdiaries are so shy? Or it means they aren’t interested asking guru’s?

    My success with this challenge is moderate.
    * whether you count this or not I asked some questions to Ron Chapple face to face just before you announced the challenge
    * I asked some questions to another photo professional who started with microstock a few months ago. While the response was very kind, that person is in the very beginning of microstock endevour and wasn’t ready to share much
    * I asked permission to ask questions from one of the top 25 istock exclusive contributors, but the answer wasn’t very encouraging so I didn’t submit any questions
    * and to finish on a positive note, I asked famous Andres Rodriguez about his workflow. His response wasn’t very fast but he very kindly answered my question. Although Andres is one of (the two) world top microstock photographers with large portfolio, he still does most of the work on his own – not only shooting, but also post-processing, keywording, uploading. Very impressive!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 19:22h, 03 July Reply

      A little bit shy and very busy! 😉

      I’ve always found both Ron and Andres extremely generous with their time and knowledge, though again, very busy.

      I like your work Mikhail.


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