Friday, January 29, 2016

Ideas, The Biggest Stock Photo Challenge

A tug of war in the cloud is a visual metaphor for competition and teamwork in the cloud.
Ideas, The Biggest Stock Photo Challenge
My biggest challenge, as a stock photographer, is coming up with ideas that I believe are both needed in the marketplace and are different or better than what is already available. I believe that there are an unlimited number of such ideas out there, even though I am constantly afraid I have come up with my very last decent one.  So what are some ways I tap into various resources to generate new imagery?

Setting The Intention And Writing Ideas Down
Well, first, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at photos. I set the intention to come up with ideas and then start looking at imagery. I Google images, I peruse my own files and I search stock photo sites. Sooner or later an idea will surface usually followed by a couple of more.  Now it isn’t unusual for me to find an idea lacking that I thought was terrific the day before…and then to find a new appreciation for the idea on yet another day.  Keeping that in mind, and the fleeting nature of ideas, I keep a pad and pencil, or word document open, and write down the ideas as they come to me.

Cloud Computing And A Tug Of War
In the case of this tug of war/cloud computing image, I was checking out my own archives. At some point the cloud image caught my eye. I made a mental note of the clouds, keeping it in mind as I continued to roam through my files. BTW, I use Adobe Bridge for that purpose. Eventually I ran across an image of a tug of war match between two groups of business people and immediately realized that I could have the competition taking place in “TheCloud”. It would create a visually interesting image with all kinds of concepts. And it is great to have a stock image that can work for multiple concepts!

Teamwork, Challenge And Visual Metaphors
“The Cloud” is becoming so pervasive with so many activities and implications that it requires numerous visual metaphors for use in advertising and editorial communications. In this case some of the possible concepts include teamwork, challenge, competition and determination. One important idea is that the cloud, like everywhere in the business world, requires teamwork, strength and endurance to succeed.

Intention, Visual Research, Execution And Distribution

Now I have no idea how successful this stock image may or may not end up being, but the technique I used to come up with it, intention and visual research (looking at images) is at the core of my stock photo business.  Come up with enough ideas, execute them at a minimal cost, and get them into distribution and success is still attainable in stock photography!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Shooting Stock For Whats Hot

A digital or virtual assistant is represented by a pixelated butler in this concept stock photo.
A virtual or digital assistant is represented in this stock photo seeking to cash in on hot concept.

Creating Imagery That Is In Demand
Part of succeeding as a stock photographer is in creating imagery that is in demand…and ideally, images that are both in demand and have less competition. One way to achieve that is by creating concept images that for new, important ideas. This image of a pixilated butler was created with just such a concept in mind; the digital or virtual assistant.

Virtual and Digital Assistants
I became aware of the growing importance of virtual assistants in a recent Kickstarter campaign I was involved in.  Successful crowdfunding campaigns invariably make extensive use of virtual assistants...and crowdfunding is hot (hmmm...more fodder for stock ideas)!  Also, as the world increasingly moves towards the cloud the use of digital and virtual assistants will no doubt increase…and the need for imagery that can advertise and editorialize about such assistants will also ramp up.

Butlers And Pixels
As I thought about how to illustrate the idea of a digital assistant I thought of a butler. A butler is an iconic symbol of service. Pixels are iconic symbols of a digital world. Combine them and you have a perfect metaphor for virtual assistants! In my files I already had a photograph of myself as a butler. I stripped that image out and put it into a corporate lobby setting. Then I “pixilated” the image by taking small squares out of the butler and repositioning them. The butler can be seen as forming from the cloud, or dispersing into a networked environment.

Vertical, Horizontal And Copy Space

The image was composed to allow for cropping to square, vertical or horizontal uses with ample copy space for the needs of art directors, designers or photo editors. The result is a flexible image that can illustrate a wide variety of concepts around digital, personal and virtual assistants. Time will tell if it actually becomes a successful stock image or not.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Important Stock Photo Question: What Else?

A light bulb rises into the sky in an image about unrestricted ideas, imagination and creativity.
In this image about creativity, ideas and imagination, a light bulb, released from a cage, rises up to a sky filled with the rays of the sun.

An Evolving Approach To Stock Photography
The way I have approached stock photography in the last few years has evolved. It was as I finished a recent image that it occurred to me that there is a very important question any stock shooter needs to ask themselves in regards to whatever image, images or shoots they are undertaking. That question is: What else? Asking what else can lead to higher productivity, more creativity, and more income.

Ideas, Creativity And Thinking Outside The Box
This image of a bird released from it’s cage is a great example. The concept is primarily one of freedom. Once I finished the image I sat back and asked myself what else I could have escaping, or released from, the cage. As I mentally ran through different possibilities it suddenly struck me that a light bulb lifting into the sky would make a great concept image for ideas, creativity, and the importance of not placing limits or restrictions on our imagination. This new image is about thinking outside the box…but without the box.

Tried And True Symbols In A New Environment
Sure, the light bulb is a tired and hackneyed symbol, but it is also iconic and instantly recognizable as demonstrating ideas. Putting a tried and true symbol in a new and different environment or situation is a powerful way of catching a viewer’s attention and offering a clear and strong message.

What Else?

In this example I asked what else at the end of an image…but it is a great question to ask when planning a shoot, or even editing one as well.  If you have a particular idea in mind for a shoot it can be easy to miss viable shots that happen to be outside the parameters of what you were actually aiming for. Take one last look at the shoot asking yourself  “What else”?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hot Water, Kickstarter And A Beautiful Photo!

This beautiful water image has been created as an exclusive reward for $1.00 backers of our HydraQuik Kickstarter campaign.

Wow, it has been a busy couple of months gearing up for our HydraQuik Kickstarter campaign, which goes live in just a few minutes, at 1:00 PST. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this project, my brother invented a device that we call the HydraQuik that gets your hot water to you fast (up to 80% faster) without wasting water down the drain. When he asked me to become involved I saw it as a chance to make a positive difference in the world (the HydraQuik, if used extensively, could save BILLIONS of gallons of water a year).

My thinking is that a product that makes life easier and more convenient (not waiting for hot water) might actually catch on with the public...far more likely than a form of conservation that requires sacrifice! It the HydraQuik is widely adopted it can truly impact our planet in a positive way!

I am asking for your support in backing us. If you back us to the tune of $1.00 you will be helping the environment as well as helping us! That $1.00 of support will also get you a digital file I have made exclusively for our Kickstarter backers that is, at least in my opinion, a stunning photo suitable for fine art printing. All $1.00 backers will get this digital file as part of their rewards.

By clicking on our HydraQuik link you can share our project, watch a very brief video starring yours truly, and give your support. I really appreciate your support!

And don’t worry, when the campaign ends in a month I promise to get back into blogging about stock photography!

Watch the video!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Kickstarter Video-A Lesson Learned

Chris Faber of Faber Productions shooting motion of John Lund for his HydraQuik Kickstarter video.

Kickstarter Video And A Lesson Learned

This past week we put together a kickstarter video for a project my brothers and I are doing (a product that gets your hot water to the fixture really fast without wasting any water down the drain…we call it hydraQuik).  The only other video experience I have with motion is in creating slow motion clips with a Phantom HD.

My epiphany in this video effort was how freeing it was to be liberated from operating the camera! I hired a DP and Producer, Chris Faber, of Faber Productions who used his own equipment including camera, lights, dolly, slider and sound gear. It was awesome!  It was also necessary because I was the client, the director and the talent. I couldn’t very well be on both sides of the camera at once!

After this experience I am convinced that, at least for me, for any video shoot I do in the future I will hire at least a DP. Doing so will create a more stress free shoot for me and insure that I can place the emphasis on what is most vision. I can leave the "driving" to someone who has it down cold. If the client doesn't have the budget...then I don't want that client!

We had a tight script and spent two days shooting, and I had a blast. Turns out I like being on camera as well! The only downer is when I saw myself…I look kind of old. Maybe because I am! Oh well…..

It is also exciting to be involved in this new kickstarter project. A nice break from 30+ years of photography…and a project that can help the world as well.  If you haven’t heard of kickstarter, check it out. It is a crowdfunding site with some really amazing projects going on. It also might be a way for you to fund your own project…and yes…there are lots of photography projects on there as well.

I can’t wait to see the video. As soon as I have it in hand I will post it here.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Photography, Entrepreneurship And Kickstarter

A photographer ascends a ridge on the island of Socotra at sunset.

Luka Esenko ascends a ridge on the island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen, tripod and camera on his shoulder.

SNAPP Guides For Photography Destinations
A friend of mine, Luka Esenko, and Jules Renahan, have launched a Kickstarter project creating SNAPP Guides, an app that is an interactive destination guide for photographers looking for amazing places to shoot. Pretty cool idea, and I have signed on as a “backer” for them on Kickstarter. You can check their project out here: SNAPP.

Photography Knowledge And Income Streams
I know Luka from a photo trip to Yemen and Socotra that Luka and Jeremy Woodhouse were leading. Awesome trip…but what really interests me here is the idea of taking photography expertise and expanding that knowledge into the world of entrepreneurship. At a time when so many photographers are struggling with income streams it seems like a smart move to me, and Luka and Jules have come up with an elegant way to add an income stream while providing tangible benefits to photographers around the globe.

Finding Locations, Planning Shoots And Financial Rewards
The world of photography has grown to almost an unfathomable size, and those of us who have spent their lives immersed in that world have a lot to offer. The SNAPP guide is a perfect example. As their program grows you will be able to find a great place to shoot your next great image no matter where you are…and doubtless it will be a great tool to plan your next vacation/shoot as well!  And there are a GAZILLION photographers who could use such a guide. Luka and Jules are providing a great service and hopefully will be rewarded financially as well. I love seeing fellow photographers thrive!

Imagination, Support, And Saving The World!
Kickstarter, BTW, seems like a wonderful place to stretch your imagination, offer support to all kinds of great ideas, and perhaps find a way to finance your own new project be it photography in nature or something that will help save the world. And speaking of saving the world, I have an idea that might help in at least some small way in that direction…so stay tuned for my own upcoming Kickstarter project!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Something Personal-Connections, Visibility And Fun!

Dragon Blood trees on the island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen, my accepted entry into last year's Something Personal APA Exhibition.
Personal work is essential to a successful commercial career, and the APA/SF's Something Personal Exhibition offers visibility and a wealth of connection opportunities...if you enter!

Something Personal
Way back when I started my professional photography career, some thirty years ago, it was common to hear professionals say that they did commercial work to support their personal work. These days what we all hear is how important personal work is for boosting our commercial success.  Any way you parse it, personal work is a tremendously important aspect of any photographer’s journey.

Connections, Marketing And Fun
The San Francisco Chapter of the APA (American Photographic Artists) has a yearly Gallery Exhibition “Something Personal” that not only gives you a chance to get your personal work out in front of the world, but in front of the “creatives” who actually give out work as well. This is the biggest photographic event of the year in San Francisco and is actually the 18th year of the exhibition and a perfect opportunity to combine fun, connections and marketing.

Getting Your Work Seen
Because a hundred images are accepted for the opening exhibition (with 200 displayed online) your chances of actually getting your work seen is excellent…way better than competitions such as the Communication Arts Photography Annual. The actual opening is also a kick and certainly my favorite venue for connecting with fellow artists, art directors and designers from my past, but also for meeting and making new friends and clients within the industry. This year the opening will be hold at the Midway Gallery ( with a full bar…nice!

A New Time And A New Venue
This year the event has been moved up by a month and the deadline is only two weeks away and shouldn’t be missed. There is a reason, BTW, that you see the names of the most successful commercial shooters over and over again in this competition…its because they know the benefits of being a part of the “Something Personal” show… and you would be surprised at the number of entries many of them make to insure that they are represented. This year I have entered about ten images myself…and might add to that number in the next couple of weeks.

The deadline for entry is Tuesday, September 29, 2015, and the opening party is Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 (5:00 to 11:00). BTW, after the party last year several of us traded our framed prints...very fun way to add to your collection of work from other photographers you admire!