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!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Water Issues In A New Stock Image

Water issues such as recycling, conservation and management are illustrated in this photo of a recycling symbol, created from water splashes, hovering over a vast expanse of dry, cracked earth.
Water issues such as recycling, conservation and allocation are a growing area of need for stock photo producers.

Water Issues
Water issues, such as water recycling, water management, and water allocations are huge and getting bigger. Think about the money spent to ship bottled water. Think of the issues surrounding the droughts that are only worsening with global climate change. Think of the need for water in agriculture and industry. Think of the shortage of potable water throughout the world. The need for images that can add visual impact to the issues surrounding water and for the advertising and promotion of products and services that help us deal with our desires, wants and needs surrounding water, has got to be in a strong growth mode…or at least that is what I am thinking.

This has all been brought to mind by the historically significant drought we are experiencing in California, and has gotten me off my butt and creating some stock images that can not only serve this need but perhaps has the further positive effect of motivating people to conserve water and become part of the solution rather than the problem.

Stock Images And Water Issues
The result is an ongoing series of stock imagery dealing with water issues. I expect to be adding to this category for quite some time, but thought I would share my first such image in this blog post. That image is one aimed at promoting the recycling of water with an ancillary message of conservation.

Water Splashes And The Recycling Symbol
The idea originated when I first began to think about how I could illustrate water issues. I liked the idea of creating something out of water splashes. My first thought was to create the word “water” from water splashes…something I may yet do. I don’t remember exactly what brought the recycling symbol to mind, but when it came to me it seemed like a great way to start. I did some Internet searching to see if the idea had already been done (yes…it has) and to what extent. Luckily for me the ones that have been done left room for new versions. I felt that by adding a background of cracked, dry earth I could impart a greater sense of urgency and an emotional connection with the viewer.

Creating Water Splashes
To create my water splash recycling image I had my partner, Stephanie, use a plastic cup to toss water splashes up in my studio that I photographed with my Nikon D800. After about forty or so splash efforts I brought the captures into Photoshop, made selections using the pen tool to create clipping paths, and creating layers that I shaped and merged and colored using the warp tool, the liquify filter, layer masks and adjustment layers.

Dry Cracked Earth And Rice Paddies
The parched earth image was in reality a drained rice paddy I photographed in Myanmar. When I photographed it the mud was shin deep…but had the appearance of dry cracked earth…and as all photographers know…appearances can be more important than reality! I pasted the earth image beneath my recycle splash, used a duplicate layer of the recycle symbol, along with Hue and Saturation, to create a shadow. I positioned it, played with the opacity and with the shape of the logo until I was happy with it. The sky is from a photograph I took in Mongolia of all places. Truly this is, at least in one sense, a global water image! I am providing the image to Blend Images for distribution, but have not yet decided whether it should be a Rights Managed image or Royalty Free. Any thoughts?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

An Artificial Intelligence Stock Photo

Artificial intelligence, future technology, and brain research are all visually illustrated by this photo.
 An image about artificial intelligence, future technology, and brain research.

Future Technology And Artificial Intelligence
Future technology and artificial intelligence are not only fascinating, at least to me, but potentially a great stock image subject.  Technology is penetrating ever more deeply into every aspect of our lives…and “artificial intelligence” has a potential impact that is mind-boggling. How can we photographers not want to dive into that as a stock photo subject?

Human Brains And Computer Technology
The idea of linking a human brain to computer technology is painfully obvious, but also a potentially good choice when trying to make an image that will be a quick read to a wide audience of people. The question becomes more of how we can “tweak” it to take it beyond the ordinary so that we can both make it an interesting visual and a useful concept image.

Flesh And Metal
With this image I started by shooting a plastic replica of a human brain, created a duplicate layer in Photoshop, and ran a “Chrome” filter over it.  It, as usual with the Photoshop chrome filter didn’t look like chrome. I played with the different “modes” until I came up with one that gave the brain a look vaguely like flesh with a metallic sheen. It looked cool enough for me!

Circuit Boards And Magic Wands
Next I found a circuit board photo in my archives and used a combination of “Color Range” and the “Magic Wand” photo to select just the traces. I fined-tuned the selection with “Refine Edges”, copied the selection, and pasted it behind the “brain” layers. Below that I created a layer of a white/gray gradation. I used the Hue/Saturation control to darken the computer traces to black. Finally, I pasted the selected computer circuit traces on the top layer and positioned it to partially cover the brain.

High Tech, Bio Technology And Artificial Intelligence
The result is a high-tech and complex human brain bio-technology image that illustrates artificial intelligence, brain research, and future technology. It can be cropped to square vertical or horizontal…all in all, a very promising stock image. One can never know for sure whether a given image will sell well, or even sell at all. Time will tell on this one....

A Royalty Free Stock Photo
I have submitted the image to Blend Images as a royalty free stock photo. I am counting on the demand for artificial intelligence and future technology images to be large enough to compensate for the lower price points of royalty free imagery.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Top 80 Trends In Photography For 2015

Urban high rise buildings reveal the sky in an upwards pointing arrow in this photo about possibilities and the way forward.
The "Trend" is up as illustrated in this stock image of an urban high rise scene in which the buildings form an upward pointing arrow. It is up to you to have a plan that makes your own trend and upward one!

Photography Trends of 2015
Amos Struck of Stock Photo Secrets has posted a great article on the top 80 trends in photography for 2015: Click here to see the whole 80 photography trends article! The article has a LOT of material and plenty of photos. As I perused the article it occurred to me that what is more important that the trends that are out there is to make your own trend and upward one!

Having A Plan
While it is important to stay on top of such information it is equally if not more important to have a plan for your year ahead, a plan that can take your stock photo, and life, in an upwards direction . One part of my own plan that does seem to be working is in using my website to promote my stock photo sales. It has been a slow and subtle journey, but nonetheless, in addition to twenty to thirty people a day finding images on my site and then following links to those images at Blend, Getty, Corbis or SuperStock, I am now also averaging one direct stock photo request a day. A lot of these requests are a pain in the butt, such as a request yesterday for two small prints, or for things like free images for classroom projects, but a lot of them are panning out as well.  In addition, I am getting the occasional assignment offer...which is great since I am not hungry for them and can pick and choose which ones I want to take on.

Long Term Projects
I have been working diligently on the site for what, seven years now? Talk about a long term project! Almost every night I am uploading my latest stock images and adding a good amount of text. I have something like 8,000 pages and over 7,000 images on the site now. Phew! But the results are picking up and I am undeniably making money off of the endeavor.

Commitment To Making Images
Another part of my overall stock photo plan that seems to be working is my commitment to make a minimum of twenty images a month for stock. Ever since I made that commitment, roughly a year and a half ago, my production has almost doubled!  Now it is like brushing my teeth...I am driven to get those twenty images up...and usually end up closer to thirty images. My stock income is rising as a result.

More Stock Photo Opportunities
To fine tune my plan this year I am mainly looking for ways to create more stock photo opportunities through fun activities. I am planning a trip to New Zealand and Australia for fun and stock raw materials. I am also becoming more active in the San Francisco chapter of APA (I am on the board now) and working on a body of work to try and get a toe hold in the fine art world.

Get To Where You Want To Be!
So do keep abreast of what the trends are and what is happening in the world, but don't forget that the most important task is to keep on track with a plan that will get you to where you want to be! Writing out a detailed plan with specific actions and deadlines for those actions is almost magical in its effectiveness. Now excuse me...I have images to make!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Creating A Stand Out PR Image

Funny elephant photo of a young boy riding his bicycle down the back of a delighted elephant!
This humorous photo of a young boy riding his bicycle down an elephant's back was created to fulfill the need for a PR image for a bicycle company that would stand out from the crowd. I think we succeeded!

Just put together this image for a friend, Jeff Cleary, who has started a new bicycle company “Cleary Bikes” creating adult style bicycles for kids. He wanted an image of a youngster riding on one of his bicycles to use for multiple PR purposes, but he wanted the image to be something that was out of the ordinary and that would grab people’s attention.

Jeff is familiar with my work with funny animals and suggested that we could have a kid riding his bicycle down an elephant’s back. Hmmm…that would certainly be different! 

We had a model, a young boy who was about as cute as they come (and at first impression painfully shy) come in to my studio for the shoot. Jeff helped steady him as he balanced on the bike with it’s rear wheel up on an apple crate to approximate the correct body position. The little boy was awesome. We told him to look really excited…and he got into it immediately with a huge open-mouthed grin that was perfect.  After the first six frames or so I checked the images and realized I had inadvertently opened up the f stop and was pretty badly overexposing…so we did it again and our model continued to give us that wonderful expression.

With the photography part of the job completed I turned to the imaging. I selected an elephant from a shoot I did years ago in Thailand and combined four captures to piece together the big pachyderm into a funny pose appropriate for a kid riding a bike down it’s back.  Next I pieced together a background. The immediate foreground was from a scene I photographed in Yemen, and the distant mountains and sky from Black Rock Desert (think Burning man). I then added appropriate shadows to “ground” the elephant into the scene.

I used the pen tool to create a clipping path around the model riding the bike, made the selection, and copied and pasted it into the elephant image. A little bit of adjustment for size, angle and position (and the hardest part...removing logos from the shoes!) and (Voila!) a truly unique bicycling image!

Of course, as part of the deal I have stock photo rights, and after removing the remaining logos I submitted the image to Blend Images as a Rights Managed stock photo. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Creativity, Money And Stock Photography

A stream of images combine with light streaks in a stock photo illustrating concepts such as photo sharing, social networks, and streaming data over the Internet.
Creativity, money, and stock photography, a presentation on stock at the San Francisco Apple store by John Lund.

On Thursday the 19th of February, from 7:00pm to 8:00pm I will be giving a talk at the Apple store in San Francisco. The title of my talk is “Creativity, Money And Stock Photography”. I will be sharing my experience and approach in stock photography including tips for making stock photography profitable.

While certainly stock photography is in transition and has become a much more daunting career, it is important to remember that stock photography is a two billion dollar industry in which there are many photographers successfully navigating their way to success. 

I am going to pack as much useful information into an hour as I can including some of my actual income figures. I’ll be sharing a lot of images, so hopefully it will be entertaining as well as informative. Hope to see you there!

The presentation is free, but space is limited.