Thursday, October 5, 2017

America And The Power of Diversity

The American flag filled with faces: America And The Power Of Diversity

This image of well over a hundred different faces, of all ethnicities and ages, and both sexes, super-imposed over the American flag, has several things going for it. The image, at least in my humble opinion, is cool looking. It has many commercial (editing and advertising) uses, and address important and current social issues.

There are ten years worth of individual portraits, all model released, in this one image. With the variation of ethnicities, ages and sexes, the image can be used to illustrate concepts involving diversity, politics, demographics, immigration, patriotism and who know how many other ideas.

Just looking at the image makes me proud of the diversity within our country and reminds me of the strength found in differences embraced. I can only hope that this stock photo can move our country just a bit further in the direction of respect and tolerance for everyone by everyone.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Instagram and Its Influence on the Art of Photography

Instagram and Its Influence on the Art of Photography

A guest post by Megan Arevalo

With more than 500 million monthly users, Instagram is now one of the most active social networks, beating Twitter and sitting behind parent company Facebook, which acquired the platform for $1 billion when the company was just 2 years old. The photo-sharing app has morphed to become the leading platform for visual communication, changing the way we consume photography altogether. Some professionals dislike the way things are headed because it cheapens their talents. In the past, painters who were celebrated as artists had a similar feeling towards cameras cameras. Photographs taken were more realistic than paintings and artists were worried that their work would lose its significance. Digital photography has made analog photography a loving memory and whole generation has never even used them.

On the flipside some photographers and artists embrace the Instagram because they can connect with their fans and showcase their work to a new wider audience. The high-quality smartphone cameras don’t replace DSLRs, but they are a viable alternative even for the professionals. Whatever the opinions of professionals, the everyday person can now utilize their smartphone camera and Instagram filters to create appealing photos and build a following – whether their models taking selfies, travellers showing off their destinations, or even meme creators making people laugh.

People are now suddenly inspired by their surroundings as they constantly search for Instagram-worthy moments. Everything from the meal you just cooked, to the book you just finished, to the landmark you visited, can be snapped and has the opportunity to garner likes.  

It is therefore understandable why professionals might feel threatened, especially when advanced filters can make even a low quality image look appealing. However the positioning of objects, lighting and subject matter chosen by career photographers is still likely to have an edge over the average selfie taker. Hours of effort still trumps computer generated airbrushing. Some Instagram celebs still use professionals to take their photos to get the best of both worlds.

In fact the overuse of filters has created a situation where a large percentage of Instagram posts have the same look and somebody who uses a rarer filter or thinks outside of the box can benefit from uniqueness. This may be where professionals still have an edge.

Is Instagram helping to feed narcissism, the kind not typically seen with traditional phorography? Selfies, legs in the beach, taking photos of meals, flexing in the gym, etc are some of the trends popularized by the social network that weren’t that common previously. At the same time however, Instagram is also the main medium behind the popularity of body positivity campaigns as real people share real photos as a form of protest against the rampant use of filters.

Whether we like it or not Instagram is a modernist take on photography and the industry is looking for ways to embrace the technology so that the art form doesn’t alienate the audience.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

A Rooster Crowing A Dawn Stock Photo

Rooster crowing at dawn stock photo.
A rooster crowing at dawn makes a great stock photo for illustrating the concepts of new beginnings, getting started, and important announcements.

A Rooster Crows At Dawn
When any of think of a rooster crowing we immediately picture a rooster, crowing at dawn, and standing on a wooden fence post. We also instinctively know that a crowing rooster is a signal that the day is starting and that hard working people are rousing from their beds and getting to work. As a stock image, a rooster crowing at sunrise offers the power of the unconscious familiarity that we all have with both the visual and the concepts that are represented.

A Rooster On The Road
With the above thoughts in mind a rooster crowing stock photo as been one that I have contemplated creating for several years, but have just never gotten my act together in finding and photographing a rooster. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I was in Kyrgyztan on a photo trip with Jeremy Woodhouse.  We were taking a morning tour of a small village when I spotted a rooster on the road. I managed to get five or six shots of the big guy before moving on. Later, on that same trip, but this time in Uzbekistan, I got some great images of a colorful sunset.

Roosters, Sunrises, Fences And Photoshop
Back from the trip, and in my Sausalito studio, I picked the best of the rooster captures, stripped it out, and manipulated it to have its beak wide open. I dropped the rooster shot into one of the sunset shots. I used a series of adjustment layers, Hue and Saturation, Curves, and Color Balance to make the lighting on the rooster fit the background image. I found a fence shot, also photographed in Kyrgyztan…on the same morning as I photographed the rooster…stripped it out, and placed it into the composite. I positioned it to make it appear that the rooster was standing on the fence post. Again I used several adjustment layers to match the lighting and color of its new surroundings.

The Rooster In My Imagination
Finally, in my archives I selected a star field image and faded it into the top of the composite.  The whole process took several hours and a lot of fiddling with, but in the end I was able to come up with a rooster crowing at sunrise stock photo that perfectly matched the visual I had held in my imagination all of these years.

Announcements, New Beginnings And Time Issues
The crowing rooster image was composed to allow plenty of copy space and cropping options. And speaking of copy, depending on the headline and body text included, the image can serve to illustrate such diverse ideas as announcements, new beginnings and/or time issues.

Blend Images And Royalty Free Stock Photos
The next question is what to do with the image. I will be uploading it to Blend Images for distribution. I, however, am still struggling with whether to put it in as a Royalty Free image or a Rights Managed one. My heart is always with RM because I started out as an RM photographer and I believe my images are worth more money that the prices generally charge for RF…but the audience for RM images has dropped in size to a mere fraction of the audience for RF images…and Getty now routinely licenses RM images at microstock prices. Oh well.  In his case I am counting on a big audience and am submitting the rooster image to the Royalty Free collection.


Friday, April 29, 2016

The Power of Simple And Stock Photography Success

A simple image with a clear and strong message is one of the keys to successful stock photography.

Power In Simplicity
There has always been power in simplicity, and now more than ever, simple images are one of the keys to success in stock photography. Think about…just about every image is chosen from thumbnail sizes on an Internet site. An image must communicate a message quickly and clearly at postage stamp sizes to in order to be considered for licensing.

Simplicity, Clarity And Impact
As attentions grow ever shorter the importance of simple also increases. A simple image communicating on idea in an instant is necessary to cut through the constant media assault that competes for our attention.   An image is far more likely to be successful if it combines simplicity and clarity with impact.

Risk, Danger And Weak Links
While I do not yet know whether this image of the risk and danger of a weak link will sell well, I do believe the image is simple and clear. I also believe it has a stark beauty to it that makes it stand out among similar images. Just for fun, I did a search for “weak link” on the Getty site using the “best match” filter.  This image will stand out! 

Rust, Storms And Clearing Skies
Using a rusty chain accentuates the vulnerability of the metal. Having the weak link stretched out and with only one thin piece of steel still holding, adds to the drama. The stormy sky background indicates additional stress and turbulent times. The light on the chain is consistent with the last rays of the sun before the approaching storm, or for optimists, the sun breaking through clearing skies.

Copy Space And Cropping Options
Other attributes that I trust will make the image appropriate for as many uses as possible are that there is plenty of room for copy and that the image can be cropped to square or vertical as well as its natural horizontal format.

Blend Images And Royalty Free

I placed the shot with Blend Images as a royalty free photo. With Blend I can submit the image once and have it available through out the world. It will also be available on the Blend site as part of a highly curated collection (great for art directors and designers who don't want to waste time looking through a lot second tier imagery). Too, there are a ton of uses for it ranging from pointing out aging infrastructure to bringing attention to old and faltering paradigms. The list is really endless which favors the larger audience available for Royalty Free imagery. Oh yeah, and Royalty Free is simpler too…and there is power in simple!

Monday, April 25, 2016

5 Questions For Stock Photo Success

Connections, networking and communications technology are represented by this stock photo of a woman with streaming data engulfing her head.
Connection, networking and communications technology shown in an image that is easy to crop, has room for copy, and has visual impact results in a successful stock photo.

A Best Selling Stock Image
Since I created this image of a woman with the top of her head engulfed in streaming colored lights a couple of years ago, it has been consistently a best seller for me. When I created it I was hopeful that it would sell but I never would have guessed that it would be in my top 100 (actually it was my 16th best selling image out of about 10,000 images over the course of 2015).

Sales Reports And Trying New Things
I tend to obsessively scan my sales reports determined to glean information that will help me make images that sell well. But time and again what I come away with is that everything sells (okay not every single image sells, but pretty much every category does) and it’s impossible for me to know which images are going to be the best sellers.  That opens the door for me to keep trying new things (like combining streaks of light with models).

Five Questions About A Stock Image
There are five questions I ask myself about an image to try and insure the image has a chance to sell well:

1.              Does the image illustrate important concepts?
2.              Is the image a quick read at thumbnail sizes?
3.              Can the image be cropped to multiple formats?
4.              Is there room on the image for inclusion of headlines and/or copy?
5.              Does the image have visual impact?

Now no image needs to have all of these qualities, but the more of those questions get answered, “yes” the better chance an image has of being a successful stock image.

Concepts, thumbnails, Crops And Visual Impact
Connections, networking and communications technology are all concepts illustrated in this shot of a woman’s head intersecting with streaking lights, all important concepts in this digital age. I am pretty sure that at least one reason the image does well is because it can serve to illustrate multiple concepts. It reads quickly as a thumbnail, crops to square or vertical and it has visual impact. It really stands out on a page of thumbnails about “networking” or “connections”.

Eyeballs And Blend Images
I gave the image to Blend Images believing that is my best chance to get the most eyeballs on it. So far it has been licensed in India, The U.S., The U.K., Thailand, Germany, Slovenia, Korea, United Arab Emirates, France, Qatar, Canada, Taiwan and China…so far. And it’s a Rights Managed image…meaning it probably would have sold many more times as an RF image. But that is the subject for another time!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Anatomy of a Concept Stock Photo: Ideas

Light bulbs have been used to create a human brain that represents ideas, creativity and possibly even artificial intelligence.
This light bulb brain draws on the iconic symbol of ideas and creativity but gives it added power with the new twist of making it into a brain.

Iconic Symbols In A New Light
The tried and true symbols that have been embedded in our collective subconscious, despite their overuse and cliché stature, remain powerful tools in conceptual photography. The trick is to use those symbols in new and different ways. When you succeed at doing that you, in a way, get double or even triple your bang for the buck. You get that subconscious hit, you get the quick read from a familiar image, and then you get the appreciation and boost from using the symbol in a new incarnation.

Light Bulbs Creativity And Ideas
The light bulb brain image above is a great example of just such a reworked, iconic symbol. The light bulb is still the premier visual symbol of ideas and creativity. Even when we know it has been used to death, we still know what it means.  Create a new light bulb image that we haven’t seen before and it gains a new, even stronger power to attract our attention.

Light Bulbs Brains And Intelligence
The human brain is another iconic image representing intelligence, creativity and ideas. In the case of our light bulb brain the brain form reinforces the concepts of ideas and creativity, adds in intelligence and possibly other themes such as artificial intelligence. On the humorous side of things I can see this image as a bright idea! Sorry.

Old Concepts And Powerful Ideas
By using an old, hackneyed concept, the lowly light bulb, we are able to create a new powerful symbol that can represent a number of concepts. It is a quick read at small thumbnail sizes but still provides impact at larger sizes. It is a memorable image, versatile in how it can be used and flexible in terms of cropping.

Blend Images
I delivered the photo to Blend Images. With Blend it will be available at all the major distributors and when licensed directly through Blend I will get 50% of the revenue. I expect the image to do well.  And, because there is nothing to age the image I expect it to bring in revenue for a very long time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Creativity And New Approaches In Stock Photography

Big data,streaming data, and communications technology are all illustrated with this colorful stock photo of streaking lights and binary numbers.
Big data, communications technology, and streaming data are all illustrated by this photo of streaking lights and binary numbers.

Consistent Styles, Creativity And Fun
One of the best things about stock photography, for me, is the opportunity and rewards of trying new things. While in the assignment world there is an ongoing need to build and maintain a consistent style, but with stock there are no such barriers to creativity and, well, fun!

More Demand, Less Competition
Luckily for me I enjoy the process of coming up with commercial images of all kinds, and part of my drive to experiment is the recognition that only by venturing out into new territory can I discover images that due to their unusual nature face a healthy amount of demand and less competition than more traditional imagery.

Big Data, Information Management And Needed Concepts
A few days a go I sat down and decide to create an image about needed concepts including big data, information management, and communications technology. I decided that I would use binary numbers to start with. I created a layer of ones and zeros and began to manipulate the layer using transform and warp tools. I used a hue and saturation layer to turn the binary numbers to blue because blue is highly associated with business.

Motion, Speed And Binary Numbers
I like the flow of the binary numbers. They were starting to give me a sense of motion and speed and definitely indicated streaming data. But I wanted a more dynamic feel as well. In my library of images I have a lot of light streaks created with long exposures and camera movement. I found one such capture with mutli-colored streaks that I could align with the initial binary numbers and that would add that extra dimension of drama. Another long-exposure light capture took on an intricate net-like appearance that I added in as a background.

Thumbnail Sizes and Cropping Options
One of the challenges of this image was creating it in a way that facilitated horizontal, square, and vertical crops. Mission accomplished! It can also be used to illustrate a lot of different concepts. Besides the above-mentioned ideas it can show bandwidth, wireless communications, and even cloud computing. This big data image is also a quick read at small thumbnail sizes on the Internet…an important aspect when one realizes that virtually all stock images are now purchased over the Internet and first seen as these small thumbnail sizes.

New Styles, New Approaches And Payoffs
Now I don’t know if this will be a successful stock image. It could take me a couple of years to find out. But I did enjoy the process of putting it together, and I do believe the image will produce revenue. But hey, I’ve wrong before…. Nonetheless, I know from experience that experimenting, coming up with new styles and approaches, over the long haul, definitely pays off.

Blend Images, Royalty Free And Revenue
I have submitted the stock photo to Blend Images as a Royalty Free image. My thinking is that because the image can be used for so many different concepts with such a wide audience that it’s revenue possibilities are greater as an RF image. A final point about the revenue potential of this communications image…by submitting it to Blend Images I get the advantage of very wide distribution and, in the case of a Blend direct sale, the added bonus of a 50% royalty split.