Thursday, July 16, 2009

Intention: A Powerful Tool For Success In Stock Photography

Future, City Skyline, Future City, Metropolis
INTENTION is one of the most powerful tools you have at hand for achieving success in the stock photography business. I have written several times about generating stock photo ideas, and that I believe “Intention” is the primary tool for doing so. That is, having the INTENT to come up with a stock photo idea makes practically any other endeavor in that direction work.

I think the same thing is true when trying to learn from looking at the photography of others. Have the INTENT to learn something. It is a great exercise to decide consciously that you are going to learn something from looking at other photographer’s work. That “something” might be lighting or propping and styling or Photoshop effects. Whatever it is, if you set the intention first then look at pictures, the learning is almost guaranteed.

This morning I came into work and had the INTENT to create a stock photo from existing files that I had on hand. I keep a large number of images in a folder I call“Resource Images”. I continually add to the folder and occasional purge images. This repository, or library of images provides me with such “parts” as skies, backgrounds, textures and occasionally, people, to utilize as necessary in the creation of my stock photos.

This library of pictures also acts as a kind of idea playground for me. Often I will decide to create an image on the spur of the moment and turn to these images for ideas as well as for parts. I will find an image that catches my eye and start to play with it, putting it in different backgrounds, maybe combining the image with another, or altering it in some way, to create a viable stock shot.

Sometimes I find all the parts I need to create an image, sometimes I get an idea but need to shoot some more to bring the idea to fruition, and sometimes it is just an exercise in frustration. This morning things came together and I was able to create a stock photo and send it off to an agency for consideration (in this case I sent the photo to my editor at Corbis). I’ll let you know how it turns out!

The image (above) is a fabricated skyline, a cityscape of some future metropolis that doesn’t actually exist, except on my computer. The idea germinated as I looked at a skyline shot taken in Buenos Aires. The buildings looked very cool and futuristic. It occurred to me that a whole skyline of ultra modern buildings could be a very useful concept image for stock. I picked through my digital files finding some skyline shots of San Francisco that I could mine for buildings. I used Photoshop to combine and alter some of the buildings and to simply stretch-out and adjust the color of others.

I made sure that the finished image could be cropped either as a vertical or horizontal. This image isn’t going to set the world on fire, but I will be willing to bet that it sells reasonably well…and it only cost me a couple of hours work…nothing more.

Because I don’t see this image selling like gang busters I have submitted it for RM where there is actually more flexibility in pricing than in RF, where I get a larger percentage of each sale, and where there is always the possibility of a truly large sale. Large sales do still happen. Last month Getty sold one of my images for $18,000.00+. My share was over $8,000.00. Stock isn’t dead yet!

Getting back to my original point, intention is a potent tool for so much of what we do in stock photography; for coming up with ideas, for learning, and for creating images. Get in the habit of setting conscious intention; cool things happen when you do!


Anonymous said...

Hi John,
INTENTION is a powerful tool but you need something else, TALENT... and, of course, you have it!
Thanks for sharing, roberto

John Lund said...


Thanks for the compliment! It brings up an interesting point...can talent be learned if you have the intention?


Anonymous said...

Talent can't be learned but with great work and intention you can reach high levels (maybe 98/100, but 100/100 is just for talented guys!).

Anonymous said...

You make a great point, an interesting read yet again. And $18,000 sale?!!! Wow! I'm still waiting for a day like that with Getty :) Would you be able to share with us which image this was and how it will be used?

John Lund said...


Your testing my limits of sharing! Oh well.... The image was made 15 years ago and is of a life preserver thrown out over a stormy sea. Don't remember the use.... Now I can imagine all the new life preserver images we are about to see!!!


Anonymous said...

Thanks John. I won't be shooting any life preservers, I can assure you of that :)I was just curious what sort of image sells for that much. Thanks for sharing. Also, fascinating to hear that it was shot 15 years ago! Probably long forgotten and then you are reminded of it in a rather nice way.

All the best,


donfarrall said...

Hello John,

I take the same approach, with a separate disk on my main workstation labeled "Stock Parts Archive" with folders of skies, backgrounds, and "Parts". and like you sometimes I need to shoot some additional elements, and sometimes there is enough there to produce the final image. There are also times when I will shoot something new, for stock, and then I will "spin-off" an additional version by visiting the Parts bin and taking the image a little further in a different direction.

As always, your forum continues to be one of my weekly spots to visit.

Don Farrall,