Saturday, April 25, 2009

A stockphoto Idea Generation Exercise

A week or so ago I wrote an article on coming up with ideas for stock, How to Generate Effective Ideas for Stock Photos
, something I think about a lot. I am always feeling like I have used up all my good ideas when suddenly I come up with a new one, or several new ones. Then I have a brief period where I am confident that I will always be able to come up with more ideas…followed again by more doubt. With all the amazing images out there how can there be any ideas left to do? Well, maybe there aren’t any really new ideas, but somehow there are always ideas that are new to me and will be fresh with my execution of them, something I know in my heart even when I am feeling my most doubtful.

In that article I mentioned a couple of exercises for coming up with ideas, and I had a new “idea exercise” occur to me this morning. Yesterday I was feeling stressed by the economy and by the fact I hadn’t made an image in a while (making images is like therapy for me…or maybe more like an addiction!). I was at my computer using Bridge to browse through my archive of uncompleted images. One image caught me eye: A business man with a stressed out expression as he sat at his cluttered cubicle. I had created the image with the intention of putting a dog cone, the kind that is used to prevent dogs from chewing on themselves, around his neck. I had never finished it because I had never gotten around to finding one of those cones. But I was feeling really in-tune with his expression. Was there something else I could use besides a dog cone (I don’t know the technical term for that apparatus). I look around my studio a bit. I found a blue funnel for pouring liquids into a container. That would do! I quickly shot it with available light and used Photoshop to turn it grey and strip it into the shot. It took about an hour of touch-up work, adding shadows and so forth, but the image was done. And my stress was greatly relieved!

That experience came into my head this morning and I have used it to come up with an exercise for stock ideas. The exercise is as follows: Grab a pen and paper. Sit quietly, close your eyes, and get in touch with how you are feeling. For example, this morning I am up early and everyone else in the house is asleep. I awoke this morning from an unpleasant dream. The cumulative result is that I am feeling a little lonely.

The next step in the exercise is to run through some mental pictures of what that feeling looks like until a image comes up that feels like it might work for stock. For me, I fairly quickly pictured an aerial view looking down on a man standing alone on an empty street.
Now quickly write down that visual. Now go back to your “mental movie”. When you come up with another intriguing visual, write that one down too. If you don’t write your ideas down they will disappear as quickly as they came!

After coming up with one or more visuals you can choose to play with it a little to see if any of them really do work as an image ideas for you. For me, the man standing alone in the street morphed into a person standing on a street corner at an intersection; a solitary person with a decision to make. I no longer have time to be lonely this morning because I am excited about creating this image. I already have thought of a location and am busy working out the details. This image might convey loneliness, the way forward, decisions, or even possibilities. It is a great stock idea because with the addition of a headline the image can convey many different concepts.

No matter what you are feeling, there are millions of others feeling the same way. If you can capture that feeling in an image you will have a successful stock photo, and hopefully, a feeling of accomplishment and success!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An Interesting Life

A more interesting life leads to better photography

It occurred to me today, as I ran across this stock photo (while adding meta data), that one thing you can do to increase your success as a stock photographer is to lead a more interesting life! How do you lead a more interesting life and make it apply to your photography? Well, I would say the answer to that is DO SOMETHING! Do anything. Action always takes you somewhere…and even if you later find out it took you in a direction that wasn’t quite the one you wanted, that in itself could help point you in the direction that you do want to go in. I would contend that going in the wrong direction, and finding out what the right direction, is, beats the heck out of doing nothing and getting nowhere.

The stock image that I just uploaded to my site is of a man falling through the sky. If I hadn’t decided to go to Bonaire I wouldn’t have shot that background image through the window of the aircraft. If I hadn’t gone to Buenos Aires I might never have rented a gymnasium, hired a gymnast, and created a shot of him dismounting from the parallel bars wearing a suit (and then been able to Photshop the composite together)! The more interesting my life has become the more interesting both my photography and my archives of interesting raw materials have become.

Making your life more interesting is an investment…and as far as investments go it is hard to imagine either a safer investment or one that has a better return. Like anything else, to get the most return you will have to have some follow-through. For example, a few years back I decided to do a stock photo shoot in Buenos Aires with two of my good friends. We decide to shoot in Buenos Aires because we wanted to, because we wanted to have an adventure, because we wanted our lives to become more interesting. It wasn’t cheap. Actually, at the time, it was the most money by far of any photo shoot I had ever done. And the pay-off has been huge!

That first time of undertaking a produced stock shoot outside the borders of my own country opened up a whole new world for me. I have now done “produced” stock shoots (as opposed to just grabbing whatever shots opportunistically came up) in Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Thailand and India. My life is more interesting, I am making money off of all of those shoots, and I have a wealth of raw materials for my compositing that I otherwise never would have had. I have friends I can turn to in each of those locations. In Argentina I even feel like I have a whole second family!

Not only can leading a more interesting life lead to better photography, stock photography can lead to a more interesting life! Under the guise of shooting stock I travel, I rent animals such as lions, tigers, elephants, monkeys, I meet a ton of new people (models, assistants, producers, photographers and everyday people we end up interacting with), and I am forced out of my shell and my daily humdrum existence. Even this blog is a result of my stock photography career! I wake up every morning and am thankful for my life as a stock shooter!