Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tango Dancing And Concept Stock Photos

Almost anything can trigger ideas for concept stock photography. While planning a recent stock trip to Buenos Aires, it seemed everyone kept asking me if I was going to shoot tango. Yet, for whatever reason, tango was not appealing to me. But because I was being asked so much I decided to see if there was something there that did appeal to me.

I started trying to think outside the box, so to speak, about how I could put my own spin on some Tango dancers. ClichĂ©’s appeal to me, and one popped into mind. “It takes two to tango”. There might be something there. Plus, dancing can be a metaphor for teamwork, an essential and always needed business concept. I could have them holding a contract and pen to indicate sealing the deal, agreement and negotiation. Plus, tango also has that dramatic element to it.

I started picturing tango in an office. It could be dramatic and conceptual. Might be worth investigating further. The next step for me is to see if I can base a shoot around the tango concept. It occurred to me that tango dancers are, or at least probably are, athletic. Maybe I could add in some other “athletic” shots in. One technique I use for brainstorming is to think of opposite. One opposite of two people dancing is…fighting.

At this point I felt I had enough to base a shoot around. I had my Argentine producer (and fellow shooter), Paula Zacharias, check on models and an office we could shoot in. She found two tango dancers both of who also know some martial arts. One of them suggested another friend of theirs who was also a martial artist. We decided to go with the three of them. When the woman tango dancer asked if she could bring her young daughter to the shoot we decided to add some mother daughter shots as well.

It turned into a really fun shoot. We started in the office, which was actually limited to the reception area. We had the woman tango dancer, her young daughter, and a man tango dancer. The fourth model was to meet us later at the second location. This was a pretty low-key shoot. Just Paula and me, our models and one ProFoto 7b power pack with two heads. We were shooting with a Canon 5D. We spent an hour in the office shooting tango dancing, mother and daughter at work, and both the woman and the man karate-kicking the monitor (with the help of a little post-shoot Photoshop work).

Following the office portion of the shoot, we left for the nearby Puerto Madera section of Buenos Aires. This is a trendy waterfront area with lots of new shops, cafes and a cool suspension footbridge. We started with a little tango dancing on the bridge and then switched to a fight scene between the men, again using the ProFoto 7b. After a half hour of shooting a security guard ushered us off the bridge. We then shot various activities in the immediate surrounding area including working at a laptop at an outdoor cafĂ© and strolling by the shops with mother, father and daughter. There was also a business park and we used the buildings as a background and had the models on each other’s shoulders with the top person scanning the horizon, some more fighting scenes, and, to finish up, shot the models sprinting towards and past the camera.

A simple half-day shoot with free locations and model fees amounting to $150.00. Not bad! I got 35 selects into Blend Images. The images recently went up so I don’t have any sales information yet but I am confident, from experience of two things. First, these images will sell. Second, you never know if an image is going to sell. Hmmmm….

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Continuing Challenge: RM, RF or Micro?

I am not cut out for producing large quantities of images. My love is for producing highly Photoshop-manipulated concept stock photos. I am guessing that eliminates me from Micro stock…so if anyone reading this has experience that would suggest otherwise, I’d love to hear from you!

I am in stock photography for the money, for the freedom and for the fulfillment of creating images that I want to create. Most of the stock photos that I make require a lot of work to think up, hours of Photoshop work to complete, and a fair amount of capital investment to produce. I know from experience that some of these images can earn just as much in RF as in RM.

I also know from research that some of the best selling Micro images can earn enough to justify putting images into that category. However, in RM I have often had the experience of having an image languish for up to three or four years before suddenly earning thousands of dollars. An image that is not a best seller can still bring in thousands of dollars. I also know that there is no way to predict whether a given image will be a best seller. It seems to me a much bigger risk to place the few images I create into a Micro market.

The image accompanying this blog, an image of the earth as a globe covered in freeways, has been up on the Corbis site for six months without a sale yet. I thought it would be a runaway best seller, or at least sell a couple of times a month. Oh well.... But I trust its time will come. The photo is an example of the kind of picture I love to create most. It’s not like a lot of other images out there. Given the right headline it can have a clear and strong message. It makes a striking visual (if I say so myself). Whether it ever sells or not, it is an image I am proud of.

A disadvantage of Rights Managed photography is that many buyers feel they cannot afford RM and limit themselves to RF or Micro. I think that is unfortunate as I can attest from my sales reports with Getty and Corbis that RM images can be had at VERY affordable prices. I have long said that with RM images you can always undercut RF! I have to admit that I also have an ego bias towards Rights Managed. I even have a hard time contributing to RF for that reason. It is about valuing my work. Of course, I have far more images in RF than RM and those images have done very well for me, particularly with Blend Images. For business reasons I think it prudent to be involved in both models.

When I hear from some of my friends about how well they are doing in Micro, it makes me anxious. With all of the buzz about micro, I keep feeling like I should be participating. And yet, every time I come close to submitting images to Micro I just can’t pull the trigger. I certainly don’t begrudge those who do choose to shoot Micro, and someday I may yet end up with images in Micro. But for now I am limiting my submissions to primarily RM with RF as a continuing hedge.