Thursday, February 25, 2010

Teamwork, Challenge and a Dramatic Stock Photo

Quad sculling in this stock photo of four people rowing their boat in the ocean, represents teamwork, challenge and adversity
Quad Sculling, four people rowing a boat, demonstrates teamwork, adversity, challenge and risk in this "impossible" stock photo.
Timeless Photos and Long Term Success
This image of Quad Sculling (in sculling a light boat is powered by people using two oars each…quad sculling refers to such a boat with four people) is exactly the kind of image I most enjoy creating. It has a strong, but flexible, message or concept. It has drama and interest and even humor (as in “Yeah, right”). The photograph is on the ragged edge of believability…is it real or not? And finally, the photo is timeless, something I think is tremendously important for long-term success in the stock imagery business.

Teamwork, Challenge and the Impossible
Sculling has always been a strong metaphor for teamwork, and as such has been used countless times as a stock image. This version still speaks of teamwork, but takes it a couple of steps further. This is teamwork in the face of risk, challenge, adversity and perhaps even the impossible. I can’t help but think that an appropriate headline might be “Sometimes even teamwork isn’t enough”. Come to think of it, this image might be hitting a little close to home for us photographers!

Old Concepts, Shot In New and Different Ways
As I have mentioned before, old concepts, illustrated in new and different ways, with a strong message pertinent to the marketplace, tend to do well. This image represents any efforts being attempted by a team, but with huge challenges and an uncertain outcome at best. It could be the government attempting to deal with the recession, or a sales team overmatched by competition, or any number of other situations in which an entity, be it corporation, government or organization, is faced with huge obstacles. For example, I could see this being an editorial image about the government attempting health care reform!

Extra Ideas
This image is also a great example of how I work these days. I come up with an idea that I want to illustrate, and then build a more comprehensive shoot around that first idea. In this case I knew I needed four models (to replace the people I had originally photographed in the boat, two of whom were just kids). Then I went over my comprehensive list of ideas to see which other ones were waiting for me to shoot models in-studio in order to finish. I came up with 17 ideas. I knew that I would not be able to complete the photography for that many, but I wanted to make sure that I had extra ideas in case one or more of my planned ones just weren’t working out. As it turned out, I managed to get the raw materials shot for about eleven of the ideas.

Four Models, A Boat, and Three Waves
In my studio I set up the lighting to match that from the original sculling shoot. Since I had shot the boat from a bridge I stood on a ladder to get the correct perspective. I printed out an 11x17 print of the boat and kept it with me on the ladder. I then shot each model and compared the LCD image with the print to make sure I cam at least reasonably close to the poses that would work. Before letting the models go I also did a quick cut and paste in Photoshop just to make sure things lined up right.
I put this image together using four model shots, the boat, and three shots of waves taken from atop a bluff in the Marin Headlands on a day with particularly large swells. I crafted it in such a way that it can easily crop as a horizontal for, say, magazine spreads, or vertically for a magazine cover. There is also plenty of room for headlines and body copy, though the texture of the water might be a bit busy for that. Total Photoshop time was about six hours.

A Rights Managed Image
While the concept of teamwork is one that is always in hot demand, as are such themes as risk, challenge, and adversity, having the rather negative probable outcome as part of the image makes me think that the audience for this photograph will be on the small side. Combine that with the greater-than-ordinary amount of work that goes into such an picture, and I think it would be best served as a Rights Managed image, so that is how I am submitting it. And now I have ten more images to get back to working on!


Unknown said...

This blog is one of my favorites among anyone claiming to be a stock photographer - articles like this just drive that home. Your insight on this business is amazing; tried and true. Keep up the good work John, you are a true stock guru, and you're alright in my book ;)

John Lund said...


Thanks...I really appreciate your support!


John Lund said...
This comment has been removed by the author.