Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Elephants, Tigers and Shooting Stock In Thailand

My impromptu head massage by an elephant during a stock shoot was actually kind of creepy...and slimy!

Elephants, Tigers, Alligators and Shooting Stock
I am off to Thailand early tomorrow morning for twelve days of shooting stock. My partner Stephanie and I will be keeping our eyes open and cameras ready to capture whatever opportunities come up as well as undertaking a few planned shoots. We have arranged to photograph elephants, tigers and alligators (or are the crocs?). All in all it should be a fun and fruitful trip!

Elephant Massage
As you can see from the elephant photo above (that’s me getting the head massage), I have shot elephants before in Thailand. BTW, having an elephant’s trunk massage your baldhead is actually kind of creepy…and slimy! I had a great time shooting elephants before and have arranged to spend a day learning to be an elephant Mahout (trainer). I get to spend a whole day with my own elephant learning how to direct him or her, giving the elephant a bath, and then taking a jungle trek atop the great beast! All the while Stephanie and I will be keeping ready for photo opportunities for our stock collection and raw material archives.

Expectations and Attitude
I did photograph a tiger here in the U.S. once, but this should still be fun and a great opportunity for some awesome “parts” from which to create my composite, conceptual stock photos. Of course, part of what makes for a successful stock photo trip, for me, is not getting too attached to your “expectations”. There are quite a few things that can go wrong...and if they do go wrong, and you don’t get what you thought you would, why wreck your trip over it? If you don’t get the shots, you don’t get the shots…but you don’t have to suffer over it. Very Buddhist of me…and heck, sometimes I actually manage to achieve such a great attitude. I’d rather just get the shots though….

Great Selling Stock Photos and Grab Shots
I have had some great selling stock photos over the years that were grab shots on my travels, so I always try and stay as open as possible to those opportunities. Once, on a trip to Burma, I pressed my camera up to the glass in a waiting area in the Mandalay Airport (or was it the Rangoon Airport…uh…I don’t remember) and, with a touch of Photoshop, ended up with a great picture of a gangway on the deserted tarmac.
This gangway on a deserted tarmac in Burma represents both opportunities and missed opportunities as well as connections and networking.
This shot paid for the entire trip and then some with its royalties, those sales have dried up recently as there are now a spate of such images. Hey, I think that may be the first time I have ever used the word “spate” before! In another case I was in a train station in Mumbai, raised my camera high above my head, and fired off a few shots at a fifteen of a second (to blur the crowd) before a machine-gun toting guard suggested I desist…which I promptly did. However, one of those grab shots has, at this point, paid for half of that trip! Cool!
People in motion at a train station in Mumbai, India.

Internet Access, Time and Sharing on a Photo Blog
At any rate, I will try to use this photo blog to share some of my trip…but how much depends on Internet access (which should be good), and how much time I have (who knows) and, well, again, who knows! Worst-case scenario, there will be a lot more material to share when I return. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Looking Into the Future of Motion (Video) Stock

Creating clips that can stand alone, as in this slow motion wine pour clip, may be important for motion stock success in the coming years.

Motion Stock
Recently I participated in an exchange, in a stock photo forum, on the topic of motion stock. It was only a brief exchange but there were some great thoughts that have helped me gain a bit more clarity on the possibilities, and limitations, of motion stock and how stock footage may fit into my photography future.

The Importance of Editing Motion 
One stock photographer, who has been adding a lot of video into his stock shoots, shared how important it has been for him to edit together a short film from each of his stock shoots. He went on to explain that the exercise was invaluable for helping him to understand the kind of clips that needed to be captured during a shoot and the importance of providing for transitions. Editing his shoots into short films is making him a far better motion stock shooter. Further, those short films will then be available, as well as the individual clips, for stock licensing.

Finding Appropriate Clips Is Challenging
Another photographer, who also is very experienced in the motion world, went on to say that finding clips that can be edited into an a motion project in progress is very challenging, and that in his experience, in most cases, it was actually easier and more efficient for him to just shoot what was needed himself. There are issues of format, of frame rates, of lighting quality and quantity, of the "feel" of the footage...challenges of continuity that we don't face as still photographers.

Individuals Licensing Motion Stock Successfully May Become Rare 
Hearing about the challenges of working stock footage into motion projects (reading it actually), it dawned on me that as it is getting easier and less expensive to capture video almost by the day, it is getting easier and less expensive for those creating videos to shoot their own footage rather than to look for stock to fill their needs. Add that to the absolutely insane explosion in people shooting and providing motion stock and you can see that despite the exploding demand for motion, an individual photographer making good money from licensing stock motion might become even more rare!

A Demand For Stand Alone Clips
Yet another shooter, who has participated in both stills and motion for years even to the point of directing numerous television commercials, suggested that there will be an increasing demand for very brief stand alone videos that illustrate a concept or can be used as a generic ad for a product or service, perhaps as in a promotion for a travel destination.  I like hearing that since that is exactly the type of little clip I put together by combining a still image with some of my slow motion footage to create a video clip of a tungsten  light bulb exploding into an energy efficient CFL bulb.

Incredible Images, After Effects and Motion Efforts
A concept stock photographer that is currently doing some of the most incredible images I have seen is now using After Effects to create stand alone conceptual clips the echo his still style. These are beautiful and powerful clips and it is hard to not get excited about the possibilities for such motion efforts when watching them. That gives me further impetus to examine such a route for my own future.

Passion and Excitement are Paramount 
I actually did enjoy putting that light bulb clip together, and if I can just figure out a few more things to do that fit in with my own vision and approach, and that I can do with a very minimal monetary outlay, then I can see at least an increased effort on my part on getting into motion.  As with stills, I still see a vital component of success being having passion and excitement for whatever sort of visual you are creating.  The competition is just going to be far too intense for anyone who is simply creating imagery to make money.unless, I suppose, you have an intense passion to create images to make money!