Friday, December 30, 2011

Weird Stock Photos That Sell!

Weird Stock Photos That Sell
I thought it might be fun to look at some really weird stock photos that actually sell reasonably well. Fairly often I come up with stock photo ideas that, after execution, actually strike me as weird, ill conceived, or just plain dumb. Yet some of these less than stellar images actually end up selling. In this blog post we will look at three such examples of weird stock photos that have sold multiple times resulting in over a thousand dollars in royalties each into my hot little hands.  I will speculate on why these images are selling, as well as delve into what made me create the image in the first place.

Picture of a woman in a superhero costume, cropped mid-thigh down, while standing on a conference room table.
A super hero costumed model standing on a conference table in an office in Bangkok has actually sold quite well!

A Super Hero, A Tight Crop, And Eighteen-hundred dollars
At a photo shoot in Bangkok I somehow got the idea of having one of the models dress up in a superhero outfit. I shot the model standing on a conference table cropping at mid thigh. I shot that crop as a alternative to the full length shot of the model because the full length version just wasn't working for me. The upward angle seemed to severe and the ceiling didn't make for a great background. I hesitated to send this image in because I couldn't for the life of me figure out what anybody would use it for! Lo and behold, in the last three years the image has been licensed over ten  times for a total (to me) of over eighteen-hundred dollars. Go figure!

In impromptu pose results in a new perspective and a stock photo that sells well.
A New Perspective And Thinking Outside The Box
My friend Paula Zacharias and I were photographing models in Buenos Aires. We had completed all the usual stuff, people in meetings, at outdoor cafes, using cell phones, you get the idea. I don't recall why I asked them to undertake this pose, and to this day I can't figure out what people use it for, but it has brought in over a thousand dollars in the last three years. Perhaps it is being used to advocate a new perspective, thinking outside the box, or maybe it is advertising a product that makes business less arduous. Hey, if any of you ever see it used let me know!

Clouds form a huge hand and finger pointing overhead in an image that can be interpreted as anything from cloud computing to a message from God.
Clouds form the shape of a hand point a finger in an unusual stock photo that can be used for concepts such as cloud computing or religion issues.

Cloud Computing Or A Message From God?
I think I saved the best for last. Yes, I am a little embarrassed that i created this odd image, but hey, it sells! For what? Again, I just don't know. Perhaps it points to cloud computing, or has some sort of use in the realm of religion. What ever it is used for, I just can't put my finger on. But sell it does and has also earned me over a thousand dollars in the last several years. Perhaps the message here is that it isn't a bad idea, when shooting stock photos, to stretch into the realm of the silly, the oddball or even the outright weird. In the long run a little bit of "coloring outside the lines" can really pay off!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Advice to Photographers From Industry Leaders

A pair of gypsy hands hover over a glowing crystal ball in anticipation of answers for the future and the way forward.
 Eleven photographers and industry luminaries offer advice for photographers in the upcoming year.

I hire fun people.  It has to be fun.  If it’s not fun, I can’t do it.  I do get nervous and that’s not fun.  The work usually suffers for it though, so if I feel the nerves coming on I over prepare. Then, it all works out OK. 
 Annabelle Breakey Interview  (Photographer)

The popular advice tells us to choose one thing and to do it well and to do it for the rest of your career. Come on folks. Most of you came into this business wanting to make pictures of a wide variety of subjects. Yet photographers choose to do this OR that. I believe it is time to do this AND that AND that AND…  To manifest love by encompassing and manifesting your many passions.
Ian Summers Interview (Creative Consultant)

“Doom and gloom” have been words used to describe our industry for the longest times. And every creative field echoes the same sentiment. We have been and still are a huge financial industry in all areas of photography and we will continue. I believe that photography, as an art form, will never die. As technology advances in our industry, new opportunities are being created. More people enjoy photography and more institutions display photography. As for all creative fields, it is a difficult road, but we should be optimistic that we are in such a great profession. Our artists should remain enthusiastic and optimistic because they are doing what they love, which to is the essence of life
Jerry Tavin Interview (Founder, Young Photographers Alliance)

After all these years, the most precious thing we own is the potential that at any moment something incredible might happen.  It’s the potential that drives the bus. Thomas Edison said everything he ever found he found while he was looking for something else.  Stay alert.  It’ll be fun.  You’ll see.
Walter Hodges Interview (Photographer)

There are a lot of shooters cranking out quantity and sites are increasingly seeking to get out from under this inundation of content. It is not good for customers, or agencies, to be hosed down with endless images of a high-production but low-creativity nature. And while ‘more unique images’ appeals to the creative in me, if your few gems are hard to find or positioned out-of-place then they will not sell and you will starve. So you need to know your market and get better exposure than the competition. 
Lewis Blackwell Interview (Director of Strategy, Image Source)

To me, there is no better way to get ideas on style, body language and trends than to sit at the mall and people watch. Authenticity is king at your local mall! You can observe the body language of people using their hand held devices, what people are wearing and how they are wearing it.  Are you doing a shoot involving teens? - hang out by the food court. Are you having trouble picking wardrobe? - hang out by the banana republic. Are you doing a baby boomer fitness shoot? - go early and check out the mall walkers. Are you doing a mother / child shoot?- hang out by baby gap. 
Jim Doherty Interview, (Senior Art Director, Blend Images)

The thing that makes the best stock photos in my mind is a connection between the subject and viewer, easy read, and clear concept. People aren’t just smiling in front of the camera but they are living in front of the camera and the photographer is just documenting that. It is not as easy as it sounds though. A stock photographer needs to be able to look at the scene they are shooting and ask themselves “What is the point? What is the Moment to capture in this set up?”
Siri Berting Interview  (Photographer)

Keep your photos fresh, if you don’t have assignment work, work on personal projects.
Jessica Mirolla Interview (Freelance Art Buyer)

I had burned out of managing disinterested parties on photo shoots for production outlays that were taking longer than I felt was wise to break even.  I found that I could not cut costs further and still forecast an adequate income; nor could I maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle as I squeezed the expenses whilst raising my crews’ stress to unnecessary levels. I chose to stop, take profit on my royalties, and change what I was doing.
Shannof Fagan Interview (Photographer)

It is very hard to speculate where tomorrows stock industry will be showing it's strongest returns so staying involved and on top of our research for all the models of stock is a daily investment of our time.
Jonathan Ross Interview  (Photographer, Founder of Spaces Images)

I believe we, in the future, will see buyers getting bored by the microstock look. And this will probably make personal branding more important, if not necessary, if you want to succeed in the industry.
Yuri Arcurs Interview (Photographer)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Has Social Media Done For Me?

A woman examines her social media world in the form of a sphere of pictures of family, friends and business acquaintances.
 A woman pauses to examine her world of social media, a sphere of portraits ranging from friends and family to business associates.

Checking My Facebook Page
This morning I began checking my Facebook page to see what was new and I realized that at least 80% of the posts were by people who I didn’t even know. I have the habit of saying yes to whomever sends a friend request. Now I have posts in Russian, Dutch, Thai, Spanish and languages that I can’t even guess at. Posts from close friends, people I barely know, and people that I don’t know at all.

Feeling A Little Left Out
I have mentioned before that when I peruse Facebook I sometimes start feeling a little left out…though oddly enough the things I feel left out of are things I am not really very interested in anyway. What does that say about me?

Keeping Up On Cool Images
For me Facebook seems to be primarily a way to keep up to date on the cool images that Colin Anderson makes…which of course makes me wonder why I don’t come up with cool images (okay…I do come up with some cool images…but certainly not with the style and romance of Colin’s work). My friend Shalom Ormsby shares his benevolent perspectives on life, Shannon Fagan shares his humorous adventures in China, David Sanger (and many others) share their cool iPhone pix (hey, how come my iPhone pix don’t look cool?), and everyday is somebody’s birthday…which since I only check every couple of days I am usually just finding out I missed someone’s birthday.

Two Thousand Followers And Irrelevant Tweets
Then there is twitter.  I have over 2,600 followers, hardly any of which I suspect ever see the once-a-week tweets that I make. I follow over two thousand twitterers (is that what they are called?), and how can you possibly stay on top of all those tweets? I sure can’t…and most of the tweets are totally irrelevant to me.  Once-in-a-while I do hang in there, scrolling down all those tweets till I find one that looks like it may lead to something interesting…though most the time what they lead to turns out to be something written by someone for whom English is their second, or third, language.

Goolge +, Klout and Linked In
I have a Google + account too. I visit that religiously…ever few weeks. I have no idea what do with it except make circles…but I already go round and round enough already! Klout sends me emails to let me know how influential I am…but I have no idea what the scores mean. I get requests everyday to link to people on Linked In, though mostly they are people I don’t know. I think I read somewhere that you actually are supposed to know the people you link to…of course, I say yes anyway because it seems like the polite thing to do.

Spam, YouTube and Vimeo
The first thing I do every morning is throw away the fifty-odd spam emails I get during the night, the ones my spam filter doesn’t catch. I have three email accounts two of which I haven’t looked at in months. YouTube comments on my video channel of mostly slow motion videos go to one of those accounts…last time I looked at it I just felt overwhelmed…and haven’t gone back since.  That reminds me…I started to put some stuff up on Vimeo, but never followed up with a second submission. Oh Well.

What Has Social Media Done For Me?
What has social media done for me? Well, if nothing else, it gives me something to do while I eat breakfast, something to do every few minutes at work, something to do while I watch TV in the evenings, and something to blog about!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Equation For Success In Stock Photography

Photograph of a young child in diapers standing at a blackboard in school and completing a very complex mathematical formula.
The secret ingredients in the formula for success are copius amounts of hard work and an appropriate gestation period (i.e. a lot of time!).

Exploring The Work of Photographers
Earlier this week I spent some time exploring the work of other photographers. Man, there are a lot of great shooters out there! I also spent time looking at work in stock agencies. Again, some of the photography that is being produced is amazing. Sure, there is a ton of bad photography, and mountains of mediocre imagery, but there is also a copious amount of fantastic work flooding into the market…work that is adding to the already staggering glut of stock photography.

The Equation For Success In Stock Photography
Every once-in-a-while, when I do that kind of searching, I am amazed that I am still successful in stock photography. I mean, with all of that truly great work out there, how does anyone ever find my work let alone choose to license it? I don’t have an answer to that question. But it is a question that continues to concern me, and that leads to the question of what I can do to make sure that I can continue to do well in stock photography.  I believe that there is an equation for success in stock photography:

Quality Images + visibility = Success x Quantity + Variety

Of course, this doesn't include the necessity of a ton of hard work and a huge investment of time!

No Magic Bullet
There is no one answer, no magic bullet. The formula for success lies in having great images with high visibility. Of course, the more of those images the greater the success as well, though the quantity requires variety to avoid cannibalization. So on the one hand it is simple: create great images and get them seen. On the other hand, it isn’t easy. It is a ton of work, and one that requires tremendous passion for success. You need the passion or you’ll never get the work done.

Great Work And Visibility
That begs the questions of how to create great work, how do get visibility for your images, and how to be able to produce the quantity of work needed to meet your financial goals. But it can be done and a lot of people are doing it. Some are doing it by themselves, some with plenty of staff, some using video and some using stills. Again, to succeed you need to find the combination that works for you, the combination that works with the passion you have.

Making The Numbers Work And Work Flow Interruption
Actually, it gets even more complicated. You have to make the numbers work as well. You need to be sure that you are paying attention to your expenses, being realistic in your accounting and planning, and dealing, effectively, with all the pain-in-the-neck details that running a successful business takes.  For example, I spent most of the day today getting a new server up and running. Who among us budgets accurately for such work flow interruptions? That is just one example of too many for me to even think about right now.

Images Online And Building Traffic
I will say that one thing I am certain is a good move in relation to insuring that my stock photo career flourishes in the long term is in getting my images online and building the traffic of my site to increase the visibility of my images. I began the process three years ago. What I have come to believe through these efforts is that the strategy is a sound one, but that the process is almost unbelievably time-intensive and an insanely long-term undertaking. I do believe that someday I will wake up and say “Man, I am glad I did that work!” which is what I have also said many times about my efforts to build my stock photography business in the first place.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Transitioning Stock Photo Market

A funny stock photo shows terrified business people riding a roller coaster illustrating the wildly gyrating markets, economy and business climate.
A transitioning industry such as stock photography business results in a wild roller-coaster ride!

Stock Photographers, Agencies, And Clients Are Missing Out
Both stock photographers and stock agencies everywhere are missing out. Traditional stock photographers are missing out on the huge audiences of the microstock agencies. Microstockers are missing out on the higher prices of traditional stock. Clients are missing out by not having access to a full range of visual solutions. While a lot of “solutions” have been offered up, the real solution, the only viable solution, is happening slowly but inevitably.

Higher Priced Content On Microstock Sites
Microstock agencies are slowly bringing higher priced content onto their sites whether through the addition of content from traditional agencies, or through the addition of higher priced content. In the case of, their higher-priced content offering, Vetta, has also been migrated onto the Getty site.

The Difference Is Price
As far as I can figure out, at this point, the biggest difference between high-priced stock photos and low-priced stock photography is the price. It may be that traditional and microstock agencies can successfully create different price brands that hold up…time will tell. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the lower prices climb a bit and the higher prices continue to fall…though I hope not.

Cleaning Up Rights Managed Collections
It also seems that traditional agencies are starting to clean out material that hasn’t sold well, or at all, and are moving that work either into lower priced collections. Getty is culling out material from its RM collections that hasn’t sold in three years and moving it into RF collections. Getty is also running a campaign pointing out the value of RM material by the work and resources that go into the images. I do think that RM will continue to exist, but primarily for high-end advertising use.

Volume Sales, Or Higher Priced Sales
Someday, probably sooner rather than later, all the different collections will be available to all audiences at various price points. Hopefully photographers will see the wisdom of putting better images into the higher priced collections, though it is inevitable that the lines will remain blurred as photographers struggle with the decision to go for the volume sales or to go for fewer but higher priced sales. My own strategy is to go for both while avoiding the very lowest price points.

Higher Priced Collections Are Where The Money Is
Right now I would advise all photographers contributing to stock photography to do their best to get images into higher priced collections. From what I have heard from the photographers I know who participate in microstock (hearsay only…), the higher price collections are where the real money is. I also know from my own experience that the images I have in TAC (The Agency Collection) that are on both the Getty site and the site, are earning extremely well. I can’t say yet whether images will earn more than similar images in RF or RM, but it does look promising. Keep in mind though, that those TAC images are being licensed at traditional RF prices, not microstock prices.

Traditional Stock Agencies And Non Commercial Use
There is another area in which we are missing out as well. I get contacted several times a week by individuals wanting to use one of my images on their blogs or for some other personal and non-commercial use. Unfortunately there is no provision for such uses by the traditional stock agencies…at least not at rates that make sense for those individuals.

Production, Improvement And Distribution
It is my belief that the market is in transition to sorting itself out. The bummer is that we don’t know what it will eventually look like…or how long it will take. In the meantime we just have to keep producing, improving our work, and doing our best to get the work distributed as effectively as possible.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cloud Computing And Images The Market Needs

Cloud computing, online storage,internet searches and teamwork are the concepts illustrated with this stock photo.

Creating Images The Market Needs
To insure a healthy career in stock photography it is vital to create images that the market needs, and it is even better if you create images that do not yet have a lot of competition. It is with that in mind that I recently created a new image about cloud computing.

The Cloud
The idea came about because of the current buzz about the Internet “cloud”. Online computing, and storage, has been touted for years, but I definitely get the sense it has finally arrived and is poised for tremendous growth. It seems obvious that the need for imagery dealing with the Internet cloud is going to be significant. The question then becomes, for me, how can I shot that concept in a clear and versatile way?

Medicine, Music, Travel And The Cloud
The obvious visual is in the use of actual clouds. The challenge then becomes to use an actual cloud in a way that isn’t too corny, and that makes sense. As I mulled that over in my mind I pictured a eye-level cloud image filled with the things that one might look for on the internet, and that can be symbolic of the kinds of things that are both stored on the net and that can involve online computing…things related to medicine, music, travel, business and so forth.

Clouds, Fog And Archived Images
I started by combing two different images of clouds and one image of fog that looks like eye-level clouds. Once I had the background composited together I looked through my archives for images that could symbolize music, business, travel and so forth. I stripped out the various objects in Photoshop and pasted them into the cloud image. When I came across the image of the man and woman on a ladder and searching the horizon with binoculars, it occurred to me that the inclusion of that picture would add the element of the “search”…online searching…to the image. That would broaden the appeal of the stock photo to a much wider audience. The image then becomes about using the cloud and/or searching the cloud (Internet) and even teamwork. The couple standing on the ladder also added a nice “action” element to the image.

Stock Photos That Are Flexible
I crafted the photo so that it can be easily cropped to a vertical, say for a magazine cover, as well as a horizontal or square. I believe in creating stock photos that can be as flexible as possible for as many potential users as I can. The biggest drawback to that approach is that the image might not always have as much “cropping” impact as otherwise, so it can be a bit of a balancing act.

Socializing Teens, Business People And The Cloud
A group of three teens socializing can represent social media, business people shaking hands adds a solid business angle, an operating room says “medical”, and a cello contributes to the music aspect. A conductor adds to the teamwork meaning, a variety of age groups are included and a pair of hands about to touch adds the element of “connection”. In this stock image I had to decide when to stop adding elements in order to not create too much clutter.

Large Sales, Diversity And Rights Managed Imagery
Having just had a client license three images for 4,200 Euros each, and non-exclusive at that, and in the interest of diversity (I already have several cloud computing images in RF collections), I am placing this image into a Rights Managed collection.  It is always a challenge to figure out where to put images. To you go for the most eyeballs, or the larger sales? Even though a lot of my RM fees end up actually lower than RF fees, my individual Blend RM sales are averaging close to three times the size of the RF sales. So with no clear knowledge of the best way to go…I do my best and diversify. I do believe that with the right images well distributed, you can’t really go wrong.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Photographer's Vision

Vibrant color, motion and energy from the streets of India are revealed in this striking image of daily life in Indian cities.
Seven different captures were combined in Photoshop to composite this image of the dynamic and vibrant life on the urban streets of India.

A Photographer’s Unique Vision
The most important thing you, as a photographer, have to offer the world is your unique vision…and that is also the most important tool you have for marketing yourself. If you are a stock shooter as I am, then a unique vision is also one of the keys to having a long and successful career. While most people don’t think of having a “vision” as being that important for a stock shooter, in today’s market and going forward I believe it is not only important, but will continue to grow in importance.

Images That Stand Out From The Crowd
Your personal vision is what can make your images stand of from the crowd, and whether you shoot assignments, stock, fine art or weddings, your unique vision is key to financial success and personal fulfillment. As such it is important to continually be perfecting and growing that vision. But how does one achieve a vision, or continue to grow it?

Developing Your Vision With Intention
The most important factor for developing your vision is intention. If you have the intent to develop, or continue developing your vision, then it is much more likely that you will take the steps to do so. For me it helps to ask myself what it is that I want to communicate from a given scene, or even from a stock concept. Once I distill my purpose into a clear form I can start to work that purpose over in my mind with the variables of visual imagery that are available to me. What composition will add impact to the visual? What viewpoint will best get my message across? What can I do to share my emotion in the image? With my mind still churning away I can begin to experiment with the camera and/or with Photoshop.

The Streets Of Delhi And Varanasi
For example, on my recent trip to India I found myself enjoying the hustle, bustle and bedlam of life on the streets of Delhi and Varanasi. Whether zipping through a throng of people on a “Tuk Tuk” (one of those lawnmower-powered tricycles called and “auto” in India), being carried along in the current of humanity in a crowded market, or just watching the flow of life go by, I was filled with a sense of wonder and appreciation. I wanted to communicate that energy, along with the color and vibrancy of the street scenes, in a stock photo. Because I also wanted to create an image that could be used in advertising, I had to take into consideration the problem of model releases. I reasoned that by using long shutter speeds I could render the people unidentifiable as well as capture the frenetic pace of the movement in front of me.

The Bedlam Of India And Long Shutter Speeds
Every time I found myself in the presence of what I call the bedlam of India I used the opportunity to shoot those long shutter speed images. Pretty quickly I recognized that my chance of capturing the feeling of the scene I was after probably wouldn’t happen with a singe exposure, but I theorized that if I could combine two or more of my images using Photoshop I could create a picture that conveyed the color, excitement and energy of the Indian streets that I experienced. 

Signed Model Releases And Sales Potential
Yesterday I finally got the time to peruse my images and attempt to create that new stock image. As the composite began to come together I reasoned that even though the people in the scene were not recognizable, the image would still have a better chance of selling if I could provide some model releases. With that in mind I pulled three faces from the images I shot that I did have signed releases for, and worked them into the scene. Ultimately I used a total of seven different captures to create the final composite photo.

If You Love The Image, Others Will Too
Will this image sell? I don’t know. I think it should…but one never knows. But whether it sells or not, achieving the goal I have in mind, and in a way I haven’t seen done before, offers me concrete benefits. It fulfills me, something vital for me to stay productive in a career that is largely solitary and certainly totally self-motivated. This is also an image that stands out from the other images I have seen of India.  I have come to realize over the years that if I love the image, then others will too…the trick now is to get the image in front of an appropriate audience. While that is in large part up to the stock agency that handles the image, I can enhance my chances by getting the photo up on my own site, well captioned, titled, alt-texted and linked…and yes, blogged about as well!

Communicating The Emotions And Messages Within
Whether this individual image turns out to be a great or even a good-selling stock photo isn’t really the point. Your career as a photographer doesn’t depend on any one image, but rather on a body of work that is the result of consistent effort. The best, and the most successful photographers, have the intent and the drive to continually push their images, to try new approaches and to always strive to communicate the emotions and messages that lie within themselves.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Art Buyer Jessica Mirolla Interview

Jessica Mirolla is a freelance Art Buyer with over a decade of  art production and art buying experience in the advertising industry for clients including Jenny Craig, Hyundai, and Southwest Airlines.

Can you share with us just how you came to be an Art Buyer and a little of your history in this profession?

I was always interested in advertising so I majored in it at college. I was leaning toward copywriting when I met the art buyer while interning at an advertising agency.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Fulfilling the creative vision.

What aspect of your work do you find the most onerous?

Getting vendors paid in a timely manner.

What is it about being an art buyer that you think photographers would be the most surprised to find out?

How dedicated to photography I am.

I really enjoyed your recent presentation at the Blend Images Creative meeting. You mentioned that you try not to search the web for images. Yet I just saw a statistic that 61% of art directors/buyers do search for images on Google. Could you share your take on that…and give us your perspective on the future of image search on the Internet?

I have a legal obligation to my client and agency and I cannot protect them from usage infractions if I do not know where the image originated from or cannot produce a contract for it. This alone helps deter creatives from even starting an initial web search.

Is there anything photographers can do to make it an easier process for those who do search on the web for images?

Offer more royalty free options.

How much of your time is spent searching on stock agency sites?


How deep are you willing to search…that is, how much time do you spend and how many pages deep are you willing to typically look?

I have gone as far as 70 pages deep on one quest – but I will usually only go 10 before I change my search wording.

How does your process normally work?

I change it all of the time – in order to keep it fresh.

Do you usually search only for descriptive attributes of an image, or do you also employ concepts such as “Risk”, “Freedom”, and “Success” (or some other conceptual term)?

I’ve used both.

When you search do you ever limit the search by agency, brand, or licensing model (RF or RM)?

Yes, most clients want to own an image and don’t want to worry about being bound by usage agreements.

How important is price in determining whether to license a given image?

I would say it was the most important to the client and the least to the creative.

Is Rights Managed becoming increasingly important, or more irrelevant in completing a license?

More irrelevant.

Getty has initiated a campaign to stress the value of RM images by listing the resources and efforts that go into given photos. Do you believe it is possible to influence the perception of the value of stock photos in an upward direction?

I think it’s a conversation that would need to take place with a client if an image is important enough to a project or campaign.

Where do you go first when you need a stock image?

I still rely on reps so I like to do business with people that I have a relationship with and who know how handle my needs.

What is your “go to” agency and why?

Usually Veer because the entire site is RF.

What are stock agencies doing wrong?

Living too much in the cyberworld by not forging relationships with their clients.

What is your pet peeve about stock photos?

See “what are agencies doing wrong”.

Can you see “branding” by a stock photographer as having any importance?

Possibly if I am interested in certain look I will change my search to only that photographer’s name/work.

Do you look at unsolicited emails from photographers?


What is the best way for a photographer to get their work in front of you?

Email or send promos.

Do you ever search for motion stock?


Any thoughts on the future of print?

I hope it’s long and prosperous.

Do you have any opinion on whether tablet computers will have an impact on stock photo use?


What is the one piece of advice that you would give photographers seeking assignment work?

Keep your photos fresh, if you don’t have assignment work, work on personal projects.

Any words you like to leave us with (or…what have I forgotten to ask?).

Long live photography!

Thanks Jessica!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Most Searched For Images And A Favorite Sale

This photo of Ganesha, the Hindu God who removes all obstacles, is my most searched-for image.
This image of Ganesha, the Hindu God who removes all obstacles, his risen to the top of my search engine results.

My most searched-for images:

Over the past several months one of my images has risen above my others in terms of popularity with the search engines. Approximately twenty people a day are searching for “Ganesha” and ending up on my image of the “Remover of all obstacles”, the Hindu God Ganesh. Second place currently goes to “dominatrix”, my image of a dominatrix with a computer for her head. I think the surprise is that “dominatrix” isn’t first!

A businessman stands on Escher stairs rising up through the clouds and leading him to nowhere in this concept stock photo.
After a painfully slow start this "Escher" businessman concept stock image has finally garnered a decent sale!

My favorite sale of the month:

I made this “Escher” business image a couple of years ago and it sold once for about $12.00, a big disappointment. So when I noticed this morning that the image made a second sale bringing me just under $500.00 (through Blend Images) it became my favorite sale of the month (though nowhere near the biggest sale). I am feeling confident that over the next five years the image will have proven well worth doing.


Images in The Agency Collection (mine are submitted through Blend Images and are on both the Getty site and are continuing to sell VERY well. Of course it is still too early to draw any real firm conclusions…but early results indicate to me that there is enormous potential for these higher-than micro priced images offered on micro sites.

That’s it for this time!

Monday, November 21, 2011

iPhone Stock Photos Have Arrived

Aurora Photos has announced an iPhone stock photo collection. I read about it on Jim Pickerell’s site <> during my just-completed trip to India. During the trip Nevada Wier was shooting with her new iPhone 4GS and using various photo apps to process the photos. Now while I haven’t had the chance to see the images full size, on the phone they looked fabulous.

And so the relentless march of change continues to impact the stock photo industry.

I am going out tomorrow and buying a new iPhone 4GS. While I know it is no replacement for my DSLR, there is a place for those iPhone images. You see, I will have that phone/camera with me all the time.  I know from experience that there will be opportunities for images that can earn me money that I can take advantage of by having a camera with me at all times.   Also, since virtually all of my work is in the form of Photoshop composites, this will offer me a way to expand my horizons a bit…and judging from what I saw Nevada doing…it just might be a lot of fun as well!  BTW, I am also placing an order for the Canon 1D X as well. Got to keep all my bases covered!

Technology is a demanding mistress! Oh well….

Ian Summers Interview

Photo ©2010 Tom Kosa
Ian Summers: Raconteur, Career Coach, Motivational Speaker, Workshop Presenter & Artist
Ian Summers is a busy man. From art director, to creative director (The Black Book, Leber Katz Partners and Random House), to poet, journalist, think tank operator, teacher, and publisher, Ian has amassed a wide range of experience in the creative arts. He has written 14 books, lectured on creativity and had solo shows of his paintings. Since 1987 he has helped thousands of people navigate the uncertain path of success through following one’s passion.

Ian, how did you go from art director and creative director to Heartstorming, and for that matter, what is Heartstorming?

I started out as a high school art teacher right out of college. Loved it, but had serious doubts about whether I was a fraud. I had not made much art that I was proud of. So I went off to Europe to expand my experience as an artist.

After a few months in Paris doing sidewalk Mona Lisa’s for donations, I saw an ad for an art teacher at the American School in London. What a time to live in London. The Beatles. The Stones. My classroom studio was located just a block from Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and Regent’s Park. I loved teaching art in London. I showed paintings in the same gallery as David Hockney who had just come back from months in the States working on a series of etchings called Rake’s Progress. We stayed in London for almost two years.

My wife became pregnant and we decided to return to the States on the condition that we live in New York and I would paint. But NY was expensive and I needed a job. How I found one is another story, but I became an ad man.  It was the era just after Mad Men. They were my bosses. I became an art director without having the slightest idea what an art director did. I was a fast learner.

Within a year, I was invited to become a partner in a think tank called Farsight Group. It was there that I learned creative problem solving ‘systems’ from my mentor, George T. Land.

I was 33 when I became a Creative Director at one of Leber Katz Partners divisions. I worked there for three years on Seagram’s, Vantage cigarettes, some fashion, and my favorite client The Netherlands Tourist Office. I was making a decent living and I was working a minimum of 14-hour days. Yet there was an emptiness. Something was missing and I was depressed.

After a couple of years at LKP, I received a telephone call from one of the publishers at Random House. I thought he was asking our agency to pitch the account. Instead he made a pitch to me to come work at Random House as an executive art director. It was the best job I ever had and led to a third career in publishing. A couple of years later, I started my own publishing and book packaging company. There was still an empty feeling.

“Follow your passion” can be great advice, but it can also be a long road to nowhere.  You are passionate about following your passion, but can you share some thoughts about the pragmatic side of the journey to success?

I was a talented creative problem solver for most of my career.  And that led me towards an understanding of the emptiness. Looking in at my career from the outside people assumed my life was working. It occurred to me that problem solving worked from the outside in. Most of the problems I solved came from the outside. My job was to make the problem go away and to replace it with a solution that sold more widgets. I wasn’t taking good care of myself physically, emotionally or spiritually. I was tired and depleted. I was a human doing; not a human being. 

Suggested Read...Ian's very personal experience in looking at the question "Why Do You Exist?".

What does “creativity” mean to you?

Creating is the antithesis of problem solving. It is about manifesting rather than making something “go away”. It works from the inside out. The definition I have been using for about twenty years: Creating is causing what you love or what matters to come into being,

It takes dedication and hard work to make art.  When I love my dream or vision enough, energy flows. It is kind of like tapping into abundance.

Part of the emptiness was that two of my greatest passions were not present; my love for teaching and my love of making art. I have found that when I am creating from my heart, I have all the energy needed to manifest. The more I learn about the creative process the better I am at teaching.  And the older I get the more I have to give. The aging process hopefully brings some wisdom and there is nothing I like more than sharing what I have learned. I have two careers going at the same time:
I paint and teach most every day. I am gifted. (I’ve never quite said that before, John) I give what I have learned. I receive in order to give. If a few days go by without creating, I feel those old fears and wounds trying to come back.

There is a tendency for photographers to associate creativity with the creation of original imagery, and yet to thrive in today’s photography world I believe creativity has to be applied to the business end of things as well. Can you comment on that?

I believe that creativity for photographers must include the intention to create images that make the world laugh and cry; images that evoke the full range of human emotions. I believe that great artists vacuum clean the universe for stimuli. Artists believe that the creative process is about synthesizing. The more we have to synthesize the greater our chances are of bringing something new into being – an innovation.

Yes. It is possible for a photographer to apply their own brand of creating towards making more opportunities appear. In other words, to manifest whatever they are looking for in business. Live the creative life!

Another way to answer these questions is to make the answers seem infinite. In creating pictures some photographers attempt to look towards other photographers for inspiration. Go to museums. Read books. Look at painting. If that is the only place one looks, the variety of information to synthesize is limited. Photographers must look at everything and to apply what they have learned about the world and life to everything they do.

BTW, I sign most of my correspondence:

Manifest Love,

You have worked with a lot of photographers. Is there a common thread that most of us shooters tend to fall down on?

Most photographers fall for the popular advice to specialize. Yet many photographers come into this business because it encourages them to make pictures of many subjects. The popular advice tells us to choose one thing and to do it well and to do it for the rest of your career. Come on folks. Most of you came into this business wanting to make pictures of a wide variety of subjects. Yet photographers choose to do this OR that. I believe it is time to do this AND that AND that AND…  To manifest love by encompassing and manifesting your many passions.

As a stock photographer ideas are my lifeblood, and every so often I realize I have used up all of my ideas! Luckily I have, so far, been wrong about that realization. Do you have any tips you can offer for the next time I run into that block?

Make clusters or mind maps of all that you love. Add what you love about what you love and what you love about what you love about what you love. Look at places, people, things, activities, etc.

What if you wrote the most important passions on index cards? Then turn over two at a time. Ask yourself, what is a such and such photograph? Force fits your passions together. In other words, vacuum clean the universe. You will never run out of ideas.

“Specialize” is one piece of advice photographers hear over and over, and yet you seem to have a different perspective. Can you delve into that a bit with us?

The following happened in San Francisco. The Workbook sent me on a speaking tour of major markets. The audiences included photographers, illustrators, reps, art directors, designers, etc. The subject was creativity and I was pondering the Error of Specialization.

There was a man in his 40s seated in the front row. His arms folded across his chest as if to say I dare you to get through to me. He turned on me. I was afraid I would lose the entire audience of almost 150 people.

He said angrily, “This is a crock of shit. I want to work with people who know everything there is about what I am working on. There isn’t any way I would hire a generalist. If I need a food shot, I want to work with someone who lives and breaths food photography.

I tried to diffuse the inquisitor. I asked him whether he was an art director. He was. I asked him is he was a creative person. He was. And I asked him whether he only worked on one kind on account the past twenty or so years. He answered by rattling off a list of categories. And then I said something like, “So you are creative. You are probably better at working on food because you were able to introduce something you did on another kind of account. He finally agreed with me. And so did the audience. Maybe you were there. The Earth was still young. It was 1993.

The photography industry has gone through insane changes over the last couple of decades. For me the biggest change has been in the tools at our disposal and the fact that these tools eliminate the barriers between imagination and execution. The net result is that vision becomes paramount. How can we photographers take our vision to a higher level?

May I?

“Be who you is,
Not who you ain’t.
‘Cause if you ain’t who you is.
Then you is who you ain’t.”

If you choose to do this AND that AND that AND that find the thread that connects your work together and makes it uniquely your own. The thread is likely to represent your passions. Then market and sell the thread of vision rather than each category you work in. if you do this well, it will

I wrestle with my love of the still image and my impression that motion is taking over. Do you believe that still imagery continues to have a strong future?

You are obviously not alone on this one. Photographers all over the country are attempting to learn how to be filmmakers meaning learning the technology. It’s not the technology. It is all about learning how to tell differently structured stories. It is about continuity. Before learning the tech side, re-learn storytelling. Learn to make pictures that allow the viewer to participate. Read graphic novels.

I know of one top notch photographic novel being made by a woman in Brooklyn named Stevie Allweis. You can see her trailer at her Kickstarter site. The name of her project is Issness.

Search for some articles on storytelling and graphic novels at my blog

It seems to me that the primary task necessary for success in photography in this day and age, is to get one’s work seen. Do you agree, and if so, do you have any suggestions for accomplishing that task?

The changes in the traditional still photography markets make it difficult to be seen and to develop relationships. Photographers need to find alternative markets. Not instead of what they presently do, but as an addition. Members of my Heartstorming Think Tank Team teleconferences have been exploring the healthcare fine art business. The group invested in creating a company called, and we are doing amazing things. We are always looking for artists who believe that art may be healing, to visit GlowArtworks and contribute work.

What doesn’t matter?

Imitation. Repetition. Trying to second-guess the marketplace.

What is the most important thing?

Taking marketing and creative risks. Remember there will be mistakes. And that is good. I think it was Woody Allen who said, “If you get it right too much of the time, you must be doing something wrong.

All growth demands change. Change entails risk. And risk requires a temporary suspension of security.

I know you are passionate about painting, but do you engage in photography at all?

Most of my solo shows, although predominately painting, include some photography.
Abe Lincoln©IanSummers

What inspires you?

Change. Diversity. Gallery walks. The infinite number of ways to manifest love.

Photography as a career…optimistic or pessimistic?

Those who survive will be doing something new and different. I believe in people.

Ian Summers, Raconteur
Career Coach, Motivational Speaker, Workshop Presenter & Artist

Monday, October 31, 2011

Traveling To India

A Budhist monk is lost in thought in a Monastary in Ladakh, India. 
A Budhist monk stands before a colorful back lit curtain in a remote Tibetan Bhudist Monastary in Ladakh, India. 

Off To India
Well, I’m off to India for a three-week trip. I am hoping to add a variety of material to my archives for stock photo production. Of course I will be looking for typical travel photos, but more importantly I will be looking for raw materials for new concept imagery. Landscapes, building interiors, small business testimonial-style portraiture and urban scenes will be some of what I am looking for. I have a somewhat different approach to making money from travel photography.

Refreshed Creativity
Once a year I like to take a trip to some exotic location. It gives me a much-needed break from my typical computer-heavy schedule. Not only do I add raw materials to my archives, but I get mentally refreshed as well. Being in a new and entirely different environment than I am used to, and also escaping from my everyday concerns, combine to help me refresh my creativity as well.

Internet Cafes
My Internet access will be sporadic so I probably won’t be posting any new blog material, but then one never knows. If I can I will.  I know that finding Internet cafes is no problem, but usually they are crowded and claustrophobic and not my favorite place to conduct business.

A Travel Photography Impediment
I am under no illusions that I am a travel photographer. Believe it or not, the biggest impediment I have to travel photography is shyness! I have a strong tendency to feel like I am intruding when I take pictures of people I am not paying to model for me. I know, it’s silly, but that is something I struggle with even though my experiences of shooting people during my travels have been good. Oh well.

Learning To Be A Better Travel Photographer
I have made a little progress. I have been lucky enough to have friends like Nevada Wier who is a consumate travel photographer and helped me to overcome at least some of my phobia of approaching people. I think one thing that makes her a great travel shooter is her genuine interest in people. Show that interest and doors open!

Enjoying The Experience
While I have a passion for photography there are times when I just want to enjoy my experience without the “filter” of a camera. There have been times when I have deliberately left my camera in my hotel room in order to resist the temptation to move into “photo mode”. Of course, that is kind of a bold move because as of that ever-present possibility of some incredible shot that will me missed.

Too Darn Lazy!
Another fault of mine is that I am too darn lazy to record all the essential caption information when shooting travel images. I get back home and a few months down the road get around to editing…and can’t remember where I was when I shot the various photos…or which model releases belong to which people. I know, I know, there are a million apps that can solve those problems for me. But I’m not taking my iPhone with me…and besides…I just don’t want to bother with all that stuff. I’m afraid I am stuck just being a conceptual photographer…at least for a living.

Equipment: Traveling Light
For those of you interested in equipment considerations, I am traveling light! I am taking my Canon MKIII, three 16 gig cards and one 12 gig card, two LaCie Rugged Drives, my 24-105 zoom lens, my 16-35 zoom, and a Canon 100-400 zoom. I am bringing my Gitzo carbon fiber tripod with a ball head (geez…I don’t remember what model tripod or even what brand of ball head I have…but it is a small one purchased with weight in mind. I hate carry a lot of weight around. I will also be lugging around my laptop, a 17inch  Apple MacBook Pro with a 250 gig sold state drive.  Finally, I will have a Canon 580 flash. That’s it! Okay, you may have noticed that I am not taking a back-up camera, but I am taking my partner Stephanie and she is bringing her Canon 5D, so if worse came to worse we could end up sharing a camera. Hey, more time to live the experience rather than photographing it!
Anyway, time to finish packing!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Outsourcing And Team Work

Three discarded employees stand in garbage cans in this photo about outsourcing, lay offs, and employment issues.  

This "Outrsourcing" image is the result of several "collaborations" with other photographers.

Outsourcing And Team Work
Outsourcing because this image is about outsourcing (and other employment related concepts), and team work because the image is the result of a collaboration among photographers. Building up a network of photographers, seeing your peers as a resource, can add to your productivity as well as to your enjoyment of the profession.

Collaboration And Discarded Employees
This image of three discarded employees in garbage cans is actually the result of more than one collaboration. The office location was from a shoot that a friend and fellow stock shooter invited me to participate in. How wonderful is that?  Yet another friend and photographer, Tom Penpark, did the digital compositing work.

Brainstorming, Photography And Digital Imaging
Tom and I brainstormed the idea together and I photographed the models as part of another stock shoot. By combining our efforts we came up with an idea we might not otherwise have come up with, got more mileage out of the models from my shoot, and I was able to work on another image while Tom handled the digital imaging for this image...or series of images...we did three versions.

Sharing Equipment, Ideas And Information
Over the years I have participated in numerous gang shoots with a number of photographer friends and the experience has always been a good one. Not only have we managed to make our production dollars go further, but they have inevitably been great fun and very productive. I have been involved in "gang" shoots in Argentina, Mexico, India, Thailand, Brazil and here in the U.S.  I have digitally enhanced other photographer's work, and some have done the digital work on mine. I have a great network of photographer friends who help me out, and who I help out. We share equipment, ideas and information; we help each out in all kinds of ways.

Collaboration, Gang Shoots And Concept Images
Collaborating with my fellow photographers, whether in gang shoots, jointly produced concept images, or just in sharing equipment and information, has enriched my career and my life. It can enrich yours too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The road to success, the high road, and the highway to heaven all in one image!
 The road to success requires going the extra mile.

Six Tips For Building A Photography Career

1.              Have an income. Here is why. You are better off turning down jobs that are not right for you, and in which you are not being provided the budget and resources you need to do an exemplary job. You will be known for the quality of the work you do…only do great work!  With a secondary (or primary) source of income, whether it is waiting on tables,  assisting, or substitute teaching (I did that...) you can afford to be choosy as you build your photography career.

2.              Shoot what the market wants with your own unique style and you will make money. Shoot what the market doesn’t want or need, and no matter how great your work you won’t earn money.

3.              Keep your expenses down. Don’t throw your money around. Make careful decisions about when to rent and when to buy. Build a network with other photographers and share equipment, studios, models and resources. In marketing, cultivate personal contacts rather than throwing money into marketing campaigns. Personal contact actually is more effective too. There are a thousand photographers who can do the job…the art director will hire the one that can do the job AND that he/she has good chemistry with.

4.              Keep your production values high. Don’t skimp on the essential props, models and styling that are needed to insure great work. All of your work needs to be great work whether you are shooting stock or assignments.

5.              Ideas are Paramount.  What are you bringing to the table? There are plenty of photographers who can do the job…set yourself apart with your ideas and creativity.

6.              This may be the most important tip of all: Treat your client like you want to be treated. Whether your client is a stock agency, corporation, designer or ad agency, go the extra mile. Don’t over-promise…over deliver!

 Having a successful career in photography is doable and with perseverance, patience and passion it can become a reality.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It takes time, patience and perseverance to succeed in the business of photography.
Building your photography business takes time.

It took me seven years to build my photography business to a point where I could support my family with it.

It took me twenty-two years to get an image on the cover of time magazine.

It took me ten years of producing stock photos before I could free myself from assignment work.

Seventeen years elapsed between the time I first showed my book to Portal Publications and the when they gave me a line of greeting cards.

To go from one visitor a week to a thousand a day, on my website, took me three years of intense work.

It took six months of long, long days to gain proficiency in Photoshop.

The last stock photo I created took me three days of work.

Building a photography business, stock or assignment, takes time. The question is, do you have the patience and the perseverance to make it work?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Annabelle Breakey Shoots Starbucks And More

Annabelle Breakey in her San Francisco Studio.

Annabelle Breakey Interview:

I first met Annabelle Breakey when, as a nineteen year old photography student, she came to my studio looking for assistant experience.  Here we are, some two decades later, and Annabelle has just completed a campaign for Starbucks in additions to well-known names such as Sunset Magazine, Beringer, Glade, Silk Pure Almond, Sharpie, and Lindsay Olives.  She has just opened a brand new San Francisco studio, and is prepping for shoots in India, Africa and Central America.       

Recently I caught up with Annabelle and realized that her story would be both interesting and instructive for photographers everywhere…in these times you just can’t get enough success stories!

Annabelle, how did you wind up in the photography business anyway? 

As a kid, I was always making things: Pineapple Upside Down Cake, forts, painting, sewing little craft projects, you name it.  In preschool, I was a big fan of painting macaroni and gluing it to paper plates and applying lots of glitter.   My Mom had the courage to take me on a tour of art schools after high school and  that opened the door for me to be an artist instead of having a more traditional career.  Once settled into college at San Jose State University, and having found myself to have taken all of the photography classes they offered, I realized I needed to go to a school that would give me the skills I needed to actually make a living with the craft.  My dad made me write a business plan for my career as a photographer before he would approve of my career choice.  This may have been the single best experience one can do for a young mind.  This simple exercise oriented me in a direction to succeed in photography.

It was really fun to walk into Starbucks and see your photos everywhere.  Can you share with us how that assignment came to be? 

Oddly, Jodi Morrison, the Senior Art Buyer for Starbucks, met my agent in LA at a LeBook event, which is primarily for fashion photographers and stylists.  I did not know until I went up to Seattle and visited my new creative friends at Starbucks HQ and saw one of my OLD, old, old promos, tacked to Jodi’s wall that she had been aware of me.  Wow.  How cool is that?  We send out promos in what seems like a vacuum and sometimes it works. Imagine that?
©Annabelle Breakey Some of Annabelle's recent  work for Starbucks.

You work closely with veteran rep, Deborah Ayerst. How do you and Deborah work together? 

I love Deb.  She’s kind of crazy, really cool, totally out there and works insanely hard… and knows EVERYONE.  We talk almost every day… way more than I talk to any of my family.  She has great ideas and I produce more and have much bigger dreams with her in my life.  I think I owe a lot to her as I push my self very hard.  She’s a tough critic and doesn’t sugar coat anything so, I have developed as an artist quite a bit with her influence.  We come up with a variety of marketing strategies and we try to come up with new ways of making connections.  Deb travels a lot to different cities and each month there are new goals and things to achieve.  I have done a lot this year and have met some new and incredible creatives.  Done some really nice work.  It’s very exciting.

I know you shoot a lot of food. What else is in your repertoire?   

I love shooting food, of course.  I love the subject matter, the stylists the whole cycle of life thing.  Taking care of the planet and all that goes with food.  I have been shooting for over 20 years, so I have a pretty wide spectrum of subjects that I’ve shot over that time.  I started out doing digital collages for business to business, high tech and financial institutions.  Pretty much right when I got out of school, I had clients such as Visa, Citibank, PG&E, Montgomery Securities and Microsoft.  It was the Nineties, Photoshop had recently come out and it seemed everyone wanted it.  I had this really great mentor, John Lund.  That handsome guy.  You heard of him? (Aww shucks…).

What do you enjoy shooting most?  

Ahhh…  I think this may make my rep insane, but I love crazy travel photography: Getting out of my comfort zone and taking my 35’s to distant lands where there is no tourist infrastructure.  I am putting together a ‘personal’ web site of this work now.  I am trying to work that aspect into my regular commercial work some how.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my studio and my business, but out there, it’s all up to you to make great images.  It’s really hard and very satisfying when I make something more than personally memorable.

It seems like everyone is jumping into motion. Do you have plans to move in that direction? 

I’ve tried it.  It’s a lot of work and doesn’t pay as well.  I’ve decided that it’s a whole other job and requires a whole different skill set.  I’ve decided that I’ve got my hands full with photography alone as I am super prolific and want to be impactful with what I am doing.

Annabelle, you have been shooting professionally for a long time. How do you keep motivated…what really inspires you? 

I surround myself with very inspiring people and get inspired by traveling to other places to learn about new cultures including my own.  I just got back from Kansas City and came into ‘knowing’ of authentic barbecue.  Will head to New York to hit the gallery scene and some new restaurants at the end of October.  Just to keep fresh.  Then I’m off to Central America to shoot “farm to market” and then India for indigenous culture and a sacred holiday.

What is your “secret” of success? 

I work my ass off and I love what I do.  Have you seen my blog?

I have had the privilege of seeing you work more than once, and it always struck me that on your shoots it seems like everyone is having fun. Do you do anything in particular to insure that experience, or does it just happen?

I hire fun people.  It has to be fun.  If it’s not fun, I can’t do it.  I do get nervous and that’s not fun.  The work usually suffers for it though, so if I feel the nerves coming on I over prepare. Then, it all works out OK.  Afterwords I really hope they hire me again because it will be oh so much more fun the second time around!

Tell us about your marketing efforts. Are you using an array of source book ads, direct mail, email and social media? 

Yes, all of the above.  We come at marketing from all different angles.  The best, best, best marketing tool is me.  Becoming personally interested in working with specific people on specific accounts and seeking them out. I call it “looking for my people”. I love working with great people and making great work that is mutually inspiring.  I love being a team player and offering solutions (sounds so cheesy!).  I’ve heard that all work comes from a conversation.  I try to create conversations and make new friends that are of like minds.  Communication is everything.  I find communicating in person is the best so I try to do that as much as possible.  That and having rockin’ work that they will enjoy looking at ;).

How do you show your book? 

I have several iPads that get sent around.  Mostly, people look at my web site and blog.  The blog is a more complete picture of who I am, the web site is more of a show place.  More and more, I create custom pdfs for people that have certain projects in mind.  I have such a huge archive, it’s pretty easy to pull together a custom presentation.

You have told us how closely you work with your rep Deborah on marketing, do you also have a regular team you rely on when you are shooting? 

Yes, I have several freelancers that I work with often.  My newest favorite team member is helping me with the blog and archive.  She’s a wiz with social media and is very helpful as I don’t have much time for that part of the marketing effort.  I also have an operations manager who helps me with big picture stuff for running a business.  She helps keep me on track to delegate the stuff that needs to be delegated and so I can stay focused on creating new work and developing new relationships as well as nurturing existing clients.

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your participation in stock photography. How does stock fit into your photography business?  

I go through phases with stock.  When I am busy with commercial assignments, stock gets pushed to the back burner.  When things are slow, I start planning big shoots.  I have a couple of fun shoots coming up, where some clients have given some nods of interest.  If it doesn’t work out for them, I’ll market them through a stock agency.  My stock earnings over the years certainly have filled in the gaps.  I really do wish I produced more though….

What advice can you give photographers just embarking on their careers?  

Work hard and work smart.  Surround yourself with the best talent and mentors/ contemporaries with experience as you can.

Can you share a favorite image of yours and the story behind it?   

Many many many images…  So many of them mean so much to me for different reasons.  This is why I started my blog.  My motivation is to be completely truthful, transparent and honest and hopefully interesting.  We’re all the same, kind of?

I see you use natural light a lot. Can you share your approach to using light? 

Light needs to be shaped.  Natural light is only different to studio light in color spectrum.  Both need to be shaped and both have different advantages and create different textures on subjects.  I love both for this reason.

Is there one piece of equipment you couldn’t live without? 

So many!  Top 5: My 4x5, loupe, level, computers, Canon 5d MarkII’s.

What is the biggest challenge for your business right now? 

Getting more of it.

What is your favorite part of being a commercial photographer? 

Sounds silly, but I love working with and providing images for big consumer clients.  I love a challenge and love, love, love contributing to their campaigns and creating work for them.  Hello Starbucks?  How fun is it to have my pics in 16,000 stores all over the world.  My mom is very proud.

Annabelle, I had the fun experience of picking up a rather tempting looking cookbook in a bookstore one day, and lo and behold you were the photographer. Can you share with us your take on shooting for books?

I love shooting cookbooks.  Especially ones that are written by authors who have something really new and interesting to share.  I love a big project that creates an opportunity for a crew to work together for a week or three.  I am excited for the publishing world, even though everyone is freaked out that paper is going out of style.  I look at this digital transition as if we are in another “industrial” revolution.  Never has there been a bigger need for content and opportunity for different mediums to fulfill.  We are just in the infancy and the publishing platforms will sort them selves out.  People still need and want content that is interesting and useful.  That will never go away.  Its just getting more interesting and the users are getting more complex with the new needs.  This makes us all better content providers.  I rise to this challenge.

Do you shoot personal projects…and if so, do you have any projects your working on now? (If you want to run a photo or two here we can). 

Until my personal site is up and running, you can check out a gallery at

Is there anything I forgot to ask you? 

Who has been my most influential mentor?  John Lund.  Hands down.  Is it ok to talk about you in the third person?  He’s kind of goofy sometimes, but has a heart of gold.  I met John very young in my career and I’m very fortunate to have had him as an influence at such a young age.  He has always been there for me to lend an ear to listen and share life experiences and has been a great influence on my photography career.  His approach to every situation has been through kindness, care and humor.  Not a bad way to be in life.  He’s seen me through many phases and economic cycles.  There have been a few years where we have not spoken and then many years where we chatted almost every day. Though we differ with the kind of photography we do, at the core, John has been quite influential in making me a better photographer.  I’m a huge fan.

Thanks Annabelle, and you have always been an inspiration to me and what a pleasure it is to be able to share your success story!

Annabelle Breakey Photography
1250 Missouri St No. 205
San Francisco, CA 94107
studio: 415.495.0930
cell: 415.314.9213

Agent: Deborah Ayerst