Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Surviving, Thriving and Still Learning In Professional Photography

Portrait of a happy, confident and authentic or
Contributing to the success of this stock photo is the casting (a person who looks "real",good-looking but not like a "model", and the subtle but positive background.

Photography, Change, And Doing What It Takes
The profession of photography, as we know all too well, continues to go through relentless change, and in order to survive and thrive in this industry we have to go through relentless change as well. I often find myself thinking that I shouldn’t have to do this or do that; that it isn’t fair that things have changed. Whether it is fair or not is not important. What is important is whether I am willing to do what it takes to make this profession continue to work for me.

Concept Stock Photos, Lifestyle Productions, And Impromptu Shoots
One change I am making is in taking advantages of those smaller opportunities to create stock images. A few years ago I was into just creating concept stock photos, or shooting large lifestyle productions. There were probably many chances to grab some quick, but good images with little or no fanfare. Such possibilities weren’t on my radar, or if they did catch my awareness I dismissed them as more hassle than I wanted to deal with. Now, however, I am much more open to impromptu, or maybe I should say minimalist, stock shoots.

Pictures For A Web Site And A Stock Shoot
In one recent case a woman I knew through martial arts training (she has a black belt in Aikido), called me up because she needed some portraits for her web site and remembered that I was (am) a photographer. I agreed to shoot some shots for her if I could also shoot some for stock, and she readily agreed. Actually, it is better than that; she agreed to bring her whole family.

An Hour and A Half and Eight Selects
The shoot took me about an hour and a half, and I ended up with eight selects for stock. In the first sales report I received since the images went up online I made over $500.00 from them. Not bad for a shoot with literally no out-of-pocket expenses. In my experience it takes time for images to ramp up in sales, so a quick start is generally a very good sign.

Thirty Years of Shooting and Still Learning
An interesting side point here is that, during this shoot I learned something about shooting portraits. Even after thirty years of shooting I am still learning. Of course, it is a little embarrassing to reveal what I learned because it shows that I have some pretty basic knowledge gaps!

Great Shots and Great Sales
In this situation a friend, another photographer and former assistant of mine, dropped by while I was shooting. He suggested that I pose my model under a covered walkway with some trees in the direct sunlight serving as the background. I was skeptical that without some sort of supplemental light, whether strobe or reflector, the resulting portraits just wouldn’t be any good. I was wrong. The shots turned out great, and the proof is in the sales report.

Simple Portraits and Authenticity
These had to be the some of the simplest portraits I have ever shot. Stand here, look right into the camera, give me smile; snap, snap, snap. Done. I used a 135 F2 lens on my Canon 1DS MKIII and shot wide open. From the first sales report this is the image that did the best with three sales. I think what makes this image work well is a combination of a good-looking, yet REAL looking woman, exuding confidence and well-being, combined with a simple, clean photograph and a background that speaks of nature, perhaps summer, and a kind of peaceful stress-free environment. The photograph has the feel of authenticity.

Risky Images and Every Day Photos
For those of us earning, or attempting to earn, our livings entirely from stock photography, I believe it is very important to shoot those major, and somewhat risky, images that stretch us as artists and that can command the larger licensing fees, but that it is also important to create those cost-efficient everyday photos that are constantly in demand. When opportunities to shoot interesting (and interesting looking) people come up that cost little in the way of money or time, jump on them!

1 comment:

Jaak said...

Great post. Natural look and real people should be IN today. People are a bit tired after economical turndown of happy business people.