Thursday, June 9, 2011

Crocodiles and Concept Stock Photography

A businessman puts his head in a crocodile's mouth in a funny stock photo about risk, danger, daring and more.
Compelling images that deliver concise messages in an entertaining way tend to do very well as stock images.

Crocodiles And Concept Stock Photos
Asking for a raise from your boss can be a harrowing experience! At least that is one interpretation of this concept stock photo of a businessman putting his head into a crocodile’s mouth. While this particular photograph was a product of Photoshop, when I photographed the crocodile at a “Crocodile Farm” in Thailand, a performer actually did have his head in the croc’s mouth!  Throughout the performance the numerous crocodiles involved would unexpectedly snap their mouths shut with an audible clap. I am sure the performers have some kind of cue about when that would happen, but I sure couldn’t figure it out!

Labor Relations, Corporate Communications and Crocodiles
I have high hopes for this crocodile image. It portrays a wide variety of concepts, should be able to cross cultural and language barriers, has humor and drama, and can be cropped square, horizontal or as a vertical. Examples of concepts that the image can illustrate include everything from labor relations to corporate communications to executive training. Other broad concepts include risk, danger, adversity and management issues. Actually, it is hard to predict how some creative art director or editor will find a way to utilize this stock shot.

Images That Entertain…And Make Money
As advertising increasingly becomes another form of entertainment I believe it is important to create images that can fulfill that role. If you can make someone smile or chuckle when they see your image you probably have a moneymaker. Now if you didn’t smile when you saw this image…don’t tell me!

Berkeley, Bangkok, Buenos Aires and…Sausalito
As for the creation of this reptilian image, in a sense it truly was a “global business image”. The crocodile was photographed in Thailand; the office window was shot in Buenos Aires, the floor in Berkeley, California, and the man in my Sausalito studio. The final image consisted of twenty-seven layers, three crocodile pictures, the glass window, the wooden floor, and two shots of the model. The Photoshop work took me approximately two days (working at a somewhat leisurely pace).

Making Travel Pay With Stock Photography
It is through creating these concept images that I end up making travel photography pay off. When I travel I am always keeping my eyes out for “parts” that I can then incorporate into my stock photography work. The crocodile images came about when I was attempting to get tiger images. They were a target of opportunity rather than something I planned out. At this point I now have three crocodile stock images with more on the way.

Rights Managed, Royalty Free and Fluctuating Income
Now comes the hardest part. Royalty Free or Rights Managed, bigger market or higher price points?  In my experience the image seems to be more important than the pricing model. I have RF images that earn as much as RM images. The RM images tend to be far more volatile. My RM income fluctuates way more than my RF income.  In this case I am leaning towards the RM model because a photograph of a man putting his head into a crocodile’s mouth probably isn’t all that easy for an art director to use. The easier it is to use an image the more likely I am to submit an image as a royalty free one.

Time, Resources and Enjoyment
It may take me several years before I find out if my time and resources in this image were a good investment.  In the meantime, at least I enjoyed the process from shooting the crocodiles to crafting the image in Photoshop.  That in it self is a good sign because the vast majority of the time when I enjoy putting an image together it does well in the market place.


Matt @ NiltoMil said...

I always want to take the time to do the amount of Photoshop in your images and then I think "but I need more volume!" and don't. I have to remember to run the marathon some days and the sprint others.


John Lund said...


Yeah, I occasionally ask myself if I wouldn't be better off going for less Photosop and more quantity of images...but when I look at my sales figures it seems like the Photoshop approach is working....



Envision said...

Amazing what can be done with one visit to a crocodile exibit. Do you have many problems with light direction when putting a image like this together? In a shooting situation like this you have to use the light thats there. Seems that that lack of control would limit you in post production.

John Lund said...


Yeah, light can be a problem. I love lightly overcast the day when I shot these crocodiles. Just yesterday I was shooting at a zoo and looking for animals in open shade....