Saturday, January 8, 2011
Shopping Malls and Stock Photography
On my recent trip to Thailand to shoot stock photography, which in my case is largely the capturing of raw material for manipulated and composited imagery, I found myself in a large mall full of bustling people. The mall was actually in Hong Kong where we spent a day before going on to Bangkok. This shopping mall really wasn’t any different than hundreds of shopping centers here in the U.S., but unlike at home, here in Hong Kong I had my camera with me…so while cruising through the buildings I just kept shooting.
Masses of Shoppers and Long Exposures
I was using mostly long exposures…the camera set to “B” (which keeps the shutter open as long as the shutter button is held down) and checked exposures by looking at the back of the camera. I was zooming the lens, spinning the camera, bracing the camera against walls…trying a whole bunch of different things to see what I would get. An added bonus, by using very long shutter speeds the masses of shoppers would be unrecognizable and not in need of model releases. For me, one of the great things about traveling is that I have my camera with me and I am constantly experimenting. For some reason being in a whole different environment than my usual home one opens me up to explore the fun of taking pictures just to see what I can come up with. If something doesn’t work…hey, no problem. If it does work…super!
The Hustle, Bustle and Energy of Commerce
Back home I perused through all those shots with a mind open for whatever ideas might come up. I liked the sense of hustle and bustle, of energy and of commerce that came through many of the images. As I pondered the material it slowly came to me that I could do a series of images that portrayed concepts such as shopping, business, global business, and international commerce…images that were dynamic, different, and flexible in how they could be used and what concepts they could illustrate.
People on the Move and Commerce In Action
In the above picture I combined several of the long-exposure photos of people in the shopping mall with shots I made in the Hong Kong airport. While there is no way to be sure whether it will be a successful stock photo or not, I love it and am hopeful that it will generate some substantial income. For me it definitely conveys that sense of positive energy, people on the move and commerce in action in an environment that is modern and upscale. I crafted the picture so that it works as both a horizontal and vertical crop, has lots of room for copy, and reads well as a thumbnail.
Shopping For Images
In a previous blog I wrote that it is important to love your images. I love this photo! I figure that if I love it others will too…and I just have to get it in front of the right audience, the audience, if you will, “Shopping” for (or searching for) images, for it to generate the revenue that will make it worth the energy and resources I put into it. And for those of you interested in such things, I somewhere between three and four hours of digital time in this "people on the move" or "shopping" picture.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
How to Create Successful Stock Photos
I recently read a post on a stock photo forum from a photographer in which he commented on how his "personal work", placed with stock agencies, far outsells the work he shoots specifically for stock. I have heard that from more than one photographer. So why is that? It may be that this photographer's personal work is not competing with all the images that are flooding the market, images created by thousands of photographers with the intent and purpose of creating stock photos. His personal work probably stands out from competing stock images and connects with the viewers. As with most photographers I am sure he loves his personal work. I suspect he doesn't "love" his stock photos. If you want to create successful stock photos you have to love what you are doing and you have to love your images.
Stock Photos That Look Like Stock...But Earn a Ton of Money
I know at least one photographer (besides me) who shoots stock photos that look like stock photos (or at least what we all think of "looking like stock"…and he makes a TON of money (way more than I do). You can go to iStockphoto and search by downloads, and find hundreds of images that sell like crazy…but "look like stock". What gives? I think that "what gives" is that you have to shoot what you love. Some people love shooting stock and it gives their images that something extra special. Others try to make money in stock but without the "love" the images just don't end up with that combination of qualities that make them successful. If you don't love what you are doing you are much more likely to be just going through the motions...and in this insanely competitive environment that just isn't good enough.
Connection, the Holy Grail of Photography
The holy grail for photography is connection…capturing or creating images that connect with a viewer. That connection can range from empathy to humor, from familiarity to parody. But whatever the element or elements in an image that lead to connection, it is far more likely to be accomplished by a photographer who loves what he or she is shooting. Some photographers have the ability to set up a stock shoot…and love what they are doing enough to make those "set up stock shots" work consistently. I am fortunate enough to love making business concept stock photos…and it works for me. I love my images (and spend way too much time looking at them…much to the amusement of my partner Stephanie).
Love the Images You Create
If what you love to shoot doesn't sell, then perhaps stock isn't for you, or at least it won't be your primary source of income…and that is OK. Really, what joy would there be in shooting images, especially in the quantity that are needed to succeed in stock photography these days, if you were only doing it half-heartedly? Back when I did assignments my passion was in delivering what the client wanted. Eventually I reached a point where my heart just wasn't in that anymore. What the client wanted became a burden. Shooting stock became my joy. Luckily it worked out. I still love shooting stock, I love the images I create and now, in this Internet age, I get the benefits too of having a community of shooters to enjoy the profession with…but I digress.
Shoot What You Love
Probably the most oft-given advice to young photographers is to shoot what you love…and for good reason. That "love" will show…it will lead to growth and to refinement and to creating images to the best of your ability. Shooting what you love will result in your continued growth as a photographer and artist. Loving what you shoot is the foundation of success for a photographer. Even those of us who have been shooting for decades can get lured into shooting what we think the market wants. It is good to be reminded of the importance of shooting what we love. In the case of stock shooters it is helpful to ask ourselves "What do we love to shoot…and how can we shoot that for stock?"