Monday, October 28, 2013

Closing The Barn Door After The Horse Is Gone

A man closes the barn door after the horse is gone in this concept stock photo about prevention, timeliness and procrastination.
A man closes the barn door after the horse is gone in this concept stock photo about prevention, timeliness and procrastination.

Shutting The Barn Door After The Horse Is Gone
After thinking about it for about two years, I finally got around to taking some photos of a friend, Pippa Murray, while she worked her horse.  I spent about an hour shooting while she was being coached on jumping her horse, and getting some pretty good material for my stock imagery in the process.  As usual, when I shoot for stock, I went in with a shot list that included “shutting barn door after the horse is gone”. As Pippa was prepping and grooming her horse Bella, I had Stephanie, my partner, grab a quick shot of me pretending to pull the sliding barn door shut.

Building My Image In Photoshop
Back in my studio I went over my material, picked one of the “door shutting” images and brought it into Photoshop. I used the pen tool to create a clipping path on the inside of the barn door opening. I excluded both myself, and the barn doors, from the clipping path. I then made a selection with the clipping path using a one-pixel feather, inverted it, and used the selection to create a new layer. This gave me a layer that included everything except the background. Going back to the original background layer I applied a layer mask “reveal all”. After creating a new background (bottom) layer of white, I used a large soft brush to fade away the original background layer making the image look as if the scene outside the barn were overexposed and “blown out”. The next step was to add the horse.

Should Have Brought That Shot List!
Naturally, when shooting Pippa riding her horse I neglected to shoot specifically for my barn door image (should have brought my shot list and checked it off…so lazy!), so I had to improvise. I did get a few images of her and Bella clearing jumps from behind…but only a very few. Those images stood out though because when jumping the horses’ rear hooves, in their highest position, gave the animal a lot more sense of action and added a bit more of a humorous feeling. The only problems were that the horses’ front two legs were obscured by the jump, and Pippa’s leg and saddle obscured a lot of the horse’s side. It took about three hours of work to make the horse look the way I needed it to look by cloning, copying and pasting and so forth.

Qualities Of A Successful Stock Image
One never knows if an image is going to sell in stock, let alone do well, but I believe this photo has a lot of the qualities that make for a successful stock image. First of all, I think it is a concept that can apply to a lot of messages. The idea is one of prevention and of timeliness. “Have You Backed Up Your Data” could easily be a headline that would go with this photo of an escaping horse…after the barn doors are being closed. In fact, there are a ton of businesses, services and products that are designed to help us prevent bad things from happening or help us deal with such events including everything from firewalls to insurance to training. In addition, prevention is a difficult concept to illustrate making this image one with less competition. The potential is there for a good selling image.

Humor Is A Plus
Humor is also a plus for this shot. Any time you can inject a little humor into an image you dramatically increase it’s chance for sales. The humor here is a little subtle, but I think it is hard to avoid smiling when you see the photo. The semi-silhouette lighting adds both drama and plenty black areas providing copy space for headlines and text, and the image is easily cropped square, vertical or horizontal.

Rights Managed or Royalty Free?
I wrestled with whether this should be a Rights Managed or Royalty Free image, but finally went with Royalty Free because I think the shot can be used to advertise so many different products and services and for a lot of editorial uses as well. With this image I am counting on the large market of Royalty Free users will pay off more than the SOMETIMES higher fees of Rights Managed. Time will tell!

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