Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Power Of Working With A Stock Agency

A man stands before a footbridge to nowhere deciding whether to proceed or not across a dangerous roadway to the future.
A bridge to  nowhere, or the way forward to opportunity? This concept stock photo is the result of a collaboration between the photographer and his stock agency.

A Rickety Bridge, Concept Photos And A “Supply Chain”
A couple of weeks ago Blend Images asked me to work on some concept stock photos. One concept they asked me to undertake was that of “Supply Chain”. As I thought about what I could create to illustrate that concept this bridge image that I had captured on a trip to Myanmar sprung to mind.  I liked that the bridge was rickety and near failing and could represent the adversity and challenges that face most supply chains.

A Bridge In Need Of A Location
I went through my archives and found the image. The existing background was very uninteresting so I decided to strip the footbridge out and put it in a much more dramatic setting.  I decided to create a clipping path using the pen tool and have the isolated bridge on a separate layer. Then I could simply try differing backgrounds till I found the one that worked the best. It took me about an hour, give or take a few minutes, to create the clipping path and put the bridge on it’s own layer.

Fog Banks, Cloudscapes
I went back to my archives in search of just the right background. It didn’t take me long to realize that having the bridge simply disappear into a cloudbank would be great. I used a combination of San Francisco Fog banks and high-altitude cloudscapes to create my ideal scenario.  The whole effort from clipping path to finished image only took a few hours. I was pretty excited with the image, which I realized had a compelling drama as well as enough flexibility to apply to a wide range of concepts.

A bridge to nowhere stretches out fading away into a cloudbank in an image of mystery, risk and possibilities.
This version of the footbridge was before my agency art director suggested adding a person, and while it is still a great image, adding a person takes it t hat extra step.

Editing And A New Direction
Next I sent a low -resolution jpeg to my art director, Jim Dougherty, at Blend. He quickly replied that I should try adding a person to the image, perhaps a figure crossing the bridge.  Looking back it seems like an obvious option, and yet without the input of my editor I wouldn’t have tried it...I was pretty darn happy with the image the way it was. In fact, when Jim first suggested that I try it I was a bit doubtful. I figure it might actually limit the sales opportunities...I really like how the bridge without a figure seemed so open to a wide range of concepts. But one thing I have learned from thirty years of being a professional photographer is that I don’t have all the answers.

Crossing The Bridge
The next morning I went in to the studio, set my camera up on the camera stand and used the self- timer to photograph myself in a variety of standing and walking positions. I ended up silhouetting myself out in three different positions. I began with having the model (me) just about to enter the fog bank, and then I began trying different scenarios. None of them were really working for me. Finally, I just added myself in the foreground to look as if I am contemplating an attempt at crossing the bridge. That was it!

Rights Managed, Or Royalty Free
Originally I was thinking this would be a Rights Managed image. A lot of work went into it...a full day of photography and imaging not even counting the original bridge image shot in Myanmar. And yet, I could see so many potential uses from the risks and dangers of “Cloud Computing” to such tried and true concepts as “The Way Forward”, The Future, and “Journey’s”.  Add to that the fact that as an RF image I can also include the original bridge photo sans model, and I decided to go Royalty Free.

Working With An Agency And The Big Picture
This is just one example of how working closely with an agency can pay off. Every photographer works differently with their editor or art director, but however one works with them, it is important to take advantage of their knowledge. As photographers we see only a very small part of the big picture. Art Directors such as Jim have the advantage of knowing what the gaps and needs of the agency collection are as well as having access to a ton of market research. They see the work coming in from numerous other photographers as well, which helps them understand where an individual photographer can fit in and maximize their own strengths.

Honing In On Market Needs And Fine Tuning Photography
As stock photography continues to get increasingly competitive it becomes ever more important for photographers to hone in on the needs of the market and to minimize wasted efforts that are duplicating existing work or aimed at non-existent needs. Working closely with an agency can help photographers make the most of their time and resources and help them fine-tune their photography to make it the most effective it can be.