Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Important Stock Photo Question: What Else?

A light bulb rises into the sky in an image about unrestricted ideas, imagination and creativity.
In this image about creativity, ideas and imagination, a light bulb, released from a cage, rises up to a sky filled with the rays of the sun.

An Evolving Approach To Stock Photography
The way I have approached stock photography in the last few years has evolved. It was as I finished a recent image that it occurred to me that there is a very important question any stock shooter needs to ask themselves in regards to whatever image, images or shoots they are undertaking. That question is: What else? Asking what else can lead to higher productivity, more creativity, and more income.

Ideas, Creativity And Thinking Outside The Box
This image of a bird released from it’s cage is a great example. The concept is primarily one of freedom. Once I finished the image I sat back and asked myself what else I could have escaping, or released from, the cage. As I mentally ran through different possibilities it suddenly struck me that a light bulb lifting into the sky would make a great concept image for ideas, creativity, and the importance of not placing limits or restrictions on our imagination. This new image is about thinking outside the box…but without the box.

Tried And True Symbols In A New Environment
Sure, the light bulb is a tired and hackneyed symbol, but it is also iconic and instantly recognizable as demonstrating ideas. Putting a tried and true symbol in a new and different environment or situation is a powerful way of catching a viewer’s attention and offering a clear and strong message.

What Else?

In this example I asked what else at the end of an image…but it is a great question to ask when planning a shoot, or even editing one as well.  If you have a particular idea in mind for a shoot it can be easy to miss viable shots that happen to be outside the parameters of what you were actually aiming for. Take one last look at the shoot asking yourself  “What else”?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hot Water, Kickstarter And A Beautiful Photo!

This beautiful water image has been created as an exclusive reward for $1.00 backers of our HydraQuik Kickstarter campaign.

Wow, it has been a busy couple of months gearing up for our HydraQuik Kickstarter campaign, which goes live in just a few minutes, at 1:00 PST. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this project, my brother invented a device that we call the HydraQuik that gets your hot water to you fast (up to 80% faster) without wasting water down the drain. When he asked me to become involved I saw it as a chance to make a positive difference in the world (the HydraQuik, if used extensively, could save BILLIONS of gallons of water a year).

My thinking is that a product that makes life easier and more convenient (not waiting for hot water) might actually catch on with the public...far more likely than a form of conservation that requires sacrifice! It the HydraQuik is widely adopted it can truly impact our planet in a positive way!

I am asking for your support in backing us. If you back us to the tune of $1.00 you will be helping the environment as well as helping us! That $1.00 of support will also get you a digital file I have made exclusively for our Kickstarter backers that is, at least in my opinion, a stunning photo suitable for fine art printing. All $1.00 backers will get this digital file as part of their rewards.

By clicking on our HydraQuik link you can share our project, watch a very brief video starring yours truly, and give your support. I really appreciate your support!

And don’t worry, when the campaign ends in a month I promise to get back into blogging about stock photography!

Watch the video!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Kickstarter Video-A Lesson Learned

Chris Faber of Faber Productions shooting motion of John Lund for his HydraQuik Kickstarter video.

Kickstarter Video And A Lesson Learned

This past week we put together a kickstarter video for a project my brothers and I are doing (a product that gets your hot water to the fixture really fast without wasting any water down the drain…we call it hydraQuik).  The only other video experience I have with motion is in creating slow motion clips with a Phantom HD.

My epiphany in this video effort was how freeing it was to be liberated from operating the camera! I hired a DP and Producer, Chris Faber, of Faber Productions who used his own equipment including camera, lights, dolly, slider and sound gear. It was awesome!  It was also necessary because I was the client, the director and the talent. I couldn’t very well be on both sides of the camera at once!

After this experience I am convinced that, at least for me, for any video shoot I do in the future I will hire at least a DP. Doing so will create a more stress free shoot for me and insure that I can place the emphasis on what is most vision. I can leave the "driving" to someone who has it down cold. If the client doesn't have the budget...then I don't want that client!

We had a tight script and spent two days shooting, and I had a blast. Turns out I like being on camera as well! The only downer is when I saw myself…I look kind of old. Maybe because I am! Oh well…..

It is also exciting to be involved in this new kickstarter project. A nice break from 30+ years of photography…and a project that can help the world as well.  If you haven’t heard of kickstarter, check it out. It is a crowdfunding site with some really amazing projects going on. It also might be a way for you to fund your own project…and yes…there are lots of photography projects on there as well.

I can’t wait to see the video. As soon as I have it in hand I will post it here.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Photography, Entrepreneurship And Kickstarter

A photographer ascends a ridge on the island of Socotra at sunset.

Luka Esenko ascends a ridge on the island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen, tripod and camera on his shoulder.

SNAPP Guides For Photography Destinations
A friend of mine, Luka Esenko, and Jules Renahan, have launched a Kickstarter project creating SNAPP Guides, an app that is an interactive destination guide for photographers looking for amazing places to shoot. Pretty cool idea, and I have signed on as a “backer” for them on Kickstarter. You can check their project out here: SNAPP.

Photography Knowledge And Income Streams
I know Luka from a photo trip to Yemen and Socotra that Luka and Jeremy Woodhouse were leading. Awesome trip…but what really interests me here is the idea of taking photography expertise and expanding that knowledge into the world of entrepreneurship. At a time when so many photographers are struggling with income streams it seems like a smart move to me, and Luka and Jules have come up with an elegant way to add an income stream while providing tangible benefits to photographers around the globe.

Finding Locations, Planning Shoots And Financial Rewards
The world of photography has grown to almost an unfathomable size, and those of us who have spent their lives immersed in that world have a lot to offer. The SNAPP guide is a perfect example. As their program grows you will be able to find a great place to shoot your next great image no matter where you are…and doubtless it will be a great tool to plan your next vacation/shoot as well!  And there are a GAZILLION photographers who could use such a guide. Luka and Jules are providing a great service and hopefully will be rewarded financially as well. I love seeing fellow photographers thrive!

Imagination, Support, And Saving The World!
Kickstarter, BTW, seems like a wonderful place to stretch your imagination, offer support to all kinds of great ideas, and perhaps find a way to finance your own new project be it photography in nature or something that will help save the world. And speaking of saving the world, I have an idea that might help in at least some small way in that direction…so stay tuned for my own upcoming Kickstarter project!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Something Personal-Connections, Visibility And Fun!

Dragon Blood trees on the island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen, my accepted entry into last year's Something Personal APA Exhibition.
Personal work is essential to a successful commercial career, and the APA/SF's Something Personal Exhibition offers visibility and a wealth of connection opportunities...if you enter!

Something Personal
Way back when I started my professional photography career, some thirty years ago, it was common to hear professionals say that they did commercial work to support their personal work. These days what we all hear is how important personal work is for boosting our commercial success.  Any way you parse it, personal work is a tremendously important aspect of any photographer’s journey.

Connections, Marketing And Fun
The San Francisco Chapter of the APA (American Photographic Artists) has a yearly Gallery Exhibition “Something Personal” that not only gives you a chance to get your personal work out in front of the world, but in front of the “creatives” who actually give out work as well. This is the biggest photographic event of the year in San Francisco and is actually the 18th year of the exhibition and a perfect opportunity to combine fun, connections and marketing.

Getting Your Work Seen
Because a hundred images are accepted for the opening exhibition (with 200 displayed online) your chances of actually getting your work seen is excellent…way better than competitions such as the Communication Arts Photography Annual. The actual opening is also a kick and certainly my favorite venue for connecting with fellow artists, art directors and designers from my past, but also for meeting and making new friends and clients within the industry. This year the opening will be hold at the Midway Gallery ( with a full bar…nice!

A New Time And A New Venue
This year the event has been moved up by a month and the deadline is only two weeks away and shouldn’t be missed. There is a reason, BTW, that you see the names of the most successful commercial shooters over and over again in this competition…its because they know the benefits of being a part of the “Something Personal” show… and you would be surprised at the number of entries many of them make to insure that they are represented. This year I have entered about ten images myself…and might add to that number in the next couple of weeks.

The deadline for entry is Tuesday, September 29, 2015, and the opening party is Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 (5:00 to 11:00). BTW, after the party last year several of us traded our framed prints...very fun way to add to your collection of work from other photographers you admire!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Water Issues In A New Stock Image

Water issues such as recycling, conservation and management are illustrated in this photo of a recycling symbol, created from water splashes, hovering over a vast expanse of dry, cracked earth.
Water issues such as recycling, conservation and allocation are a growing area of need for stock photo producers.

Water Issues
Water issues, such as water recycling, water management, and water allocations are huge and getting bigger. Think about the money spent to ship bottled water. Think of the issues surrounding the droughts that are only worsening with global climate change. Think of the need for water in agriculture and industry. Think of the shortage of potable water throughout the world. The need for images that can add visual impact to the issues surrounding water and for the advertising and promotion of products and services that help us deal with our desires, wants and needs surrounding water, has got to be in a strong growth mode…or at least that is what I am thinking.

This has all been brought to mind by the historically significant drought we are experiencing in California, and has gotten me off my butt and creating some stock images that can not only serve this need but perhaps has the further positive effect of motivating people to conserve water and become part of the solution rather than the problem.

Stock Images And Water Issues
The result is an ongoing series of stock imagery dealing with water issues. I expect to be adding to this category for quite some time, but thought I would share my first such image in this blog post. That image is one aimed at promoting the recycling of water with an ancillary message of conservation.

Water Splashes And The Recycling Symbol
The idea originated when I first began to think about how I could illustrate water issues. I liked the idea of creating something out of water splashes. My first thought was to create the word “water” from water splashes…something I may yet do. I don’t remember exactly what brought the recycling symbol to mind, but when it came to me it seemed like a great way to start. I did some Internet searching to see if the idea had already been done (yes…it has) and to what extent. Luckily for me the ones that have been done left room for new versions. I felt that by adding a background of cracked, dry earth I could impart a greater sense of urgency and an emotional connection with the viewer.

Creating Water Splashes
To create my water splash recycling image I had my partner, Stephanie, use a plastic cup to toss water splashes up in my studio that I photographed with my Nikon D800. After about forty or so splash efforts I brought the captures into Photoshop, made selections using the pen tool to create clipping paths, and creating layers that I shaped and merged and colored using the warp tool, the liquify filter, layer masks and adjustment layers.

Dry Cracked Earth And Rice Paddies
The parched earth image was in reality a drained rice paddy I photographed in Myanmar. When I photographed it the mud was shin deep…but had the appearance of dry cracked earth…and as all photographers know…appearances can be more important than reality! I pasted the earth image beneath my recycle splash, used a duplicate layer of the recycle symbol, along with Hue and Saturation, to create a shadow. I positioned it, played with the opacity and with the shape of the logo until I was happy with it. The sky is from a photograph I took in Mongolia of all places. Truly this is, at least in one sense, a global water image! I am providing the image to Blend Images for distribution, but have not yet decided whether it should be a Rights Managed image or Royalty Free. Any thoughts?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

An Artificial Intelligence Stock Photo

Artificial intelligence, future technology, and brain research are all visually illustrated by this photo.
 An image about artificial intelligence, future technology, and brain research.

Future Technology And Artificial Intelligence
Future technology and artificial intelligence are not only fascinating, at least to me, but potentially a great stock image subject.  Technology is penetrating ever more deeply into every aspect of our lives…and “artificial intelligence” has a potential impact that is mind-boggling. How can we photographers not want to dive into that as a stock photo subject?

Human Brains And Computer Technology
The idea of linking a human brain to computer technology is painfully obvious, but also a potentially good choice when trying to make an image that will be a quick read to a wide audience of people. The question becomes more of how we can “tweak” it to take it beyond the ordinary so that we can both make it an interesting visual and a useful concept image.

Flesh And Metal
With this image I started by shooting a plastic replica of a human brain, created a duplicate layer in Photoshop, and ran a “Chrome” filter over it.  It, as usual with the Photoshop chrome filter didn’t look like chrome. I played with the different “modes” until I came up with one that gave the brain a look vaguely like flesh with a metallic sheen. It looked cool enough for me!

Circuit Boards And Magic Wands
Next I found a circuit board photo in my archives and used a combination of “Color Range” and the “Magic Wand” photo to select just the traces. I fined-tuned the selection with “Refine Edges”, copied the selection, and pasted it behind the “brain” layers. Below that I created a layer of a white/gray gradation. I used the Hue/Saturation control to darken the computer traces to black. Finally, I pasted the selected computer circuit traces on the top layer and positioned it to partially cover the brain.

High Tech, Bio Technology And Artificial Intelligence
The result is a high-tech and complex human brain bio-technology image that illustrates artificial intelligence, brain research, and future technology. It can be cropped to square vertical or horizontal…all in all, a very promising stock image. One can never know for sure whether a given image will sell well, or even sell at all. Time will tell on this one....

A Royalty Free Stock Photo
I have submitted the image to Blend Images as a royalty free stock photo. I am counting on the demand for artificial intelligence and future technology images to be large enough to compensate for the lower price points of royalty free imagery.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Top 80 Trends In Photography For 2015

Urban high rise buildings reveal the sky in an upwards pointing arrow in this photo about possibilities and the way forward.
The "Trend" is up as illustrated in this stock image of an urban high rise scene in which the buildings form an upward pointing arrow. It is up to you to have a plan that makes your own trend and upward one!

Photography Trends of 2015
Amos Struck of Stock Photo Secrets has posted a great article on the top 80 trends in photography for 2015: Click here to see the whole 80 photography trends article! The article has a LOT of material and plenty of photos. As I perused the article it occurred to me that what is more important that the trends that are out there is to make your own trend and upward one!

Having A Plan
While it is important to stay on top of such information it is equally if not more important to have a plan for your year ahead, a plan that can take your stock photo, and life, in an upwards direction . One part of my own plan that does seem to be working is in using my website to promote my stock photo sales. It has been a slow and subtle journey, but nonetheless, in addition to twenty to thirty people a day finding images on my site and then following links to those images at Blend, Getty, Corbis or SuperStock, I am now also averaging one direct stock photo request a day. A lot of these requests are a pain in the butt, such as a request yesterday for two small prints, or for things like free images for classroom projects, but a lot of them are panning out as well.  In addition, I am getting the occasional assignment offer...which is great since I am not hungry for them and can pick and choose which ones I want to take on.

Long Term Projects
I have been working diligently on the site for what, seven years now? Talk about a long term project! Almost every night I am uploading my latest stock images and adding a good amount of text. I have something like 8,000 pages and over 7,000 images on the site now. Phew! But the results are picking up and I am undeniably making money off of the endeavor.

Commitment To Making Images
Another part of my overall stock photo plan that seems to be working is my commitment to make a minimum of twenty images a month for stock. Ever since I made that commitment, roughly a year and a half ago, my production has almost doubled!  Now it is like brushing my teeth...I am driven to get those twenty images up...and usually end up closer to thirty images. My stock income is rising as a result.

More Stock Photo Opportunities
To fine tune my plan this year I am mainly looking for ways to create more stock photo opportunities through fun activities. I am planning a trip to New Zealand and Australia for fun and stock raw materials. I am also becoming more active in the San Francisco chapter of APA (I am on the board now) and working on a body of work to try and get a toe hold in the fine art world.

Get To Where You Want To Be!
So do keep abreast of what the trends are and what is happening in the world, but don't forget that the most important task is to keep on track with a plan that will get you to where you want to be! Writing out a detailed plan with specific actions and deadlines for those actions is almost magical in its effectiveness. Now excuse me...I have images to make!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Creating A Stand Out PR Image

Funny elephant photo of a young boy riding his bicycle down the back of a delighted elephant!
This humorous photo of a young boy riding his bicycle down an elephant's back was created to fulfill the need for a PR image for a bicycle company that would stand out from the crowd. I think we succeeded!

Just put together this image for a friend, Jeff Cleary, who has started a new bicycle company “Cleary Bikes” creating adult style bicycles for kids. He wanted an image of a youngster riding on one of his bicycles to use for multiple PR purposes, but he wanted the image to be something that was out of the ordinary and that would grab people’s attention.

Jeff is familiar with my work with funny animals and suggested that we could have a kid riding his bicycle down an elephant’s back. Hmmm…that would certainly be different! 

We had a model, a young boy who was about as cute as they come (and at first impression painfully shy) come in to my studio for the shoot. Jeff helped steady him as he balanced on the bike with it’s rear wheel up on an apple crate to approximate the correct body position. The little boy was awesome. We told him to look really excited…and he got into it immediately with a huge open-mouthed grin that was perfect.  After the first six frames or so I checked the images and realized I had inadvertently opened up the f stop and was pretty badly overexposing…so we did it again and our model continued to give us that wonderful expression.

With the photography part of the job completed I turned to the imaging. I selected an elephant from a shoot I did years ago in Thailand and combined four captures to piece together the big pachyderm into a funny pose appropriate for a kid riding a bike down it’s back.  Next I pieced together a background. The immediate foreground was from a scene I photographed in Yemen, and the distant mountains and sky from Black Rock Desert (think Burning man). I then added appropriate shadows to “ground” the elephant into the scene.

I used the pen tool to create a clipping path around the model riding the bike, made the selection, and copied and pasted it into the elephant image. A little bit of adjustment for size, angle and position (and the hardest part...removing logos from the shoes!) and (Voila!) a truly unique bicycling image!

Of course, as part of the deal I have stock photo rights, and after removing the remaining logos I submitted the image to Blend Images as a Rights Managed stock photo. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Creativity, Money And Stock Photography

A stream of images combine with light streaks in a stock photo illustrating concepts such as photo sharing, social networks, and streaming data over the Internet.
Creativity, money, and stock photography, a presentation on stock at the San Francisco Apple store by John Lund.

On Thursday the 19th of February, from 7:00pm to 8:00pm I will be giving a talk at the Apple store in San Francisco. The title of my talk is “Creativity, Money And Stock Photography”. I will be sharing my experience and approach in stock photography including tips for making stock photography profitable.

While certainly stock photography is in transition and has become a much more daunting career, it is important to remember that stock photography is a two billion dollar industry in which there are many photographers successfully navigating their way to success. 

I am going to pack as much useful information into an hour as I can including some of my actual income figures. I’ll be sharing a lot of images, so hopefully it will be entertaining as well as informative. Hope to see you there!

The presentation is free, but space is limited.

Monday, January 26, 2015

In Appreciation Of Blend Images Stock Agency

A life ring of social media portaits sales out through stormy skies in a stock photo about social networking as a resource and online communities as support groups.
This photo created for Blend Images could well be a metaphor for the support and community offered by a new breed of stock agency.

­­In Appreciation Of Blend Images
Blend has just announced their spring creative meeting that will take place in Miami this April. It will be a multi-day affair with an emphasis on motion stock, but still plenty of information on stills and the industry in general. The details are still being worked out. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to these events. It is truly wonderful to get together with my “Blend” family, catch up on everyone, and be informed and inspired about our industry.

A Photographer-Centric Stock Agency
Blend is the brainchild of Rick Leckrone (Blend’s CEO) who pulled together twenty-four top stock shooters to create a photographer-centric stock agency (disclaimer here…as one of the founding members I am biased in favor of Blend Images!). The agency began with a specialization in ethnically-diverse content, but has evolved to offer an ever increasingly wide range of material. While originally a content aggregator offering RF sales through a wide group of distributors (including Getty and Corbis), Blend went on to pioneer RM images available through numerous distributors and has also added a direct sales component.

Maximum Image Visibility
While there is no denying the dominant (if slipping) position in traditional stock of such agencies as Getty and Corbis, there is, more than ever, a strong case to be made for the importance of gaining maximum visibility for one’s images as well as the revenue potential of the countless “non-traditional” (read microstock) stock photography audience. With Blend I get far more eyeballs on my imagery than I would with just Getty or Corbis and I get market penetration into the microstock audience as well. With Blend I can upload my images once and have them seen virtually everywhere. If one of my images gets buried on a Getty search, it still has a chance to be seen on other sites and visa versa.

A Bigger Pie
Yes, the slice of the pie is smaller with a Blend/Getty, Blend/Fotolia or Blend/Whomever sale, but the pie is much larger! In the case of a Blend direct sale a Blend photographer stands to earn five times as much as a sale through most other distributors. Plus, having images at Blend provides the safety of diversity and the ability to benefit from a nimble agency that is well positioned to take advantage of changes within the industry.

Photographer Support
Photographer support is much better as well. You can actually have a relationship with your art director (I communicate with mine on almost a daily basis), you can pick up the phone and talk to a human being, you get educational webinars, creative meetings, and access to more research than I have ever experienced with any of the traditional agencies. With Blend you become part of that afore mentioned community.

The Blend Staff
I would be remiss if I did not point out that every member of the Blend staff has always been responsive, friendly and helpful to me. Hey, to be able to call Blend and have a human being on the other end alone is great...but to have a human being who is attentive and can get things done...well, that is just plain awesome!

Success In Stock Photography
After all that, do I still contribute images to Getty? Of course I do. That is a door I am not anxious to close. But the vast majority of my images go to Blend. My own personal recipe for success in stock photography includes consistent production of high-value photos with Blend Images being the cornerstone of my distribution. Whether you shoot traditional or microstock it may well be worth your while to give Blend a closer look.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is Stock Photography Dead?

A woman business executive is superimposed over a long road and looking ahead a clearing skies and an a sunrise indicating better times and success ahead.
A woman looks down a long road, under storm clouds and at clearing skies over a sunrise, towards better times and success in a stock photo that could well represent the stock photography industry.

Is Stock Photography Dead?
The death knell for stock photography is ringing loudly everywhere one turns, but is stock photography really dead… or dying? I don’t think so. Sure, the stock photography business is in transition with a lot of challenges for those attempting to make a living at it, but there are some good developments as well. With the advent of microstock, and the proliferation of imagery, prices have plummeted, but recently there has been some evidence of increasing prices for curated collections. Too, there are still plenty of examples of high prices being paid for stock photos. Agencies are springing up that are paying the content creators a larger percentage of the licensing fees as well. Finally, there are some more photography-friendly agencies coming along that are offering more guidance and support for photographers.

Sales That Pay The Bills
In my own experience I continue to see substantial sales from such venerable agencies as Getty and Corbis and some excellent sales from Blend Images as well. Just last month I had a $17,000.00 (gross) sale from Getty, a $6,000.00 sale and several sales in the $1,000.00 range, not to mention a plethora of lower priced sales. Last night I had a direct sale through Blend Images for $1308.00, and the week before I had a Blend Images sale for $3500.00 and another one for $1223.00. Two weeks ago a friend of mine had a $40,000.00 Blend sale! Those really big sales are kind of like hitting the lottery and while they certainly are fun, it is the hundreds of smaller repeat sales that pay the bills. There are still plenty of clients willing to pay a decent amount for the right image.

Photographer Friendly Agencies
Also good news for photographers is the trend of new photographer-friendly agencies. Blend (disclaimer…I am a part owner of Blend), for example, offers a ton of help for photographers from intimate art direction to market research to royalty rates to 50%. A big plus for Blend is the wide distribution they offer ranging from Getty & Corbis to Masterfile, SuperStock, Gallery Stock and many others. Gallery stock has caught my eye because of the consistently high sales they make for me (through Blend Images). Stocksy is another interesting agency that has a co-op approach, a high royalty rate, higher prices than microstock, and is off to a fast start.

Making A Living With Stock Photography
Don’t get me wrong, making a living with stock photography isn’t easy, but making a living, making a very good living, and having a wonderful lifestyle as part of the bargain is still possible. Success requires knowing what will sell, consistent and high-level production, and choosing the right distribution. Oh yeah, and a boat load of perseverance! ­