A rhinoceros performs a handstand on a soccer ball in a demonstration of sill, agility, balance and the unexpected.
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Siri Stafford, my art director at Getty Images at the time, suggested
this stock image for me to create. She asked me to make the image
because she thought my specialty of using Photoshop to create conceptual
stock images made me a logical choice for the job. I truly loved the
idea; but what the heck would lightning hitting a tree really look like?
I turned to that technological development that has so radically
changed the world of commercial photography...the internet. I simply
typed in to Google's image search "lightning and tree". In just a few
minutes I had found some obviously amateur images…but ones that were
nonetheless stunning actual images of lightning hitting trees. Now I had
something to work towards.
In coming up with stock photo ideas I always try and make it a practice
to look at the opposite of whatever idea I am working on. It was natural
then that when I had just completed an angel image for a magazine
assignment (Design Graphics out of Australia) when the idea of doing the
Devil as a stock image presented itself. I love it when I can come up
with an image that can have a lot of impact, fills a real need in the
image world, and costs little to nothing to produce. In this case I had
the perfect model…me! I knew from years of looking into the mirror each
morning I knew that I would make a very good Devil. I also knew I could
create an environment for the Devil with little to no expenses…and just
shoot it in my studio which meant that it would be convenient too.
When I was young I constantly doodled. I doodled a lot of things…but
mainly I doodled dragons. Fast forward a number of years…well…a whole
lot of years…and my twin brother is showing me pictures of his pet
iguana…pretty cool looking creature…. Then it occurs to me…what a
perfect dragon the iguana would make…and now I had the ultimate doodle
To succeed at selling stock you need three things: Ideas, execution, and
distribution. We will save getting distribution channels for another
time, but in the following I will outline my step by step approach to
coming up with ideas, determining if they are appropriate for my stock
efforts, for and insuring that I get the ideas done and off to the
Shooting stock images abroad can be both fun and profitable. All it
requires is a plan, preparation, and the ability to stay open and
flexible. I stumbled on a system my first time out that has continued
to work for me. It is pretty simple really. There’s no reason it can’t
work for you too.
Looking for a photo for your business? Maybe you need an image for an
important national campaign, maybe for a flyer or perhaps a photo to
liven up your web site. Whatever you might need a photograph for…there
are millions of them out there waiting for you to choose. In the world
of stock photography there are three major categories to choose from.
You can license images as Rights Managed, Royalty Free or Micro Stock.
Ganesha, or Ganesh,
is perhaps the most beloved of Hindu Gods…and with little wonder as he
is the God of Prosperity, The Remover of All Obstacles (Avighna), the
Lord of all Gods (Ganapati), and the Bestower of Success
(Siddhivinayaka). He is the son of Shiva and Pavarati. Lord Ganesha
actually has many other names as well, but these will suffice for now.
Ganesha is portrayed with multiple arms and hands. It is, in fact, taboo
to show him with only two arms. In most illustrations Ganesha has four
arms but can also be portrayed with up to sixteen or even twenty. His
arms hands and arms are held in symbolic gesture or they are holding
symbolic items. Some of the objects are also placed at his feet. The
sacred -elements range from fruit and flowers to tools and weapons and
have primarily a spiritual significance. Different sources, however, do
have varying interpretations of the symbolic meanings…the ones I have
chosen here are the most often referred to. We will save the myriad of
fascinating stories of Ganesha for another chapter.
Stock photography has always been considered the ugly stepchild of
commercial photography. Originally stock photos consisted of out-takes
from assignments…the “seconds” if you will. The strategy for success
for a stock shooter was to get as much content into the collection as
possible…not a methodology for gaining a reputation for quality!
Taking pictures of many types of dog breeds in my work as a stock
photographer has provided me an opportunity to work with both large and
small dog breeds and a number of poodle breeds. I've worked with teacup
poodles, miniature poodles, standard poodles, etc.
Ever since I began working with computers I have had a love-hate
relationship with them. At times I even feel, well, dominated by
technology. It was this paradoxical concept that I set out to
illustrate for a stock photograph with the Dominatrix image.
It is only recently that I have dipped my toe into the waters of fine
art photography, and even more recently that I have tried my hand at
capturing the female body in photography. I have been reluctant to do
so at least in part because I didn’t feel I had much to contribute to
that genre. It is hard to think of subject more photographed than the
female form…sensual or otherwise. From nudes in the woods to the naked
female form on motorcycles…it seems it has all been done before, and
yet, as an artist, I have always felt compelled to explore, shall we
say, tasteful photography of the female body.
Out with old, in
with the new! That is the concept behind my concept stock photo
"Wrecking Ball". But perhaps more importantly, the image is a good
illustration of the fact that the "imagined" image can be more powerful
than the literal one. In stock photography I certainly believe it is
true that “perception” is more important than “reality”! I believe the
viewer is more comfortable and more accepting of an image that fits
their mental picture…and let’s face it…so many times reality just does
not live up to what we picture in our heads. Also, when a viewer sees
an image and it matches their perception of something they can quickly,
in their thinking, move onto the message…rather than using their
subconscious process to fit the reality into their pre-conceived
notions. At any rate, in my experience, catering to preconceptions
seems to work well in conceptual stock photography.
I have photographed a Lion, a Tiger, a baboon, chickens, eagles, mice,
turtles, dogs and cats, elephants and more…but the hardest animals for
me to shoot for my animal antics series of images are…cows! Yes,
creating funny cow pictures is one of the hardest things for me to do.
Cow transformation is not easy.
“Better stand back a little, you are in his strike zone,” the animal
trainer told me. I looked down at the lion cub…he probably weighed
close to 200 lbs. I stepped back a few more feet. Someday Truman, (the
lion cub’s name), would weigh over five hundred pounds and would truly
be an impressive animal. Right now I am at the animal trainer’s
compound to shoot a baboon…so the lion will have to wait.
Taking pictures of the
Great Wall of China was one of those peak experiences, one of the
primary reasons I travel. The sense of history was almost palpable; the
only sound the chirping of a few birds.
Ladakh is one of those rare places that seems to have come only lately to the modern world. The women still wear the traditional dress, though the men are rapidly moving to western dress beneath the ubiquitous woolen robes.
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The cobra swayed ever so slightly as he twisted his head from side to
side eyeing us cautiously. Camera glued to my eye, I edged a bit
closer, snapping off frames, playing with the composition. The snake
struck the side of my face before I even knew what was happening. I
fell backward, away from the blow, my heart pounding. Even though I
knew that the de-fanged snake was harmless, adrenaline was coursing
through my veins!
Let’s say you
have made the commitment to join the world of stock photography, you
have an excuse, and a valid one, to go out and buy some photography
gear. What I will share with you here is not necessarily the perfect
answer as what to get, but what does work for me. I can give you some
guidelines, and tips, but in every case you will need to take into
consideration your own situation, what and how you will be shooting,
what your budget constraints are and a host of other personal
Those of us who have been in the game for a lengthy period of time have difficulty with these changes, but I am convinced that in the long run the changes will offer more opportunity than ever before.
The downside is that some of us won’t be able to adapt, and indeed, the new playing field has been leveled as never before. The Internet is changing everything.
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I’ve photographed a ton of money over the last thirty years. I have
photographed money coming out of faucets, being thrown in the air,
squeezing through an hourglass, covering a planet, as jigsaw puzzles and
serving as a flying carpet. I have Photoshoped money trees and coins
exploding out of piggy banks. I have made pictures of money being
stretched, filling shopping carts and being raked into piles. I have
pictures of money on trees, pictures of piles of money and pictures of
stacks of money. I have pictures of money from around the world
including, English pounds, Italian Lira, Japanese yen, German marks and,
of course, Euros. Heck, I have even created an animated stock footage
clip of “raining money”!
I am always on the look out for source material. While
walking along a pedestrian path along the shore of San Francisco bay I
encountered a sailboat that had broken loose from its mooring and was
beached while the tide was out. I didn't know how I was going to use it,
but I photographed the boat any way, and from a variety of angles.
A little over seven years ago I approached a greeting card company about
starting a line of greeting cards. The planets must have been aligned
right because the company agreed to give it a try…and it worked! We
sell hundreds of thousands of cards a year through out the world. The
images have also been used in gift books, printed on checks, used on
calendars, posters, journals and even coffee mugs. Through this
experience I have learned a few things, which I now hope to pass on to
During the course of my never ending quest to find and illustrate every
applicable cliché for my stock photo business it occurred to me that
shooting a baboon might be more fun than a barrel of monkeys!
Seriously, I decided a great image would be a monkey on a businessman’s
back. I could create a cool concept image and then round out the shoot
with assorted funny monkey pictures.
The tiger’s name is Safari. He is beautiful. Not yet fully grown, he
still weighs over 400 lbs. I had recently asked an animal trainer who I
knew worked with him if she had worked with him lately. She answered
that some people found the possibility of death exciting, but she
didn’t. Right now, I was lying on my back looking up at the tiger, and
he was looking down at me. He casually reached out with a huge paw and
tapped me on the side of my head, then turned his attention to a large
chunk of raw meat that had been placed on the platform expressly to draw
his attention away from me.
I firmly believe that now is the most exciting time ever to be a photographer, and to be shooting stock. There are more tools and more opportunities than ever before. The playing field has been leveled. The demand for stock images, and consequently stock photography, is exploding.
Of course, there is more competition than ever before, a glut of photography in the market place, and tremendous downward pressure on prices. Still, over all, I believe the opportunities outweigh the difficulties. Let’s take a look at some ways to get a stock career going in these exciting times.
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Small business is anything but small in our economy. Small businesses
represent over 99 percent of firms with employees. They generate almost
half of the total private payroll in the United States and have
generated sixty to eighty percent of all new jobs per year for the last
ten years. It is also interesting to note that fifty-three percent of
small businesses in the U. S. are home based.
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When shooting in low light situations there are a number of things to
consider ranging from equipment options, to ISO settings, to improvised
camera support. I will go over all the factors that I take into
consideration when dealing with low light levels. Since I am sharing my
own approach and experience I think it is a good idea to give you a
little background on what I shoot and what equipment I use.
I’ve heard it said that if you believe you will succeed, or if you
believe you will fail, you are right. There is a lot of truth in that.
I have also heard it said, that as photographers, it is our
responsibility to lead society. As I write this we are in what is
described as the worst recession since the great depression. It feels
as if all the news is doom and gloom. I find myself being more careful
in my spending, pulling back and even taking on a bit of a siege
mentality. Now the more we all do that, the worse our economy is going
to get. What can we, as stock photographers, do to help? We can stay
positive and we can make positive images.
It took me a long time to first delve into the creation of funny
pictures. Almost fifteen years into my career, to be exact. A big part
of that evolution was the advent of the digital world and Photoshop.
As a matter of fact, Photoshop came along at a perfect time for me and
opened up a whole new world. It was early 1990 and my business had hit
the wall. It was like someone turned off the faucet. 1989 was, at that
point, the best year I had ever had. I could barely keep up with the
assignments! But our economy took a dive and my business went along
with it. One of my clients went from a staff of 24 to only five people
in a six-month span of time.
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Over the years I have had my share of near disasters, mistakes and
lessons learned (or not). I guess it all started back in the early
seventies when the train hit my camera. I was just starting out at the
time and wanted to shoot a dramatic shot of a speeding train for my
portfolio. I went to the local camera store and talked them into
loaning me a 20mm Nikkor wide-angle lens. I set my camera up on a
tripod near the tracks, real near the tracks.
Micro stock seems to be taking over the world of stock. Not just in
still photography either. In the last year more video content has been
made available over You Tube than in the previous sixty years of
material created by the big three television channels. Now it seems as
if every stock agency is announcing new video collections. If you read
the forums you’ll find out that a lot of the new “creators” of stock
don’t even care that much about money! Many of them, and perhaps
rightfully so, spurn the pressure associated with making money and would
rather just enjoy seeing their images being used. Many more are quite
content just earning enough to buy that new lens.
As with so many of my images it has taken two years from the inception
of my idea to the final execution. Why so long? I wish I knew! I
think I get this belief that an idea is going to be really difficult to
create, then I procrastinate. As it turns out, this image was easy to
I was looking at everystockphoto.com this morning. It is a search
engine devoted to finding free stock photos. It got me thinking. What
is the most precious thing we have?
Well, health aside, it is time. Time, in a sense, is on our
side. The number of stock photos, free and otherwise, is burgeoning and
is only going to increase. The more photos there are, the longer it is
going to take to find the one that is right for a given use and
client. Flicker (which everystockphoto.com accesses) has, for example,
at the time of this writing, over 2 billion images. Let’s see, at three
seconds per image, to see them all it would take over... oh never mind.
So you need a stock photo, and you don’t have much money, so you start
looking at free stock photos.
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Your estimate is an opportunity to help you get better jobs, to do a
better job on each assignment, and to put your career on the fast track
to success. How can your estimate do all those things? Your estimate
can guide you to a well thought-out approach to an assignment, it can
set you apart from your competition, it can insure that you have the
resources to do the job to the best of your ability, and finally, an
estimate can make sure that you are building a quality reputation rather
than one that speaks of mediocrity or even worse.
Successfully competing in the world of stock photos requires great
ideas, superior execution, and effective distribution. In this article
we will take a look at the “ideas” part of the equation. Having a great
idea is the foundation of stock photography production, as it makes
both the execution and the distribution easier. If you have an idea
that is needed in the market place and gets you excited about doing it,
it is hard to imagine that you won’t do well. Great ideas combined with
superior execution will certainly make getting distribution easier.
Coming up with great ideas is a simple, three-step process: Intention,
practice and retention.
In March of 2004 a new experiment began in the stock photography
industry. A group of the industry’s top shooters got together and
founded Blend Images. This new agency specializes in producing images
celebrating ethnic diversity. The need for ethnically diverse content
permeates the stock industry…every agency needs it. Blend Images was
created to address that need, and does that with an exemplary roster of
photographers. As Rick Becker Leckrone, Blend Images CEO, puts it, “We
only brought in top selling stock shooters to start Blend, and we’re
really choosy with whom we offer contracts to shoot for Blend
The author, a long time professional stock photographer discusses the
importance of backgrounds in stock photos, how to shoot them and the
immense need for them. He provides the user with useful examples and
Despite the glut of images in the world of stock photography, there is
still a huge and ongoing need for well done, relevant, lifestyle stock
photos. In addition to the ever expanding market and the need to
address changing fashions, there are still large holes in the libraries
To succeed in today’s insanely competitive world of stock
photography it is vital to have your photos seen. No matter how great
your pictures are is if no one sees them, they aren’t going to sell. In
this article I will share a strategy for getting your images seen, for
getting effective distribution and for strengthening your business
photography tips. Have you ever wondered why the shot that looked so
good through the viewfinder just doesn't look right when you view it
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Your life can be a
great source of inspiration for your stock photography. I am going to
provide a number of examples of how I have used my life experiences
including visits to the doctor and even my own surgeries to directly
benefit my stock photo career. Stock pictures are all around us, but
often we just fail to realize it. If you can stay aware and observant
you will find your own life can provide some great inspiration,
locations, models and more.
The largest market for stock photography is one that most
photographers would not immediately think of. The largest market for
stock photography is the consumer. Tapping into this huge market can be
done with a simple three-step process. You have to have images that
the consumer wants and or needs, you need to make those images available
to the consumer, and you have to promote the pictures.
One way to succeed in stock photography is to create concept photos that
fill a need for lifestyle or business uses, and provide a strong enough
visual impact to grab a viewer’s attention. In this article I will
take you through the process from idea to completed image sharing my
process for coming up with ideas, my criteria for a successful stock
photo, my shoot methodology, and an overview of my post-shoot digital
Finding a picture to advertise or promote your business can be
distilled down to a three step process. First, determine exactly what
your goals for the picture are. Second, find the image you need. Third,
complete the transaction.
We will take a look at each of these three steps and provide some guidelines for successfully navigating the process of finding and securing the use of the best image to promote your business.
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To make a good living at creating and licensing stock photography you
need two things. You need a body of high caliber images that are
relevant to the market place, and you need effective distribution. It
has never been easier to get started in stock photography, but in recent
years it has also become increasingly difficult to earn a good living
from it. The market is simply saturated by images with literally
millions of additional images becoming available each year. There are
more images available online at this time than a person could ever look
at. The premier problem becomes getting your images seen by those who
are looking to license images. That is where distribution comes in.
When was the last time a page of type caught your eye? Whether in print,
on a billboard, or on the Internet, getting people to stop and read
your message is paramount. Photographs provide a quick, universal and
powerful message. The right photo can get a viewer to stop and read
that all-important copy. On the Internet it can be even more important
to have an image that reads quickly and clearly even at thumbnail
size. Finding the right photograph to advertise your business can be
the most crucial step to success with your enterprise.
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Pictures of a lighthouse are ubiquitous. Pictures of lighthouses
range from serene sunsets to images of lighthouses in raging storms.
Lighthouse pictures can show short squat lighthouses or shots of
lighthouses that are tall, slender and majestic.
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Animal Antics Line of Humorous Greeting Cards - Funny Pictures of Animals Doing Wild and Crazy Human Things!
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Why shoot motion for Stock? The primary reason, from a business
perspective, is that motion is a growing and lucrative segment of the
stock photography market. The use of motion is exploding. We see it
everywhere, from the gasoline pump to billboards to pervasive use on the
Internet. Every major, and quite a few minor, stock agencies are now
offering footage. In a recent survey of stock photographers who
participate in both motion and still photography, all but one respondent
indicated that stills sales were dropping while motion sales were on
the rise. In my own experience five out of my top twenty selling stock
images over the first quarter of this year were film clips!
The journey began with senior art director Collette Kulak. We have
collaborated for many years on the Animal Antics line of greeting cards.
The cards feature animals in humorous anthropomorphic poses. Every few
months we would create a new batch of images for the greeting card line,
and in this batch one image stood out, massage cats. We always work
from a layout, and in this layout one cat was wearing a turban-wrapped
towel and lay on a massage table receiving a massage from another.
Laughter reduces our cravings for food, reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, increases our threshold for pain and in large enough quantities even provides a workout! But even more, laughter is about social relationships…it is about communicating shared understanding and approval. It is about intimacy. If you’ve ever been to an online dating service you know one of the most sought-after qualities is the ability to “make me laugh”.
If I have learned anything about cats through my photography sessions with them, it is that they are only motivated by one thing…food! I have to admit that even though they are difficult to shoot, they certainly are fun to work with. Fun, that is, if you aren’t in a hurry! As with photographing any animals, patience is paramount. I am always amazed at the number of different expressions I can get from cats if I just exercise a little patience, and the proper treats!
It's simply incredible what you can do with high quality photographs of elephants and back drops when you know your way around Photoshop. Here is proof that these incredible creatures can fly, walk tightropes and even disco dance!
I have been shooting pictures of funny animals for advertising clients, corporations, designers and magazines for 30 years. Much of it has been serious work with large budgets and copious amounts of pressure. I have had repeat clients who appreciate my ability to perform for them. But it wasn’t until I started creating the funny animal pictures that I could actually see that I brought something positive to people’s lives.
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Photographing dogs is never boring…and seldom easy, even with cute puppies. While dogs consistently want to please they often are completely at a loss as to what is wanted from them during a photo shoot. Some breeds have too much energy, some too little. Some dogs are so alert that any extraneous noise becomes a distraction while others are so laid back that getting an alert look seems impossible. To insure a successful shoot takes preparation, patience…and a professional animal trainer!