Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tech Talk Tuesday





What do these three images have in common you ask????  

I'll tell you in a minute, but first I want to talk about taking your photography to the next level.  Some years ago since people were already asking me to to wedding photography and family photography, I thought I'd try to make some money at it.  That was a very scary thing for me to do, putting myself out there as being good enough to be entrusted with capturing people's precious memories.  But I took a deep breath and pretended I knew what i was doing.  After awhile, however,  I realized that with the time I was spending on the business end, plus the excessive amount of time I was spending perfecting each and every photo I'd give to clients, I figure I was making about $5 an hour.   My fun hobby was not fun anymore.  It was work.  That was back then.  Now I shoot what and when I please, and the fun is back.  However, I've found that with no one looking at my photography with a fine tooth comb, and with no immediate incentive, I've become lazy and I'm not improving as much as I did then.

Meanwhile, through several photo clubs and organizations I'm associated with, I've become acquainted with several photographers who make their livings shooting and selling micro stock.  I had no idea what that was either!  Micro stock photographs are images that anyone can buy over the internet.  If you were putting a newsletter together for your garden club and you wanted to advertise the upcoming sunflower festival, you could go to one of the micro stock websites and within seconds find hundreds, maybe thousands of images of sunflowers you could download and use for a minimal cost.  Otherwise you might have to spend time and money to hire a photographer to take pictures for you to include in your newsletter.  Many customers of micro stock are graphic designers who buy a basic image then change it or add to it to produce what their customer wants.

Here are a very few things I've learned about being a micro stock photographer, at least with istockphoto:
1.  Since you only earn a very small amount for each image that sells, the photographers who are really earning a good living at this have submitted thousands of photos.
2.  You can't just submit any type of photo.  These companies usually are overloaded with photos of flowers, cats and dogs, sunsets - in other words common things that would be easy to find and photograph are usually not accepted.
3.  For every recognizable person in your photos you must have a signed model release - no exceptions.
4.  Before being accepted as a contributing photographer you have to take a test showing you understand what they are looking for in quality and content of photos, then you must submit 3 photos which must be accepted as meeting their standards.  All photos must be at high resolution and are rigorously inspected at 100% resolution for proper lighting, exposure, composition.  No grain, jaggies, fringing, no over processing and filter use in Photoshop, etc.
5.  After you are accepted as a contributing photographer, each image you submit to be placed on the website for sale is inspected by the above standards and then is either accepted or rejected.

So awhile back I got to wondering if my photography would be good enough to get accepted.  I've been following the work of several istockphoto photographers, and they are very talented.  I wondered how my photography would measure up.  I threw that thought out months ago but every so often it  returned.  As I said earlier, I feel like I needed a challenge to make me really look at my photography with a critical eye, or rather have an impartial someone else look at my stuff with a critical eye since one really never knows if family and friends are being honest.  On the other hand, did I really want to know the truth?  I could end up being depressed for months! (not really)

Anyway, I bit the bullet, jumped through their hoops, and submitted my three photos.  Yikes, one was accepted..... which meant two were rejected!  Luckily they give you the reasons why the photos were rejected.  (I forgot to mention they have a system where if you are rejected you have to wait 3 days to submit different photos, then 7 days, then I think it is 2 weeks, then a month, and I think if you don't get accepted by then you have to wait a year.  My disclaimer here, is that I can't exactly remember how that progression goes so don't quote me on that.)

So I took their advice to heart, looked more critically at my photographs, and tried to produce more technically correct images.  And guess what, second time around, all three were accepted!  And that's what the above three photographs have in common.  They were my three accepted photos.  

So now I'll start uploading tons of photos and will soon be rolling in money!  Hummm, I don't think so.  I'll probably see if I can get a few more accepted for fun, but my intention was never to make money.  However, if micro stock photography has sparked a bit of curiosity for you,  HERE is the link to istockphoto, and HERE is a link to a great istockphoto photographer's blog, and click HERE for a link to another great istockphoto photographer's blog.

So in summary, here's my challenge to you photographers who want to improve:  get out of your comfort zone and find ways that will force you to be more critical of your own work.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:  enter a local photo contest, photograph a subject that is totally foreign to you, set up a booth at your county fair and sell your pictures, ask a professional photographer in your area to critique your work, participate in some of the many 'challenges' floating around the photo blogger world, volunteer to take photos of your neighbor's newborn.   Make your own list, then choose the one that scares you the most!!!   I think your photography will improve!