Friday, May 22, 2009


I'm taking the girls to see the grandparents, but not without my camera (plus just a few lenses, filters, flashes, laptop, chargers, SD cards, etc..) About a month ago I bought a Lowerpro 200 single-strap backpack thingy. I almost got the smaller 100, but figured I could use a little room to grow. And before I could really even use it, it's way too small. So I had to order one of these:

Found it on Amazon.

It looks big, but it was surprisingly easy to fill up... I'm pretty sure it won't fit under the seat in an airplane, but it should fit overhead. (It better!)

On the stock front, no sales yet, but I'm seeing a few views at least on both Fotolia and iStockphoto. I uploaded a bunch of stuff to Dreamstime, only to find out they don't accept iStock's model release (everyone else does). So, I guess I'm out of luck there- no way I'm filling out 2x the paperwork just to add one more agency.

I've been watching a lot of online lessons. Mainly the ones at Lynda, which are great. I'm about 7-8 hours into a 14h Photoshop for Photographers class at the moment, and learning a lot. I got the first month of Lynda for free with my Photoshop purchase, but I'll definitely subscribe when that runs out. There's so many great classes there.

I also began setting up a gallery at a domain I bought and had hosted. GoDaddy made it easy to get squared away, and Lightroom plus SlideShowPro plus a custom watermarking action in Photoshop and I'm almost all set. I still need to come up with a top-level "home" page. Might try the Dreamweaver 30day demo for that.

Off to CT in the morning.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Doing my happy dance again.

"Welcome to, the designer's dirty little secret. Congratulations, the iStockphoto administrators have determined that your files are commercially and technically ready for Please begin uploading at your convenience."

Now, even though 3 images were "accepted" in my application, I still have to start over from scratch. So I started uploading, and boy does the default uploader at iStockphoto blow. Very slow, very hands-on, not fun.

So a quick google of "better iStockphoto uploader" found me: DeepMeta - Manage your iStockphoto portfolio, which RULES. I can get all the uploads ready in their free app, then start the batch upload and walk away. Thank you DeepMeta, you rock.

Just FYI, my third approved image was a chess photo from yesterday's post.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Trying again...

Tried again for a few minutes with a semi-cooperative model, and got some more shots to submit. I sent 6 to fotolia for review, and since iStockphoto already accepted 2 earlier, I only had to submit one this round! Not only that, they reset my timer, so it was only 3 days. Now, if today's is rejected I think it'll go back to 6, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I am very lucky to have such a great model at hand! I think I'm mostly limited by my ability to come up with ideas that are fun or interesting enough to keep her entertained while I shoot... I'll have to work on that. Maybe tomorrow we can break out some power tools...

Friday, May 15, 2009


Not being one to stick to the original plan, I sent these three in to iStockphoto for approval. To my happy surprise, 2 of 3 were approved. But #3 didn't quite meet their lighting requirements.

Looking over the image, I can see what they mean. It took a while in lightroom to really get that background white, and I ended up with her face and hair a little too bright in spots, and a little too dark in others. As a result, when I look at the image I feel a little too drawn to the chessboard, and not drawn enough to the beautiful model.

I reshot today, but couldn't get exactly perfect before said model got bored, below I'll show some of the attempts. You might also notice said model had frosting and crumbs on her face and the remains of a painted-on "unicorn pegasus" from Tuesday... The lesson: make sure your model takes a bath once in a while, and washes her face and brushes her hair before your photo shoot.

A little better, but I'll keep trying for a better expression... I do like the shallow depth-of-field shot of the chessboard though. I might see how they like these two at Fotolia, they seem a little more forgiving of my less-than-perfect backgrounds.

In the meantime, I'm loving Kelby Training! For a meager $20 a month, I'm watching hour after hour of training on general photography, Lightroom 2.0, and Photoshop CS4. Beats watching TV and learning nothing, but don't get me wrong- I haven't missed an American Idol episode yet.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A little Lightroom goes a long ways.

Still working on getting this completely blown out background in-camera, but in the meantime there's always gradient and local adjustment in Lightroom. This was accepted into my fotolia portfolio this morning.

Later yesterday evening, Model #1 and I played out an actual game of chess- her first ever. She loved to deliver a maniacal evil cackle every time she took a piece. I'll have to work on some more photos showing that side of the game...

Why oh why can't it be white?!!?

I love this shot, I'm happy I got it. It's a good picture.

But I didn't bother submitting it. What I wanted, what I know *they* want, is the background to be perfectly, completely, utterly white. I can get it looking pretty good with some time and effort in Lightroom and/or Photoshop, but I want to do it in-camera. And I want to do it with my 2 SB-600 Speedlights.

What I'm trying so far is putting the camera in commander mode. Camera is in manual, I'm choosing 1/125 - ish shutter speed and varying f/stop to taste.
  1. On camera flash set to -- or TTL -1.3 (trying some use as a fill flash).
  2. One on the floor aiming up at the background, behind my subject, set to TTL +1.
  3. One behind an umbrella, camera left or right, aimed at subject, pretty close, set to TTL 0.
Maybe I need to take 2 and 3 up a notch? Maybe I need to go to manual mode on the flashes?

I resolve to spend some time on this tomorrow and at least get it better.

(Putting the flash directly behind the subject aimed straight back seemed like a good plan, but the CLS was iffy with no direct line of sight to the camera...)

Monday, May 11, 2009


Two more thumbs-up (and about 8 rejections) this morning. Still no views or sales but every day I get a better idea of what they are looking for, and find new ways to mess up a picture...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

More good news!

Two more accepted images. I've heard plenty of times that more pictures of bees or flowers are not needed, so I submitted two pictures of bees and flowers. And both were accepted! (I should note that I probably took a hundred pictures, I thought these two were probably the best for stock- not necessarily my favorites though.)

Podcasts have made me paranoid, so the above are very low-resolution and watermarked- sorry. Can always see the bigger versions in the fotolia portfolio.

Three days, three images, 0 views

It's been three days since I did the happy dance of my first photo acceptance at fotolia. Ever since, I've kept one eye on my portfiolio there, watching the views/sales figures. As far as I can tell, the only person to view my images so far was the wonderful inspector who gave them their initial approval.

So, I guess it goes like this:

  • First, you hope to get something accepted.
  • Then, while you try to get more images accepted, you also hope for views.
  • When you do start seeing views, you can start hoping for a few sales.
  • Once you see some sales, you can hope for more sales.
Fits in with basic human nature I guess, never happy and always wanting more...

But it helps to have a plan. Here's mine:

  1. Build my portfolio on fotolia, but once I have 10 accepted there, I'm going to have a shot at shutterstock. There, they have an "audition" process, where you must submit 10 images. If 7/10 are accepted, you are approved to submit more images. If not, you can try again in 30 days.
  2. Once I am approved at shutterstock, I'll try istockphoto again. Their approval provess is that you submit 3 images. If they approve them, you can then submit images for sale. If not, you get put in "time out". Your time out doubles with every rejection, and my next one will be 30 days. So when I do submit my next set, I want it to be good.
  3. Once I'm accepted at iStockphoto, I'll coutinue to submit to all three. If I eventually see sales, I'll watch what sells where, and possibly consider exclusivity somewhere.
  4. Anything more would be thinking too far ahead, but someday, I'd like to make this a part time job and earn part-time income. We'll see if I can make it to that level. Clearly I have a long road ahead, but as long as I enjoy the trip, I'm in!

Friday, May 8, 2009

More Bees

Back up on the ladder again today... I think tomorrow I'll try adding extension tubes to the 60mm Macro lens.

May not be stock suitable, but it was a fun morning!

Speaking of stock, once your photos are accepted for sale, that's only the beginning! From there on out you can watch the views/downloads in real time... Though I've refreshed my browser maybe 50 times now, I'm still at 0/0. Gotta start somewhere though. (Platitudes are fun.)

Midnight Oil

Hopefully, the neighbors won't start to think I'm nuts.

Yesterday I was up on a 10' ladder, surrounded by bees, sticking my camera into a bunch of cactus flowers...

And then last night, just after midnight, I was out in the middle of the street with a big camera on a tripod. Taking pictures of my house in the dark...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Getting Started in Stock Photography

I got this idea in my head that it could be fun to try my hand at microstock photography. It'd give me a bit of a creative outlet, get me shooting more pictures, and improve my photography knowledge and skills. Plus it sounded pretty easy!

So I signed up on iStockphoto, and sent in three old photos I kinda liked.


"At this time we regret to inform you that we did not feel the overall composition of your photography or subject matter is at the minimum level of standard for iStockphoto. Please take some time to review training materials, resources and articles provided through iStockphoto."

In other words, "Nice try, but you suck. Try harder."

Not to be discouraged, I read a LOT, took a ton more pictures, and tried again.


Same message. I decided I needed more gear, better stuff. Plus I kept reading and trying to learn as much as I could. The articles they link you to in iStockphoto are actually pretty good, and they do give you a pretty good idea of what they want.. So, I set up a little studio, and got some shots of the kids that I totally love. (I know, I'm not an objective opinion here, but they were pretty good shots.)


"These images are very similar in subject matter or style. We would like to see a demonstrated range of diversity and variety in subject matter, so if you have anything else you can show us we would love to see it."

This one was a bit confusing. No indication whatsoever whether they liked any/all/none of the photos, only that as a set, they weren't diverse enough. Would have been nice to hear something like, "we liked this one, hated that one", or perhaps a tiny bit of direction.... Ah well, time to think about the next submission!

The only problem is, every time you get dinged the "time-out" appears to double. So it's up to two weeks now... I needed another plan. Perhaps another microstock agency? I looked around, and found There, they approve or reject as you submit, but there's no waiting period after a rejection. And there's no "approval" or "audition" phase. This provided me an opportunity to shorten my learning cycle, and see some more immediate progress (hopefully).

So I picked out a few of the newer pictures I thought were pretty good, and loaded them up in threes, waiting for feedback before sending in the next 3.


"We regret to inform you that photo was not accepted. Your photograph did not reach our desired level of aesthetic quality." x 6


"We regret to inform you that photo was not accepted. Photographs submitted to Fotolia are available for sale and must meet high technical standards. Your image did not meet our technical qualifications." x 3

Another week of more practice, more reading, podcasts, blogs, and then I made a new set of 3 pictures. No, I didn't take them, I made them. (See, I really have been reading and listing to podcasts, honest.)


"Congratulations! Fotolia has approved and selected your photo . The image is now available for sale." x 3

I really wanted to do a little happy dance. I knew when I sent in my first photos to iStock that they weren't good enough, but the point was to get good enough. I'm not there yet, but this first acceptance really felt good! Now on to making more, and better! But first, here are the three that finally made the grade:

The process so far was a LOT of work, but I have seen tremendous progress in my ability to compose a picture and then expose it properly. I bought 2 SB-600's and I'm learning better lighting. (Started by taking them off the camera, of course.) Most importantly, I'm having a ton of fun, and shooting hundreds of pictures (deleting most, but hey...) every single day.

Here's my favorite (so far) from today: