Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Not appropriate for stock

I shot this yesterday while my kids played at the playground. Instantly, I fell totally in love with the shot, but, I won't be uploading it as stock. I've had sufficient bug and critter image rejections over the past month to know not to bother. The fact that the picture won't be making me any money doesn't make me love it any less. In fact, I kinda like that this one was "just for me".

The experience serves as both a reminder and an inspiration. When I'm shooting for stock, I've got to focus on creating useful images. But, while I'm at it, why not also try for images that mean something? Looking over my portfolio, if I'm completely honest with myself, I see a lot of pretty boring, uninspired work. (Yeah, I know, I'm a great salesman and marketer...) But, how many of the images in your portfolio do you love? How many inspire you?

Maybe this is part of the journey. First, create acceptable images. The agencies can't sell what they don't accept... Get the technicals down, learn to use the gear, learn to light, learn to work with models, etc. Then, begin to work at creating what will sell. Maybe getting really good at this step is all you need to be successful. But, I think to be really happy, I need something more. Strive for some meaning in the images. Inspire emotion, tell stories, go for an occasional wow. I'm not there, and maybe I never will be, but I've got to try.

Monday, October 12, 2009


As I frequently think about what piece of gear I *need* to buy next, I thought I'd have a look at the stuff I've already bought. A while back I listed approx $10k in camera, lenses, light modifiers, strobes, flashes, and various other gear. While I use just about all of this stuff, my stated goal here is to use the gear to take pictures, which I then sell as microstock to pay back the cost of the gear. The following is a look at what portion of my purchases are being put to use.

My typical stock shoot setup uses the following:

1 kid, shot on 104-inch-wide white seamless. $160 for the paper and the stands to hold it.
2 AlienBee 400s to light the background, on cheap stands with umbrella reflectors. $580
3 sheets of fiberglass panel to make a durable, white, glossy floor. $90
AlienBee 400 in a 64" PLM umbrella, in a softbox configuration on a cheap stand. $350
48" Reflector on a reflector stand as fill. $100
Tripod and ball head $235
D90 $1000
Nikon 80-200 2.8 $1300 (I love this lens in my current garage studio!)

That's $3800! It would seem I've spent a lot on gear that isn't going to help with the cause here... If I only knew then what I know now, I may have chosen differently.

I definitely love some of the "other $6200" stuff. My Nikon 17-55 2.8 DX is an awesome walkaround lens, and is almost always on my D90, except when I'm in the garage shooting stock. I love taking pictures of bugs, so the 60mm Micro is also a lot of fun. My 2 SB-600's work great with the D90's CLS, I just don't use them to shoot much stock.

Overall, the stuff that is hopefully going to pay the bills and the fun toys were purchased at a roughly 40:60 ratio. I wonder how that compares to others' experience.

In the future, I'll have to weigh how much I want something against how likely I'll be to use it to generate income. Or maybe I need to separate the "toy" budget from the "tool" budget. A 4th strobe would be a nice next "tool", whereas a 200mm f4 Micro would be a totally awesome next "toy"!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Lightboxes and Organization

There's a lot I like about, but my favorite feature of the day is the ability they give their contributors to organize and present their content in Lightboxes. I've only begun to take advantage of the feature, as it does take some work. But, now that I have enough images uploaded that grouping them makes sense, it was time.

I started with images of Jessica. I wanted anyone looking at one of her images to have an easy link to the others, so I added them all to a lightbox. (Basically, a subset of my images, managed on the contributor pages at iStock.) Then, I created the following graphics:

I did have to host the images somewhere, so I used my own domain, but I assume photobucket or other free options would also work. Since iStock allows uucode embedding into image descriptions, all I had to do was edit every image of Jessica, adding code to each of them that looks like:


Next steps: more lightboxes, by theme and by model.

Monday, October 5, 2009


When iStock rejects a submission, I usually try to determine if I can fix the problem. Recently I figured out what "The execution of isolation contains stray areas that are either too feathered or rough." meant. I spent last weekend fixing almost every image rejected for this reason in the past few months. But, resubmitting a rejected image to iStock uses up a second upload slot. (It is also way more painful than initial submissions using DeepMeta) So, I have to decide for each one: Do I resubmit the corrected image, or do I shoot something new and submit that?

I've resubmitted two out of a dozen or so, but I'll probably save the others. I don't think I'll have too much trouble keeping a full queue of 15 new images each week. Maybe someday they'll raise the limits, and I'll have room for these oldies. In the meantime, these rejected images are up and selling at Shutterstock and Fotolia. (Every agency is picky in their own special way- this particular problem is really only an issue at iStock. It's pretty hard to detect, and the other sites either didn't catch it or don't care.)

What do you do with your rejects? Fix 'em and resubmit, or abandon them?

The image above was rejected because some lettering was visible on the buttons of her shirt, not a full brand name or logo, though. I cloned out these letters and did resubmit this one, since I like it a lot.