Wednesday, October 27, 2010


There's some work I'll still do for free. Today I lugged 2 AB400's, 2 SB-600's, 4 umbrellas, 6 lightstands, my new Yongnuo radio triggers, and a 4' roll of white seamless to my daughters first grade classroom. Carrying all of that gear reminded me of my days as a divemaster, when I'd carry my gear, an instructor's gear, and sometimes student gear as well. I'd look and feel like a shambling mound of baggage...

This was the setup:

I shot about 47 kids in an hour and a half. 2-5 shots of each, depending on the kid and the results. Then, I spend the afternoon cropping, dodging the background a bit, and generally tweaking the images in lightroom. Two images of my final 103 hit photoshop for a quick touch. The result?

I suppose we could call today's efforts "marketing"? "Personal work"? Call it what you will, I had a heck of a fun day. The punchline? I get to do it all over again tomorrow for my preschooler's class! Think I'll get to bed early...

Not one misfire on the Yongnuo's. This was their first real test, and I must say, I'm sold. And they only set me back $80 for 2 transmitters and 2 receivers.  (The N1 Nikon set for my D300s is a little more expensive than some of the other sets. Buying the right set for your camera lets you also use them as a wireless shutter release! I haven't tried this yet but I will soon.)

10/28 Edit, the Preschoolers:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Getting paid to take pictures.

After casually showing people my work month after month, shooting soccer games, karate classes, school events, etc., and posting the pictures, I suppose it was inevitable. Someone asked, "Where did you take that?" Someone later asked, "You took that? Nice."

A few months later it was, "Could you take our Christmas card photo next year?" and "My daughter's birthday is coming up, can you do pictures like Sears can?" Or, "Can you take a picture for me sometime?"

Still later, it's become, "Are you free this weekend to shoot ____? How much?"

This was really hard for me. How much? "I'll do it for free because I love taking portraits!" Then, "Oh, whatever you think it is worth." Poor self image? Maybe.

Now, many months later, I'm up to: "I charge $X for a sitting, which does not include the prints. I'll post the images and you can order any prints, t-shirts, mugs, whatever you like. These are the prices."

I'm still charging less than I want to, but I'm not busy with jobs. If I ever get busy, I'll assume I am good enough to charge more. In the meantime, I am having the time of my life, and learning more and more every day.

The photo above is my favorite from yesterday's shoot. I love it. (Yes I know there is a tiny bit of tree growing out of her head. I made a mistake. I wish I'd bent my knees one more inch. But I love it anyway.)

Sky: 55mm f/9 1/250 sec.
Subject:  SB-600 in an umbrella above camera, full power, aimed down onto subject's face.

Monday, October 4, 2010

October is off to a good start.

To expand on a recent theme, I got back into the studio with model #2 this morning, and grabbed about 100 frames. 25 or so made the cut, and I've already edited 7. On shots like this, the editing goes as follows:
  • Nuke any intruders. (Paper seams/wrinkles, umbrellas at the edges, hair or dirt on the floor.)
  • Sanitize. In a shot like this, I avoided some with advanced application of gaffer tape, but there was a lot of cloning and repair tool work inside the case. Motherboard logo, gfx card logo, printing on the cables, etc. I helped myself a lot by dressing my model in logo-free clothes.
  • Check that the in-camera isolation went well. Sometimes there's a few stray hairs floating in space...
  • Cleanup any visible smudges or ugly spots.
  • Lighten the floor a bit. (It's getting dirty, so I quickly mask it off and lighten it just a little.)
  • Check for CA. (Purple fringing.) Here, I had a bit at the right edge of the computer case, which was right at the leading edge of my main light. (super high contrast...) Easy enough to remove from a nice straight edge. (Thanks Nicolesy, I tried your method and it was better than the process I'd been using.)
Fifteen to twenty minutes per image, I'd guess. This much effort makes me more selective about my picks. I think I might also just upload the first 10 or so, and wait on the reviewers' verdict. Then, edit and upload the rest later if things go well.

There's lots of variations on the above, with various other implements of construction/destruction. And I still have at least one more set I want to attempt before I try putting that computer back together... I'm starting to lose faith that it's going to make it through POST after all this abuse...

Parting thought #1: If it takes 2-3 years for an image to earn it's money, then why on earth do I waste my time checking my earnings 50 times a day? I have the awesome PicNiche contributor toolbar, two iPhone apps, and I leave browsers on two different computers open to my iStock earnings page. I just can't help it. I swear, the day they invent a cyber-implant that rings a bell in your ear for every sale, I'll probably be the first in line.

And #2: $117.08 for September. Best month ever.

Friday, September 24, 2010

September Fun

It's been fun getting back into the studio with the kids, and working on some new (and some old) image ideas. I had pretty good luck with acceptances for the latest Karate shoot (example below), and have high hopes for the latest "computer (dis)repair" series. The computer images were a bit of a pain to edit, as I had to clone/repair out logos and branding all over the place... In the future, I might spend more time up front physically covering up and/or removing more of the logos. But on this shoot, I used a computer that I thought I might want to actually put back together, so I didn't want to be filing, scraping, or cutting things apart.

I can definitely see improvement in my work, comparing images from last year to this year. Not only are the images looking closer to what I set out to capture, but I also find myself happier with them overall. Not just technically, but artistically. (Plus who doesn't like looking at pictures of their kids?)

Sorry about the watermarks, but I want to be very careful about my new exclusive status at iStockphoto. It's working out well. September will be my best month ever, with my monthly earnings exceeding $100 for the first time. Not enough to start scaling back my other work, but a guy can dream...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back in the studio

After taking it very easy over the summer, we got back into the studio today and had some fun. The above image was my favorite of the day.

As I mentioned, I've been shooting a lot, just not for stock. Since school started back up, I've volunteered (or been volunteered) to be the official 1st grade class photographer, daisy troop photographer, and soccer team photographer. This is all on a volunteer basis, but I'm loading all of the images onto Smugmug. I'll consider it a nice bonus if a few grateful parents order some prints to help cover the cost of my annual membership there. But the above duties give me the opportunity to shoot a LOT, where the results actually matter to someone other than myself. Plus it's a ton of fun shooting all these kids, and I've had so many parents already approach me with compliments on my work. One even booked a portrait shoot- my first!

Since I went exclusive at iStock, my sales have gone up significantly. Must be the improved search engine placement. I feel a strong motivation to "feed the beast" and start uploading more regularly. My upload limit has increased from 15 images per week to 60 per week. I'm wondering how hard it would be to actually produce that many. 8-9 finished images per day, on top of work, taking care of the kids, and my other photography, seems like a lot. But then, 15 was too few, so I'm happy, even if I don't use all of those slots every week.

Yes, I read about the changes at No, I don't think they spell the demise of the agency. And no, I'm not sorry I went exclusive there.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I've been shooting a fair amount lately, but not for stock and not for pay. Call it a personal project I guess. I'm definitely learning a lot and keeping myself in practice, though. I didn't make a conscious decision to take a break, but I just haven't seemed to find the time this summer to set up a decent stock shoot. I'm starting to get the itch, though, so we'll see what I manage to come up with this week... One great thing about stock photography, though,  is that when I take a break from adding new images, the existing ones keep on working. One shoot in particular generates a sale almost every day. Now, I just need to figure out how to shoot more like that! I do understand why these images are selling, but I don't think that what we did was deliberate at the time. The model and I were simply playing around.

Meanwhile, there have been milestones.

1) I've reached the 250 sale mark at iStockphoto, and with my 69% acceptance rate there, I was qualified to go exclusive. So I did, after deactivating my portfolios at Shutterstock and Fotolia. I'm looking forward to only having to upload at one place, and hoping that better search placement gives me enough of a boost at iStockphoto to compensate for the cessation of sales elsewhere. I will certainly keep you posted.

2) My brother noticed one of my images of Model #1 in Sports Illustrated! It's a tiny 1 cm x 1 cm picture, and it probably only made us a dollar or two, but I must confess that this one made me pretty happy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

New Series: Karate Girl

As the number of photos featuring model #1 in her gi grows, we've hit the point where it made sense to group them in a lightbox, with a link to the lightbox in each image's description. I described how I built these links in an earlier post, and others have described similar procedures as well. (Search the iStockphoto forums or google for more help.)

These images are selling slowly, but I consider the set a personal project, with the following benefits:

1) I am learning a lot, trying to light a fair-skinned blonde girl in a white suit against a white background. Right out of the camera, some images are slightly too dark for my taste. In such images, the gi separates clearly from the background but the skin tones are too dark. And underexposed skin can be brought back up in post, but it looks noisy and wrong. In other images, the skin looks great and the face is crisp and sharp, but the right-side edge of the uniform fades right in to the background. Eventually, I'll get skin tones and razor-sharp facial features, while still separating the white gi from the background, all the way around. I can't put a light right on her face, she'll move out of it as she jumps around kicking and punching... Maybe I can partially block off a second light, so that it's neck-level and above...

2) I've learned my lesson about isolating the subject completely. Every time I cut her out, feet and all, I get rejections. If I leave the white floor slightly less than pure white, and leave some shadow, I have far better luck with the inspectors. 

3) I continue to refine my lighting setup. Currently it is: White seamless paper background, lit by 2 AB-400's metered to f:15. Large parabolic Paul Buff umbrella/lightbox on an AB-400 camera right, feathered across the front of the subject, metered to f:8. Reflector camera left for fill. The floor is painted white epoxy, with some grit to make it less slippery that also textures it just a bit. Minimal post processing is required, unless she moves way off her mark. Occasionaly, she'll be way out of position, but give me such a great look that I'll spend whatever time I need to cleaning up the image in post. Maybe I shouldn't fall too much in love with an image that's way off in-camera, but sometimes I just can't help myself. I tell myself I'm learning better editing skills in the hours of cutting-out, clone stamping, and level and color adjusting.

4) As my model earns each new belt, we shoot a new session or two. She learns Karate, I learn to shoot and process images, and mom gets lots of great pictures of her kid. Win/Win/Win. Oh and we get paid (a little).

Friday, June 4, 2010

iStockphoto 200th Download

Karate Girl Kicks

I hit 200 downloads at iStockphoto this morning, moving a bit closer to eligibility for their exclusive contributor program. I'm thinking of opting in, for the following reasons:

  1. Relatively easy uploading and release management with DeepMeta.
  2. The appeal of only having to manage one image collection.
  3. More than half of my earnings come from iStockphoto already.
  4. More allowed uploads per week.
  5. Increased royalties as cannister level increases.
  6. Faster inspections.
I still have 50 more downloads before I'd be eligible, but I'm currently leaning towards exclusivity.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Sure, I was hoping to make a little money in Microstock. And I am. Things even seem to be picking up on that front, though I'm far from earning any kind of a living at it. But let's remember the other goal: improving my photography.

I can absolutely see an improvement. In addition, less and less of the shots I really like are accidental. I'm making deliberate choices in composition, exposure, and lighting in order to achieve a shot I want. It doesn't always work out, but I can remember a time when I wasn't considering any of these factors.

Of course I have a long way to go, and a ton more to learn. But isn't that what makes life/art/photography fun? It is for me.

The above was shot with my latest impulse buy: a Nikkor 105mm Micro 1:2.8. I love it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A break from white seamless: staged indoor images with flash.

To give myself a bit of a break from the white seamless, I've done a couple of shoots in the house with the SB-600's. Both of these sets were shot in TTL mode, on stands, with white shoot-through umbrellas.

It was fun moving around the speedlights to get the look I was after. In the first shoot (on the left), I was attempting to emulate morning window light from the left. I'm happy with the result. In the later shoot (on the right), I tried several different shutter speeds. In the end, I went with a slower shutter to blow out the windows in the background. You can still tell it's a window, but you don't see any of the distracting shapes outside. I also adjusted the depth of field, to blur the background while maintaining a hint of the furniture.

Still wrapping my head around the ability to adjust both shutter speed and aperture to whatever I want, and then relying on the TTL speedlights to expose the subject properly. (Adding +/- to the speedlights to fine tune their exposure, of course.)

My system did tend to underexpose my subjects slightly. I have to remember to watch the histograms and adjust as necessary.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Subject Matters

Yesterday, I submitted three images from a recent outing to a water park.

The response from Shutterstock (always the quickest reviewer by far) is in: Two of the three were accepted, but one was not- blowing a pretty good 100% acceptance streak. Looking at the images today, I agree with the reviewer. I'll tell you what he said in a minute, but first. What would be your verdict on this set? Which would you reject and why?

I had one other rejection, from another set. For the same reason. It was one of these two:

Any guesses?

Here's what the reviewer had to say:

Composition--Limited commercial value due to framing, cropping, and/or composition.

What I think they meant was this: In the rejected shots, you cannot really see a facial expression. This makes it very difficult to form an emotional connection to the image, which evokes no "gut response". Thus, the image isn't really suitable for any kind of storytelling, and probably does indeed have "limited commercial value".

In all of the accepted images, you can clearly see an expression, and can very easily guess the emotional state of the model. You might even connect to one or two of them. Do they evoke any memory or emotion? They do in me, but I am biased.

Of course, there will be exceptions to this general rule. I'm sure there are plenty of great sellers that include a human subject and convey no emotion through facial expression. But, I think that for the stuff I shoot, it'd be a good idea to think about the emotion and storytelling of an image before submitting. If I'm going to all the trouble of creating an image with a human subject, I suppose I may as well include their face. Unless, of course, I have a specific reason not to...

This is probably something that comes up in Photography 101. Unfortunately, that was a class I never managed to squeeze into my ten years of college...

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I haven't lost faith in my original goal of paying back the cost of my gear. However, constantly tracking progress toward short and long term goals, and adjusting and rearranging milestones just isn't that much fun.

How about a new perspective? One like: What new toys can I buy with the money my pictures are bringing in?

This month:

1) A Spider Camera Holster kit, complete with pin, plate, and belt. Seemed like a great idea, I mostly hate straps, though my Black Rapid isn't bad at all.
2) An MD-B10 battery grip for my new D300s. I loved the grip I had for my D90, so I know I'll use this.

There. Wasn't that better than a boring old earnings report?

As far as production went, I had 34 images accepted to at least one of the agencies. iStock's verdict is still out on 8 of these, but they accepted 19 (a few as resubmits) and rejected 3. (The other 4 I didn't submit yet, and may or may not, depending on how many new images I can shoot in May.)

I'd say something about upload or sales goals, but I'm not going to be having any expectations this month. Let's just see how it goes...

Friday, April 30, 2010

One good way to measure a year: Shutter Actuations

Once I was comfortable with my new D300s, I decided not to keep the old D90 sitting on the shelf as a backup. So, I sold it on Craigslist. A potential buyer asked how many shutter actuations it had, which I initially couldn't answer.

I'd had it just over a year, every day of which I took between 0 (shame, shame) and 4-500 pictures. Probably 30 a day on average, so I guessed 10-15k. But, suddenly I *had* to know the actual figure, and no matter how much I looked, I couldn't find it anywhere in-camera.

Opanda Iexif 2.3 to the rescue! 18,504 shutter releases. (Just open any image from the camera with IExif, and scroll around to find all sorts of cool embedded info.)

Poking around a bit more, I noticed that my Lightroom catalog had grown by only about 6-7k images in that same year.

What did I learn?
  1. I shot approximately 50% more than I thought I did in the past year.
  2. I throw out about two images for every one I keep.
Upon deeper reflection, of those thousands of new images on my drives, I'm pretty sure that only a few hundred are any good. I think I shoot a lot that I shouldn't bother with, and I keep a lot that I really should be tossing. I'm going to look into a better selection process.

Oh, and an image from yesterday's stock shoot:
Just a bit underexposed. Looked fine on the back of the camera, but I should have looked more carefully at the histogram. Not catastrophic, but needed a little brightening, then some noise reduction and smoothing in the darker tones. And then some color correction, which still isn't perfect. I'd switched my shutter speed to 1/250, the flash sync speed of the D300s, but I am wondering if the delays that come from optically triggering the AB-400's (which also sync at 1/250) are moving some of the light outside of my exposure window.

There's three things I can think of trying:
  1. more power
  2. shoot at 1/500, 1/250, and 1/125 with the same strobe settings, and compare exposures
  3. use a sync cable
We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Online Lighting Diagram Creator

I'm playing with a really cool online lighting diagram creator today, you can find it here:

I used it to create a diagram of my current setup, which is:

It's still not perfect, but I'm a little bit constrained by the space I'm in, which is pretty narrow. Also, the walls and ceiling are white, and the floor is white tileboard, so I do have a bit of light everywhere no matter what I do.

Typically, I have to do a lot of floor cleanup in Photoshop, and with the model pretty far from the background, I need to stay above 50 mm or so to keep the equipment out of the shots. I want more space to work in!

Failing that, I do have a few ideas to try out, more on these later.

Here's a shot using the current setup:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Optical slaves, a cautionary tale.

I spent about an hour last night thinking my new camera was defective. After repositioning a few of my strobes, trying for whiter backgrounds with less spill onto my subject, I took a few test shots, and noticed that my background wasn't blowing out. This was not completely unexpected, I had moved the lights after all... I watched carefully to make sure that all the strobes were firing for every shot, and they were.

So, I bumped the power a little on the strobes, from 1/2 or so to 3/4 (AB-400's). No luck. Wondering how far off I was, I opened up a lot, from f/8 to f/4. Nope. Dropped from 1/250 to 1/125. That started to help, now some of the background was blowing out. Bumped the AB's to full power, and now I had it, but this seemed like way too much light.

Spot metering with the light meter I almost never use, the background read f/22. So why no blowout? Worse still, as I kept shooting, the background would blow out sometimes, but not always. Had I really moved the lights that much? I didn't think so, but I put them back where they were, and the problems remained.

Before pitching a fit, I sat down and went through all the camera settings, hoping a clue would hit me. And that's when I noticed it. The on-camera flash was set to manual, as usual. But A and B were set to TTL! Ugh. So, my TTL pre-communications were firing all the strobes. After they fired, or at the end of their output, my shutter opened and an image was recorded. Obviously, all of this was way too fast to see by eye. It looked like everything was working fine, until I checked the exposure, that is.

Switching off the A and B units in the commander mode menu fixed everything, almost. Now, at 1/125 f/4 and all strobes at full, EVERYTHING was blown out. Way blown out. Back to about 3/8 power on the strobes, f/8 and 1/250. All better after a few more deep breaths.

Perhaps I should try a sync cord, now that I have a camera with a port... But more importantly, I need to remember the lesson: When it seems like my gear isn't working properly, assume user error, and re-check the setup.

Don't *always* shoot just for stock...

The more I think about building my image libraries at the microstock sites, the more I find myself taking a certain type of pictures. For me, these are fairly evenly-lit shots on pure white, and are full body, waist up, or head and shoulders. In a costume or performing a generalized action, with or without props. After a while, these shots start to look less and less interesting.

Sometimes I have to remind myself to snap a few shots, just for me. Or to process them a little differently, perhaps even in a way unsuitable for stock...

Looking at these makes me happy, in a way that no earnings report ever will.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Baby

Don't get me wrong, I love my D90, but after living with several frustrations for a while, I decided to upgrade.

My reasoning:
  1. Focus. I had problems with the outer autofocus points of the D90. Usually, they'd work fine, but often enough I'd end up with slightly out-of-focus images. I usually didn't notice this while shooting, but only after importing to Lightroom. Grr.
  2. Buffer. I don't burst-shoot in the studio, but I do shoot a lot of images quickly sometimes. Especially when the models are "in the zone". It was extremely frustrating to press the shutter, and get no picture because the buffer was full. Saying, "Perfect! Hold that pose, don't move!" to a 6-yr old is pointless.
  3. I like new toys, and this one has: 
  • A FAR better viewfinder- 100% coverage and so much brighter! I can't emphasize this point enough, looking through the viewfinder was like love at first sight...
  • Dual memory slots (I'll use in backup mode.)
  • Loads of button/knob controls, vs. menu selections.
  • A more solid build, and weather sealing.
  • More, but the above are what mattered most to me when making the decision.
In general, I would prefer to hold off on an upgrade until my current gear is holding me back. In this case, I was starting to feel like it was, even if only slightly.

I did consider the full frame models, but decided against them based on price, the DX lenses I own and love, and the reach of the DX sensor for sports and macro shooting. And I don't shoot that much in low light. Maybe someday...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Today's Shoot

Looking back over some of my older images, I really liked some of my tighter shots, so today I shot a little closer...
I went back to my favorite lens, the Nikor 80-200 1:2.8 AF-S. I also moved my lights around a lot, but still have 2 on the background, 1 overhead and behind the model, 1 in a big parabolic softbox camera right, and a reflector camera left.

I'm much happier with the lighting on my model here than in some of my recent images. Here's two more from today:

On White: Isolated vs. Clean

The image above was accepted at Shutterstock and Fotolia, then rejected by iStockphoto. Unfortunately, as usual, the rejection message was completely unhelpful, as it gives only a vague hint of what the problem is.

The execution of isolation contains stray areas that are either too feathered or rough.

OK. The hair, the feet? The toes? Is it too feathered? Is it too rough? Is there a minor problem somewhere, or is it more of a larger, overall problem?

Yesterday, before this rejection, I was showing a friend the set of isolated images. Personally, I don't love them. They look to much like the model is just floating there. But, they would be easier to insert into a composite image. I decided like this better:

So, I did a few re-edits, and resubmitted versions like the one above, with a little bit of the white floor visible, and a bit of a shadow. Even if a buyer is looking at the images for use in a composite later, they still have to look good on their own, right? We'll see if the iStock inspectors agree, but what do you think?

UPDADE 4/21: It seems the iStock inspectors like these better, the first two resubmits have been accepted. Hopefully there's more to come, but at least I think I learned a little more about what not to do...

UPDATE 4/24: Just about all of the edits, and some new shots where I left the shadow in, have been accepted. It seems that although Fotolia and Shutterstock inspectors don't mind the fully cut-out versions, the iStock inspectors prefer a little shadow and some floor around the feet and legs that's not quite 255 white...

Monday, April 12, 2010

First image found in use!

Michelle at The Sixty Second Parent was kind enough to send me a heads-up. An image of Model #2 having a tea party can be found here.

Although I've tried TinEye and various google searches, this is the only image so far I've seen in use. I look forward to finding the next!


The five from yesterday, plus three more I finished up this morning, were already accepted at Shutterstock. I'm loving their responsiveness. (And their approvals!)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Back in the Saddle

I'm slowly getting back into the shoot/select/edit/keyword/submit cycle. While I seem to have forgotten some of the Photoshop keyboard shortcuts I used to use, and I feel extremely rusty, I'm figuring it all back out. And I've begun using a feature of the PicNiche toolbar for Firefox, the FTP uploader.

I used to use an FTP client to upload to each site (except iStock, for which DeepMeta is awesome). PicNiche makes it easier, simply toggle on whichever sites you want the files to go to, then drag your files from the explorer window (I use a PC) into the toolbar's FTP Upload area. Then click "go". Multiple files to multiple sites in one simple operation, a great feature I should have been using all along!

iStockphoto is closed for uploads due to some technical issues, but I uploaded 4 files to both Shutterstock and Fotolia on Friday, and saw 100% acceptance at both by this morning. (Did they get faster in my absence?) I uploaded 5 more today to each, with 3 still in editing from the same shoot.

Friday's Batch:

Today's Batch:

Just a note on today's batch. I'm not thrilled with the blown out spot on the top of her head. I'm still fussing with an overhead strobe I'm using to try blowing out the floor. It's still not perfect in camera, so I have to clean up the white floor around my model anyway, so I may take out that light and try it somewhere else... Still working on the perfect setup for my 4 lights. Briefly, I have:

1 strobe on each side of the white seamless backdrop
1 strobe on camera right, in a bit parabolic umbrella (reflected mode)
1 reflector at camera left for fill
1 strobe overhead, behind model but obviously spilling onto her, or bouncing too much light

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I haven't retouched this one, and I probably won't. I'm seeing too much wrong with it. I'm happy that I'm back in the "studio", but I feel like I'm fighting with my equipment.

1) I almost got the lighting, but my main is too far to camera right, and the reflector on camera left must be aimed incorrectly. See how much darker the left side of the image is than the right? Not intentional, and I don't like it. Unfortunately, I couldn't see it on the back of the camera in my test shots. Sure, I could probably use the gradient tool in Lightroom to fix this, but I want it right in the camera.

2) Focus. I usually love my 17-55mm 2.8 DX lens. For general use it's awesome, and it's the lens most often on my camera. But here, it's just not focusing:

I'm using autofocus normally, selecting a focus point already near this eye so I don't have to move much to recompose. Shooting at the 55mm end of the lens just as I normally would... The camera thinks it's got focus. I should be able to see individual eyelashes, but I'm not even close.

Tomorrow I'll try my 60mm Micro and 80-200 at 80mm for comparison.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


After the big move to CA, and Model #1 starting Kindergarten, I took a bit of a break from shooting stock. Model #1 was sick of having a camera in her face all the time anyway...

Besides, I was getting a little too obsessed toward the end of last year. I was entering every acceptance, sale, payout, etc. by hand into an Access database, generating charts and graphs to stare at for hours, reading too many blogs, and listening to too many podcasts. Some of this was helpful, and some was a huge waste of time and effort.

Time to take stock (sorry, I couldn't help that one...) and regroup. Today's progress:

  • The 3D Studio: I really love this place. Support emails answered in minutes, images up for sale almost immediately after upload, super fast and super lenient image review (not sure anything was ever rejected...), but there was one problem. Not one sale in about 9 months there. It hurt to do so, but I deleted my images from the site and closed my contributor account there. A step toward going exclusive elsewhere...
  • iStockphoto: Going strong. Now more earnings there than everywhere else combined, by the look of it. Seriously considering exclusivity, but 153/250 downloads to qualify, so I have some time to think it over.
  • StockXpert: Bought by iStockphoto, and apparently my credits there will transfer over. This might put me over the next payout hurdle! (No idea how many credits I had there.)
  • Fotolia: $62 in credit, transferred to paypal. Another payout, and I wasn't even paying attention to my balance there. I had to scan and send in a .jpg of my drivers license to enable payout.
  • Dreamstime: I stopped uploading here once I realized that if I ever did decide to go exclusive somewhere else, that I'd have to wait 6 months due to their lock-in policy. It's in their user agreement, so I did agree to it, even though I never actually read it. (I know, good job genius...) Now I apparently have to disable each image manually, and enter a reason for every one. 57 image disables to go.... I have a $17 balance, which I assume they will be keeping when I close the account.
  • Shutterstock: Halfway to another payout, with sporadic sales. I bet if I uploaded something, sales here would pick back up.
  • Bigstockphoto: $21 balance, very slow sales. Since these guys have (had?) a 90-day lock-in, similar to Dreamstime, I probably won't upload anything new here, and may just close this account as well.
Even just loggin in to all these sites was tiring. How did I upload, keyword, title, and track the sales at all of them? I'll cut back to a reasonable few sites to make this more manageable. Meantime, I'm going to start uploading again, and posting my progress.