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...