It’s common for photographers to wonder what they should be photographing or to ask the same of their stock agents. We all want to make money as our businesses rely on a steady stream of cash flow, but what should we photograph?
There is often no easy answer since we capture images for a client we don’t know yet if we are in the stock business. Many nature and wildlife photographers, unless on assignment, photograph what appeals to them with no client or market in mind. It can be like throwing mud and hoping it sticks.
In some ways you can look at images for license as two types: one with broad market appeal and the other with a niche market appeal. I have done many assignments and my stock agent used to encourage me to negotiate stock usage for all my assignment images.
While a photograph of the customer service representative wearing a telephone headset and smiling at the computer would have broad appeal, the person repairing the air conditioning system would have less.
The same ideas are at play in outdoor photography. Two elk battling during rut would likely have a broader market appeal than a spider and web in the corner of a garage. While the elk image would appeal to the publisher creating a calendar on Rocky Mountain wildlife, the spider would not.
When you are planning to photograph for profit, be mindful of the purpose behind the photos you plan to create. Look for reasons to spend the time and money to travel somewhere to capture a specific location by researching who those images might appeal to. Strive to create images that have broad appeal while not totally rejecting the niche image.
Photographing with purpose means different things for photographers based on their goals and it should mean creating images for an intended audience for those photographers in the business. Rather than simply going out to shoot with no plan, begin looking at the subjects and ideas that really get your creative juices flowing and then begin to think how to turn this into a concept project or series.
Many photographers take this approach. They come up with an idea and some are very large projects like James Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey. Others projects are smaller and more local. Again, consider a local idea that excites you such as a local or regional park that you regularly photograph. Consider approaching the park personnel about photographing the park for a gallery showing. Often these projects tend to grow and turn into bigger opportunities by networking with others or selling some prints.
If your passion is to photograph simply for the joy then consider yourself lucky, but if you photograph for a living begin to photograph with a purpose behind your work, an end goal, a reason to be creating these images for the greater good and your business.
If you have any thoughts please leave a comment.