Much has changed in nature, stock, and professional photography in general over the last decade and many working photographers are dealing with those changes daily.
When I look at today’s markets for nature photography I see many huge market changes and still see some markets that remain the same. Calendars for example still need beautiful landscape imagery as well as specialty subjects to fill their calendars like: Cats, Dogs, Love, and other themed calendar titles.
Advertising has changed and how advertisers license images has changed as well with Microstock models and the decline in print and the growth in online advertising.
How photographers deal with these changes and find areas of the market where they can shine will vary from one to the other. With the increasing cost of travel and tight markets for nature images, planning month long road trips across the USA gets a lot more scrutiny than in years past.
Consider a different approach
One approach I have taken is to review images I have shot over the last 35 years and consider ways to make them relevant again for current markets.
You might have heard the term that Concept is King and it is true. In years past and prior to the internet, photo buyers would call me or my agency and ask to review images that symbolized a specific concept like Teamwork, or Family, or Success.
There are thousands of concepts that client might look for and they change as trends, styles, technology, and life in general changes. And some of my best selling images usages were used based on filling a concept need.
These days I spend some time looking through images and seeing how I might change or composite an image to make it marketable today.
Photoshop can turn an idea into a marketable photo and here is an image I just created from a series of three images, all shot in different locations and years apart.
This series of images are just a few that were shot in Arches NP during a workshop I taught there in 2009. We were hiking to our morning location for sunrise and I noticed these fin like rocks silhouetted against the brightening sky. I stopped and shot a series of horizontals and verticals.
Why? For a future unknown photo composite. If you read outdoor magazines you might come across an image usage of a person jumping from one rock to another. You might see this often because it is a popular concept. So I shot these rocks for a future image composite and this image is the first.
I shot this image of my buddy Tom of Kirkendall-Spring Adventure Photographers in 1979. Yes, 1979, when we were rock climbing in Santa Barbara.
This image is a model I hired during one of my large stock photo production shoots 10 years ago where I took two models on a location shoot for 10 days, shooting biking, climbing, camping, and more.
Putting it all together
To make the composite i opened the Arches NP image and optimized it, then select and cut out Tom from the Santa Barbara image as well as the woman climber in the third image and composited them into one image. The smaller I made them the bigger the rocks appear.
If you are wondering why I just don’t shoot it for real there are several reasons. I don’t know if you can climb in the park at this location, I don’t have any rock climbing friends in Moab, and cost. It’s much cheaper to create a composite on the computer.
And concept images don’t need to be real events captured in real time. Buyers of this style of imagery rarely care about anything other than the message the image conveys.
This image has yet to enter my stock website or my agencies, so just how well it does remains to be seen. What I hope is that this very simple image states a strong concept to the right client in need. It could be a double page spread in a magazine or composed as a single.
I also created a second image with just one climber for a slightly different concept.
I believe that today the idea of Taking Pictures to market should be give way to a more relevant idea of Building Photographs for the Markets. This change in strategy can provide more profitable results.