Stock Photos and Personal – continued

Now I’m going to go straight into a couple of pictures and for one of them I’m going to continue my theme of mirror images because I think I can combine an example of personal photography and another take on mirror images.

Kitchen light - half of a shadow

The point here I think is that like many other photographers, I’m fascinated by certain themes or leitmotivs in my photography and one of my recurring preoccupations is with shadows.

This was brought to me again quite recently as I was walking down a street in Rome, Italy and the sun was shining over the awning of a shopfront and then the sun disappeared for a moment and the whole scene was transformed, all the borders, dark areas, all the three dimentional aspects disappeared all I was left with was a whitish wall and a rather tawdry awning.

This emphasized again to me how fleeting shadows are and of how connected they are with the literal interpretation of photography as “painting with light”.

It’s also connected to the days when I used to practice non-camera photography. Because of course when you’re interested in photography personally you don’t have to bother about the types of technical restrictions imposed by a number of commercial agencies and clients. You can shoot pictures on plastic lens cameras, on Lomos, you can use pin hole cameras which you’ve made yourself and if you set things up properly you don’t need a camera at all.

But, once you get into stock photography, editorial photography or advertising photography or any photography where there’s a client, you have to meet the client’s demands. Some clients these days are extremely undemanding which is causing trouble in the world of commercial photography because many people now are looking for free or low cost photographs and they don’t necessarily have any understanding or care of what good pictures are.

So, the first photo I’m going to look at in detail is of the shadow of a light in my kitchen. I think I said before that I like to get up early and in this case I was standing making a cup of tea when I saw that the early morning sun had come through my window and made an image or shadow of my kitchen light on a cupboard door. It was a graphic pattern but then it clouded over and all was lost.

I waited two or three days and at last I was rewarded by a similar pattern of sunlight. I’d already decided to take the photo, if you like, in two parts because in this particular picture I wanted to emphasize total symmetry. This doesn’t mean of course that I think there’s some rule about symmetry or that symmetry is in itself a good thing, I just felt that it suited the pattern here.

Also I felt that by using this technique I could make a picture with a much higher pixel count and therefore a better quality of definition than by shooting the whole thing. In other words what I did was I used a medium telephoto setting on my 80-200 zoom lens to take only one half of the shadow.

Later in the computer I created a separate layer for the image, increased the canvas, made a duplicate of this half and then flipped it over and then gradually joined the two halves together until I had made a composite of the two identical halves – in other words, a mirror image.

Now this is what I consider to come in the ‘personal’ pictures category. I don’t have any obvious view of whether it would sell as a stock picture. It certainly hasn’t yet, but it might. So this is the sort of picture I might take largely to please myself and with what you might call the artistic part of me.

Now when it comes to stock pictures it’s like a lot of things. The world is full of very good photographers who go for one reason or another to what some people think are exotic places – of course not necessarily exotic to the people who live there. Exotic only to the sort of people who look at and buy pictures.

And this means that what you might call the travel area of stock photography is incredibly overcrowded. I think I can say that I’ve been around the world quite a bit.

I’ve lived and worked in and visited several countries in Europe, Asia and Arabia and I can say that many of the pictures that I’ve taken in these countries sell.

As I live in Bulgaria I find that I can do better than most European based photographers for this particular country and there is some interest in it.

Mayday Dancers in Sofia

MayDay dancers in Sofia

So I’ve taken a steady stream of pictures near to home and of course it’s the case that if you live in any other country you can do the same.

I find that pictures of Britain sell pretty well as well.

Buckfast Abbey in Devon

Buckfast Abbey in Devon

However it does seem to me quite important to create what you might call a more niche based approach – pictures which perhaps many people would consider hardly worth taking.

For this reason I’ve taken a number of pictures which a lot of people might think of as boring or ugly or perhaps simply unpictorial if there is such a word and an example is the picture of a cockroach.

This is a picture which needs a certain degree of expertise and suitable equipment.

I took this picture on the kitchen balcony of my house in Ibra in Oman and this type of cockroach – though some people say they’re not cockroaches – are plentiful over there coming largely through the vents in the air conditioning system.

If you find the need to change your air conditioner you might find yourself with a very large number of these beasts.

Perhaps the obvious point with stock photography is that provided the technical requirements are met, somewhere there’s a market for a picture of just about anything that you can see in the world today and it doesn’t necessarily have to capture the excitement of your heart or you mind.

Quite lot of people have expressed an interest in stock photography. So I think for my next post I might have a look at a picture or pictures which have been successful in stock terms and have appealed to me personally.

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