I just completed 9000 downloads and record earnings on a single stock agency. I don’t think there could be a more appropriate time to write this blog. Since I never learnt photography nor was I ever inclined to know the traditional ways of composition or techniques I always found it wrong to address this serious issue which I was unable to discuss with traditional practitioners. After almost 5 years being in the business I feel I can let out some frustration and understanding about photography and how it differs when you do it commercially instead as a hobby.
The most important thing that changed for me after starting to sell images was my choice of a shoot. I suddenly stopped clicking pictures I knew that won’t sell or maybe those which could sell but not at that quality which the situation provided me. I found no point in taking a picture for fun. Earlier I regretted this a lot as an artist. I thought the commercial aspect was curbing my creativity, but I was totally wrong. After say 2 years, I could still get the frames that I ignored with a better perspective and a commercial value. I feel if not art our time is as valuable in life. We might not be interested in earning a lot from our art at a certain time, but when we realize that we can fund the art itself from earnings we start getting serious. Better equipment and accessories surely mean more quality. If this all is bought from the art’s earnings it might ease the load on our regular income which might go to routine living expenses.
Entering stock was about quality standards which meant ‘no noise’, ‘crisp sharpness’, ‘nice colors’ and mainly ‘artistic & saleable’. Shortly since I don’t click any images that require a very high shutter speed I got obsessed with lower ISOs as I always was. None of my image exceeds 100 ISO except for a handful that were lucky to be shot at 200 ISO. This gave me a lot of discipline in terms of holding a camera still for low light pictures that too without a tripod. Though I bought a good tripod later, I still avoided using it unless it was a real long exposure.
This then brings me to another important topic which actually is the title of my blog. What changed during recent years from the past? Most importantly it is the number of photographers that have sprung up from nowhere and majority of them are taking a formal training. Is it because the prices of camera’s crashed??? No I don’t feel so. The SLR still comes in similar price ranges. There are two other major reasons for the change. One, there is a lot of variety available from consumer cameras to SLRs and second, there is no cost of buying a roll, developing and printing involved. If there are 100 photographers today 95% of them don’t even know DARKROOM or the techniques, maybe that’s why Adobe found LIGHTROOM a more marketable name.
With digital cameras having a good automated processing, enhanced colors everyone who clicks starts feeling that he/she is a great photographer. It is positive initially but wasn’t for the photography industry. This was proved when in initial years prices fell due to cheap photographs available in market from amateurs. With photography courses on the prowl there are frequent exhibitions / expositions. One never wonders to look at the technical quality of the pictures in terms of full size viewing.
Generally if 100 (good) photographers are given a single subject, 80% from them who had a course on photography will click similar picture. The rest 20 will click a different picture with more creativity put in, but will it be a sharp shot and good one at 100% viewing size? No one would care especially because they will pass off saying they are not here to sell their art, they are doing it as a hobby. Then why aren’t the real hobbyists taking the view size as lightly as they are?
If any kind of artform has to be saved a serious note and understanding has to be taken by a non-buying audience about the quality of the photography they might get to see with awe. Serious buyers wouldn’t surely miss factors like grain, sharpness and the overall frame. I hate using the term composition these days because the more time I spent in photography the more I realized I could play with people’s mind about composition. Though there were strict composition rules or layouts, they don’t exist any much more. I had many rejections in my initial days of photography till I remained adamant to show my composition structures which were proved by the sales. There was something unique and original about those.
I think all photographers, professionals and hobbyists should try to look beyond their equipment into darkroom and lightroom and explore more possibilities of better pictures using graphic editing softwares like photoshop. If one really surveys it will be found that almost everyone is clicking the same kind of frame and getting the right colors, but are they looking perfect at 100% blowup? Does one know the importance of sharpness or grain? Printing has been a history to me now. I have 40 DVDs containing my photography of last 5 years, but there is not a single image from it that I have printed yet. Never thought of doing that, and maybe never will. This will save paper too. Before printing any images from digital photography also keep in mind the GREEN VALUE of saving paper. The photos we print we don’t see more than 50 times in life. You might as well see them on your TV /computer screens. I can agree that some blowouts and family portraits could be printed for your house interior enhancement.
This blog was not about criticizing any amateur photographers, it was just my view for photographers who really want to feel good about their work… especially with digital photography where everything should be less dependent on your camera processors and more about your post-processing. When we have got rid of the hard-work required in DARKROOM it doesn’t mean we should leave everything to machines and leave everything to the LIGHTROOM. Freak out and create your new rules and be unique! Whether you have a D-SLR or a normal consumer camera does matter but not for creativity. No one can tell this to you better than me knowing that my best-sellers and a high amount of my portfolio images are the one taken from consumer cams randomly, just because they are easy to carry anywhere!
Photo credits: Nikhil Gangavane.