Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Year end thoughts: photography ramblings

As another year comes to an end I have been thinking about the state of photography in this technologically advanced world we live in. We have seen a real shift in the photographic world, and not all of it for the better. Recently we heard about CNN firing its freelancers because amateurs will work for free, and this is what a lot of us are up against.
Stock guru Jim Pickerell states that:

"The core business of providing pictures for commercial and consumer use has moved from hiring a professional photographer to shoot an assignment, to RM(rights managed) stock, to RF(royalty free) and then to microstock. The next paradigm shift will be iPhoneography"
While we see uprisings, revolutions and occupations being documented via Iphone photos and video this will become the standard for how we get our news. In addition Pickerell writes about the the trend of image buyers now getting images from royalty free and microstock at a fraction of what they once paid, and the laws of supply in demand dictating a buyers market.
It paints a bleak picture for those of us trying to make a living at this, and in the horse industry we have seen some lively debates regarding the changing times of horse show photography with many photographers who once made a good living providing services as official show photographers no longer able to make it pay being up against poachers, "faux pros" and rampant image theft. Many of the publications and other image buyers who used to license images with us are now also turning to the cheaper option of royalty free and microstock.

While these issues will not be going away anytime soon I do believe that there will still be work for the high quality images, and those providing show services as well as stock images need to rethink their business plans.

Recently I went to an Ansel Adams exhibit and was struck by the preparation and planning and previsualization of each photo. In addition the technical details of each image, how he would carefully record the ISO, aperture, shutter speed and composition.

These days we see people buying expensive pro gear, setting it in auto mode and running their motor drive and calling themselves a professional photographer, but are really what would be considered a "faux pro". They have no concept of how their camera works, and in addition to that they are not legally running a business. They sell their images but they are not collecting or paying sales tax, have no business license and have no kind of liability insurance.

So you still want to make this a business? Then get your ducks in a row.

1. Learn what it takes to run a business.
2. Understand your camera and the basic concepts of photography. Take your camera out of auto mode and don't run your motor drive. Understand ISO, aperture, shutter speeds and how they relate to eachother.
3. Learn to edit. Be prepared to dump many images and only show your best work. Be your own toughest critic. Develop a thick skin. Always be open to critique, even though sometimes it may be hard to hear. Never stop learning.
4. Know your subject. Study work in periodicals and web sites. For horses learn breed standards and understand the trends and horse behavior.
5. Never say "it can be fixed in photoshop". Get it right in the camera. Over processed images will not save an image that was bad in the first place.
6. Treat your professional peers with courtesy and respect. Do not undercut them and do not infringe on their territory. The horse world is small, and word of mouth spreads quickly, networking with fellow photographers will get you further faster than trying to poach work from them. Building a network of like minded pros will serve as a support group and bring you work and more contacts.
7. Treat your good clients like gold. Reward loyalty. Fire clients that shop based on price or that expect free images or are never satisfied.
8. Offer quality products and great service. Offer items that they would not be able to produce themselves. Give them what they want at a price they feel is fair, and don't nickle and dime them to death. Be responsive, reliable and professional.
9. In this bad economy find a project that can be a way to give back. Work with a local group by donating your services to a cause you believe in. Sarah Andrews' Camelot Horse Calendar Project is a great example of how rewarding this kind of work can be.
10. Don't get discouraged. Work on developing your own style that is fresh, creative and YOU! Shoot for the plain joy of it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

"May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day. May songbirds serenade you every step along the way. May a rainbow run beside you in a sky that's always blue, and may happiness fill your heart each day your whole life through" ~ Irish Blessing

Happy Holidays and all the best for 2012 from all of us at ImagEquine and Thornapple Farm!

Friday, December 16, 2011


Last weekend I spent some time in one of my very favorite places, Chincoteague Island in Virginia. It was an extra treat to share this special place with two photographer friends who could appreciate the peace and beauty of this special place. We saw some ponies, picked shells on the beach and enjoyed some brilliant sunsets over a pond full of thousands of snow geese as well as egrets, herons, ducks and ibis. The sunrise saw the geese take flight by the thousands and gather into their formations to head south, an awe inspiring sight. Nature is a great way to refresh yourself and help put this crazy world into perspective. Here is a gallery to the photos. As you can see this handsome young Palomino stallion spent quite a while grazing in view of our cameras and his color in the brown winter colors made for some great photo ops for us.