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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
Photography covers a lot different applications. There's wedding photography, event photography, landscape photography, you might be a fine art photographer, you might want to be an architectural photographer. There's also something called stock photography and I'm sitting here now with Carolyn Wright, the Photo Attorney. Now, Carolyn is a lawyer who specializes in photographers rights issues, but you also have a nice little career as a stock photographer. >> Yes. I've been shooting since I was 12 years old, so and lots of nature and wild life.
>> Before we go on, I think we ought to define what is stock photography. What do I mean by that? >> Well, as opposed to assignment photography, where you're hired either by client or a bride for her wedding, that sort of thing is, when you're shooting on your own and then you are hopeful that, if you get some great shots, that you'll be able to license the photograph to people after the fact. >> So these photos go to an agency where they're put in some kind of catalogue. And so, say a book publisher comes along, he's looking for an image for the cover of a book, he might look through this portfolio of images from an agency and go, oh, I really like this one by Carolyn Wright and you would then license that.
>> Correct. So, so I take a lot of photographs of grizzly bears and wolves. So if an editor is looking for a photograph of a wolf, then the editor would go the stock agency and see what kind of photographs there are of wolves and hopefully would pick mine. >> Alright, let's talk about, about shooting stock, and then we'll, we'll get to how you get to an agency and things like that. So, you're out hanging around with some bears and wolves, taking pictures, as one knows. And are you thinking a particular thing in terms of stock, or are you just doing what you do, and then finding out how to sell it to a stock agency later? >> Well, definitely when I'm shooting, I'm thinking about getting the cover shot 'because that's what I'm always shooting for, is the, getting the cover shot.
So,. I think about shooting a lot of verticals, first of all. >> Okay. >> And I want to leave some room for the, the name of the magazine up top. So I might not crop as closely in camera as I might do if I wasn't shooting for stock photos, was shooting to take nice pictures of wolves. >> Right. >> So there's certain, yes, you definitely want to think of wh, how photos might be used and also shooting a lot of options. I want to shoot some horizontals. I want to shoot some verticals. I want to shoot some portraits, shoot some environmental shots and just have a lot of variety to offer to someone.
Hopefully, they can find a good use for it. >> Are you mixing it up, or are you shooting for yourself and stock at the same time. Maybe getting that type crop that doesn't maybe have the space above and then shooting that cover shot also? >> Well, with the, the technology of cameras these days, you can crop pretty much, and, and not lose too much resolution and a lot of uses are for the web anyway, so that's less of a concern. But absolutely I also sell prints of photographs so if I'm going to frame a shot, I'm going to want it to be a tight crop or, or appropriate for printing.
>> Is the stock stuff that you do exclusively wildlife and landscape stuff? >> These days it's all wildlife. I've been a wedding photographer in the past, portrait, I've shot portraits, commercial work all of that, but my passion now is with wildlife. >> If I was shooting stock of something else, let's say, I'm taking a trip to New Orleans and I'm with a stock agency and I'm thinking while I'm here I'll get some New Orleans stuff. What do I look for for subject matter in a large, kind of diffused subject like that? >> Well, you want to shoot stuff that says, this is New Orleans.
>> Mm-hm. >> You want to shoot the music of New Orleans, the streets of New Orleans, you want to be able to identify a place just buy the photographs. But just like a, a wedding photographer too you also want to shoot detail shots. You want to get wide landscapes, you might want to get cityscapes. But something that tells the story of where you are. Because if you can't identify where you are in the story, then, then it's just not going to sell. >> Right, if you can't identify it, an editor isn't going to be able to either. >> Exactly. >> They're trying to do the same thing you are.
So, if you come home and you come home and you've got your pictures of bears and wolves, and maybe you're just getting started. What do I do to get hooked up with a stock agency? >> You can submit your photographs to the agency, and then they'll have an approval process to see whether they want your work online. Then you'll have to sign a contract with them and then get an agency agreement. But what you want to do is, to be a stock photographer, you need lots and lots of photographs. You need thousands and thousands of photographs, because the, the agency is not going to mess with you if you don't have a whole lot of work.
So you need to, you need to shoot a lot, you need to have a lot of high-quality images because the low quality images are not going to sell. >> Right >> And you need to shoot a subject that's not really covered very much. And then the agencies going to be definitely more interested in getting you just signed on. >> And I need thousands of images just for that initial submission? >> I think its yeah. Actually not for the submission but to, to let the agency know that you have got a vast array of images. And so that when you s-send how many images the, the agency asks for, that, that they get a, a good sense that you have a lot of work, and a, a depth of work.
>> Are there agencies that specialize in certain subject matters? Are there wildlife agencies, or city agencies or things like that? >> Oh, absolutely. There are agencies that do only animal shots. There are agencies that do more, commercial type work, but, yes, you need to try to identify an agency where your work going to be best seen. Nobody's going to go to an animal web site, if they're looking for pictures of lamps and tables. >> Right. The agreement that you have with your agency, I assume that's a fairly typical agreement, are you in some kind of exclusive situation with this organization.
>> Well my agency requires that a certain percentage of the images that I submit be exclusive to that agency. They really don't want me competing on my own. I'm allowed to actually license and I do license images directly from myself through myself rather than through the agency. But the agency requires a certain number of images to be exclusive. And when you say exclusive that doesn't just mean that you can't go to another agency. It does mean you can't then go on your own and license them to somebody else. >> Correct. So, that, that, so, that the agency has images that can't be found elsewhere.
Is there anything you need to do to your images to give them to the agency in terms of, say, technical quality? Do they need to be a certain size? Do you edit them to a finished, printable state, or do you wait for whoever's going to buy the images to do that? >> Well, the agency will have its own parameters, their own technical requirements, specifications that they want. For example, they'll want certain metadata put into the file. They'll want it a certain resolution. They'll want a certain color correction. So, I select which images I'm going to submit to the agency and I run it through the process of, of meeting those technical specifications, including the metadata.
Then I submit them to the agency they can still reject them and say no you need to fix this you got a dust spot over here or you don't have the right metadata or you need some more keywords, that sort of thing. So I just need to make sure that my requirements are the that met. >> You said that you need to find some subject matter that hasn’t been covered that very much. I would imagine stock photography is pretty competitive these days. >> Very much so. >> Has it changed a lot since you've started? >> Very much so. It was, it's just a more competitive these days.
A lot more photographers shooting, a lot of great photographers shooting a lot of stuff. it, it's easier to travel. So it, it's a tough market. But if you're really good and if you can get some great unique images then you can make a living as a stock photographer. >> One thing you might want to consider as you're dealing with a stock agency shooting stock and giving your images is ownership of your images, copyright of your images. Carolyn specializes in this topic. And she's got two great courses on what your rights are as a photographer and how to manage copyright. I would imagine these issues come up quite a bit, in terms of figuring out licenses with agencies, things like that.
>> Absolutely. >> Yeah, so, watching her course is a great way to get through this. I heartedly recommend that as a call to action. Also, even if you're not with an agency already, everything that she's describing about the process shooting stock is a great photographic exercise to have to go out and really start seeing a story ahead of time and work within those parameters is a really nice way of seeing the world differently. Even if you're just pretending what would this look like on a magazine cover. It makes you see the world differently. Makes you frame your shots differently. Do you feel a difference when you're shooting stock versus just when you're out messing around.
>> I sort of give myself self assignments. I mean, when you're not shooting for an assignment in particular, you are trying to envision the, the customer. How are they going to use it? What they need. And so, I sort of make assignments for myself. So when I'm out shooting grizzly bears, I, I make sure that I get the environmental shot. I get the tight shot. I get the interaction shot. The mother. The cub. The chasing salmon shot. So, while those are fairly typical shots that you want to get for grizzly bears, and there's a lot of shots like that.
If I can get that really great bear fight on, on film then I'm, I'm happy. >> You're different than I am. When I'm out shooting grizzly bears I make sure not to get mauled. >> LAUGH >> Was really my, my thing. Carolyn, thank you very much. >> All right. >> This has been really interesting. And again, a great exercise. Even if you're not, have no intention of going and becoming a stock photographer, thinking like a stock photographer is a really good way of getting a different view on the world and taking a different attack on your photographic process.
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