About Me

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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why I love stock photography

As photographers we tend to be like sharks. We have to constantly keep moving, keep producing new images. Constantly looking to better our previous efforts. And that's a good thing. Like sharks, if we don't keep moving we tend to die - if only creatively and not physically.

But there's a downside to this constant moving forward. We forget to look back. If you have children you'll know how quickly they grow. You might not notice it every day but an easy way to have it hit you over the head is to flick back through the pictures you've taken of them over the years. Start the year they were born and move forward.

I'm sure I'm not the only parent who has suddenly realised it's way past their bed time as they spend hours flicking (well scrolling these days!) through nostalgic images that bring a smile to the face and a tear to the eye.

But how many of us do this with our 'real' photographs. The ones we make to feed our creative souls. This thought process was partly inspired by the boys over at PhotoNetCast
In their latest podcast #49 their guest is Jim Pickerell, he of the Negotiating Stock Photo Prices book fame. And they were talking about Steve McCurry shooting the last ever produced roll of Kodachrome film. And Mr Pickerell mentioned that a lot of film images weren't commercially valuable in this day and age because they just don't look as sharp or as clear as digital images.

And he may be right. But for me my stock photography archive has so much more value to me than just commercial opportunities. And I hope it's the same for you. Maybe if I was shooting products in a studio the feeling would be different but I'm a travel photographer. And every image, no matter whether it was shot on Kodachrome or Sandisk, no matter whether it was taken yesterday or 24 years ago has incredible value. They are all reminders of amazing journeys, incredible experiences and the events that have shaped my life and my sensibilities.

But we forget that value to us in our constant need to move forward to the next assignment. So take a break from shooting new stuff. Go back and look through your archives. Revel in the joy those pictures bring you. Relive the amazing moments and the feelings that were running through your head and heart when you clicked the shutter. Go travelling vicariously through your pictures all over again.

The photo at the top of the post was taken on the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro. It was shot on Kodachrome film. It's probably not as sharp as it could be given that Kodachrome 64 is pretty slow and it was pretty dark. But I look at this picture 24 years later and I can vividly recall the rain, the mud, the smell of the wet forest and the strain of the porters' muscles as they carried our food up the mountain. And that's the real value of this picture. Oh, and it's been published quite a few times over the years but that's almost irrelevant.

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