On occasion I attend meetings organized by a group called the LPMG, or the London Photography Meetup Group. I attend events rarely, but when I do I’ve generally been pleased with the outcome. It’s simply a group of people that enjoy photography and organize various events, such as lighting classes, how to take pics in a studio, how to put together a portfolio, etc. if you’re interested in photography and live in the London area indefinitely recommend checking them out, it’s free!
On Thursday night I attended an interesting set of discussions entitled “How to monetize your photography.” this is something that I’ve thought about many times, and those of you that are reading this will soon see me posting photos for sale on SmugMug so I guess you can see which direction I’m leaning! However this workshop was a bit more grand. We heard from representatives of various stock photography agencies (including Getty) and there were also a few people there that spoke about photographers rights in the UK, always a hot topic of conversation. All of the speakers were from a group called the BAPLA (British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies) and spoke on various topics, covering travel, nature, music and architecture.
The travel piece was interesting; speaking on behalf of 4corners images was Steve Lake, and he delivered a great speech on what it takes to sell photos in today’s market. It was refreshing to get a view from someone that looks at and sells travel photos for a living. He can quickly pick out unique pictures and is easily bored by cliches, one of which he mentioned as “monks in Saffron robes.” He delivered some stats that I found borderline humorous.
His company’s photo library receives a large amount of submissions from 4 countries – Mongolia, Laos, Bhutan and Madagascar. However, generally speaking, people that are buying photos through this boutique travel stock agency aren’t searching for those four countries. Instead, they’re looking for more traditional and less exotic locations, e.g. Italy, France, Spain and the USA. One of Steve’s key messages was that your success (money wise) is not measured by how far away from home you are; it’s about understanding what is selling, and who’s buying. If you’re serious about selling your photos then you need to dig in and plan. Creative thinking and research is critical. What are you going to shoot? When? What time of year? What time of day? What weather situation would be ideal? When does the tide come in/out? Should you visit during a special time of year?
I attended the meeting and after listening to all the speeches I confirmed what I already knew. I’m a traveler who enjoys taking pictures, not a photographer who travels. And quite honestly, I’m okay with that. Yes, I lug around a lot of equipment and sometimes drive my wife crazy while we’re abroad, but I’m not obsessed with getting out before dawn and I don’t plan 11 trips to Paris to make sure I get “the perfect shot.” I take pictures that I’m happy with and I can share with friends and family, and some of the better ones I’ll offer for sale to people that share my interests. But I don’t see me quitting my day job anytime soon. The moment I start trying to make a living doing something I enjoy, it’s quite likely that I will cease to enjoy it as much.