Monday, May 13, 2013

Mass Appeal in Your Photos

Selling your photographs, especially if you are attempting to sell them in a fine art market, can be extremely difficult. Trust me on this one, as I have been doing just that for over thirty-five years now. I've seen just about everything one can imagine, when it comes to marketing photography, and I've watched countless photographers fail. The truth is that this is one of the most competitive fields one can find anywhere. It's a tough business that simply is not for everyone, and certainly not for those who think it's going to be easy.
Over the years, I've been asked over and over again, "Why don't my photos sell?" "Why do folks flock to some photographers booths, while bypassing others?" "Are my photos just too expensive?" "Why .....Why......Why?"  Well, let's get real here for just a few minutes. Photography is like any other business. Either you have a product that people want, or you don't. Either your price points are targeted correctly for your  audience, or they are not. This is not rocket science, although so many beginners want to make it that way. It's easy to look at your business and rationalize your failure, but the truth is much harder to accept. The question you need to ask yourself is this, " Do I really have a product that appeals to a large audience of buyers, and are my price points going to entice their purchase? " This is a simple question that may need some help in answering, because we all love our own work, and value it accordingly..........a huge mistake. In truth, only the marketplace can answer both segments of that question. Success comes from not loving your own work, but from listening to the buying public. Every successful business understands this basic concept. may have incredible photos from your trip to Europe, or you may have eye-popping images from your flower garden, but are they really images that someone else can visualize hanging in their home or office? If the product you are offering to sell is photography, then it has to be images that lots of folks  can see in their special "limited" space. As with most things, quality counts. In this ever-growing field of digital imaging, your images must stand out as something very special. They must say in a very loud and clear voice......"I am Special, and I bet you can't match me with your camera and abilities." Today's marketplace has no room for the "average". If your goal is to sell your photos, then first recognize that you must excel in your efforts. Outstanding images sell themselves, and price is rarely the reason. Set your goals high, be honest with yourself and your abilities, and be prepared for hard work. Simple really........

Friday, May 10, 2013

Looking Beyond the Target Image


      It seems like the longer I photograph birds, the more I seem to be looking beyond the bird itself. In the earliest years of my career, like so many other photographers, I focused most of my attention on the main subject of the photograph......and for me that meant the bird. However, as the years have quickly passed, I have seen a change in my own work, and that change has been dramatic, and, I believe, very positive.
      The photo of the sparrow above is representative of my approach today. While birds remain my primary subject, my images are as much about the habitat and the light as they are the bird. In fact, in many of today's photos, the bird might actually be thought of as a secondary subject. While the image above contains many of the elements required to make a good photo, it's the tiny sparrow that completes the image and gives the photo an interesting focal point. Try to imagine this same photo without the bird, and you will see that the photo could not stand on it's own merits. It needs the bird to complete the composition and bring some sense of relevance to the image.
      Color also plays a vital role in this image. With only small amounts of color, it is still the patches of color that pull us into the image. Without the hues of green and red, the image would die. The muted colors of the sparrow and rocks desperately need the greens and warm reds to make the photo visually interesting.
      I think all photographers can profit by looking beyond their target image. Before I click the shutter, I believe it's important to have a close examination of the entire frame. Does the frame contain what you envision for the final image? Does the image need to be expanded or perhaps tightened? Is there enough content to the photo to make it interesting for the viewer? Can you see the final print in the viewfinder? So many questions need to be answered before we make the shot final. Maybe we all just need to slow down and think about the image before us. I believe doing so will result in real and meaningful growth. What do you think?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Photographing Hummingbirds

The Gardens Are Once Again.......Buzzing with Hummers


      Every Spring, sometime during the first week of April, my resident hummingbirds return to my gardens. This year they made their first appearance on the 7th of April, and now three weeks later, the gardens are buzzing with activity. As a pro bird photographer, this time of year marks the beginning of a busy season to come. As the flowers in the gardens mature and begin flowering, the hummers numbers continue to increase, and my job truly takes on a new excitement.
      Needless to say, hummingbirds present a challenge. Not only are they tiny, but they move like little rockets being launched into space. The are extremely territorial, which simply means they don't play well together. Those with hummingbird feeders will certainly understand what I mean. Sharing space with others is not something they are likely to do.  Instead, generally one dominate bird will lay claim to all of the feeders and attack any other bird wishing to feed. Nobody actually gets harmed, but the fighting can be intense. This makes photographing the species very difficult, and it brings a real challenge to my work as a photographer.
      Fortunately, with the onset of digital cameras, this task has been made somewhat easier. Todays' new high end digital bodies permit the use of very high iso settings, which in turn allow the photographer to use extremely high shutter speeds. This combination of higher iso's and lightning fast shutter speeds is now making it possible to capture images that were not possible just a few years ago. I routinely set my Canon 5D mkII to iso 1600, and my shutter speed to a minimum of 1500th to even a 4000th of a sec.. Using AServo focus on my Canon makes it easier to track these speed demons as they shoot past my lens. While not all of today's new cameras offer this kind of speed, many new SLR bodies routinely include all of the features needed.
      One last thing. It's easy to get lost in the moment and forget about the importance of composition, when shooting hummingbirds. Their speed sometimes overwhelms us, and we just want to capture a clear image. The real challenge, of course, is capturing an image that also tells a story. Even photos of hummingbirds should give the viewer a sense of place and time. The photo should share with the viewer something about the species and his behavior within his environment. Digital photography has increased our chances for success, but it's still in the hands of the photographer to create a meaningful photograph. Challenge yourself. Make the effort to excel, and good luck.