Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is Stock Photography Worth the Effort?

In the ten months since my last blog post, I have been re-evaluating my participation in stock photography.

First, a little background. I jumped into stock photography on the backside of the "heyday" peak in the industry. Tony Stone Images was leading the way as the classy, sophisticated agency that photographers aspired to be accepted by. Agencies published paper catalogs and slides where shipped overnight for review and selection. Photographers received 50% of commissions and licenses were rarely sold for less than $125.00 with many photographers setting a minimum fee of $250.00.

But things have changed.

Lest I sound curmudgeonly, please note that I like change. I like challenges. I like digital cameras. I like being able to upload digital files. I like having my own website. I like not knowing my FedEx man. I like Photoshop. I like mastering new skills.

I don't like being paid $85.00 for a usage that 2 years ago was priced at $425.00. I don't like keywording. I don't like the lowered standards for publishable images. I don't like millions of images available for free or $5.00. I don't like agency statements for sales of $18.17. I don't like lowered commission percentages for photographers. I don't like having to run 3x as fast to stay in the same place.

I don't like stock photography any more. OK, that's a bit broad. Run the financials. Pick up a magazine. Peer into the future. Calculate the added work load for social media, networking, keywording, SEO, and shoot the additional volume of images needed to stay afloat. Calculate and then determine if you would spend the finite number of work hours available in such a business venture. Or invest a nest egg. Or provide venture capital.

I doubt it. Me either.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Michigan Avenue

Michigan Avenue is a street with a magic all its own, and standing in the median with a tripod-mounted camera provides a unique perspective. One thing I have never been able to understand, though, is the curious onlooker asking me if I am taking pictures.

Do they honestly doubt that a woman with a tripod, camera and a cable release in hand is doing something other than taking a picture when standing in the median for 10 minutes? Though sorely tempted at times to respond with a sarcastic and witty reply, I keep the tongue sheathed.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy talking with bystanders interested in photography. All I ask is for a better opening question.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wedding in Millennium Park

Millennium Park has become a favorite location for wedding party group photographs, particularly in the AT&T Plaza with the Bean sculpture as a backdrop.

From large, formal wedding parties such as this one with the camera and video crew along to smaller gatherings, the highly reflective surface of the Cloud Gate sculpture makes for dramatic photos that can only be had in Chicago.

Photographers planning to do wedding or other photography in Millennium Park should check the rules and permit requirements here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cool Elevators

In 1976, a new vertical retail mall, Water Tower Place, opened on North Michigan Avenue which coincided with my freshman year at a suburban college in the Chicago area. Growing up in Springfield, Illinois, I was very familiar with horizontal malls, but with not with vertical ones. And certainly not with a vertical mall that had glass elevators in the middle of the building.

People stood in lines and waited for the opportunity to see the eight floors of shops from the inside of the elevator. Sounds sort of silly today, but the bank of elevators shown here was a tourist attraction when the mall first opened. And I confess to being one of those who waited and waited.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bridge over Troubled Water

While the politicians and elected (did we really?) representatives of Illinois are making national headlines and getting air time in Leno's and Letterman's monologues, life goes on in the Land of Lincoln. (Is Abe rolling over?)

The Chicago River bisects the downtown area of the city in an unusual way, as the river runs east/west from Lake Michigan to Wolf Point where the three river branches converge. Then the river turns south and flows into the Illinois and Michigan Canal and Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. From there the water flows into the Des Plaines River and eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River.

Legend has it that the name of the first American settlement site arose because that is where a wolf was last sighted in Chicago. Fact or fiction? Originally the river emptied into Lake Michigan, and it is fact that the flow was reversed in an engineering feat that rivaled the building of the Panama Canal.

Many movable bridges crisscross the river including the one pictured here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chicago's Water Tower

One of the most recognizable buildings in Chicago, the Old Water Tower presides over the north end of the Magnificent Mile and a lovely urban park. Constructed in 1869 of Joliet limestone, the Water Tower and the Pumping Station located directly across Michigan Avenue, were the only two public buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

Originally constructed to conceal a standpipe used to equalize water pressure from the Pumping Station, it is currently the home for City Gallery which features Chicago photographers and photographs. Buskers and street entertainers perform in the park surrounding the Water Tower while shoppers revive weary feet seated on benches near a fountain. Carriage horses still drink from a specially designed watering fountain on the park's west side and wait patiently for couples and families to hop aboard for a city tour.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Chicago's LaSalle Street

LaSalle Street, the heart of the financial district in Chicago, is lined with numerous imposing edifices featured in numerous movies including the The Dark Knight - and rightly so. The stately columns of the Federal Reserve Bank and the art deco Chicago Board of Trade building form the southern end of the money district and the light often bounces from one to the other in an interesting way.

It's one of the best locations to shoot in the Windy City at mid-day as the light reaches the street in the canyon of buildings. After a year of maintenance, the clock on the CBOT building has been repaired and the scaffolding removed, so it's a prime point of interest once again.