Are You Cut Out To Be A Commercial Photographer?

A lioness roars

At the 2011 Wild Photos conference we had the pleasure of listening to Zoe Wishaw  give some very sound advice for budding commercial photographers.  Here’s some of the key lessons we took away from her speech:

  • Would you be happy with someone manipulating your image? Consider your prized shot of an African lioness – would you be happy if a shampoo ad put a wig on it? Or consider that amazing shot of a leaping Killer Whales – what if a company decided to add a picture of a wee man in boat under the whale? If the though of this thrills you with dread them commercial use of your photos might not be for you.
  • Ignore the story behind the image…in stark contrast to the rest of the speakers, Zoe highlighted how the story is irrelevant for commercial use. The image must stand alone and should not rely on any other picture to qualify it.
  • Go for timeless images – photos that are framed by time, duration or a unique occurance might not have the commercial ‘shelf life’ required.
  • Meta-tag your images with descriptors, adjectives. Don’t just tag a lion as a lion, tag it as powerful, courageous, fierce etc Consider these metaphors and similes when you’re directing and taking your shots. This is what commercial agencies are looking for.
  • Believe it or not, pi- sharpness is not always required (though you will find this a barrier when starting to submit images via stock shot agencies)
  • Be aware how competitive this arena is (i.e  VERY!)
  • If you are good with video, consider video opposed to stills submissions. This is currently a less competitive market, and agencies / film crews / documentary makers are always on the look out for ‘filler’ footage.
This advice is defiantly food for thought and I hope you find it useful. It certainly struck a chord with me! If you’d have asked me before and after the presentation whether I am cut out to be a commercial photographer I’d have give you two very different answers!


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