The Real Stock Market

Back in the earlier days of this blog, from time to time I would post correspondence that I had received from photo editors of publications wh0 were in search of images. They usually came with some pretty specific wants.

I received the wants list below from Backpacker Magazine on October 8, 2008. I was not able to fulfill the request even though their needs were targeted for a story on Wisconsin. You will notice that there are no prices mentioned. That’s merely because at this point, their entire layout would not have been decided. Potographers were paid by size, usage, and to some extent by quality.

Believe it or not, this email was saved as a text document and still remains on my oldest laptop. A happy accident.

Greetings from Backpacker,

I am looking for winter photos from the Chippewa Moraine in Wisconsin for
the January 2009 issue. Here are the specific locations that I need.

– Ice Age Trail at the Chippewa Moraine
_ Knickerbocker and Horseshoe Lakes
_ Dumke Lake

Please send what you have for Monday October 13th.


xxxxx xxxxxxx | Photo Editor
2520 55th Street, Ste 210
Boulder, CO 80301

—— End of Forwarded Message

I included this today because the profession of stock photography was near and dear to my heart, and it has been deteriorating since the early 2000s. The internet, and the ability to create websites that sell stock for as little as 1$ per use, damaged the stock industry for a while, but time proved that magazine editors were still willing to pay top dollar for the work of dependable, good photographers. Then came those amateur photographers in search of nothing but credits, allowing magazines, books etc. to use their work for lower prices, including for free. Now I see that there are actually self-serving people who are offering to pay the publisher if they will publish their pictures. Anything to look like a winner.

I have allowed my work to be published in magazines that never pay, such as Department of Natural Resources. That is pro bono, for the purpose of helping the environment. On a couple of occasions I have allowed my work in books that did not pay, because all of the proceeds of the sales of those books, were going to a cause I believed in. That’s it. I would never allow my work to be used without pay in Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy etc. Do you know how much the people working for those publications are paid? Do you know the kind of offices (palaces) that they work in?

All that actually happens when you allow your work to be published for free, or if you have the gall to pay someone to publish it, is you slit the throat of a pro who is struggling (I can guarantee that) to pay his/her bills, take care of their family, and survive in general.

I’ll get off my soapbox now.

One of the very first articles I wrote for this blog was on the business of outdoor/nature photography. I suggested that going to our best known national parks is always a great thing, but they are so over photographed, that it would be best if you came home with images of lesser known areas of those parks, or new fresh compositions, lighting, or ideas of the most iconic views. I would add to this, go at times when they are least crowed, if there is such a time. Also less known national parks/ monuments, as well as state parks are a good idea. Never forget to look at what your passing by while in the car. Some great images are to be had at places with no names. Also always be prepared to create landscapes while in wildlife refuges. Be ready for wildlife in scenic parks. Above all, if you do get some work published, keep working with those people. Deal with them with honesty, and be dependable. Don’t tell then you can do what you cant. In the early 2,000s I let a deal go away for an entire book of my images on my home state of Wisconsin, because I did not have enough of what they needed, and I would have only been lying if I said I could supply it before their deadline. I thanked them for thinking of me, and told them I hoped they would remember me in the future.

In addition to stock, and a serious effort to sell fine art prints, teaching workshops is the true answer to going pro. Convincing other would be photographers, that you know things they need to know, is the secret to earning an actual living from most forms of photography. Remember, most of those who look like pros that you see either have spouses that work, or they have other sources of income. Maybe a job, a good pension, an insurance settlement, something. They’re not earning and entire living from photography. Workshops are the answer for independent photographers who need to earn a living.

Slide show seminars also provide nice supplemental income, but being paid $500 to talk to 50 people, does not compare to 10 people paying you $500 dollars a piece to teach them in the field.

I have very little experience with hanging my art in galleries. I did so a very, very, long time ago, and like everything else, I would imagine it has changed a great deal. Every photographer tries to sell prints of their work from one or more websites. If you have nice images, and price them fairly but not cheaply, you will sell some prints. Selling enough to overcome costs, and add to your income, can be tough. There are others who are better prepared to give good (or current) information on this than I am.

Keep your costs down in any and every way that makes sense.

Cars that get good fuel mileage is one example. Cheap (or no) hotel rooms is one way I would save money. I slept in my car, or camped frequently. Usually somewhere near my car but not in campgrounds. Often, I would give myself one night in nice room. I would often carry a cooler with me and stop at regular grocery stores for ice and food, rather than eat at restaurants or out of gas stations. I have done the latter, far too many times. It will catch up with you after a few weeks.

Be careful when attempting to save money on cameras, lenses, and computer software. Spend what you need to in order to produce high quality imagery, and not a penny more.

Really, any way you make money from being a photographer, is in a sense, selling stock. Your pictures and you, are all part of your stock. Value yourself as high as you do your images.

No matter what kind of photographer you are, there is no better feeling than to get paid to do it. It means your work not only has value to you and your friends and family, but perfect strangers want to have or see your work, and are willing to pay you for it.

Whether it be stock, art or teaching, leave a piece of yourself in everything you do, and you will find some success.

This is a Blue Phase (Silver) Fox which is black. The great wildlife photographer David Hemmings made the shot. I know not whether David will see this published in a magazine or book, but photo editors of nature publications salivate over subjects like this, especially when the photograph is so flawless. I’m sure people buying wildlife art would also find an image like this desirable.

Its easy to understand why unique animals like a black Red Fox are in demand by publishers. Not long ago all Red Fox images were sought after, but they are common place today.  As recently as 6 years ago Bald Eagles, Pelicans, Sandhill Cranes, and any sort of nesting wading birds were in demand. Most of that is also common today. I used to tell photographers to not forget about Robins, Crows, Opossums, Raccoons and other extremely common animals because most photographers ignored them. I still think that is true. DSC_4193a




Subjects like the moon, and the rising/setting sun are popular with photographers today. The ability with today’s equipment and software to transcend exposure issues with these subjects makes pictures of just the moon, or a distorted telephoto sun pretty much out of the running with natural history  type publications. Hopefully artistic choices will continue at least as far as the sun is concerned. DSC_0004

12SwallowsHawthorn 007

God Bless,                                                                                                                                                   Wayne

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