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Several years ago I did a fair amount of productions shooting for stock libraries including Corbis & Getty images.
These where mostly lifestyle shoots on location but also a few landscapes & travel images which for the most part where less salable & profitable ….mostly.
If there is one sure thing in photography it’s there is no sure thing or second guessing what the market will want.So when I took a trip to Rome back in 2005 with the family I did take my cameras (of course) but did not really expect to capture anything that my stock libraries might want as after all how many images must there already be of the eternal city.
With this in mind I decided I’d just follow what took my fancy and capture images for pure pleasure just for myself.
Rome is a little like Venice in terms of photographic opportunities (see my last post on Venice) around every corner except there are more cars and less water !
One of the must have locations I wanted to capture during this trip had to be the iconic Colosseum which posed two problems for me to overcome.
The first and easiest problem to solve was the sheer amount of tourists at the location.This was easily solved as images like these are often captured (at least by me) in the soft light of dawn. Being early spring this meant a 5am start which also meant the only people up and around was myself and street cleaners.
The more challenging problem which I spoke about in my last post was how to photograph the familiar in a fresh interesting way.Can you imagine how many times the Colosseum has been captured over the decades?
The light from the sunrise that morning was simply beautiful and made even more sweet as I had this magnificent and historic building all to myself well at least the exterior of it. As I explored the location It dawned on me (no pun intended) that shooting with Contre-jour light and a precise exposure would help reproduce the beauty I was experiencing.
What makes this image so successful (more on that in a moment) in my opinion was the fact I always explore my composition options, moving left-right up and down around the scene to find what gives me the strongest image.In this image I decided an ultra low angle lying on my stomach with a wide angle lens would provide a strong foreground with the sunlit cobbles.
Although I knew I had several strong images I was still unconvinced about submitting these to my Art Director at my stock library after all landscapes / travel images did not sell that well partly due to the vast amount already available but I decided to send them in anyway.
To my surprise the agency took a good selection of those I submitted including several of the Colosseum images but the best was to come.
The first month they appeared for sale the Colosseum image featured here sold for $25,000 to American Airlines for an advertising campaign they where producing and it continued selling for the following 18 months notching up some amazing sales.
The least financially beneficial sale it received but probably my proudest was when it appeared on the cover of the National Geographic.
So why did an image of one of the most famous and photographed land marks in the world gross in excess of $50,000 in sales when the market was saturated with images of it?
Well I think it’s very simple..It’s the familiar captured in an unfamiliar way. By lying on those dusty uncomfortable cobbles and using the beautiful dawn light the best way I could I had created an image that was pretty unique and fresh compared to anything else available at the time.
In my opinion to succeed in today’s commercial photography market it’s essential to be as unique in your image creation as possible to have any chance of standing out in the overcrowded market and that means understanding & developing your eye / visual style over many years.