Kite Aerial Photography – A Report on Yours Truly

Courtney Hurley, a journalism student at Carleton University asked to interview me and also accompany me on my recent Kite Aerial Photography session at Petrie Island on the Ottawa River to learn what is involved. It was a class project and here is the video she produced.

 

Here it is on Courtney’s What’s Up Westboro Blog.

© Rob Huntley

Stock Photography 100.5

This is not quite ‘Stock Photography 101′ as I cannot claim to be anywhere near an expert. However, I’m happy to share some key things on what I have learned on the way to where I am now.

There are numerous stock websites on the internet to which you can upload photography and offer them for sale by download by their clients. Your commission on the sale can range from pennies to hundreds of dollars per usage. Some sites are no doubt better than others in terms of traffic and rewards.

There are discussions, arguments, possibly even boycott movements, etc. regarding the merits of letting your images go for pennies through microstock versus holding out for a ‘respectable’ professional fee. There is a sense that microstock undermines the work of professionals. I won’t disagree. I just try to avoid these debates and get on with it. The internet environment is a rapidly changing one, as is the photography environment. I just try to play on the field that is out there the best way I can, and what I did yesterday is not what I do today, and I don’t expect that what I do today will necessarily work on the playing field of tomorrow. However, having said that, I’m not partial to giving my photography away for nothing – i.e. simply an acknowledgment/photo credit. I have done it, but rarely, and in selected cases. But that is off topic.

As a ‘starter’ in stock photography it is probably the easiest to become accepted to be a player in the microstock sphere. I participate in a few agencies, and of those few I would recommend Shutterstock and Dreamstime. These sites sell images at very low cost to the buyer and consequently your commission is low – but sometimes the volume can be relatively high. The $0.25  to $0.50 you earn per download can add up over time. There is a large investment in time required to upload, title, keyword and categorize each photo, but once done they are there to stay and can continue to earn for you into the future. If it turns out that you have an ‘eye’ for stock shots and have fairly good technical abilities, you can earn a few thousand dollars a year from an equal number of uploads. Some photographers do much better, some don’t do well at all. I’m just speaking from my perspective and you won’t know unless you give it a try. You probably won’t make a living at it, but it can be a supplement or at least be a way make a down payment on the upgrade in camera gear you would like or a camera quality that your growing addiction to stock may dictate (yes it can become addictive). Note that some stock sites won’t let you become a player there unless you can produce a certain quality/size of image and they may even go as far to exclude camera types. You will find out soon enough when you try to register. (I still use a Nikon D70s, a good camera but not good enough for some stock sites). Others, even Getty Images, will accept good images from my Canon PowerShot A570IS which I have used for kite aerial photography. If you encounter an equipment limitation at a site, you can only move on and wait for your camera upgrade.

With most stock sites, you will be required to submit several samples of your work for approval. Take this seriously. Some sites won’t let you reapply for a long time after you have failed. Read their image submission guidelines and quality control FAQs religiously before you submit. If you are like me you will learn a lot about image quality and it is best to take some time to learn what they are looking for before you go through your files to make your submission selection. Once accepted you can risk some of your borderline shots which may be rejected. But in your first submission, just send your best. Be prepared also that once you are in, the acceptance rate can be very low. Keep trying to learn what they want and what your mistakes are. Don’t get hot under the collar and start firing off in their forums about “what’s wrong with this one”. Just move on to the next image, or try the rejected image at another stock site if it is that good a shot. Read the FAQs and learn. And don’t submit images with people in them unless you have a model release (also in their FAQs).

Before diving into microstock too quickly though, weigh the pros of being an “exclusive” photographer with one agency such as iStockphoto. www.istockphoto.com is the third site I would recommend but personally I found it harder to get in the door with them. My submissions failed the first two times and then I simply gave up for about 12 months. Now that I’m in I see that the rewards are slightly higher than the previous two mentioned and their exclusivity option is tempting. There are stories of young photographers (talented mind you) earning 6 figure incomes in one year through iStockphoto. (Dream on I say). Basically they ask that you make them your only stock agency in exchange for higher commissions. However, in the case of iStockphoto, becoming an exclusive with them isn’t an option until you have had 250 downloads/sales. So here’s the dilemma. In the time it takes to be first accepted, and then get to the 250 download point, how much time and energy should you invest in stock sales elsewhere. You will have to chop up your accounts at other stock agencies if you intend to become an exclusive photographer at iStockphoto. I have not yet reached the 250 mark. I learned about the exclusive option after I was well into uploading photos elsewhere. So while I ponder, I’m less ambitious about uploading to my other stock sites for penny rewards. iStockphoto’s market strategy is obviously working as they have succeeded to have me withhold new submissions from the other stock sites while I ferment the options. I’ve put myself on hold with Shutterstock and Dreamstime until I see how my iStockphoto experience matures.

The one exception to iStockphoto’s exclusivity arrangement is Getty Images. There is an affiliation between the two companies which I don’t fully understand, but if you’ve made it into Getty Images, you can continue there and take full advantage of iStockphoto exclusive arrangements.

Until about 18 months ago, Getty Images seemed to the uninformed like myself, to be a domain of the expert photographers; an enviable and inaccessible fortress of the professional. Whether I was right or wrong doesn’t matter, because a change occurred at that time. Getty made an arrangement with Flickr.com whereby Getty could glean through the ranks of Flickr and select images and photographers to join and submit to a special ‘creative’ line of Getty Images. I was fortunate to be one of those Flickrites ‘found’ by Getty.  There were several glitches and growing pains in the arrangement but most of those that made sales recognized that there was merit to being in the program. Any image selected has to be a Getty exclusive but it doesn’t mean that you have to stop selling other stock through your other agencies. You are just not permitted to sell elsewhere the images you sell through Getty. It has to be a new image that you have not sold anywhere previously. And you cannot sell ‘similars’ elsewhere; those being images taken at the same session of the same subject or sufficiently similar from another session to be seen as related.  In a nutshell, they don’t want two buyers to have a similar image that will compete with each other in the marketplace. A downside of being in the Flickr/Getty process is the long review time after you have submitted an image and the long time it may take to get a sale on a particular image. The upside is that sales can sometimes come with significant commission (by this I mean several dollars to several hundred dollars from one sale). Initially it was a shame that you had to be ‘discovered’ by Getty on Flickr. I have friends who wondered how to get in front of their face …. there are a lot of images on Flickr and you can be easily overlooked as my friends were. Fortunately there is now a mechanism to put your images in a queue for Getty reviewers to ‘consider’ so that you may be discovered more easily. You can read all about it yourself here: Getty Images Call For Artists. I can only guess that it may be months and months before photographers on the newbie list get reviewed and, if fortunate, invited to participate. Start the ball rolling there soon just to get the door open. Good luck with that and be patient. Remember to only use an image that you will not submit elsewhere. Also remember that Getty employs people to proactively sell imagery out of their database. They match images with clients and charge higher fees from their clients for that service. So be patient for what will hopefully will be larger rewards.

As small or large as sales may be, stock photography is a good way to force yourself to improve your skills. The agency websites give you guidelines, FAQs and discussion forums where you can learn the trade and make friends. Plus you sometimes get ‘limited’ review of some of your images (other times you get form responses that seem totally inadequate). But for someone that is starting , I think one important thing to take away from stock photography is that somebody out there liked one of your images enough to buy it. Even if they only spent a few dollars and you only received a few cents. Satisfaction comes with knowing you are being appreciated and on the right track with your photography.

Comments and links to other advice, resources and useful stock photography sites welcomed.

My Photo Gallery during WEST 2010

I’m mid-way through participating in the West End Studio Tour 2010 (WEST). There is still the weekend of September 25th and 26th to attend if you are in the Ottawa area. I’m one of 20 artists in the tour so there is much to see. I’m including a few pictures of my setup which includes not just my kite aerial photography but also more traditional landscapes, macro photography and a number of images using post-processing to give a painterly quality or otherwise unique interpretation.

I converted our entrance hall, living room and dining room into a walk-through photo gallery exhibiting framed prints of various dimensions, mostly 16″ x 20″, but also several aerial panoramas of Ottawa scenes framed with dimensions 18″ x 36″.

Rob's Home Photography Gallery

Rob's Home Photography Gallery

Rob's Home Photography Gallery

Rob's Home Photography Gallery

Rob's Home Photography Gallery

I also set up a display table with pictures and equipment demonstrating the “art” of kite aerial photography plus a laptop slideshow of a selection of low level aerial photography images. It was invaluable during the first weekend in explaining the technique which is often interpreted in bizarre ways when not enough information has been given. Some imagine that I strap myself and an SLR camera to a hang glider. Others have an image of me tying a camera to a kite and running down a field trying to get the contraption off the ground. The visual presentation helped to convey that the camera is suspended from the “line” at considerable distance below the already stable flying kite.

Rob's Home Photography Gallery

For more information about the West End Studio Tour, the other 19 artists and our sponsors, please visit the West End Studio Tour website.

Rob Huntley

Photographers in the West End Studio Tour

West End Studio TourThe West End Studio Tour takes place on two weekends in September (Sept 18-19 and Sept 25-26), 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. This year is the first year in their fifteen year history that photographers have been included among the exhibiting artists. Myself and Paul Wing are the two photographers included in this year’s tour.

Although I’ve become recognized recently for my kite aerial photography, I will be exhibiting a cross-section of various types of photography ranging from landscapes to abstracts and from aerial vistas to macro close-ups much nearer to the ground. In addition, I selectively use post-processing techniques to give a painterly feel to a number of my images.

More information about the West End Studio Tour (W.E.S.T.) can be found at westendstudiotour.ca. Maps for the tour can be picked up at any of the artist locations.

If you’re a facebook user there’s a Facebook event page here:
www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=759527563#!/event.php?eid…

Rob Huntley

My Father

WILLIAM KENNETH HUNTLEY

1928-2010

Ken was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England on April 25, 1928, son of Ernest and Alice (nee Firth). He passed away after a short illness on August 27, 2010 at the Queensway Carleton Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He will be deeply missed by his wife Margaret (nee Tansey), his daughter Karen Vendette, son Robert and his wife Jayne, as well as his four granddaughters: Mélanie and Stéphanie Vendette and Emily and Becky Huntley.

Ken and Margaret emigrated to Ottawa, Canada in 1960 where Ken pursued a career in retail sales, first with Sears and subsequently self-employed with Busy Fingers Wool Shop first at Place de Ville and then L’Esplanade Laurier. He had a passion for gardening, was forever at home with his own thoughts, had an explanation for almost everything, and tended to command the conversation. Television was his vice and he especially enjoyed watching a good comedian, tennis championships, English Premier League soccer and Toronto FC.

At the request of Ken and his family there will be no visitation or memorial service. In consideration of the outstanding service and support by the doctors, nurses and staff of the Intensive Care Unit at the Queensway Carleton Hospital, please consider supporting The Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation.

~ R.I.P Stanley G. Metcalfe ~ (via Cameraclubottawa’s Blog)

~ R.I.P  Stanley G. Metcalfe ~ Stan Metcalfe holding the trophy he commissioned for best Colour Print in the Camera Club of Ottawa.  Stan joined the CCO in 1962, and was a Life Member In Spring 1970 I met a person that was an evangelist for the cause of the Camera Club of Ottawa. Today my longtime friend, and friend of a lot of local photographers,  Stan Metcalfe passed away. I will miss you my friend, may you find only Leicas and Linhofs and and endless supply of film. Stan w … Read More

via Cameraclubottawa’s Blog

Displaying Photograph at WestFest

The annual celebration of WestFest in the Westboro community of Ottawa where I live takes place this weekend (June 11, 12 & 13, 2010). Among many other things, WestFest includes a small gallery with 1 art piece by each of the members of the West End Studio Tour (W.E.S.T.).

The West End Studio Tour takes place in September every year and promotes itself in advance during WestFest. Besides the gallery, there is a display tent to encourage art with children with face painting, caricature drawing and art trading cards.

This will be the first year that I will be participating as an artist in the tour. Thus I have place a piece in the WestFest Gallery located in the chapel of All Saints Anglican Church at 347 Richmond Road.

A 16″ x 20″ framed and matted print of the following image of mine can be viewed there:

A Walk on the Beach - Lines in the Sand.

It is an overhead shot of beach and ocean with a couple walking beside their shadows. Playa Arena, Huatulco, Mexico. This picture was taken from a camera rig suspended below a kite (Kite Aerial Photography – KAP).

RobHuntley.ca