Another type of creativity?

I’m a keen amateur photographer. Recently I succumbed to the flattery of friends and decided to try my hand at actually selling some of my pictures. I uploaded a number of photos to my favourite online photo source, Dreamstime. I was absolutely delighted when they accepted a number of my pictures. But I have to tell you, it’s nothing like the buzz of having people actually buy and enjoy my books.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think photography – at least the kind that I participate in – is particularly creative. I don’t have to use my imagination. I don’t have to think up a plot. Sure, I might have to crop here and there, fiddle a few settings in Photoshop or similar. But it’s nothing – nothing – like the hard slog of writing a first draft then the round of editing, critiques, re-writing, fixing, tweaking and eye-bleeding proofing that goes into a book.

That said, there are some analogies. Dreamstime is fussy. You send them a picture, their editors look it over. My success rate is currently about 30%. Now this doesn’t mean the photos are necessarily technically deficient. You get an email telling you what was wrong. This can be anything from slightly out of focus, to too much ‘noise’ to ‘we’ve got enough landscapes/sunsets/sunrises, thank you so much’. Or you might need a model release for a person who is in any way remotely recognisable. I took a photo of a footbridge across the Yarra from a considerable distance. Even so, a model release was required for the half dozen people (tiny figures) walking on that bridge. Or you might need a ‘property release’ for a building. That was in the case for one of mine, when I can only assume a property release was needed for the casino in the photo. I’ve found, too, that out of focus backgrounds are not popular even when the bird (in my case) which was the subject of the photo was sharp as a pin. And so the list goes on, soon becoming issues like ‘distorted pixels’ and ‘overprocessing’. And very often, I could see what the editor objected to. Sometimes you can fix and resubmit; sometimes you just can’t.

The point is that they accept what they think they can sell, both in quality and content. It seems to me it isn’t a site interested in photography as ‘art’. As a result, some of the pictures I like best have not been accepted. Do I care? Not much. Because, you see, my approach to photography is hit and miss. I take photos of the natural world around me. There’s no point me arguing the toss if they say the photo of the whale emerging right next to the boat isn’t in focus all the way along. I can’t ask it to come back while I set up for greater depth of field. Same with the birds. They’re there, and I take a picture. If I’m lucky – and if you look at the photos which have been accepted, you’ll see it happens – they’re perfect. But most of my pictures – the ones I’d never send to Dreamstime – are flawed. And again, some I really love, such as the picture of a young lorikeet waving its wings was knocked back.  Oh well. Landscapes – sure. Then, I frame a view and press the button, taking care the shutter speed, and the F stop is going to do the job for me. If the editors feel the resulting landscape doesn’t stack up against their database – well, I just shrug. And maybe I disagree.

Having said all that, I’m learning as I go. I know more about the gentle art of fiddling with photos – and I’ve learnt it’s best to do as little as possible. So I’ll keep uploading pictures to Dreamstime, if and when I get one that I think may qualify technically. But I’ll still load my ‘inferior’ pictures to Facebook for the edification of my friends and I’ll continue loading a picture a day to the 365 project.

Oh, and in both cases, it’s all about marketing. Nobody’s going to buy my photos if they don’t know they’re there. So if you want a picture of a Brahmani kite, an Osprey, a bee on a callistemon, come and visit. I’d love to see you. And if you’d rather read a book


About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 22 January 2012, in Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I love your 365 project, and I think there is a kind of creativity that dies with the demand of perfect photos. Real life is out-of-focus sometimes, and sometimes the colours are bleached or gravitate towards a particular hue.

    I, too, have sold photographs (sometimes still do). There is a lot of art involved in composition and in getting the best out of your camera, but photography has become pleasure now I no longer feel I have to sell. I’m quite curious as to whether a lot of those photographs on Dreamstime actually sell. I have bought images from there, but only artwork, and rendered images. That model release thing really sucks the life out of photography, although I can understand why it is needed.

    These days, I just make my own people in 3D, so I don’t need to pay for photographers hiring models 😉

    • Must agree about the demand for perfect photos. Life’s not like that and I must say, with a few I was left scratching my head. But that’s their problem, not mine. Photography’s always going to be an aside for me, in a way documenting where I live – but that’s accidental. You look around, see something you like and snap. That’s me. I don’t take pictures of people, I never pose shots. They happen – or they don’t. They work – or they don’t.

  2. Everything you say makes sense on this topic. As I think I’ve said before, their insistence on the highest quality is a policy that should be copied everywhere (not least by all of us who submit manuscripts or upload things to Kindle). As long as you keep letting us see your shots, I’ll be content.

  3. Thanks, Bill. I shall continue to post pictures to FB – even if they wouldn’t make the ‘grade’. As I said, sometimes it isn’t about quality – it’s sales potential.

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