The subject line says it. Living where I do, taking a quick commuter train ride to Washington is a trivial matter, so it's not surprising that I've shot a lot of photos of iconic locations there....monuments, memorials, etc. It's a photogenic city, hard to resist with a camera. Millions of tourists notice that too; I'd be surprised if on the dreariest, most dismal day of the year, 10 million shutters did not snap.
The question is, why more? While it's a great city, nobody actually likes it. Toxic politics, lobbyists, federal contractors and protestors add to the crush of tourists, but who really wants a picture of the White House on their wall. I don't, but I do have 190+ of the city on FAA. The same thing could be said with less venom about places like New York, the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc.
So, why do this? I was looking through some DC shots this morning and saw that FAA has, e.g., 9000+ pictures of the Capitol and similar numbers for other places in DC, some nearly perfect duplicates of mine....same thing for Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building pictures, mostly worthy images, but just how many does the world actually need? I'm sure that other iconic locations are similar. My thinking was that MY picture of the Empire State Building, seen from the Top of the Rock, is different from the all of the others.
You can point to subject matter like snowy mountains, flowers, sunsets, creamy waterfalls, etc and see the same thing. I just found 8933 pictures of Antelope Canyon. I guess we all think that OUR creamy waterfall is better than all of the others or that we discovered Antelope Canyon.
The question is, how many people out there, doing this, think about just how iconic a location or compositions is and just why do you think the world needs another one? I'd actually love to see some statistics on whether buyers prefer originality or whether they prefer something predictable, and, which icons do they actually like vs which they avoid. It would be the science and statistical analysis of art preferences. On the other hand, maybe we just don't want to know.
Quite true, but I guess I wonder about the preference, both from artists and from customers for iconic vs original. Most of what I have sold is what I would call lower level icons, nothing original but not as iconic as the Empire State Building. You can't sell the picture that's not there. I guess that's why the statistician in me would love to have numbers....what do buyers actually want and what do artists actually create....a marketing study, to trivialize it.
the world needs MINE. there might be many of the others, but only one of mine. you present something is important. you can buy chicken anywhere, but put the right spice on it, and it becomes something special, same goes with art.
people aren't getting originality, and that is subjective anyway. if they are looking for a certain location, nothing is original as they all start looking the same. you might have the way they want though. i think people get stuff because it means something to them. or it just happens to fit the need they have and they can stop looking.
I like visiting popular sites and so I take pictures of them. Beyond that, Roy Pedersen has said it as about as good as it can be said.
My best selling image here is of an iconic site where there are at least a thousand renditions of it on FAA. I am sure of those thousand other images, mine is not even close to the best seller. But I am okay what that. I sell enough of them to put me on the first page of the search and that is plenty good enough for me.
My biggest seller BY FAR is a tree that's been shot to death. There are 500 shots of that exact tree here on FAA, most of them are similar. People come from all over the world to photograph it. This year I met a well known photographer from Iceland at the tree. He had made a side trip while in the US just to come photograph it.
People like what they like. Popular things are popular for a reason. If you can make a worthy shot that gets to the front of the line in search, it will sell. Honestly, I don't think I have any non-icon shots that have sold on here.
But the trick is getting to the front of the line in search, even more so than whether it is better than anyone else's shot. I don't sell well here because I'm buried about 20 pages deep for most subjects.
Many people aren't afforded the option to travel and would like the chance to see the world through pictures. For others, it's a memory captured, for good or bad, that they are not able to capture for themselves.
One of my photography professors reminded us that nobody has exactly your eye height, with your equipment, camera settings, and focus, standing in that spot on that day, with that weather and those light conditions. It may be one of millions, but it's still YOUR photograph, and it's unique, even if it may not appear as such.
As to why I would take pictures of "overshot" locations and put them up for sale, it's pretty simple. Someone looking at my portfolio might not be interested in wading through thousands of pieces on a site such as FAA--they could be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices. When I upload my pieces of those sites and promote them to my audience on MY website, there are far fewer options to choose from. And as you said, Doug, you can't sell the picture that's not there. ;)
Zillions of photos of the Effiel tower are shot and conversely, zillions of products baring its image are sold.
Walk into a Peter Lik gallery and you'll see the same spots shot to death, but not everyone gets up at dawn to take a great shot. Most tourists get dropped off by the bus at midday, stand in a line and shoot the same shot with their cell phone.
Offer something spectacular and it will sell.
With that said, I'm always amazed how some "photographers" only dust off their cameras and muster the energy to lift it to their eye when standing in the approved Kodak moment spots.
Do we need another shot of the Washington, Monument? Do we need another garden flower shot?
Maybe I, as a photographer and a student of life, need another shot of the Washington Monument or that pretty flower because I am able to take one and it's what I do. Does a giant website such as FAA need one? Perhaps not. ;)
1. A photo that represents the way the buyer sees/remembers the subject or 2. A photo that has an approach to the subject different to the the way the buyer sees/remembers it
>>>An interesting question...Assuming that the FAA keyword sort shows images based on sales and click-popularity, I checked out "Brooklyn Bridge". They definitely trend to the view of the suspension cables, the overhead walkway and the view from DUMBO. I've done cables and the walkway, but need to search my flash cards for some DUMBO shots. On a lesser icon, ones that I have sold here and elsewhere, the beach in Ocean City, MD, facing south on the beach, looking at the big kites and the ferris wheel with a blue sky, there's fewer pictures, and I'm higher on the sort. That view is iconic, but it's a smaller, mainly local icon without many thousands of other "kites on the beach" pictures. Those have been bought by local people, possibly decorating condos (my theory).
In both cases, the bridge and OC, both are those views, seemingly recalled as pleasant memories. If you're in NYC, you probably recall walking across the bridge and in OC, it's the sunny beach. None of those in the ranking are, all that original or different, mainly questions of execution.
"Maybe I, as a photographer and a student of life, need another shot of the Washington Monument or that pretty flower because I am able to take one and it's what I do. Does a giant website such as FAA need one? Perhaps not. ;)"
Yeah, shooting for your own enjoyment is great. I'm curious about the commercial angle though, and like many of us, looking for the magic formula that that makes people like one nearly identical photo over another when they even have similar database sort rankings. That's one of the mysteries of life.
"With that said, I'm always amazed how some "photographers" only dust off their cameras and muster the energy to lift it to their eye when standing in the approved Kodak moment spots. " - I've been to some places where there's a sign (DUMBO comes to mind)...."Best photo is taken from here". The line is usually long.
Like I said, if you direct as many people as possible to your own gallery to see your photograph, you won't have that competition. That's the magic formula. Shoot what you shoot, and promote the heck out of it on your site.
Here on FAA, people will only go through so many images or pages of images. They'll go with the first one they find that meets their needs. Some of those huge selling pieces have just been here that long, and they really won't be dethroned. You won't be able to game the system and put yourself at the top in the search, but sales are the main bump factor in the search. Fortunately for us artists, selling from our personal premium sites counts toward those search needs.
So, it's not a futile exercise to put out work that might look an awful lot like others that are already out there. The difference is, are you exclusively relying on FAA's search to sell it, or are you going to take advantage of the lack of competition on your own premium site?
" A photo that represents the way the buyer sees/remembers the subject or 2. A photo that has an approach to the subject different to the way the buyer sees/remembers it"
For the image I mentioned above, I have about six or eight renditions of it. Some of them are very unique, some computer-enhanced and I believe most of them have sold at least a time or two both here and in my local venues.
The one that sells the most here and everywhere else is the one that I took with a cheap camera before phones had cameras and I was standing at the "Kodak" site.
looking for the magic formula that that makes people like one nearly identical photo over another when they even have similar database sort rankings. That's one of the mysteries of life.
Well that's the real trick isn't it? Nearly identical. Take shots that are not nearly identical. Since you're close you have better opportunities to get shots under various weather and lighting conditions.
Do a Google image search on "Milwaukee Art Museum". Thousands of images. Many of them very good. Most of them snap shots and repeats of each other. I've had a fascination with that place ever since I got back into photography in 2003. So I've shot there many times. It's 15 minutes from where I live. I have shots of it that I've never seen anyone else make. And I've sold a few of them as well, all to Milwaukee area buyers. I also think they are hanging in fancy condos or offices downtown. I have taken many shots of this place that everyone else has but I can't bring myself to offer them for sale. Not true actually, I do have 2 that are common viewpoints but I just like them so much I put them up.
Well, that would be the case Ed, seeing you have already as much as said you don't take those iconic pictures.
When I first starting selling my own images I had already been in the framing/gallery business for years. I used to sell a lot of open edition prints from several bins I had in my stores and through several catalogs from the major publishers.
I can not even begin to tell you home many times I had people buy a print because they had visited that location and had stood in the exact spot (the Kodak spot as it was referred to) from where the photo they were buying was taken.
They were not looking for a different perspective or some artistic retention. They wanted a picture of exactly what they saw, what they remembered. The picture brought back fond memories and they were not buying art, they were buying those memories all over again.
One of the keys to selling anything is giving people what they want, not what you want to sell them.
I am not saying there is not a market for the more artistic versions of the image taken from a different perspective. Of course, there is. I am saying if you have them both, you broaden your market and stand a better chance of selling something.
While I'm a big fan of niches I also love shooting iconic places. I don't see any point in asking whether the world needs another picture of something and there is no harm in having it in your collection. I've sold lots of iconic images (yes, some with thousands of competing images here) without advertising.
When I travel I always go to the iconic places as well as the 'hidden gems'.
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