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14 February 2010

I am returning to being a photographer

I have thinking for a long time now that I have lost the ability to be a photographer rather than shooting for "stock" photographer. Today I was looking at the images I took between 2003 and 2006 and it dawned on me that I am not the photographer I was then. Since joining stock sites such as Alamy, Photographers Direct, OzStock, OzImages etc and lately Getty, I seem to have lost the ability to see images as a good photograph rather than "will this image sell?". During dinner this evening, I brought up this subject with my husband, Fred, (bless him) and he said that he thought I had lost focus. The pun was not intended. I must have realised this for awhile now as I have not uploaded to Alamy (one of the biggest stock libraries) for five months and thought that I must be losing interest in photography but in reality, all I have lost is an interest in stock photography. This has really nothing to do with the downturn in stock photography as I am still selling "stock" images in this somewhat depleted market but its not what I do best. I feel that a heavy load has been removed and I can do what I do best...shooting images that I like and not what stock libraries want.


  1. Sheila you put my thoughts and feelings "in print!"

    Yes, I just decided Im gonna be a photographer again not just a "McDonaldizated" picture machine.
    Lena ason

  2. Sheila, I am enjoying reading your blog and I salute your views on microstock.

    Maybe your problem with stock is that you are putting too much emphasis in the thought of 'will this image sell'. My experience with stock is that you can never predict where images will sell! The only predictable thing is that it's not predictable. There will be uses for your stock images that you never imagined.

    Better to keep the latter in mind and shoot for you, what makes you happy, rather than trying to predict the unpredictable. This will make you better today than you was yesterday!

    Times are tough in stock but don't give up, just adjust your thought process to get to the next level!

  3. Sheila, I think this is a transition that many stock photographers eventually go through.

    1) you start with a love of photography
    2) you want to find a way to make money from your love, maybe make a career. Stock is a fairly easy answer (and with digital and the internet today, an even easier answer than 10/20 years ago - at least to get into and make *some* money)
    3) you have now committed to doing photography to make money, and because of this you need to learn to take pictures that will sell
    4) you may have minor success, you may have huge success, you may not
    5) at some point you review what you are doing, and think 'am I doing this because I still love doing it, or to make money?'

    and everyone will have their own personal answer to that last question....

    I have been through this myself, and I have to agree with the comments made that 'you never know what will sell'. You can learn with years of experience what the most 'sellable' subjects are, but I am always suprised by pictures of my own which come out of the blue after years of sitting on a dusty digital shelf, pictures which I always liked but no-one else ever seemed to take notice of, and then to suddenly sell it for a surprisingly large sum.

    The fact is, if you do it for the love, for the need to do something creative and different, and don't just 'tick all the stock boxes', THAT is when you end up with pictures which matter. Pictures which will stand out, and be remembered.

    And because of that you never know when they may sell!


After Topaz

Using Topaz Spicify, the image has been enhanced in both colour and "pop". This may be a tad OTT but when printed out, it looks rather good (even if I say so myself!!).

Elderly gents

Image enhancing filters

I have recently been experimenting with different filters for post processing images. Topaz has been one of them. Using the adjust filter, one can change rather dramatically an image which may (or may not) need enhancing. Purists argue that one should not enhance or change an image but in this era, we are bombarded with enhanced movies so it seems a natural progression to enhance still images. The pic directly above is the original image (shot RAW and converted using Adobe Camera RAW).

Rather boring shot of Sydney Harbour

I am going to show how a somewhat boring shot of Sydney Harbour (if there ever could be one!) can be turned into something a little more spectacular. Below is the original shot (shot in RAW format with my Canon 5D) and taken off the back of the Manly ferry.

Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour
Rather boring shot of Sydney Harbour


Using Adobe Camera Raw ("ACR"), I converted the raw image with parameters: Blacks 7, brightness +31, Contrast +61, Clarity +77, Vibrance +7, Saturation 72 and a bit of Curves which brought me to the below image.



Flood filter conversion

I then produced a "reflection" using Flaming Pear flood filter. For those unfamiliar with this filter, it gives the image a perception of a reflection (poetical!) and I see it often in publications and I find myself examining ALL images with reflections to see if the photographer had used this very handy filter. I have details of the conversion if anyone is interested but to post it would be a tad boring. Flaming pair flood filters can be found here


Sydney Harbour reflection using flood filter

Sea of Hats

I was on my lunch hour when I was strolling around The Rocks area of Sydney when I saw a group of private schoolgirls on an excursion. As soon as I saw their hats, I knew that there was a good opportunity to get a good snap. As luck would have it, they started to cross the street to where I was standing. I knew in my head the image I was looking for and I had to be above them. With an enormous amount of good fortune, a ramp up to a shop in this old area of Sydney was a few metres away. I raced up the ramp and shot this image. It was taken with my Canon 70-200 f/4L at f/5.6 which gave me a shallow depth of field leaving the centre hat in sharp focus and the rest of the hats out of focus. I submitted this image in late 2005 to the Black and White Spider Awards and it won Outstanding Achievement - People and also won me the Photographer of the Year 2005 - amateur. It really is nice to get recognition of one's work and even though I am now a professional, it still gives me a warm feeling when I look at my certificate!

Sulphur crested cockatoo in flight

This is an image on which I have added a "flood" filter. It is quite effective and quite a nice shot in any event. Flood filters can be found here and they are worth every cent. There is always a debate regarding "Photoshopping" images but as long as one is honest about the origin and digital changes to the image, I think its legimate. The original image, taken in our garden, of the cockatoo actually landing on the lawn, had a piece of its left hand side wing missing so I "replaced" it in Photoshop CS4. Cockatoos actually dislike water and when they start attacking the timber balustrades on our verandah, all I have to do is get out the spray bottle and walk towards them. They are endearing creatures, very intelligent but are enormously destructive. They are very long lived (up to 80 years) so don't even think of buying one unless you plan to outlive it and put up with the high decibels of squawking! I really hate seeing them in cages and they must long to be free when they see a large flock passing by.

Surfing the storm

Late one afternoon, I was snapping at Avalon Beach, Sydney, when a storm approached. This did not stop a late surfer. This image is available as a print via my RedBubble site. Click on image which will take you to the print site.

Sydney Opera House abstract

An abstract look at the famous icon. It is very difficult to take any pics of the Opera House as everyone and their brother has done it before. For this particular image, I used Optikvervlabs filter.

Leopard seal

I took this shot of a leopard seal exhaling bubbles at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. This is, apparently, one of the few leopard seals in captivity. Apparently it was found injured awhile back and is happy in its huge enclosure at the Zoo along with its mate. Through a stock library, this image is to appear as a full page in a textbook.


A portrait of an elderly lady
This is one of my favourite images of Alice, an elderly aboriginal lady who sadly is now deceased. I would occasionally see her at Circular Quay in Sydney and she would often smile at me. I used a Dragan filter to bring out more texture to the image. I am often asked if I have ever been challenged when photographing candid subjects. Only on one occasion, I was asked not to take a photograph of a female street performer which was odd as that is where they often make their money. So, of course, I acceded to her wishes. Many buskers or street performers expect payment for taking their photograph and its something I always do as its their living, as taking photographs is mine. One of my most popular galleries on my website is one of Sydney Aborigines and I have many kind comments on my work. I did have one person, a Sydney academic, who actually called me a thief as she was under the erroneous impression that I was selling images of these colourful folk without payment which in fact is not true. I have model releases from many and I have made subsequent payments to them.

The smoker

The smoker
An elderly man puffs on a cigarette

Mudda Mudda

Mudda Mudda
My favourite subject
Mudda Mudda (aka Cedric) is an aboriginal busker who is often found at Circular Quay, in Sydney, accompanying other aboriginal buskers. He has such a great face and this image won me a UK award last year for traditional portraiture here