This blog is my attempt to keep track of some of the things I learn along the way, with my Canon 7D, G12 and accessories. All images copyright Brad Calkins, not to be used without permission (or purchase). I do not attempt to monetize my blog, other than to promote my stock photo portfolio on Dreamstime.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stock mirrors life...

Here I am, putting tile in my shower stall this morning when someone buys this photo:

Tile adhesive
© Photographer: Bradcalkins

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Instant success!

I love it when an image sells for the first time within a few days of initial upload. I've had a few of those lately, and it always makes me feel like I know something about shooting for stock - but then I look at the other 19 from the same day :)

Brick wall
© Photographer: Bradcalkins

Yes - brick has been done before, but I've noticed that the Pansonic GF1's 12 MP files seem to get more attention. Not sure if it is coincidence or not, but if you are looking for a background texture I don't know why you wouldn't want the most pixels...

Not sure if anyone else is seeing this, but lately my sales seem to be on a real roll. I had an EL sale today, and yesterday managed to bring in 23 sales!

Monday, March 22, 2010

New sensor technology?

CMOS sensor
© Photographer: Bradcalkins

In an interesting development that (as always for new technology) seems to solve problems with the current technology, and promises 4x the efficiency of current CMOS technology, InVisage has developed a new sensor type based on Quantum Dots. Very promising if it comes close to their claims of 2x the dynamic range!

Hopefully we'll be able to have our cake and eat it too!

Black forest cake
© Photographer: Bradcalkins

Friday, March 19, 2010

First time sales

One measure of success in stock photography is the number of images with a sale - unique sales. While revenue wise it may actually be better to have 1 of out 100 images selling 100 times over, there is some satisfaction knowing that the images you are spending time on and uploading are actually being purchased. Of the 1,800 images I have online, some 1,038 have sold at least once. I think that is pretty good - over half have sold... One thing I've noticed lately is that I actually sell images for the first time quite often. For example, just yesterday here are images I've sold for the first time:

Bible cover

This one I've had online since July 2009 - which goes to show you time helps sales:



Area rug

Silk tie


Frost covered trees

Snow ghosts

Plane engine

Many of these were just recently uploaded, but of note is that I've sold more first time files in a day than uploaded (average). That should hopefully take things to new levels - literally on Dreamstime...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Do you print?

I read an article over on Luminous Landscape that talked about how you just can't judge a camera without considering physical prints. While I won't attempt to dispute that for fine art purposes, or many other applications, stock photography in particular is an area of photography that is totally focused on "pixel peeping". Images are taken, processed, uploaded and sold with no printing on the part of the photographer. In many or most cases the image sold won't even be printed - if used in a Powerpoint, web page design, etc. In many other printed cases the quality of the print would be minimal due to output size. Certainly there are those who would ultimately print a brochure, annual report, magazine or art to hang on a wall. Those uses would be more demanding, but again except in the art cases the ultimately image quality would be limited - and the image supplemenatary.

On the other hand, stock images ARE reviewed by editors at 100% magnification. In that sense, the actual pixel level performance of cameras is much more important for stock photography than other uses. Not to say that it is of no importance, but a person buying from a thumbnail (or 800x600 comp) isn't even given a good example of the work prior to purchase.

CMOS sensor
© Photographer: Bradcalkins

Demanding 100% pixel level performance be of utmost importance does not really advance the art of photography, but it is a valid way to evaluate a camera if that reflects your end use... How many stock photographers ever truly appreciate or even need to know about the fine art of printing?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More flowers, abstract

Flowers are a typical subject that is hard to get approved at stock agencies. It isn't that they don't want them, but that they are a common subject among 'amateurs' and also easy to come by. Finally - flowers are beautiful all by themselves! Last weekend I was at a friend's for dinner and noticed their clear glass coaster sort of acted like a sheet of glass with water drops - only easier to move around. I glanced around the room and figured the vase of roses would be cool to shoot through it. I (naturally) had my 40D, 60mm macro and flash at the ready so I held the glass close to the flowers, focused on it, and bounced the flash off the ceiling to light the flower behind. Voila:

Pink rose abstract
© Photographer: Bradcalkins

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dreamstime changes upload limits

Dreamstime has had a very generous upload limit on contributors, as long as you have had an acceptance ratio above 50% or so. For my tenure with Dreamstime I have been able to upload anywhere from 50 to 150 images per day. I'm not sure who has ever used the maximum (1,500 images a month!) but fair to say that many of the larger contributors make use of the daily limit several times a month.

Thumbs up
© Photographer: Bradcalkins
I tend to upload about 3-5 images at a time. My goal is to produce 3 images a day, most of the time to get close to 100 a month. The new scheme doesn't limit me at all in practice, but does drop my daily limit to 20, from 50. The big news here is for those who have a low acceptance ratio. People under 30% were limited to 2 images a day. Now they will be able to do 5 /day, unless they are under 10% (still upped to 3/day).

© Photographer: Bradcalkins
This could allow some to dig themselves out of the low AR hole at a faster rate, but frankly if you have improved significantly even 2 / day is enough for most to up their AR in a couple of months. The problem is that someone who has an AR of 10% who really improves to 20 or 30% still has to upload 10 images just to get 2-3 online - this continues to build a large chunk of rejectons over time. For those with really low ARs, this may have the opposite effect - they can be a little less choosy in their uploads which may in fact keep them low. On the other hand, big contributors like Yuri Arcurs will have to actually hold back images. It remains to be seen if that is good for the site, but for me in particular it should be a good thing since it will serve to improve my exposure (given my rate of uploading stays the same and the big contributors will be reduced). The theory is that this should help keep the larger photo shoots from diluting earnings for a contributor.

© Photographer: Bradcalkins
Arcurs has argued in his post on exclusivity that limits make him be less risky - since he has to get on the images he knows will sell, ahead of those that might... This new limit is still significantly more per month than iStock allows, so hopefully it won't keep the 'interesting' images away from Dreamstime!

Spring has arrived

Granted, these are cut flowers from a greenhouse, probably, but spring seems to be in the air. I'm happy to see this flower shot made it online - I'm had trouble getting flower shots up due to so many already being online.

Orange tulip
© Photographer: Bradcalkins

Another that I did a while back that was accepted:

Bee on sunflower
© Photographer: Bradcalkins

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Depth of field for different sensor sizes

40D - 24mm f/4
GF1 - 20mm f/4

There is a lot of talk about how people love micro 4/3s becuase of the ability to get more out of focus backgrounds (shallow/less depth of field). At the same time, the argument goes against micro 4/3s in favor of APS-C. Then again, in favor of full frame over APS-C. I've seen both side of the argument, and decided to do a quick comparison between my Canon 40D and Panasonic DMC-GF1. The problem with these kinds of tests:

1. Different focal lengths. Without going into great detail, you have to choose between using the same focal length, or same perspective/angle of view. I went with the later, choosing a focal length on my 40D that approximated the GF1's 20mm lens. I eyeballed the 40D and ended up using 24mm - about 38mm in 35mm equivalent field of view terms. The Panny had the 20mm x 2 for about 40mm. Pretty close.
2. Aperture. When it comes to compact point and shoots versus an SLR it is unfair - SLRs have lenses avaiable with much larger maximum apertures so you'll always be able to isolated better. In the GF1's case I happen to have a wider aperture there than most of my SLR lenses (85mm f/1.8 excepted). I chose an aperture of f/4 so I could compare with a similar field of view. It won't be as dramatic, but that is kind of the point - take a look at what I can get with my normally used lens on the 40D (24-105mm).
3. Foramt. The GF1 has an image sensor size ratio of 4:3, while the 40D's is 3:2. This creates some minor differences, but for this example I just tried to keep the subject the same size.
4. Resolution. The two cameras have slightly different resolutions - the 40D's 10MP compared to the GF1's 12. As you can see, they aren't that different, and really if you cropped the GF1 to 3:2 it would be close to 10MP.

My main question was how did the backgrounds compare - did the Panny have visibly more sharpness resulting in a more distracting background? Sort of. Sure the 40D has a little more blurring, but that is partly because the lens is wide open (circular aperture) versus the Panny's stopped down f/4. All in all I wouldn't really notice this difference in practical terms. Of course, all things are never equal - I can get MORE blur out of the Panny at that focal length becuase I don't even own a f/1.7 lens in that range. Or I could slip a 50 f/1.4 on the GF1 and walk a little further away. In my opinion, the difference over a compact is there, but against the slightly larger APS-C sensor lens and aperture available is more important the sensor differences. I could affect it more by moving position a bit and selecting focal length. With the 20mm f/1.7 Panny lens I can get enough separation for my taste...

I really don't think it is worth the fuss - you are much more hampered by the 4/3s lack of lens selection that a slight difference in blur. This is a knock against the Olympus system (by some), but who makes an f/2 standard zoom (Olympus!) versus everyone else's f/2.8...

Monday, March 1, 2010

You know you do stock when...

...your four year old asks "Daddy - do you have a picture of everything in the house?".

© Photographer: Bradcalkins