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Monday, 11 September 2017


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What you should do, is to ask them if they want to buy it for $50. I'm sure that'll shut them up real quick. :P

For about two bucks, Amazon will sell JG a thumb drive. Install a file on it and give it to his friend(s). "If it's so easy, you do it."

Fortunately, almost no one asks why I don't sell. I take pictures of urban decay: old houses, crumbling factories, abandoned storefronts - the detritus of the American Dream. Some relatives ask why I take "ugly" pictures. Who would want to buy ugly pictures?

I actually love the picture, and I'm glad you ponied up for the right to publish it.

I was once out and about in the California countryside with a Nikon 800mm f/5.6 lens when I spied a bobcat. He was so far away that, even with the 800, there was no point in trying to get a shot. I just enjoyed watching him; he acted exactly like a regular house cat. That was the closest I ever got to one. From the looks of this picture, I guess I should have been checking the back alleys around my apartment building. Who knew.

I've encountered this, but only a smidgeon ... one friend, in particular, is taken with candids I've shot, and compares them (undeservedly) to school photos of his kids. (His kids went to a private school and class photos were very nice b/w portraits taken by a very good film-based studio photographer). I had to explain to him that my photos look good because I only show him my best few. As an amateur, I have the luxury of not showing him the other 99%. A pro has to deliver the goods consistently. He has to interact with those kids and get them to smile or look interested. He knows how to setup lighting. And he has to WANT to do it. That's the other thing that a lot of people don't get. Some assume that because you enjoy photography, you like taking pictures of anything and everything. Candid snapshots are not the same as studio portraits. The end result may look similar in some cases, but I'm not posing people and interacting with them to get the shot.
Fortunately, I have the wisdom to know I'm not cut out to make money at photography.

As I finished reading this post Mike, I was smiling and found myself reflexively seeking a "like" button to click! And it's not the first time !!

So well said, JG. I have a past acquaintance (he was a co-worker) whose photo website I happened to trip across recently. It's a very slick and polished website for the selling of his work. Nearly all the photos are taken in poor light (mostly mid-day), reveal mundane composition, bald southwest skies, oversaturation, etc. My immediate thought: Who would buy this stuff?

Myself and a friend had a business servicing college and school publisher with art; charts, maps and other sorts of diagrams. When at last, we retired at a point where most business was going overseas, I had a friend, a very intelligent guy, who worked as a hospital administrator, tell me I could have should have sold my business since I could have gotten a lot of money for it!
I knew that was not the case, we barely survived the last five years before closing the doors!
There's a connection here. You would think that with the common knowledge that an awful lot of folks are able to take pretty decent pictures with a phone, that it would be obvious that photographs don't have a great deal of value. But intelligent folks are often not very smart about other things. It's why climate change is a debatable issue, and the average voter knows little about government.

A corollary to that is that seemingly every third person with a digital SLR and a website now seems to consider him- or herself a professional photographer.

It must be the ultimate complement to a lot of people when they tell you this. According to my friends, I should be taking stock photos for half the day, and then running my catering company, microbrewery, and pepper sauce company in the afternoon.

I find it fascinating to compare JG's lovely 'urban wildlife' shot with the countless idealized wildlife photos out there, a stunning percentage of which were taken at game farms like the well known 'Triple-D'. Probably 99% of existing photos of cougars (AKA mountain lions, panthers) and essentially all of the perfectly composed ones in beautiful light were taken at a game farm. Same goes for wolves.
I'm getting to be a contrarian, but I find it far more interesting to see a 'real' photo of a wild animal making a living in the human-built environment than yet another perfect photo of a trained critter that's basically an actor for hire.

I like the idea of a wildlife, not idealized book. I'll submit this:


(shot w/my phone, naturally)

Mike replies: That's a fascinating idea for a book. Wildlife, only not idealized.

Kind of like Barbara Norfleet's "Manscape With Beasts" book from 1990...? not idealized, but something-ized.

A clever ruse to get another "cat" photo published. Will the madness never end? Lol.

Several years ago I attended a conference at a resort hotel/golf course on the north side of Tucson. As an early riser I got up, dressed and was heading to the lobby located in another building. As I walked along a sidewalk I spotted a rather large bobcat with one of her young about 25 ft. from me and paralleling me as the three of us walked between buildings. Frightened, I immediately stopped (didn't want to have anything to do with any animal when her young is with mom) and let her proceed. When I arrived at the front desk, I notified the attendant of my encounter, to which she replied, "Don't worry. She lives on the grounds. If you don't bother her, she won't bother you." My response was, I don't intend to...".

The next day I was on the balcony of my room, about 8 ft. above the ground, when all the nearby birds went silent. He she comes, this time alone. As she passed by she looked up at me from about 10ft. away and hissed. I got the message but I also got a very nice shot of her with her mouth open and baring her teeth nonetheless!

As far as stock goes, well, what can I say? I've been selling stock for a long time and I'm about to just give up. As someone said, supply is plentiful and demand is weak. Not much revenue anymore.

It's nice to have friends cheer-leading, even if they don't realize they're cheering you toward hopeless misery.

Me? I've long ago become comfortable diverting such conversations by pleading laziness.

I've had a friend or two suggest I should sell my pictures, people would buy them they think. I'm always tempted to ask if they'd buy one, they never seem to be offering to buy one themselves. (but I always keep that somewhat snappish response to myself)

See "A biography of street photographer Vivian Maier", the photographer of wild humans who never sold, by Luc Sante at BookForum: http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/024_03/18453

Gee, I don't have any bobcat pictures - I don't think we have them this side of the pond. How about a basically ordinary cat.

With heterochromia?

Years ago I saw a web site of night time urban wildlife photographs, lots of racoons and foxes. Sorry, but I lost the link a long time ago. One video project I thought of doing once was to get video of various animals, mostly farm animals, doing it. My thinking was that urban kids have never seen how animals procreate, the film could be educational. But I never pursued the idea, mostly because I didn't know how to approach local farmers with the idea. I never did the search but I bet there are lots of sites already showing this. There always is.

Funny this topic appeared. Have been slowly selling off my extensive colour slide collection of mostly railways over the last few months. When the images were recorded mostly from 1965 onwards never thought they would give any monetary return. Now some 50 odd years later (actually 52) the images are returning a pretty good buck after expenses and related to eBay and Paypal. Have about 25,000 slides to go.

And Bobcats generally stay well away from humans, they appear as a large domestic house cat save for little tufts on the tops of their ears, and as I understand they purr just as a normal domesticated? house cat.

Huh? He just looks like a cat to me. Anyway a cat that has properly trained its human to perform some bizarre set of tricks is far more interesting than a curious but uninvolved and fleeting wild creature. Mike, you pointed out a great book of unlikely cat&photographer at play pictures a while ago. Who was that?

[Tony Mendoza. The book is called "Ernie."



When my wife is asked about selling one of her photos, she begins to interview the prospective buyer. "What does this photo say to you?" "How would you frame it?" "Where would you place it?" Etc., etc. She is serious about selling one of her "children". Then she says she will let them know later. She always says no.

I once did a portrait session for a friend of mine (totally free, of course) cos she needed a photo for the sleeve of a book she was publishing. I'd previously taken photos of her infant daughter on several occasions and given her a few 10x12 prints that she and her husband had loved.

Anyway, after the portrait session, while we were going through the various possible photos I would work on, she said "you are SOOOO good; you should be a professional! Do you know there are people who photograph weddings? You could make...$500 for a wedding, can you imagine!?"

At the time I was intimately familiar with what it took to run a wedding photography business, and had therefore discarded it as a profession (and my admiration goes out to those who manage to pull it off), so I just smiled politely and said "wowwww..." in the least sarcastic way I could muster.

Oh the bliss of ignorance!

Absolutely *love* the picture of Jim's tomcat...that's my kind of cat!

Of course, the corollary to this is when someone actually does want to purchase a photograph, and there's always that moment-of-silence when you tell them how much it will be ....

I went back to painting because I heard there was big money in it.

Mike, James Balog did a wildlife book along the lines of what you suggested: http://amzn.to/2wmQN92

For all those who liked the bobcat photo Mike posted, here's a link to another one I took early one morning last week after I returned home at sunrise, having stayed out all hours while photographing buildings and alleys and other stuff at night in downtown Phoenix. (Yes, my friends have been encouraging me to sell this one, too!)

The posted photo was taken in my backyard and the linked photo from my driveway, both with a Sony RX1, which didn't allow me to get very close, alas, and had to be heavily cropped as a result, so making a decent print of either photo will be difficult. 8^(

Although I live in a suburb of Phoenix, I also live just a few blocks north of a large (and largely undeveloped) Indian Reservation, so lots of wildlife wanders through my neighborhood at times. I have also seen numerous mountain lions, coyotes, javelina, killer attack bunnies (or so my dog believes, anyway), as well as rattlesnakes, eagles, hawks, and even an occasional feral horse.

I've long since decided that the work of selling my images would detract from the joy of taking photographs. I post a few of my best on my web site or, if appropriate, to SpaceWeather.com

I recently had a request to provide a 4x6 print of one of my SpaceWeather photos. I replied that it would be easier if he just copied the image and printed it himself. And if he still felt like paying for it, consider a donation to the folks who endured the recent hurricanes.

He thought that was a great idea. Saved me a lot of work.

How about house cat photos? I've got a fetching tabby who often sleeps during the day, which makes it easy-peasy to take pictures of him. I calculate that I must have on hand at least $1000.00 worth of house cat photos.

With best regards,


" I just smile and say 'Thank you! I'm glad you like it."
Maybe you should add: 'Would you like to buy a print?'
and see what happens. Not that anything will.

Used to happen all the time to me too (now I hardly take any pictures, except on vacation).
Friends would look at my sunset/flowers/ancient ruins photos that would hardly be acceptable as screensavers on my desktop, and advise me seriously to try to sell them. I never had the energy or patience to explain that I knew exactly how 'good' the photo was and that it wouldn't have many takers if I was giving it away for free.

'Wildlife in the city' would indeed make a fascinating book, and behind the fun and faascination I suspect there lies a major conservation story about how we humans, globally, are icreasingly encroaching on to wild habitat.


I would buy this photo in a heartbeat. It's all too easy to judge a photo on a superficial impression, but if you dig in a little deeper you'll find it to be a brilliant metaphor for nature's struggles in human populated environments. The out of focus leaves on the top right corner, as if vanishing away from the frame, perfectly symbolize nature being pushed out of our lives by progress. We can see that the author of the photograph has strong views on global warming and other environmental issues. And the contrast between the square lines in the buildings and the round shape of the trash can (not forgetting the dramatically abandoned white cloth piece over its lid, which tells a story by itself) says a lot about how we ditch organicity in favour of an artificial way of living.
On the technical side, I love the texture of the walls. It adds 'sturm und drang' to the picture. No picture should be worth seeing if it hasn't 'sturm und drang' of some sort. Of course, in order to lend it an even more artistic look, the author should consider a black and white version of this powerful photographic work - perhaps preserving the bobcat's colour.
Speaking of which, its stunned expression is a tad too obvious for an otherwise subtle warning on the perils of Western civilization, but the bobcat provides another element of contrast to the photo. I'd definitely pay good money for this photo. The walls of the mental institution are just too bare.

So, tell the friends you will let them market it for you as you would a Stock Photo Agency on a 70/30 split. With THEM getting the 70% of the licensing fees.
Maybe one of them will surprise you?
Then again, maybe Tom Cruise will show up at your door with $4 million dollars trying to buy rights to your life story for a movie?

I got my start in stock photography in the mid '90s working at a stock agency. Back then you actually could make significant money at it. We had a few contributors making over $100K/year. Some prolific folks may still be able to do this. One of my photos licensed for $1200 in the late '90s. But I can't remember the last license over $200.

As for who would buy an ugly photo, you'd be surprised. It depends on the subject matter and a photo editor needing something to illustrate the subject. This photo of a toilet has licensed multiple times, and it was shot with a Canon 10D when it was new:


I always assume that photos not taken for commercial purposes have zero market value, including mine. Whatever money there is to be made in photography is in illusion-making: lifestyle, weddings, real estate.

It doesn't bother me that photos have no practical monetary value. In a weird way it makes me love photography more. What market value does poetry have? People engage in word play every day and yet the height of this art is largely ignored. This situation places photography in very good company.

I'd send you a photo of Gitzo, my three-legged rescue kitten, but as of this morning we are facing off in a rights dispute: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/41239954

[Best name ever for a three-legged photographer's cat. --Mike]

There is at least one more book on wild animals living in a city: "http://www.verlagholzhausen.at/current/article/wildes-wien/" Sorry I could find only the German information, an approximative translation would be "Wild Vienna - the incredible animal life in the big city". Unfortunately, I haven't seen the actual book.

I get occasional requests to use one of my pictures, for free, of course and in support of a good cause... When I tell then where THEY can download them, and how THEY can print them (and get blank looks in response) that seems to end things, unless I do the rest of the work.

I wonder what happened to the picture of flooded downtown Houston taken from a tall building early in Harvey? The photographer posted it on Twitter, and then also posted the requests from several networks asking for free unlimited use, with his clear answer, "NO." I suspect it was simply reshot, not bought.

My sense of people saying my photos are so great I should sell them, is that they are complimenting my work in a way that is comfortable for them--not too personal, but sincere. They are just letting me know they really like or admire the images. We Americans tend to value everything, including art, by putting a price tag on it. If a photo sells for thousands, it must be really good. So selling is a way of setting a dollar value on your work, an affirmation framed in classic American terms.

[That's a good insight. --Mike]

Funny enough it has not happened to me. Perhaps because I tend to take abstract photos of non-obvious subjects.

But I've had several people tell me I should write a philosophy book or an autobiography. Which I've actually considered, but the downside is the market for obscure philosophy or an auto-bio of any non-famous person is, hmm, smallish.

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