I was thinking about this question recently. I have many, many images that I sell via stock agencies and then I have a smaller subset that I try to sell as prints via Fine Art America and also Photo4Me in the UK. I sometimes even print my own images but there is a limit to the amount of wall space I can dedicate to my own prints! So there is a conflict between the commercial calculation of time spent versus potential income and the artistic desire to get the best out of an image that catches my eye. A case in point arose this week when I was looking back at an image that I had taken in California (and was already on FAA) but there was something not right with it. I’ll start with the final finished product that has now replaced the original on FAA:
There has always been something about this image that I liked. The original was nothing very special:
But I got quite a way towards the finished product in Lightroom and this was the one I originally posted for sale:
But when I looked at it, I saw all those fence posts and brightly lit wires along the edge of the path that leads up in front of the trees. Perhaps a buyer wouldn’t see that, but once I had seen it, I kept seeing it! So into Photoshop I go and laboriously remove each post and bit of wire. I found that removing it using the content aware fill in small sections worked best, together with a bit of cloning. But now I saw the tree over on the left that extends the main clump of trees out of the frame. That spoils the balance of the image – it would be so much better if the trees had been surrounded by blue sky! This was a much harder challenge as I needed to draw around the branches of the main trees using the pen tool to try to make it look as though they were isolated against the sky and then patch in some blue color to cover up the background trees. Whew – good job I use a Wacom tablet for this sort of stuff! The end result is the image I showed first. More of a square crop, blue sky all around the trees, and no annoying fence! Will it ever sell and cover the cost of my time? I doubt it, which is why this stock activity needs to be a hobby you enjoy as much as a business proposition. I think you can make a nice living in stock by focusing on studio images of backgrounds, images to illustrate all the popular holidays, shots of objects in the news (like Bitcoins) and so on, but then it becomes more of a business than a hobby and much less enjoyable in my eyes. Perhaps my best advice is to do what you enjoy but keep an eye on the commercial opportunities as well!