How much effort should you put into a photo?

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!

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We are retired, and we enjoy photography – a day out is better if photos are taken! We only photograph what we enjoy, and we spend as much time processing our images as we want. Like you, we find it enjoyable to process an image and get what we think is the best out of it. Not very businesslike perhaps, but it makes for a happy life!

Yes – I agree. I just wish I had some more places to put prints though – an image on a hard drive is a poor substitute for something you can admire when you walk past it!

Nice post, I can relate to just about everything you said. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the love of it, there is no way I could do ANYTHING 1/10th as much as I do photo and editing. : )

Hello Steve, how is your selling with Photo4me ? Is it worth putting time in selling there? Or is it like Fineartamerica ? there I have photos but never selling 🙂

A question about the Photo4me Stve, what do you fill in by price % ? Default there is 20, but after that it mentioned 43% average. Its not clear to me what is wisdom here. Do youy fill in the 43 in stead of the 20?

Hi Chris
I only have 27 images there (mainly UK photos) and have sold 4 for $100 profit. Always the same image – a sunset over the beach in Formby near Liverpool. Pretty easy to deal with and you do get a bit of feedback on your images via a voting system they have on new images.
Steve

I set that to 40% so it says my average sale price is 96 pounds. That seems to be close to the site average.
Steve

Yes – I’m quite happy fiddling away trying to get the best out of a shot! I’d love to have an exhibition one of these days – perhaps that should be my goal! You have some nice Boston shots on your site – do you sell any from your own site? I’ve tried that for licensing (with poor results to be honest) but not for prints.

Ha, yes indeed… that’s actually my biggest goal at the moment, to one day have an exhibition. I have many friends in Boston who have had them, so I need to get a dozen or so really good shots and get with the program.

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