Finally, all my pics and clips are in the cloud. They are in one place to comfortably access about seventy thousand pics and clips from the last forty years. This calls for a long term retrospective on photography, technology, and the related story of disrupted business along the way.
TL;DR warning! This is a long post where I am writing stuff from my soul and you may most probably spend your time elsewhere in a more productive way, you have been warned…
Again some framing: Why do I think it is so cool what happened so far? Why not stick to a Leica or Hasselblad and take some few perfect B&W photos for a gallery wall or just the family photo album or allow only some few photojournalists to grab a Pulitzer prize with their Nikon F? Three reasons:
- B&W does not automatically transform photos into artful photos, as many from the orthodox photography guild somehow think.
- Few people will actively choose to see pictures on a gallery wall or in a museum.
- Even fewer people will see your family photo album, including your family.
What is so good about what we have today? It is because of stuff like this:
It is mind-boggling to see how much is behind those mash-ups:
- It requires Instagram or something similar to share the result 📷
- Actually, I am not a big fan of Instagram, as I do not understand it, but the picture found me, so thank you Instagram 😊
- It requires the Unsplash Photo Community, which is from my point of view the pinnacle in the development so far 👌
- It requires me having time and money to travel to some remote locations ✈️
- It requires a lot of technology – I love technology 😍
- It requires a lot of time and the right mood from the right people ⏳
However, all this time and effort is from my point of view, absolutely worth to be spent this way. It connects people over time and space, and that is always a good thing, as it leverages our overall value and therefore wellbeing.
It increases our ability to refine information. It is one of my most fundamental beliefs that this and not money should define value of humans in our human society.
Practicing photography does this in a large scale for many people around the globe and allowing people to evolve from just taking snapshots to photographers makes the world a better place.
I consider myself as a serious semi-pro in photography. Like nearly every other computer nerd, I discovered photography during my teen-time. My first camera was a Yashica. Not an SLR but still a real camera with lens allowing to learn the balance between aperture and exposure.
The first target and this is quite stable since then, is a piece of paper 15cm by 10cm to show to family and close friends and archive for later retrieval.
The second target was a piece of DIN A4 piece of paper to hang on a wall for some very few selected photos to show to everybody, even though not really reaching more than family and some friends.
Then I moved on to my first SLR, a Minolta without autofocus (I do not miss this time). I can even remember pulling photo paper through the stabilizer in the darkroom (do not miss that too).
The business model was so clear and straightforward. Kodak was the dominant backend player. Kodak even invented or built the first digital camera, and now Kodak is just an exhibit in the museum of business that failed to adapt to new environments. Nikon and Canon, as frontend satellites, are still orbiting ambitious photographers but many other great names vanished since then. The dramatic drop in sales numbers for the new mirrorless system cameras is perhaps the final sign for the upcoming Götterdämmerung.
My cameras were Agfa for snapshots during vacation, Yashica, Minolta, and Olympus again for vacation snapshots. I used various Olympus models up until nearly 2000, as they offered incredible convenient ways to use 35mm film.
Then, in the late 90ies, as the Internet was happening everywhere, it was a natural move for me to take advantage of it. Here with my first photo manipulation on one of my jumps, that I could morph from 10cm to 1 meter. 🤓😎
…imagine the effort I would have had to do this analog. Simply out of reach. Source Kodak Photo CD and Photoshop 3.0 on Windows 3.1.
Around 2000 the digital age slowly started to get a face. I can still remember how the professionals of that time laughed at digital and totally neglected the possibility it would ever catch up with the analog chemistry.
An industry was looking back on over a century of successful development. A well-established business model with various big and small players at the edge of disruption and not able to see it. It also had a significant impact on the other side. The photographers had a comfortable price per copy and were protected by local semi-monopoly.
This is the first picture from somewhen in late January 2002 after leaving a tourist trap shop on Time Square that sold it. I mean they robbed my money. I was just too greedy to putt my claws on this fine digital gadget.
During my trip through Namibia finally, I got some real food for my new Canon 40D that I used from 2007 to 2009 and made 5500 pictures. Some are really nice and still hanging on my wall.
Acceptable quality for a large print and one of the most beautifully bizarre places on our planet. However, no public interest. I know, there are just too many other shots of exactly this tree at that time of the day.
Buy it here… This agency really managed to not sell one single piece of art. You can help them… or just reach out to me 😀
The picture above is the first real big number. It was the first to attract attention, unfortunately in a very embarrassing way. I called it the 5th leg, and it is by far my most successful photo on Flickr. Please do not ask on how many sick lists this landed. Thirty thousand of views and still a reliable daily source for new views.
Another big hit is the alligator gullet. Yes, think of any sick hobby, and the Internet will find a host for it. Some bored Japanese guys kicked off a best gullet on the net search and also found my alligator from my trip 2008 in Florida I think I was number two or three on that list and the search generated a lot of traffic.
The picture above from the STS-122 mission was not a big hit. For me, it is still on my lifetime top list. Witnessing a shuttle launch, even from 5km away is a very intense experience.
In 2006 I thought that micro stock portals would now start to finance my equipment. I was wrong. Surprisingly, the world of microstock had not waited just for me to arrive late at a party.
This is my commercially most successful photo from that phase. Commercially successful translates to a meager three digit number of downloads, so after all, even the combined effort of my membership at:
• iStockphoto (canceled, read iStockphoto story below)
• Adobe Stock (formerly Fotolia)
• Shutterstock and
was commercially a waste of time. However it was not a total waste of time, as I got, at least from time to time, some hard to swallow but helpful feedback, that improved my technical abilities and sharpened my eye for quality.
- There are four types of feedback you will get as producer:
- The bytes on our expensive server HD arrays already spill over on this topic. Actually, this is ironic, as the storage cost per pic is neglectable. It is the process around. Here you hit the right spot, but others have been there before. Usually, it is a dull spot, at least for me.
- Artifacts! I got this many times on pictures I took with my 40D in proper light in raw that I uploaded nearly unprocessed in 100% jpeg. I am still not sure if this was not a coded hidden message as f* off!
- Will not sell; this motive does not attract our target audience.
- Very seldom you will get real feedback for your picture, and I am still thankful for this, as it helped me get better.
From an overall business perspective, micro stock portals are a plague for most photographers. The price at which they sell is ridiculous low. You will find acceptable royalty free pics for less than a dollar.
As a buyer, you may find this cool, as a producer, I have to compare it to slavery and forced prostitution. The amount of post processing time you have to put into any picture is significant and only pays back if the image is a big seller.
This also means for the buyer, it is less unique and less useful. It will not transport your story. The people will see through it. It will pass through brains without leaving any traces.
If you consider, that for any successful set of photos you will need to travel to a non-standard location and/or will need a studio setup and/or even worse: models where you need a model release, as the pictures have to be royalty-free which translates to…
let us reuse the prostitution language context, as it is so intense and colorful in this case: you can do whatever you want with the picture, whatever sick phantasy you have in mind, the image is yours for a dollar, and you can do whatever you want – enjoy your day.
This only dropped price levels even lower and increased the amount of seamless, high-quality and exchangeable business stock art where happy young business professionals (real people look different and real people know this too) are cheering around whiteboards and green vegetables in meeting rooms from outer space.
From my artist and business perspective, this destroyed photography as a storytelling art that we desperately need in business. Photography is essential for storytelling, and there is no business without narration. Get real photography for your story about your business!
I learned a lot, especially that micro stocks and I are not a good fit. Even though iStock was my best channel at that time, it was also the greatest pleasure to cancel the contract. I may probably still have to work on my anger management, but please take this to consider before you judge me.
Here I learned, there is a reflection in the lower left side. Look for yourself:
Do you see it? It is true. There is a reflection. Therefore the quality of the picture is not enough to be sold for 1€ per photo. This hurts, as they had no comparable pictures on this topic and I think Manhattan is always a good topic.
Then, in 2013, I assembled my first notable youtube clip. 44k views so far, considering I am not talking about the latest lipstick not that bad, right?
In 2014 I finally got some real off world material to make something from, and I produced the Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen dive clip.
I intended to assemble a dive clip that is less boring as the usual ones, so I linked it into a storyline that makes sense. Where does the Prinz Eugen come from, what has the ship been through, and how does it look like now. It has now +600k views, which is totally and overwhelming for me.
Everything else is dwarfed by magnitudes by unsplash.com.
I am now at 25 million views and counting. Stay tuned…