#621. Monday Post (24 July 2017) – Who do you shoot for?

By Paul Perton | Monday Post

Jul 24

In some ways, Thomas Fitzgerald beat me to this piece. He wrote “Who do you take pictures for?” a couple of weeks ago and I confess to being a bit miffed at the time.


Being all grown-up, I’m over that now and find myself wondering at it’s necessity. After all, every photographer knows that his/her audience has a population of one, with occasional joiners, drifting in and out, telling you what awesome photographs you take, or how much they’d love to use you for this/that shoot, but you know…


Or, asking for the rights to a shot for a magazine, or Web site, but tendering no offer of payment in return. You might find solace and a common thread here.


Builder's tools, Vergenoeg

Builder’s tools, Vergenoeg





Winery window, Stellenbosch

Winery window, Stellenbosch


If you’ve had success in selling images, or prints, well done. My sales to date remain minuscule and you know what? I really don’t care that much.


I do it for me.


Now, what about your images on the ‘net? Do you? Don’t you?


If my experience is anything to go by, you’ll make no money. You’ll get a lot of Likes and “awesomes” on Facebook, the odd comment on 500px and perhaps a comment, or invitation to join this or that group on Flickr, so why do it?


I do it because I enjoy the page views, the odd insightful comment and for a reason I can’t fathom, the white reversed out of blue button that asks me to post my picture to some or other group on Flickr. “You did it” it then proclaims, which of course, I did.


Autumn vine, Stellenbosch

Autumn vine, Stellenbosch


Looking east

Looking east


Kleinmond lagoon at sunrise

Kleinmond lagoon at sunrise


Most of you will tell me that posting on 500px or Flickr is a waste of time, leads to piracy and rarely gets you any better page views.


My insight might be a bit different.


I worked for quite a long time to figure out how to get my page view count up – I seemed to be plateaued at around 100 a day and nothing I did seemed to make much difference. Eventually, I decided to try to become a) more consistent and b) post images in themed groups. That meant a single daily post to each site and as much reciprocal commenting as necessary to encourage people to follow, or at least re-visit my own pages. People who followed me got a courtesy follow back.


It’s taken a while, but my daily page view count is now around 1500 on Flickr and I currently have more than 2.3 million page views racked up. It’s less on 500px, but that does tend to be a more specialised forum, where boobs, legs and chocolate box landscapes consistently win the page view race. I do manage a “Popular” ranking most days, however.


I post on Facebook to keep in touch with friends, the DearSusan page as well as submit (relevant) images to Facebook’s Cape of Storms photographic group.


The outlier for me is Ello, a site Steve Mallet discovered a while back, thinking he’d found a would-be Facebook replacement. It isn’t, but it is a creative hub and my experience has been slow uptake, to several thousand page views a day late last year, when I was added to the editor’s list of selected black and white photographers.


Wind turbines near Caledon

Wind turbines near Caledon


Sunrise over Greyton

Sunrise over Greyton


Cape Town's Theewaterskloof Dam - the drought is so bad that these trees are seeing daylight for the first time in decades

Cape Town’s Theewaterskloof Dam – the drought is so bad that these trees are seeing daylight for the first time in decades


So, all good. And how do I cope with piracy?


I rarely post an image larger than 800px x 800px @ 90 d.p.i. (the standard is 72 d.p.i., but I often feel the slightly higher resolution produces marginally better Web viewing. That won’t stop the picture thief who doesn’t understand RGB and CMYK, high and low resolution and wouldn’t recognise pixellation even if it bit him/her in the arse, but it does make it a bit harder for them to lift an image and use it on a high res project.


This week’s photographs follow no theme – they’re genetically South African – to remind those of you who don’t live here that the exchange rate remains solidly in your favour and that a visit is a pre-requisite to enjoying DearSusan properly 😉


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  • philberphoto says:

    Awesome images, Paul! -since that is the prescribed way to indicate appreciation-. My favorite is Greyton, with Theewaterskloof a close second. And, yes, I’d love, no luuuuurve, to hang a copy of Greyton printed large on my wall. Do you much mind? It’s not like it would cost you anything, friend. Just dropbox me the high-res version, and I’ll do all the work. Deal? Oh, and do you mind taking your watermark off, please, pretty please, it does spoil the fun a bit? Thanks, I knew you were one of the good ones!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    AHA !!! Once again, I strike first and strike fast !!!

    So what on earth can I add? Nothing really – or precious little. I take photos for my own personal pleasure, and for the pleasure of a few close friends who lack the gear I have (or lack any sort of camera at all, mostly – 🙂 ).

    There is ONE photo of mine circulating on the internet – plagiarism of it was reported back to me on a regular basis for YEARS after it was first posted. The experience was particularly unpleasant because that photo had a special emotional significance to me and I was revolted by the number of crass incompetent people who sought to use it by pretending it was theirs, and thereby promote their own business. Several even went to the extreme length of including it in advertisements they published and paid for in magazines circulating around the world.

    Way back, there was the book of photographs that several of my friends and I took, and which I printed and prepared for publication. If you’ve never done this, I can highly recommend it as one of the all-time greatest ego trips EVER – not only author the material, but prepare it all for publication, and then “be your own publisher”, and contract the printing out to someone who delivers the printed, bound books to you for distribution. When you get to write your own autobiographical notes, and then – wearing your other hat as publisher – you also get to write all the promotional material, you can trip out in a delirium of self-praise !!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 So out the door went the flyers – then nothing (well almost nothing) for 10-14 days. Then suddenly, the whole print run sold out in a matter of about 48 hours. Which was a relief, considering the money tied up in all those hitherto unsold copies !!!

    No I don’t take photos for the purpose of impressing anyone else. I take them for my own amusement. I have cart blanche to decided what and how I want to shoot. I am my own critic. I have always been mule headed and stubborn, so that’s probably just as well. Paul, you and others in DearSusan, are well aware that I don’t approve of “critics” most of the time, because most of them don’t “critique”, they just “criticise” – and confronted by “one of them”, I might just teach them some new ways of using the English language. (Sorry Pascal, Philippe et al – I’ve never learned how to be rude in French, it’s much easier to do it in English 🙂 – they have so many tutors, it’s an absolute cake walk !!! 🙂 )

    I love your suggestion of dealing with piracy by adjusting the image size – you can go lower – whenever I am looking for photos of something specific on the internet and Google for them, I find I am confronted with images measuring something like 2.5cm x 4 cm** and if you blow them up on a different screen, they disintegrate into a pointillistic nightmare, even on merely doubling the size.
    ** (an inch by an inch and a half, if you still use farenheit, miles and gallons)

    Thanks for the invite to SA, BTW – been there once (briefly), too many years ago, when Apartheid was at its peak, and departed in a state of shock & horror. I would love to come back, if only to see the animals – but in a fortnight I turn 75, and regrettably, I have decided all future trips will be to the land of my ancestors. “Raca raceja!”, as les occitanes say!

  • John Wilson says:

    Interesting article and really like several of the images. I came to the answer to that question in the early 90s when I was seriously thinking of going into stock photography. I have a good friend who is a very successful stock photographer who was encouraging me to make the leap. I came to the conclusion that my photography is for an audience of one … ME! I’ve never had any desire to “make money” at it and don’t even have a website (too much like a job). Not interested in doing assignments or commissions – I send them to my pro friends. The great Bill Cunningham (RIP) said it perfectly “If you don’t take their money, they can’t tell you what to do”. I’ve been in a few exhibitions and won a few awards and belong to a couple of print groups, but that’s it. The print groups are the feedback mechanism to keep me from becoming photographically insular and stale, and rubbing elbows with some like minded but visually different people.

    Spent a month in your corner of the world a few years back and would go back in a heartbeat … if I could afford it.

  • David Mack says:

    An interesting article, the subject of which I just reviewed for myself. After a slow start some 7 years ago, I’ve accumulated a large number of photographs in a 4 TB HD. What to do with them? If I were honest, I’d delete about 90%, consider the remainder carefully, delete some more, then print a few wall hangers. I, like the rest of you, photograph for my own artistic development and pleasure of understanding all the elements required for creating a successful photo, then playing with its development, going back and looking at others and playing some more. I figured my heirs would just ask what the equipment was worth and toss the rest. Still think they will.

    But, I have decided to take up the art of printing, so here I go down another rabbit hole, learning a whole new craft. Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn once in a while, so there are a few good prints in there somewhere. Printing them, preserves that image and can be viewed by my occasional friends and family at leisure without having to submit to a “SLIDE SHOW” of sorts. The process also creates a sort of personal ownership and expression of what I saw. The side benefit is that of making me a better photographer, more conscious of the essential elements, their relationships and contribution to the story. By the time you get through soft proofing, final print proofing, then printing the large final version, you’ve had a lot of work in editing the final story, sort of like writing the book, mentioned above. I would invite all of you to consider printing an occasional capture, just for the pleasure.

  • Adrian says:

    Firstly, I like several of these photos, but particularly the red leaves on the white wall.

    I think posting to social media, even “photographers” social media such as Flickr or 500Px, can become an end to itself in the pursuit of “likes” or praise. I share some of my physique sports photography on a Facebook page I curate, and I can understand the circle of praise (unfortunately, getting traffic to Facebook pages is difficult without payment, as your posts don’t get seen by many of your followers so getting organic traffic growth is difficult – other platforms such as Instagram seem much better in that respect). I should use “photographers” social media more, and I agree with your comments on quality, consistency and regular posts as ways to get more recognition.

    However, whether any of that recognition actually matters is an entirely different discussion.

    I recently read 2 articles which I think relate in part to some of your comments and concerns about the use of social media. One was written by a skateboarding enthusiast and photographer, and a battle he had with a clothing brand that had used one of his pictures on social media without approval or payment. His experience mirrors my own in the field of physique sports, where athletes and sports nutrition brands seem to think it is quite acceptable to use other people’s photos for commercial promotion on social media. My own experience is as painful as the story I read, as you are often lucky to even get a “sorry” or the picture being taken down, which is supposed to be ok and somehow compensate you for the use of your photo commercially – asking for payment generally leads to abuse or pithy comments about how the company would use a professional photographer if they wanted to pay for images. Given the often poor quality of some of the commercial photography I have seen at competitions, it’s no surprise they prefer to copy other people’s work for free.

    The other article I read recently concerned a photographer who had his Instagram account suspended without reason, and in spite of contacting them on several occasions was unable to get it re-opened until an article appeared in the media. It would appear that if enough people report an account – for example, a competitor in the same field – an Instagram account can be closed without reason. The lesson learnt was not to put all your social media eggs in only 1 basket, as it could be withdrawn at any time.

    I share your concern about online piracy and tend to only upload smaller sized low resolution jpegs to combat it.

    I do shoot some travel photographs as “stock”, although with little sales success – I don’t photograph things only for that reason, but it informs my choice of subjects, views, and makes me set a higher bar for artistic and technical quality, which can only be a good thing. My physique sports portraits I photograph “for myself”, but with the intent of trying to grow my “brand” and get some recognition for that work, as it’s a fairly specialist field.

    Knowing why you photograph what you do, or “who it’s for”, is an important question in the process of identifying your style, vision and goals. Without that I feel that you are less likely to grow artistically and technically.

    • pascaljappy says:

      “The lesson learnt was not to put all your social media eggs in only 1 basket, as it could be withdrawn at any time.”

      Never, never, never. Not ever. Social media can only be an temp extension of your home base. The rule is age-old and knows no exception: if you’re not paying, you are the product.

  • Brian Nicol says:

    I love the images in this post. An artist does things authentic to expressing their soul. The great thing about being a serious amateur (not necessarily less skilled than a professional) is that you do not have to distort yourself to please people. I create images to please myself. I appreciate constructive criticism but ignore it if I am pleased with the image. I value my freedom to be artistic and express myself without having to protitute myself to a employer or the public at large.

    • Adrian says:

      The downside of being an amateur is that without a paying client to try and please, work can be unfocused, you can buy equipment you don’t need for no benefit, and too much freedom leads to a lack of artistic and technical growth. If there is one thing that has benefited my photography, it is treating somewhat like a business.- “good enough” equipment rather than chasing rainbows with esoteric expensive lenses, choosing particularly type of subject to specialize in, looking at other peoples work in those fields and trying to be at least as good or hopefully better, and trying to promote myself to get some recognition for those things I do. The result has been a greater focus on both technical ability and artistic vision, which I think is an important part of growth and development. One of the curses of the amateur van be too much money and not being accountable to anyone.

      • Brian Nicol says:

        My post was about a serious amateur which in my view means pursuit of artistic and hopefully technical growth. People can buy equipment thinking it will solve their photographic problems but as you grow you realize that equipment is a tool like brushes and paint are for an artist. I see far more serious amateurs achieving artistic excellence than your typical professional photographer struggling to make a basic living based on the public placing no value on wedding photography these days and the use of free and almost free stock photography. Serious amateurs set goals and take risks to grow because they do not have to cater to client. I am glad that I do not have to use “good enough” equipment and can choose glass that delivers the image rendering I desire just as the right brush drops the right flow of pigment in watercolor painting. Also, I do not care if an amateur buys expensive equipment and does not grow as they typically in my experience in camera clubs do not want to put in the 10000 hours to learn the artistic and technical skills – the camera is like their car and they can go around looking for their ego stroked but who cares.

        Maybe, us serioius amateurs just want to have fun and use the tool we enjoy even if it is far more capable than we are. In fact, today any camera is more capable than necessary unless extreme specialty areas are considered – hey, I would like a camera that can survive 450 degrees in my oven to take a photo that I have a goal to do but I will remain content with my under specified Leica that is calling me to take better pictures of bicycles. However, as a curse, I need to prepare my pictures for my monthly submission to my coach Ming Thein – the horrors of being an amateur instead of being paid to do what I love I have to be accountable to myself so I outsourced it. Luckily I earn far more doing something else so I do not need to live more modestly pursuing my passion. I would love to work as a photographer but I know I would not have the artistic patience with clients – I have shot some weddings but will not do that again. Any way I must go, my camera is calling me to to some artistic and technical growth.

        • Adrian says:

          Brian, it may be how I am reading it, but it seems my previous post may have provoked you. That wasn’t my intention at all. I wasn’t commenting about you or your photography, but in general it often seems amateurs spend a lot of time and money worrying about and buying equipment in the pursuit of something undetermined – my chasing rainbows comments. I’ve talked to Pascal about lenses, and my firm.belief is that buying fancy expensive lenses wont really make anyone a better photographer, and in many cases won’t make the photos better – hence my good enough comment. Anyway, don’t take any of it personally, it’s a free world and we can all do what we want. I too work in an industry that gives me a certain degree of financial freedom, but over the last few years my attitude to photography has become much more.”business like” – more focused, goal driven, specializing in certain markets, and not wasting as much money chasing rainbows that don’t matter. As an example, nobody cares what lens I use to take a photograph at a physique sports competition – but everyone’s needs and views will vary depending on what they are photographing.

  • Bob Hamilton says:

    I’m often approached by third parties for the electronic use of images. When advised that I don’t allow my images to be used for free, the explanation of which is given below, the (vast) majority of these third parties, often the PR department of companies, as opposed to private individuals, don’t even have the courtesy to respond and I hear no more from them. Some are more honest and respond with a “we want it but we don’t want to pay for it”. Fine by me, but you’re not getting my image……and the principal reason…I have several full time, professional photographer friends and life has become hard enough for them without amateur “snappers” such as me taking the bread out of their mouths and reducing the currency of photography even further than it has been. Like Paul, I neither need the approbration of others nor have a burning desire to see my name in lights to float my boat. I enjoy my photography and like most of what I take and display on my website. If others like it too then that’s merely a little bonus. Given the cost of camera equipment and the effort it takes to capture some of the images I take, I also consider it to be complete cheek for, in particular, large companies to expect images for free.

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