Assignment 2.2 Amend: Shutterscapes

This second part of Assignment 2 uses existing and new landscape photograph series from East Anglia and Northern England to significantly improve my digital photography editing skills across a range of content and the different technical challenges presented. This continues and extends my black and white explorations from Project 2.1 Bridge to look also at colour, split tone and ways of working with low resolution jpg images.

The project focuses on developing a professional standard in digital photographic software: Adobe Lightroom and Nik FX – a key area identified for further development in my personal statement and agreed by my tutor. I aimed to develop an effective and streamlined professional set of alternative workflows integrating Lightroom, and Nik FX with Photoshop for working with different types of image in different styles and starting to promote my photographic work as a way of getting a range of market feedback and starting to develop a possible source of income in the longer term.

My selection of images for this project from my very large library of photos of varying quality and content was based partly on their suitability in posing a variety of technical challenges. Some of the images are older and less ‘professional’ and others are newer and better considered, offers possibilities of exploring a range of relevant technical treatments in different software. This is a more interesting and creative way of discovering ‘happy accidents’ rather than simply mechanically trying everything for all photos.

A key aim of this assignment is to start to look at ways of promoting my work, starting with Shutterstock and Adobe Stock stock image markets. Advice from experienced stock photographers is to have a larger number of different types of image – editorial, commercial and also abstract. Rather than – as in higher end photography – to focus on a distinctive style and niche (that will come in Part 5 of this module). So an issue in selection of series and images was how far I thought they might be suitable as stock photography rather than their documentary interest.

I focus on series of existing and new images from four locations that offered a different ‘aesthetic’, were under-represented on Shutterstock and which I would be able to revisit and extend further for Assignment 5:

  • 2.2.1 Cornwall revisited: Penwith Black and White revisits a series of colour photographs from Illustration and Printmaking 1, together with new photos from May 2019 to explore the potential of black and white for atmospheric documentary, developing skills in Lightroom and SilverFX.
  • 2.2.2 Suffolk Edges 1: Aldeburgh revisited uses two series of images that were originally taken as background reference for sketchbooks of Aldeburgh for projects in Illustration 2. One series ‘Carnival’ are a mix of high resolution RAW images and iPad Pro jpg images developed in vivid colour in Lightroom. The second series ‘One Aldeburgh Morning’ are low quality jpg images from an old iPhone that I use to explore different photo filters in Photoshop.
  • 2.2.3 Suffolk Edges 2: Orford is a new set of high resolution RAW images images from 2018 walks along the shifting coastline of the Ore Estuary and the National Trust reserve at Orford Ness. I compare different treatments in colour, black and white, tinted and split-tone in Lightroom and SilverFX.
  • 2.2.4 Norfolk by the Sea 1: Winter Seaside revisits old photographs of Cromer and Hunstanton as the start of a study of the life of sea-side towns in winter. Some of these images are further developed as Photoscreen prints.
  • 2.2.5 Norfolk by the Sea 2: Shifting Coast uses old photos of Sheringham and a new set from a 2018 walk along the Norfolk Coast Path. I start to develop some of these in Photoshop as photographic positives for colour Photo-screen.
  • 2.2.6 Going North 1: Lake District Sublime revisits a portfolio of high quality RAW images processed in Lightroom for a landscape photography assignment on ‘Beauty and Sublime’ and looks at whether and how Nik Viveza and Silver FX can add more lift and impact to the images.
  • 2.2.7 Going North 2: Dark Peak looks at ways of working with low resolution jpg images in Silver FX to produce a series of ‘dark’ evocative images from photographs taken with an old compact camera in 2011.

This project brief explicitly required me to focus on skills development rather than content and meaning. But in my discussion of the images and the ways in which I develop them draws on discussions of beauty/sublime, the picturesque and ‘tourist gaze’ in landscape and documentary photography and considers ways in which different styles of digital processing can alter the meanings of the photographic image. In each series I explore a range of possible aesthetic and colour and/or monochrome technique before identifying those that best communicate the ‘spirit of place’, different ways in which human activity has ‘landscaped’ the ‘natural’ environment and my own ‘landscaping’ of what I see.

Technical conclusions on digital photography software workflow

My conclusions of workflow are that the key is to explore a range of image possibilities through initial experimentation as unexpected discoveries are often made – the more one becomes familiar with the software the more possibilities open up. This helps clarify what one is aiming to communicate – often a number of different interpretations that are relevant for different purposes and combinations of narrative. Then images can be reviewed and refined in different ways as photographs for different markets, and also as the basis for further development in printmaking media or illustration and art.

See: Digital photography software workflow

Conclusions on stock photography and agencies

A key aim in this project was investigation of the differing requirements of major stock image libraries and landscape photography libraries and then submitting relevant images and starting to get concrete professional and audience feedback on my work. I identified Shutterstock as the best place to start because You Tube contributors said Shutterstock was easy to use and very good at giving technical support and feed back. See posts on:

I started to develop a quite diverse portfolio – following You Tube advice not to specialise at this stage or narrow my stylistic options. Before selecting images and places to work on I did a search of the Shutterstock image library to see which subjects, places and styles were over-represented and for which places and styles I could fill a market gap that was in line with subjects and styles that appeal to me. There were few images for all the places I selected, and the images that did exist were overwhelmingly high/over-saturation high over-sharpness images. Many of which I find very ‘over the top’ – but was not sure if images were that way because they were what the market wanted or whether other types of image might be successful also.

My Shutterstock portfolio includes (!! did not have time to update these figures and links. there are more now):

  • Lake District (48 images in colour and monochrome processed in Lightroom and/or Viveza)
  • Norfolk: Burnham Overy Staithe (34 colour images processed in Lightroom, including abstract seascapes)
  • Suffolk: Orford Marshes (10 colour, monochrome and split tone images processed in Lightroom and/or Silver FX)
  • Norfolk: Hunstanton (39 ‘English seaside on a cold New Year’ colour images processed in Lightroom) and Norfolk: Cromer (5 colour images including 2 that were substantially processed in Lightroom to correct lighting and perspective, and 2 ‘nostalgic sea-side images in Analog Pro)

My experience so far has been broadly positive – good resources database on areas like intellectual and privacy rights, technical tutorials and quick and helpful response to some queries I had. I have learned a lot technically. and the experience has taught me a lot so far. Most of my 253 images were accepted when submitted first time (having consulted all their documentation first). The main reasons for rejection have been because of issues like titling, editorial vs commercial categorisation or keywording. Only 3 have so far been terminally rejected on jpg quality issues, but even these I think I plan to re-submit as more artistic creations using NikFX.

Sales have been less successful. Shutterstock is generally considered by You Tube contributors to give highest income because of volume of sales rather than percentage of price. But in order to make substantial income you need to have around 2-3,000 images and constantly have a drip of new images going on. I have so far sold two images for the huge total of USc50! The first download was someone local in Isleham, Suffolk and the second someone in Korea.

Both images are suitable for backgrounds, rather than editorial. They are also desaturated and different from the overwhelming majority of highly sharpened and highly saturated tourist images. Possibly this distinctive style is one of the ‘niches’ where I may eventually choose to focus. Particularly as I enjoy the experience of taking and processing these types of landscape image and would like to develop my photographic as well as software processing skills. Alongside more socio-political editorial images that may have less of a market as stock photography and may need to be part of a proper narrative as a book or on-line experience.