Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What's a "Cliche'," and Are Such Images Worth Pursuing??

I've recently received comments on a couple of my vineyard and lone tree photos that they were "cliches."

I don't view that as negative feedback; I've been pursuing illustrative photos for a photo travel guide. Cliches? Bring 'em on! Over-shot viewpoints? Heck yeah, I'll provide detailed directions! As we all dig deeper in the field of landscape photography at our own pace, it's easy to forget that not everyone has the classic shots in their portfolio, and even fewer of their friends, family or fans have have ever seen them. So rather than assume any certain required level of quality or originality in the reader base for my book, I have to provide something for everyone... the now-classic views, the more original compositions available a few steps further from your car, and the totally unique views that I've never seen anywhere else. Something for everyone! So much of my current work is illustrative/documentary. Hey, if I can save you 5 gallons of gas and help you focus on the best locations at any given time, the book will pay for itself very quickly, or hopefully, many times over. Add the variables of seasons, weather, sunrise/sunset, weather, night and astronomical events, and photographer intervention (light painting), and even the most trite viewpoint can offer unique possibilities. I intend to provide the most interesting, diverse, and truly useful guide ever. Will I succeed? Who knows; readers will be the judge. But in my experience I have observed that people rarely exceed their goals, so to provide the best guide possible, I have to shoot for the moon (often literally), and see how close to that ideal the end result cam come. I'll probably never recoup my investment in time and travel, but if I'm going to put my name on it, at least it'll be the best darned photo travel guide that I can possibly produce!

The book aside, a huge percentage of the market for photos is for ones that are "good enough." Not art prints, just stock photography of a representative shot of Half Dome and dozens of other landmarks. I don't currently participate in that market, I value my control over my images way too much (and frankly, microstock has driven the value of such shots way too low), but I want the shots in my portfolio in case I ever decide to pursue that "least common denominator" demand. If someone wants a "one stop shop" for Yosemite images, I want to be able to fulfill that need.

The classic national park viewpoints are often there for a reason. They offer stunning views. If you want that image for your portfolio, don't worry about others' approval, go for it! In the context of your broader portfolio it may fill a valuable role. Only you can decide what you'd like to cover. Shoot for yourself.