It Could Have Been My Photo

I jumped a bit on my chair the other day, when I saw this book cover.

Crimson Shore book cover

I could immediately recognize the lighthouse pictured there as Portland Head Lighthouse, a location I had visited and photographed two years ago. The perspective and the style of the image, with the long exposure blending the waves crashing ashore into an indistinct mist, was so familiar to me that, for a brief moment, I thought they had used this image of mine without telling me.

Portland Head Lighthouse

On closer inspection, and disregarding the obviously photoshopped ship and light, one can see some obvious differences, like the fact that their image was taken from a slightly different point, a bit closer to the lighthouse, and that the tide was higher when I took mine. There went my hopes of suing the publisher for a big lump of money.

However, this discovery got me thinking. It is clear that my image is just as good as the one they used. I even made my own replica of the cover, using my photo. I only spent a few minutes making it and I’m not that good at graphic design, but as a general concept, I think it would work just as well, wouldn’t it?

Crimson Shore Replica

So the question that arose in my mind was: Considering I have images that are as good, if not better, than the ones used on the book of two bestselling authors, why did they use another image, instead of mine?

The obvious answer is the one that every aspiring professional photographer should ponder every single day: It doesn’t matter how good our images are. If you are not putting them in front of potential clients, nobody will buy them.

We think of ourselves as artists, but the sad truth is that the ones who are commercially successful are not those who make the greatest art, but those who can present decent and sometimes not-so-decent art to the people with the money and the inclination to make a purchase.

With this in mind, I have recently started putting my work up on ImageBrief. It is still early to say whether this is a good move, but the future seems promising.

My dear readers, what are you doing to achieve commercial success? This is assuming you are chasing it and not just shooting for your own pleasure. If you have experiences to share, please leave a comment below and let’s get the conversation started.

Comments 7

  1. Once, I attended a dinner across from a guy who was a pro photog and asked him what he shot for a living. He told me that he shoots book covers full time.
    His wife does costuming and set design. His firm only does book covers. He has an agent who feeds him the jobs. He has a design team managed by the agent that dictates what he should shoot and how it should look. They also manage all of the post. He said there’s almost no creative license involved. Every project is a collaborative assignment which could not be considered the personal work of anyone involved.
    The good news is, I’m sure with so many self-publishing now that there are authors looking to purchase a cover picture. But according to him, this is industry standard for the large publishing houses.
    His was an interesting glimpse into a niche field of photography.

  2. Wao! Felt like the article was written for me. So how did you get out of this cos I’m caught in this web at the moment and really need a way out. Will appreciate a Lea way, thanks.

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  3. I found myself in the same position last week and rushed home to double check my photo. Sadly it was also not my shot, BUT could have been if we all got out there and maybe had some exposure….

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