So you want to be a famous photographer…

Becoming Famous – Recently a new seller on Fine Art America asked how they could become a famous photographer. They had to desire to become a famous photographer and simply wanted someone to tell they how.

Is there some formula for becoming famous? Does fame only require a desire? How many photographers are famous to begin with? I wonder if the average person can even name any famous photographers past Ansel Adams?

Famous photographers became famous either by the subjects they photographed such as the amazing celebrity portraits by Annie Leibovitz or Richard Avedon.  Or creating masterful landscapes of the American West like Ansel Adams or exploring the role of women in society through self portraits like Cindy Sherman or family dynamics and relationships like Sally Mann, who also creates incredibly unique landscapes using cameras and techniques from the Civil War era.

Or one of my favorite photographers of all time Diane Arbus who documented the fringes of society, midgets, circus performers, strippers, nudists and others who tend to stay in the shadows of society.

Fame as a photographer is not about having the best equipment or the latest camera gear. It is certainly not about taking photographs on vacation or of your cat. Famous photographers become famous because they have a unique vision and great ideas.

The ideas behind the images are more important that the equipment or even how many photographs sell.

To garner fame as a photographer, your best bet is to come up with an intriguing subject matter to explore. Create a series and body of work around that subject/topic. Create enough for a book and touring exhibit.

Get noticed for your unique and compelling ideas.  It’s is the subject, topic and concepts that will get noticed, not the sharpness of your lens or the saturation of your colors. Famous photographers become famous by presenting a unique view of the world and creating compelling stories to share.

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Surreal Photographs to inspire your dreams

Surreal Photographs

Surreal Photographs – Surrealist photographs of Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Brassai, Salvador Dali, Philippe Halsman, Andre Kertesz and Hans Bellmer are considered giants of art. This old school photographers crafted their dream like imagery on film, canvas and in the darkroom or studio. One of the great modern masters of surreal photography is darkroom magician Jerry Uelsmann.

Jerry Uelsmann
Jerry Uelsmann

Adobe Photoshop has allowed artists with surrealist visions to create amazing far out imagery on the computer by manipulating and compositing various images and elements to create the final piece.

Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision.

It’s no coincidence that surrealism started around the time of Freud and his investigations into dreams and how they might give clues to what is going on inside someone’s brain. Are these dreams simply fragments of memory edited together or are they signs of something deeper? Do dreams have meaning or are they meaningless nonsense that we are trying to interrupt as something meaningful?

You can even buy books of dreams. Look up the dream say “flying” and there will be a meaning assigned. Fortune telling or real science?

Here are some sample surreal photographs from fine art photographer Edward M. Fielding that uses elements of mystery and dreams.

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Sell Art Online

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You can find more surreal photographs by Edward M. Fielding as well as 4,900 other images to purchase as fine art prints, framed art, canvas prints, metal, acrylic, wood prints and more as well as products such as cell phone cases, tote bags, throw pillows, rugs and more at:

All products come with a 30 day money back guarantee. Framed prints are museum quality and are crafted by a framer with 40 years of experience serving the artist and gallery market.

Imagine | The Colourful Mr Eggleston

The idea of living off of one’s artwork or photography buy simply uploading a few images and then kicking back on the beach is a fantasy.  Any photographer I’ve seen that has been successful has had to really hustle to make a living – they shoot weddings, they shoot events, they teach workshops, they shoot non-stop.

Alamy recently had an interview with a photographer that reached $250,000 in sales but that was after 15 years and uploading 27,000 images into his portfolio.  27,000!  Imagine finding, creating, processing and uploading that many images.  Imagine the time and effort involved.  Its not easy!  It takes dedication and working at it every single day to find worthy subjects.

From what I’ve seen, most photographers starting out in the game thinking they are going to make some money with their camera tap out the depths of their imaginations with garden flower photographs.  If garden flowers are the best you can come up with, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Then there are the landscape photographers who dust off their cameras a few times a year when they are off on a holiday.  They stand in the National Parks next to hundreds of other vacationers getting the stale Kodak moment shot and then expecting to retire on the results.  Hate to break the news to you but very few people make a living as a landscape photographer.  Unless you have a sales force and chain of galleries in vacation spots like Peter Lik or magazine assignments from National Geographic and Outside Magazine, you probably will not be making a living as a landscape photographer.

To make any real money with your camera, you have to shoot people.  Learn to make people look good and you’ll make money with your camera doing portraits, senior portraits, weddings, fashion, etc.

Then there are the gadget hounds.  The guys with the latest and greatest cameras and lenses.  You know the guys who spend more time on the camera forums arguing about which lens is the sharpest than they spend actually taking pictures.  These guys spend all of their disposable income so they can have bragging rights the next time they are on vacation.  They are busier looking at people’s camera straps then the vistas before them. They are the ones who wander up to you while you are trying to compose a show with “I see you have the Canon X123” and try to get you to talk about camera gear.  The working photographer has no time for this, they are busy working!

If you decide to go professional with your photography, every purchase counts.  When you are in business for yourself every lens has to pay for itself.  The hobbist can buy a macro lens and play around shooting insects in the garden but the professional has to ask – what is the market for ugly bugs?  When will I make back the hundreds of dollars I just spent on this lens?

The best advice I can give is to do your research.  Here are a few books to get you started.

I want to be the next Ansel Adams

Have you ever said this to yourself? If you are a certain age you might be wondering – who the heck is Ansel Adams? But if were around in the 1980s you most likely have an Ansel Adams book or poster somewhere in your home.

Photographers of a certain age hold Ansel Adams in high regards. His work was ubiquitous in the 80s. You couldn’t go into a dorm room or poster store without seeing his work. Or even head to a museum and see his amazing prints on the wall. I was reminded of this recently when I visited my son’s high school art teacher room and there was one of those classic Ansel Adams posters framed on the wall. It’s probably been there for 25 years.

For many photographers of a certain age, Ansel Adams is the role model of success. Not only in technical achievement but in marketing. But the realty is that Adams financial success came late in life after a lifetime of dedication to his craft and art. After a life time of mastering the view camera and darkroom, after a lifetime of organizing photography movements (F64), showing his work in museums, writing books, teaching workshops, taking commercial assignments etc. it was only in the twilight years of his life did one of his students start marketing his work to a wider audience.

I think photographers who remember Adams success late in life forget about all of the years and work that lead up to that moment.

I was a college student back in the mid-80s just when Ansel Adam’s was becoming a household name.  I had a few posters in my dorm.  I checked his books out of the library.  I even bought a vintage 4×5 Graflex Press View Camera, a wooden tripod and a started hiking up mountains to expose my Polaroid Type 45 positive/negative film to later develop in my closet darkroom.  I suppose I thought I’d be the “next Ansel Adams”.

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But as an artist as one matures and finds their own voice, you realize that the goal is not to be come the “next” whatever.  The goal is to find your own expression and techniques to achieve your own vision.

The truth is, your journey though life will never match another persons.  Even your equipment won’t match another artist’s equipment.  Your view of the world won’t match another artists.  Your peers will be different.  Your life experience and opportunities will be different.  Your education will be different etc.  And its all good because this means your work will be your own.

How To Be Ansel Adams

  • Shoot black and white
  • Buy a giant view camera
  • Master exposing film
  • Master the dark room
  • Develop prints for maximum contrast and drama
  • Look at the world with awe
  • Hike all over the National Parks
  • Buy a station wagon and mount a platform on it
Ansel Adams on his portable camera platform.
Ansel Adams on his portable camera platform.

Take aways from Ansel Adams

  • 50% of the creative process occurrs in the Dark Room
  • Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.
  • Use a dropped horizon – less sky more landscape
  • Know your equipment like the back of your hand
  • “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”
  • “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”
  • Previsualize your images before you snap the shutter.

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One Fine Day in Winter – The Life of the Photographer

One Fine Day in Winter – The Life of the Photographer

Growing up I was a huge fan of Mad Magazine and especially Don Martin’s cartoons which often had titles such as “One Fine Day in XYZ”. Combine that with my new learning challenge of creating videos and you get a result like the above video which attempts to get the viewer a glimpse into my process. Yes, mundane chores like like doing the laundry, giving rides to ski practice and grocery shopping get in the way of the “glamorous” life of the fine art photographer.

Big snow falls add extra challenges. 1. being the driveway has to be shoveled before any play happens. 2. it is often not safe to stop along a roadside when the plows are still working or the ditches are just waiting to swallow your car. 3.when you are the one working from home you get a list of chores to do.

Not all is as it seems in winter. A couple years ago I drove up what I thought was a snow covered driveway but it turned out to be a snowmobile trail and it swallowed my new car. I ended up walking to a country store and buying lunch for a burly landscaper kind of dude with a truck full of shovels to come and help we get out of the snow bank.

Oh the hazards of the job. Full of adventure yet full of perils not shown on a GPS unit.  Here are a few captures from Etna, NH after snow storm Nico.  8 – 12 more inches are on the way!

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You May Be A Photographer, But Are You An Artist?

Roger Ballen Photography

Think before you shoot… 7 thoughts from world-renowned artist Roger Ballen.

“My purpose in taking photographs over the past forty years has ultimately been about defining myself. It has been fundamentally a psychological and existential journey.

If an artist is one who spends his life trying to define his being, I guess I would have to call myself an artist.” – Roger Ballen