Getty Images-John Lund-Stone-200239566-001

Spotlight on Content Creators: Creative Photographer John Lund

May 11, 2011 | By Getty Images | Creative

Photo by John Lund, Riser Collection. Getty Images photo #777592-001.

Spend a few minutes speaking with John Lund, and – even if you’ve never considered the profession – you likely will want to become a stock photographer.

It’s something Lund, who got into the business of stock photography more than 20 years ago, says he sees all the time. It happened to his accountant. And his fiancée.

“She just could not believe that somebody would make a living doing that,” he said. “And now, she’s doing it. Over the years, so many people — once they understand what I’m doing – they really want to do the same thing.”

Why? It could be because Lund’s passion is contagious, and every sentence he speaks overflows with enthusiasm. Or, it could be because Lund has managed to succeed in this business despite myriad changes in the industry – from digital cameras to Photoshop to the user-generated movement.

Or maybe it’s both.

“I have just as hard a time with change as anybody,” Lund says. “But for me, the most important thing when dealing with change is to have a positive attitude. … That’s what allows you to take the steps you need to take to thrive in that new environment.”

Photo by John Lund, Photographer's Choice collection. Getty Images image #106903255

Early game changers

That’s a lesson Lund says he learned relatively early in his career, around 1990, when the photo editing software Adobe Photoshop first arrived on the scene. Lund says he was one of the first photographers to experiment with the software, despite the hostility he received from some of his colleagues.

Back then, Lund says, there was a lot of chatter in the photography community about the use of such software to alter photos. For Lund, it was a godsend. He could remove logos and power lines and make some great stock photography, he says, including a photo of three $100 bills flying through the air. But for others, the tool was considered a cheat, and not something that should be used by “real” photographers.

Lund persevered though, and as time went on, things changed. Photoshop gained acceptance, an industry grew and that photo of the money? It ended up on the cover of Time magazine.


Photo by John Lund, Photographer's Choice collection. Getty Images image #sb10063124b-001.

Today’s environment

Anyone in this business knows that over the past decade, the stock photography industry has continued to change and shift. Lund knows, too.

“It’s never been easier to get into stock photography,” he says, “and it’s never been more difficult to make a living at it.”

Still, it can be done, and Lund is proof. He continues to enjoy a lucrative career doing something he loves — although, he admits, he devotes about 80 hours each week to his business, whether it’s shooting, managing data or cultivating strategic partnerships. Diversification is key.

“Particularly in today’s environment, it is so important to diversify,” Lund says. “So if a problem erupts in one area, you don’t suddenly find yourself adrift.”

Lund does this both by shooting various types of images and adopting different business models (rights managed and royalty free – he has not participated in microstock, at least for now). He also manages a blog and a website featuring his images that links prospective customers straight to where they can license his work.

“I wish microstock hadn’t happened – hell, I wish royalty free hadn’t happened either,” he says. “You need to get those volume sales. The opportunity is creating the same old concepts in new and fresh ways that appeal to a wide range of people … to create images that are better than the clutter and fill a clear need.”

Then, it’s important to get those images in front of as many prospective customers as possible. For the web, that includes including proper keywording and search engine optimization and building site traffic.

“If you want to derive your income from being a photographer, you’re going to have to do a lot of things you don’t necessarily want to do,” he says.

But above all, Lund says, you’ve got to remain upbeat.

“There’s a million ways you can defeat yourself,” he says. “Instead you need to be creative – not just in the images you come up with, but creative in how you deal with the industry.”


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  • Charlene E. Murray

    Dear Mr. Lund:

    I want to sell my photographs, but I want to know if I am able to retain the copyright to my photos. I wish to remain the artist with the rights to my work. Is this possible while working at a company like Getty Images? Or is it better to remain an independent and form my own company to be in control of my work?

    Thank you in advance for your answers.
    Charlene Murray

  • admin

    Hi Ms. Murray, replying as the admin for the blog, I can assure you that contributors to Getty Images always retain their copyrights to images entrusted to us to market for you. Our contributor portal has information on how to work with us, as well as information on protecting your copyrights.

  • john lund


    When working with Getty you do retain your copyright ownership and can still participate in the fine art market with your images within the guidelines of their contract.



  • Thom Gourley

    Hi John,

    You make the point here about diversification. And many ‘experts’ in the field recommend that newcomers like myself establish a specialty in photography. Are these two points compatible? Is it possible to diversify within a specialty? What’s your opinion on this?


  • John Lund


    I think establishing a specialty is particularly important when shooting assignments. It is much easier for an Art Director or Buyer to remember you if you have a specialty. That can also be true if you are licensing your own stock. Back when I did assignment work I had several specialties!

    Even if you stick to one specialty you can diversify by having work in RM and in RF. You can diversify by having images with agencies and licensing your own. And you can diversify by seeking income through other venues such as print sales and so forth.

    I currently specialize in highly Photoshop Manipulated Concept stock photos but diversify by distributing them in a variety of ways. I also shoot the occasional lifestyle and travel image and am continually looking at additional ways to create income from my images.

    Hope that helps!


  • Rich Green

    Where can you point me to figure out how to decided whether an image is RM or RF. Presently I submit all my images as RM, but wonder about what “makes” an image RF. Thanks.


  • john lund


    That is a tough one…actually, I struggle with that constantly. My rule of thumb is that if an image can be ubiquitous…that is used frequently and easily by art directors and designers, then I would lean towards RF. Images that are more difficult to utilize would be more RM. But then there are so many other factors to consider. If the image is hard to create, that nudges it towards RM. If it is the type of image that mom and pop businesses would use, that nudges it towards RF. Then there is the fact that I get a higher percentage for RM…counter balanced by the fact there is a bigger audience for RF images! It all makes me crazy!

    Hope that helps…..


  • Thom Gourley

    Yes John, that does help. Thank you for sharing, you are a big inspiration!