Spotlight on Content Creators: Creative Photographer John Lund
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.”
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.
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.”