On (Not) Selling Images… « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

On (Not) Selling Images...

The Streak Continues: 180

After a great ART (Active Release Technique) session yesterday at True Sports Care, Nesconset, Long Island, NY with Dr. Daniel Holland the right shoulder is feeling much better. And even the knee is feeling better. I flew home from Islip early this morning and enjoyed a nice swim before lunch.

We are glad to report that the BAA On-line Store has been back online since Tuesday/ Thanks a stack to all who phoned in their orders. We apologize again for any inconvenience.

This post marks 180 consecutive days with a new educational blog post. With so many folks getting in the habit of using our B&H links and our Amazon logo-links why quit now? To show your appreciation for my efforts here, I do ask that you use our the B&H and Amazon affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially Gitzo tripods, Wimberley tripod heads, and the like. We sell only what I used, tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know the tools that you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And we are always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

You can find the following items in the store: Gitzo tripods, Mongoose M3.6 and Wimberley heads, plates, low feet, and accessories, flash brackets, , Delkin e-film Pro Compact Flash Cards, LensCoat products, and our unique line-up of educational materials including ABP I & II, Digital Basics, Site and Set-up e-Guides, Canon and Nikon Camera Users and AF e-Guides, and MP-4 Photoshop video tutorials among others.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and visiting the BAA Online store as well.

This post took 1 1/2 hours to prepare. Enjoy!


Lens Clens

Lens Clens Testimonial

I have been using Lens Clens to clean my gear for about 15 years. Their #1 version is designed for coated optics. That is all that I use and is the only Lens Clens product that we carry. I keep a bottle on my desk to clean my laptop screen, a bottle in my X-tra Hand vest for use in the field, a bottle in the Think Tank Rolling Bag that holds an amazing amount of my gear most of the time (including the time that I spend on planes), and,when I am not flying, a bottle in my laptop bag and my luggage for emergency use, i.e., when I can’t find one of the other bottles (which is often).

In the field I put a few drops of Lens Clens on the absorbent cotton that I keep in my vest or on an old, clean, t-shirt, clean the front element of the lens that needs cleaning, and then use a second dry piece of cotton or a dry section of the t-shirt to polish the surface. If I am cleaning the lenses inside at home, I always use an old cotton undershirt. If I am in a motel I use a dirty cotton undershirt. I moisten one part of the shirt, clean the front element, and then use a dry portion of the shirt to polish it.

Now here’s the best part: on rare occasion, I actually do clean the outer surfaces of my camera bodies and lenses, especially if I have abused them with dirt or mud (as I do often…) Same deal except that I put more of the Lens Clens fluid on the the undershirt than I do when cleaning the front elements of the lenses. I also keep a few Q-tips in my vest. I moisten one end of a Q-tip to clean the viewfinder. Then I polish it with the dry end. Lastly I break the cotton off one end, wrap some cotton or a corner of the undershirt around the shaft, and finish polishing the viewfinder at the same time as I get into the corners. For the laptop screen it’s moisten-the-t-shirt time again.

Not only is the stuff designed to be 100% safe with all the glass and all the surfaces of your gear, it will get your stuff cleaner than you have ever seen it since it came out of the box. And it dries in seconds. (Do not of course be tempted to use it on the sensor of your camera; that’s what Lens Pens and Sensor Scopes are for.)

I began to investigate the possibility of adding Lens Clens to our mail order line-up as it met the two major criteria: I use it all the time and it works. The final straw was a comment by IPT veteran Myer Bornstein at Nickerson Beach after I loaned him a few drops (generous fellow that I am ; actually, a few drops is all it takes). He said something to the effect that the Lens Clens worked about a hundred times better than the stuff he had been using.

You can get your own small bottle of Lens Clens by clicking here

By e-mail this morning from Chris Houston:

Artie, I just wanted to send a quick email thanking you for highlighting Lens Clens in a recent blog post. After seeing your enthusiastic recommendation I went ahead and ordered a bottle from the BIRDSS AS ART Online Store and found it every bit as great as you said it is. For the last couple of years I have had a small 1/4 inch scratch on the front of my lens. I figured I must inadvertently have run into a branch or something. None of my cloths, wipes or solutions worked so I assumed it was permanent, but the Lens Clens wiped my “scratch” right off! I don’t know what kind of magic juice they put in that bottle, but I’m now a customer for life, and I’m never going to use anything else to clean any of my lenses or filters. Thanks again, Chris


This Coastal Brown Bear image (“Smiling Bear”) was created in 2009 at Kukak Bay, Katmai National Park with the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens and the EOS-1D Mark III (now replaced by the Canon EOS-1D X.

A Rare Over-the-Transom Image Sale

As noted here and elsewhere, image sales at BAA over the past decade have been down more than 90% by dollar value. It was nice recently to receive an e-mail from the folks at Rhino Entertainment Company recently expressing an interest in purchasing rights to use an artist’s rendering of the image above as a small part of the cover art for an upcoming Grateful Dead album. After a short negotiation a usage fee of $1,000 was agreed upon and a one-time use contract was signed by both parties. Such sales–where someone contacts you out of the blue–are rare but most welcome.

I will share the cover art with you once the album is released. I just did a search and judging by the style it looks as if the cover is by the same artist who created the cover painting below for this boxed set:

On (Not) Selling Images…

In the comment section of the “More Telephoto Flash Lessons” blog post of March 28, 2014 here, Richard Kolar wrote,

Hi Artie, In a recent blog post entitled “It’s a Strange, Strange Business Indeed” you stated “Today, it is difficult to sell an image.” I am very intrigued by this statement and I’m wondering what the basis for it is. To what do you attribute the decline in your ability to sell images? Regards, Richard

As few folks follow the comments after they visit the blog on a given day, I wanted to share the rest of what turned out to be a three-way conversation with you here.

Here is my response to Richard (adapted for re-publication):

Hi Richard, My abilities are fine :). It is the market that has changed. There are several reasons for that. Things started to go downhill for no apparent reason right after 9-11. The number of new book projects fell off to near zero, possibly due to more stuff being done online…. Big bird book projects often resulted in large sales; selling 50 to several hundred images even for a low price, $35 to $75, made for a substantial check. Things got worse with the economic downturn.

And then there was digital photography. Digital opened up bird and nature photography to the masses for a variety of reasons:

1-Entry-level camera bodies with 1.5 and 1.6 crop factors give folks with intermediate telephoto lenses a lot more focal length bang for their bucks.

2-The relatively low cost; for well less than $3,000 you can purchase a lightweight hand-holdable rig with an equivalent focal length of 640mm.

3-With digital the learning curve is greatly reduced. Before long pretty much anyone who was serious about improving was capable of creating high quality, sale-able images.

The big problem in part has been that there are many, many folks who simply want to see their images published above their credit line who willingly gave their quality images away either for nothing or for pennies.

Here is a perfect example. VIREO, Visual Resources for Ornithology at The Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia), was creative as a repository for good and rare bird photographs. It quickly became a fairly good stock agency. In the latter half of the 1990s we would receive two checks a year from VIREO, often totaling $10-$15,000 annually. One of their big clients was Thayer Birding Software. They sold CDs with bird songs and photos. And they paid fairly for photo rights. And they paid fairly for reprint rights after a given press run sold out.

And then along came i-Bird. I got that first e-mail; I am paraphrasing here: Give us your best bird images for free. We will use them in our bird song apps and include a credit line. What’s in it for you? Buyers will see your photo and your credit line and flock to buy your images.” I saw through that in one second flat, but dozens if not hundreds of of photographers, most highly skilled, signed up. All gave away their images for not one cent. The ‘credit lines” were in a microscopic font. As far as I know not a single photographer has ever made a sale or even been contacted by a photo buyer as a result of their donations to iBird.

While this may be an over-estimate, iBird has exploded with sales at least in the many millions of dollars. Without having to pay for images, the original iBird APP was priced at $15. The expansion of iBird apps and other products has been huge. With iBird not having to pay photographers, the Thayer CDs cost roughly 5 times the price of the iBird stuff. As I understand it Thayer Birding Software is still in business, but I have not seen any payments from them in ages. In any case, this new scenario of talented folks giving their images away out of ignorance has pretty much killed one aspect of the market.

I will see if I can get Doug Wechsler, the director of VIREO, to chime in here as there may well be other factors involved.

I received this e-mail from Doug on May 19:

Artie, I think you covered the main points pretty well. Things got rocky right after 9-11. VIREO’s sales started to fluctuate. The rise of the huge digital agencies (Corbis, Getty, etc.) reduced our textbook sales with their bulk deals and one-stop shopping.

Then came royalty-free – agencies selling more or less all rights for a pittance. Many buyers lowered their standards and purchased these cheap images.

Digital photography made it much easier to get a publishable shot and to send out multiple copies of the same photo, so that your great images were not tied up. On top of that many photographers were willing to give their photographs away or sell them for a song.

Due to the increase ease of acquiring images, photo buyers are often paying less and demanding more rights than they were 20 years ago.

Thayer found another source of images, which is why you are not seeing those royalties.

You even deserve a little credit, Artie, though I have no problem with this. You have trained so many excellent photographers, also causing at least some increase in competition.

Doug Wechsler, Director VIREO (Visual Resources for Ornithology) The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Questions Welcome

I’d be glad to answer any additional questions on the state of the nature photography business.


Denise and artie hope that you can join us next spring in Holland and learn to improve both the technical and creative aspects of your flower (and street) photography.

7 1/2-Day/8-Night: A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART/Tulips & A Touch of Holland Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT)

Keukenhof—Delft—Amsterdam–Flower Fields—Kinderdijk
April 9 -April 16, 2015: $4995. Limit: 12 photographers

This trip needs 6 registrants to run so please do not purchase your plane tickets until you hear from us that the trip is a go.

Join Denise Ippolito, the author of “Bloomin’ Ideas,” and Arthur Morris, Canon Explorer of Light Emeritus, for a great trip to Holland in mid-April 2015. Day 1 of the IPT will be April 9, 2015. We will have a short afternoon get-together and then our first photographic session at the justly-famed Keukenhof. Our last day, Day 8, April 16 will be a full day of photography.

The primary subjects will be tulips and orchids at Keukenhof and the spectacularly amazing tulip, hyacinth, and daffodil bulb fields around Lisse and points north. We will spend one full day in Amsterdam. There will be optional visits to the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House and/or the Rijk’s Museum. Street photography and sightseeing will be other options. We will spend a half day at Kinderdijk where we will be photographing the windmills and doing some creative photography. We will spend an afternoon in the lovely Dutch town of Delft where we will do some street photography and shopping. There is an optional church tower tour/climb. We will also enjoy a superb fine dining experience in a traditional restaurant.

Other than the arrival date: April 9, Day 1, and the date of our last day of photography on April 16, Day 8, there is no set itinerary. We will check the weather and play everything by ear to maximize the photographic opportunities. We will try to do Amsterdam, Delft, and especially Kinderdijik, on cloudy days.

There are several huge pluses to this trip. First off, denise is an amazingly skilled and caring instructor. Both her creativity and her willingness to share and to help beginning and intermediate photographers are unmatched. And though artie has learned a ton about flower photography from denise, their styles and techniques do vary considerably. You will have a chance to be counseled by and to learn from both of them. While denise will hunt you down to help you, artie’s teaching style is more “the closer you stay to me, the more you will learn.” Both leaders consistently inspire the participants. And each other. The sky, of course, is the limit.

You will learn to create tight abstracts, how best to use depth-of-field (or the lack thereof) to improve your flower photography, how to get the right exposure and make sharp images every time, how to see the best shot, and how to choose the best perspective for a given situation. And you will of course learn to create a variety of pleasingly blurred flower images. If you bring a long lens, you will learn to use it effectively for flower photography. Denise’s two favorite flower lenses are the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens and the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. Mine are the Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro , the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM lens ,and the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, all almost always on a tripod. Often with extension tubes and/or either the 1.4X or the 2X (with the 300 II) teleconverters. Denise hand holds a great deal of the time. For flower field blurs denise uses the same lenses mentioned above along with her new 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III lens. Artie’s favorite is that same 70-200 often with a 1.4X TC but he uses both the new Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens and the 300 II as well. Both of us use and love the Canon EOS 5D Mark IIIfor all of our flower photography. The in-camera HDR and Multiple Exposure features are a blast.

One of the great advantages of our trip is that we will be staying in a single, strategically located hotel that is quite excellent. Do note that all ground transfers to and from Schipol Airport will be via the free hotel shuttle bus.

What’s included: Eight hotel nights. All ground transportation except for airport transfers as noted above. In-the-field instruction and small group image review and Photoshop sessions. All meals from dinner on Day 1 through dinner on Day 8. There is good food at the hotel and we will be dining there on occasion; whenever you order off the menu be it at the hotel or at another restaurant only the cost of your main course is included. On these occasions the cost of soups, appetizers, salads, sodas and other beverages, alcoholic drinks and wine, bottled water, and desserts are not included. Snacks, personal items, phone calls, etc. are also not included. The cost of bus or train transportation to and from Amsterdam (about $20 US), museum entry, and tower and church entry fees (optional) are likewise not included.

Beware of seemingly longer, slightly less expensive tours that include travel days and days sitting in the hotel doing nothing as part of the tour. In addition, other similar trips have you changing hotels often and needlessly. One final note on other similar trips: the instructors on this trip actually instruct. On other similar trips the instructors, though usually imminently qualified, serve for the most part as van drivers and van door openers.

A non-refundable deposit of $1,000 per person is required to hold your spot. The second payment of $2,000 due by October 30, 2014. The balance is due on January 15, 2015. Payments in full are of course welcome at any time. All payments including the deposit must be by check made out to “Arthur Morris.” As life has a way of throwing an occasional curve ball our way, you are urged to purchase travel insurance within 15 days of our cashing your check. Artie uses and recommends Travel Insurance Services. All payments are non-refundable unless the trip fills to capacity. In that case, all payments but your deposit will be refunded. If the trip does not run every penny will of course be refunded. Again, please do not purchase your air tickets until you hear from us that the trip is a go. We are very confident that it will.

All checks should be made out to “Arthur Morris” and sent to: Arthur Morris, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. Call Jim or Jen in the BAA office with any additional registration questions: 863-692-0906.

For couples or friends signing up at the same time for the tulip trip, a $200/duo discount will be applied to the final payment.

When you send your deposit check, please print, sign, and include the paperwork here.

If you have any questions on the trip please contact artie by e-mail or denise by e-mail.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog or via a BAA Online Bulletin is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charges a minimum of 20% plus assorted fees! Yikes. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly–I offer free pricing advise, usually sells in no time flat as did Dennis Cassidy’s 500 II recently on the blog. Larry Master’s 400 DO and his 800 f/5.6 sold within a week. From Larry via e-mail: Thanks for helping me sell the lenses so quickly!

A Creative Adventure/BIRDS AS ART friend Kitto Kono sold her Nikon 500 to a Blog subscriber in less than a week. Janet Horton’s 7D sold this week after a $100 price reduction. Denise Ippolito’s 100-400 and her 100 macro sold in one day. Peter Kes sold his 70-200 f/2.8L IS II and his 400 DO through BAA in ten days. In the past two months we have sold a Canon 800, a Canon 500 II, 3 400 DO lenses, a Nikon 500mm, and lots more. If you are interested in using our services, please e-mail.

Used Photography Gear Page

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that there is a link to the Used Photography Gear page on the yellow tool bar at the top of each blog page. Folks looking to buy (or to sell) can click on that tab or here. I will on occasion continue to list new gear and great buys in blog posts and in Bulletins and may on rare occasion share all the listings with you on the blog. I will strive to keep the listings current. Great news for Kitty Kono and her Nikon 400mm f/2.8: it sold recently! That made her 2 for 2 on selling her older Nikon super-telephotos with BAA.

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We want and need to keep providing you with the latest free information, photography and Photoshop lessons, and all manner of related information. Show your appreciation by making your purchases immediately after clicking on any of our B&H or Amazon Affiliate links in this blog post. Remember, B&H ain’t just photography!

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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos, wrong words, misspellings, omissions, or grammatical errors. Just be right. 🙂

3 comments to On (Not) Selling Images…

  • avatar Graham Hedrick

    Same is true for web site stuff. Kid next door is cheap, client wonders why you are expensive.

  • I think another problem is others selling their prints at really cheap prices. How can a pro survive if he’s selling an 8×10 for lets say $50 while the guy next door is selling his for $10?

    Kind of the same thing for wedding photography. The established pros who offer excellent work charge thousands, but lose business to somebody who can do it for a couple of hundred because the customer is choosing by price instead of quality. Doug

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      You got that right…. And the same with photo workshops as discussed previously. artie