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Interview with Stock Photographer John Lund

Stock photography has a very different place in the world of photography. Starting a project without a prior agreement means that the photographer works freely in projects but also takes financial risks. I talked to John Lund about stock photography.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

John Lund - Photo by Rick Gomez

John Lund - Photo by Rick Gomez


by Melisa Kaya

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John Lund's interest in photography did not begin with a camera he acquired during his childhood, but after many years, in his college years, after seeing his roommate's camera and thought that its price was amazing, he decided to try it and liked the result. His talent of capturing the moment, creative perspective, and his Photoshop skills gave him the opportunity to create conceptual works, and John Lund made a 50-year career in stock photography. I had the chance to interview John Lund about his career and the basics of stock photography.

John, before talking about photography, I would like to learn more about you, could you tell us about yourself? Who is John Lund?

I just turned 67 years old...though I still feel like I am long as I am sitting down! I graduated from the University of the Pacific with Communications Major. I am married to one of the most impressive people I have ever known...though it took me a few tries to get right. I have a thirty-three year old son. Life has been pretty good.

Photo by John Lund

Othoscope - Photo by John Lund

When did you get your first camera? Do you remember the first photo that you shoot with it?

My interest in photography actually started when a college roommate bought a Minolta SR 101 (in the 1970s). He paid a lot of money for it and I wondered why someone would pay so much for a camera, borrowed it to shoot some pictures. I was immediately hooked! I remember the first image that I was proud of was an extreme close up of the back of a motorcycle exhaust pipe. Geez...haven't thought about that in almost 50 years!

How did you decide to pursue a career in photography? Could you tell us about your photography career?

When I graduated from college I was attempting to carve out a career as a writer. To help get my freelance articles published I started taking pictures to go with the writing. I wrote an article for YACHTING magazine. It took a week to write. The accompanying photography took a day. They paid me $200.00 for the writing and $2,000.00 for the photography...and the photography was more fun! So I decided to pursue photography for a career rather than writing...and it worked out well.

I began showing my book to advertising agencies and corporations and started getting work. Then, in 1989, after the best year, I had ever had, we hit a recession and the work stopped coming in. I knew I had to differentiate myself from all the other photographers. A friend suggested I look at this new software called Photoshop. I realized that Photoshop could eliminate the barriers between imagination and execution. I traded some stock photos to Adobe for a copy of Photoshop (1.0) dove right in. Those first years were painful but it was the best thing I ever did. In an interesting side note...the first stock photo I ever made with Photoshop was used on the cover of TIME magazine 17 years after I made it!

Photo by John Lund

Beerkats - Photo by John Lund

How did you decide to establish your own studio? Could you tell us about your studio and your team?

I had my own studio pretty much from the beginning. In the late 70s, I had a 5,000 square foot studio in San Francisco where I did a lot of advertising work. When the digital revolution eliminated the need to be close to a color lab for processing E-6 I moved my studio to Marin County just North of the Golden Gate Bridge. That was about 15 years ago and now I work out of a home studio...sometimes I never get out of my slippers!

At one time I had a team of four people working with me. At this point, it is just me and my wife Stephanie...who is an amazing Photoshopper in her own right.

How would you describe your photographic approach?

My photographic approach is to create a detailed mental picture of the finished image and then break it down into the steps and raw materials I need to complete the image. Then, as Nike would say, just do it. Mostly I create stock images at this point. I spend a lot of time going through my archives finding images that I can combine and use as a base for creating new concept work.

Photo by John Lund

Elephant Surfing - Photo by John Lund

How did your interest in conceptual photography has begun? What is the most special aspect of conceptual photography for you?

Speaking of conceptual photography, it has always been a focus for me. In the late 80s, I began creating concept images for the stock with the idea that the images could be earning me money even while I was sleeping on vacation. For me a successful concept image creates is a quick read with a clear message...even though that message may change depending on a headline or context. Even better if the image can convey humor or connect strongly with an emotion.

Could you tell us about Stock Photos? What are the advantages of stock photography?

As I mentioned before, stock photos can leverage your time by providing an income stream even when you are not working. However, I always seem to be working...a side effect of how much I love what I do. Stock has the advantage of having no can do whatever your heart desires. Stock does not have to be boring even though so much of it is.

Photo by John Lund

Mindlights - Photo by John Lund

What do you think about the present and future of stock photography versus free stock photos?

So many photographers fail to understand the value of their work. If someone is using your images to advertise or promote their work then you should also be rewarded for your time, effort and investment of resources! Stock has really suffered due to both the abundance of imagery and the extent to which good work is undervalued. It is hard to see how it could get much worse...but I suppose it could. But I will continue to create my images and push for a decent return on them.

In which categories do you offer stock photo portfolio for your clients?

I create stock for business concepts and humorous needs...with a smattering of lifestyle and travel in the mix.

Photo by John Lund

Suicide VIP - Photo by John Lund

What are the most important factors in determining the price of stock photos?

The most important factor in determining the price of stock is how much you are willing to ask for! It SHOULD be based on the value your work has in helping clients reach their advertising and communication goals. That, however, seems to have gone by the wayside. Oh well...

Could you briefly tell us about the fine art prints side in the photography business?

I offer fine art prints through Imagekind...but don't really make a lot of effort in that direction. Maybe someday.

Photo by John Lund

Cat with a Canary Feather - Photo by John Lund

How did you come up with the idea of Funny Animal Greeting Cards? Do you have a favourite one to send us?

I came up with the idea when I first created a stock photo of a cat with a canary feather. I did it as a business concept but then realized it would make a great greeting card. I approached a greeting card company...they agreed...and now we have sold millions of greeting cards.

How do you protect the rights of your photographs in this online era?

I use a lot of watermarks on my images. But I can't worry about theft too much because it would drive me crazy. A lot of my stock is licensed through Getty Images and they are pretty good at enforcing the copyrights.

Could your clients use your photographs in any publication, book covers, catalog, packagings, website, billboards or other platforms where they want?

If clients license my Royalty Free images they can use them how they want. Most of my animal work is Rights Managed and they can license the work for their needs but have to pay according to the use.

What advice would you give to photographers who want to pursue a career in stock photography?

If you can find something you love to shoot that also has a commercial use then do it with all your passion...and don't forget that the business end, if you want to earn even MORE important than you could ever realize!

Photo by John Lund

Elephant Sitting on a Bench - Photo by John Lund

What is your favorite photograph that you have ever taken?

That is a tough one...and the answer can change by the minute. One of my favorites though is this elephant sitting on a bench. It takes me to a contemplative place. BTW...somebody created an almost identical 3D image of this one...which irritates me everytime I see it. Very annoying!

What do you think about social media? How can our readers follow you?

I actually hate Social Media because it requires time that I could be using for other things...but it is a business necessity. I am active on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

What is next for you?

Maybe a vacation....but of course it will be a working vacation. :)

Thank you John for this enjoyable interview.

For more information, please click here to visit the website of John Lund