Bring Back Unique Images from Iconic Locations
We all seem to want to capture the same iconic image as our photographic heroes. If for no other reason than to have it in the bag. When we are at Yosemite, or outside Aspen, Colorado at the Maroon Bells or along the Snake River in the Tetons – we all recall the iconic images made by great photographers at those locations. There is a pull is to stand shoulder to shoulder with 30 – 70 other photographers capturing the same moment in time from the same location. Now that may be fine if you are just shooting for vacation memories, but what if you shoot landscapes to sell for a living?
Let’s take for example, shooting a sunset from the peak of Clingmon’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on any given evening. This is one of the classic shot locations that draw photographers to it if there is even a chance of the sun being visible at sunset. If the horizon is not covered in rain or clouds, there will be 60-70 photographers there every night.
So, let’s think about that. If there are on average, 300 visible sunsets from the peak a year – that means there are 21,000 individual images created – EVERY YEAR! If only 10% of those photographers are pros who sell their work – then there are 2,100 professional images from the same spot competing against one another – with that many more taken every year. As a pro, how do you get an image of yours from such an iconic location to sell?
First, pick a completely different vantage point from which to shoot than the other 70 photographers lined up along the summit. Go online to Google Images beforehand and look at the shots from that location before you go there. See what the common shot is for that location. You want to physically reposition yourself away from the other photographers and move to a vantage point, which allows you to give viewers a new perspective of the scene.
Secondly, since you know the other photographers are shooting straight images, change to using other photographic techniques. Combine a polarizer with a multi-stop neutral density filter and take long exposures. Shoot a short video clip with your camera to create a cinemagraph later of your shot for web use to draw people’s attention. Focus on an interesting foreground object and use the iconic location as a recognizable secondary background.
Every iconic location has been photographed to the point where they are almost a commodity. To make your image of one of these locations mean something to a viewer and bring in an income it needs to provide them with both familiarity and uniqueness. Don’t be afraid to shoot an iconic location, just be prepared to make it unique.
Clingmon’s Dome on any sunny evening: