The Ideas behind Land of Images

Hello to all of you. 

Thirteen years ago I bought my first digital camera – a Nikon Coolpix 990 with a three megapixel sensor – and like a lot of people I got the photography bug.  Not too long after that I bought a wide format printer.  I spent some time printing my own images before deciding that if I wanted to print beautiful images, they needed to come from better photographers.  That was when I started working on the concepts for this site, about 10 years ago.

I thought about what people might like in an on-line photo gallery and started to develop Land of Images.  Along the way there were plenty of distractions – a day job, a family, divorce, and the general pursuit of enjoyment in its many forms.  But I kept chugging along, writing Javascript code in the evenings until I had a working model of the site I wanted.  Then I hired a professional programmer to build Land of Images as you see it now.

I’ve written this post as though I’m addressing a photographer who might be interested in selling prints through Land of Images.  But even if you’re not interested in selling your images, this post will explain what Land of Images is about and why it’s a great place to buy prints of photographic art.  I’ve devoted a lot of verbal real estate to explaining some of our unique features like the Marketplace.  I also discuss the underlying business model and other practical matters like how we establish print prices.  So without further ado, here are the nitty-gritty concepts behind Land of Images.

First of all there will be no advertisements which means print sales will be the only source of revenue.  So this web site is designed with one fundamental purpose – to sell your images.  To that end, I’ve tried to imagine what would make an online print gallery attractive and here is what I came up with:

  • Focus on offering a really diverse collection of excellent images.
  • Provide an online marketplace where customers can sell and swap prints they purchase here.
  • Create an environment for conversations about all topics relevant to photography.
  • Within that environment create Artist Blog pages where fans can ask questions of the artist.
  • Have artists tell the stories behind their images.
  • Sell prints in small limited editions and keep prices low.

That last item is considerably different from the current sales model for photographic art, so let me illustrate with an example.  Suppose you have a nice image that you would like to sell for a profit of $4,000 over a period of two years.  You could sell two prints a year at $1000 each, which makes sense if you sell through a local gallery with well healed patrons.  Or you could sell ten prints a year for $200 each and make the same amount.

I want to follow the second path because I know there are lots of photography enthusiasts like me.  Millions of us have an addiction to photography.  Once we started taking pictures with digital cameras we began to see the world in a different way.  We’ve become interested in beautiful images and most of us do our best to take some.  We frequent photography sites like Photo.net and 1x.com and we share images all over the web.  We are the people who would love to buy your photographic art – but at a lower price point.

So what about those “small limited editions”?  First, I should explain that “limited edition” as used here, only refers to prints sold on this site.  In other words the artist only agrees to sell no more than the specified number of prints on this site.  I’m promoting the concept of small limited editions for a number of reasons, but the most essential is that it adds value to images and makes the Marketplace much more interesting.  If a hundred people want to buy one of your images but only ten prints are available, that tends to increase their value.  This is good for you and for people that buy your images.

The notion of site only limited editions is perhaps counter intuitive, but it makes good sense in the context of our Marketplace.  Once an edition is sold out, owners of that print can resell it in our Marketplace.  Resale prices will be shown so that you and potential buyers will see how prices are trending.  In other words the Marketplace will become a barometer for the value of your art, and if demand for your images increases so will their value and the prices you charge.

But the fundamental purpose of the Marketplace isn’t to increase the value of your images – it really exists to allow print owners to resell or swap their prints, because no matter how wonderful an image is, it can become too familiar.  So in the Marketplace we have a Swap Gallery that makes it easy to find a replacement image, and I believe it will become a very popular part of Land of Images because it offers a great service to our patrons.

As far as I know, our Marketplace is unique in the world of online print sales and the notion of swapping a print with someone else is certainly new.  You can think of swapping prints as a “buy one – see many” arrangement and you might reasonably wonder why I think that is a good idea.  Buying one and seeing many sounds like we’re giving prints away instead of asking people to pay for prints they hang on their walls.

But every print that is swapped is a print that a patron has bought.  That is a simple fact – to swap a print you must own it.  So no prints are given away – they have all been purchased.  And if the concept of swapping prints becomes as popular as I believe it will, the total number of prints sold will be greatly increased.  That is why swapping will be a benefit to both photographic artists and the people that buy their images.

Swapping a print is really easy if a person saves the box their print came in, packaging it for shipment is simple and the cost for shipping a 24×36 inch print across the United States is around eighteen dollars. For a permanent swap that’s all it would cost to have a different print on your wall when you want one.  You avoid the problems of storing a lot of prints and the cost of buying them.   The Marketplace is free and we keep track of all transactions.  For temporary swaps we notify both parties when the images need to be returned.  I honestly believe people will have fun wheeling and dealing in the Marketplace.

The internet has spawned a number of new and very successful consumer behaviors. When Amazon started I didn’t think they would succeed – why would people buy something sight unseen on the internet when they could go to their local retail store and take it home right then?  And when Netflix started I had the same doubts – why would a person go through the trouble of mailing DVDs back and forth and waiting for a selected DVD to arrive, when they could go to a nearby Hollywood Video store?  I just failed to consider the very real benefits of shopping on the internet.

Time for a few words about print pricing.  Although we have a preference for low prices and small limited editions, I want to stress that you are the only person who will determine the selling price and quantity for your images.  Naturally, there will be no charge for displaying your images, but for each image we sell we add a twenty percent commission.  So if you want $200 per print for a certain image we will charge a customer $240.

In addition the customer will pay for the printing, coating and packaging of your images.  Our charge for producing a print is very competitive – $86 for a 24”x 36” gallery wrapped canvas print.  So assuming you want $200 for each print, the final price for a 24”x36” gallery wrapped canvas print would be 200 + 40 + 86 = $326.

For this sales model to work we need to establish a large community of photographic print buyers.  We believe the range and quality of the images we show will attract a lot of visitors.  Add in lower prices, limited editions, and the ability to resell or swap images easily and we see Land of Images as a site people will enjoy visiting.  I believe a lot of those visitors will want to become print buyers.

Land of Images is a curated site which means that the images we agree to sell are selected by us.  In the coming months I will be contacting many photographers with a request to sell some of their images.  But there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people with images that we would like to sell and I will only get to a small percentage of them.  So if you have images to sell please go to the upload page and send them to us.

If you decide to participate, I encourage you to make Land of Images even more interesting.  Many of your images have a story.  You can tell that story when you enter the information for each image.  I think that visitors will be more motivated to buy your images when they have names and stories.  In the Juice Bar we will create blog pages for each artist.  Your blog page will provide a forum for insights you may want to share with your fans.  Will you have fans?  We hope so, because that means you will sell more prints.  Will this require an investment of time on your part?  Sure, but it will be time spent on something you enjoy.

We just finished the creation of our “personal galleries” feature.  These personal galleries are intended to provide each artist with the freedom to include more images and put them into sub-galleries.  For example, you might want to have groups of galleries devoted to images you took at specific locations or galleries that divide your images into categories like people, black & white, time lapse, composites, etc.  Or you might (and I hope you do) want to show videos taken on photo shoots.

We have a Playlist feature that I think will be very popular.  It allows any registered user to create playlists of images, using whatever criteria they like.  These playlists can include any of their own images mixed with other artist’s ‘for sale’ images.  This is a neat tool and guite a bit of fun. Typically these playlists will only be seen by their creator and site admins, but they can be promoted to public viewing in various ways.

That’s about it.  If you have questions feel free to ask either by email or via the comments section of this post.

Best regards,
Leo Loebs
Phone 805-235-2383
mail@landofimages.com

 

A Few Personal Composition Guidelines

One of the subjects that I hope takes hold in the Juice Bar is Image Aesthetics.  To get the topic started I decided to write something about my personal aesthetic preferences.  I am completely unread regarding visual aesthetics, but as far as I know there is no definitive theory that explains why we find some compositions more appealing than others. Even so, most people who enjoy looking at paintings or photographs will agree that some compositions are more pleasing than others. Trying to understand why has interested me for a long time.

The subject became more relevant when I started trying to take artistic photographs.  If I could understand why some images were just right while others weren’t, than perhaps I could apply that knowledge when I composed my own images.  Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with any earth shaking insights.  But I have encountered a few simple ideas that I try to keep in mind when framing an image, and these are the things I intend to write about here.

What attracts me to an image at first may not provide lasting satisfaction.  An image with immediate visceral impact may grab my attention, but after my immediate response I’m left with an image’s composition, and if I don’t like it I won’t be looking at that image very often.  So even though a lot of factors determine an image’s appeal, I will write mostly about composition.

After years of looking at paintings and photographs, I’ve noticed a few things that I like and don’t like, and I usually pay attention to them when I’m taking pictures.  However, if other factors make for a good image I take the shot, and hope the image will somehow turn out good.  The image below is an example.  I walked out to my backyard one morning and saw this train.  Even though I knew the telephone pole was going to bisect the image, I decided to take the shot anyway.  It’s OK, but the pole in the middle doesn’t work for me and the garbage in the corner isn’t very artisticI enjoy trying to capture the beauty in my everyday surroundings.  Unfortunately, strong verticals like this telephone pole are everywhere, so I’ve considered how they might be included in a pleasing way.  Generally speaking I don’t put them in the middle of a composition like I did in the image above.  And if there is more than one pole I try to place them at uneven intervals across the frame.  I prefer poles that have some tilt more than straight verticals and if their height varies that is even better.  The old ranch house below was the thing that caught my eye but the poles where there, so once again I decided to include them. 

Strong verticals occur lots of places – like the spy glasses and rail posts in the image below.  The same idea applies though – space them at irregular intervals and if their heights are different that’s good too.

The image above also demonstrates one of my favorite composition elements – diagonal lines.  Most photographers include them when they are available in a composition.  I certainly can’t say why I like them, but I do.  The next image has so many odd diagonals that you could be excused for thinking that they were constructed in Photoshop, but this is exactly what I saw.

Maybe one of the reasons I like diagonals is that they can pull your eye into the picture as they do in the next image.

You will find lots of diagonals in the images we show.  They won’t always be so obvious, they might be an alignment of flowers or the roof of a house.  However they occur, in my personal image aesthetics diagonals get high marks.  Here are a here are another couple of examples and then I’ll get off this point.

Let’s move along to the subject of shapes.  There are actually shapes I don’t like in images.  For example, it took me quite a while to realize that I don’t like strong “L” shapes.  This seems strange even to me, but I know it’s how I feel.  Remember I said these were my personal ideas about image composition.  Here’s an example using one of my own images:

There were things to like when I took this shot – it was a candid and although the guy was mugging for me it was spontaneous on his part.  And I liked the colors and textures in this image.  But ultimately I decided that the L shape formed by the red brick and the green fence just didn’t work for me.  So this became a two star image in Photoshop.

Another problem with this image is that the guys are too small in comparison to their importance in the image.  So I decided to crop the top of the image to give more importance to the guys and I think the crop also made the L shaped red brick less objectionable, because now the tree branches break up the red brick shape.

Balance and symmetry are two more properties that I always notice.  I  like what I call “balanced asymmetry” and I have made a few simple line drawings to illustrate my thoughts on this.