At a camera club meeting where I was asked to judge a monthly competition I saw a number of very good panoramas – and an equal number of great colour shots taken in smaller format. I mentioned that a few of them looked to be the sort of image that would be successful as commercial decor – landscape or architectural shots that might feature in hotels, waiting rooms, and corporate offices.
I hope that the photographers whose work it was took that as a compliment – it was meant to be such. It was also meant to be a suggestion that there was a market for them to explore.
I get to stay in fancy hotels a couple of times a year courtesy of interstate trips. I quail at the price list for the rooms per night, but always enjoy looking at the artwork that has been hung on the walls. In many places it is photographic art. It might not attract the notice of the trendy art critic, or even the notice of the tired traveller rolling a bag up the corridor, but it is nevertheless one of the most successful forms of commercial shooting I can think of – for a number of reasons:
a. It is up there – matted, framed, and hung. On multiple walls on every floor of a large hotel. Dozens of prints? Maybe hundreds…
b. It is paid for. Your local café might deign to hang an exhibition of your art prints for a month in the hope of disguising the cracks in the walls while the customers drink coffee, but it is rare that they will ever purchase the pictures they hang. If you sell them to the coffee drinkers they are likely to take a percentage of the price. Try asking for a percentage of the take on the coffee and see what the language becomes…
c. The buyers – the hotels – are not small players.
d. The pictures are purchased for a real reason – not just a whim. They have a function above covering wall cracks.
The reason they are there is it raise the prestige of the hotel. To sooth the guest. To help give a sense of calm and space to what may otherwise be a depressing or claustrophobic space. They have to be a specialised form of landscape or view – they must relate to the locality in which they are displayed. Guests want a sense of place for $ 250 a night.
e. They have to be concordant with the palette of the decor. Not necessarily beige on beige, but on-note with the theme of the place. Colouring of hotels and waiting rooms changes all the time – new managements take over, renovations are undertaken – there will be changes needed.
BEAUTY! this means new pictures, and as making new pictures is a lot easier work than repainting hotel ceilings, the photographer has a great advantage over the painter and decorator. Fewer drop sheets and ladders, and the vans don’t get as dirty.
f. They can be little billboards for the photographer. You don’t have to be Steve Parrish in every blessed post office but you can feature your logo somewhere on every picture.
g. If you are not a people person,you can be a building or landscape person and still have something to sell.
The demise of the stock libraries and the end of the dream of travelling the world taking fabulous pictures for fabulous pay is sad – but that is what the rise of air travel and technically competent cameras has produced – a world of other people doing what you have just read about in a 1970’s magazine… But you can still get in and find a niche if you want to – and your local hotel may be just be the place for you. Explore the corridors away from the main bar and you may find a business opportunity.