How did you become a photographer Judi?

I’ve always enjoyed photography, but it took an invitation to travel the Galápagos Islands with wildlife photographer Tui de Roy to take the plunge and get some decent kit. I haven’t looked back and birds have been my thing ever since - I love telling their stories through art and photography.

How would you describe your work?

My genre is photo-artistry, where I use digital compositing to create artworks based on photographs. Photo-artistry requires a huge library of images to pull from - everything from wildlife to landscapes to textures to household items and more. One of my pieces can use dozens of photos. So photography-wise, I need to be a jack-of-all-trades as not only do I need gorgeous bird photos but all the other elements too. I also rely on commercially licensed stock photography to help flesh out my image library.

What motivated you to start selling your fine art prints online and how have you achieved it?

I’m showing my age here, but I was a blogger before there were blogs and have been creating websites since the last century. I’ve ridden the social media wave since its inception, but mostly as a content creator for others. So once I decided to start putting my art out there for sale, selling online was a given. I knew what it would take from both a technical and a marketing perspective, though it was a bit weird marketing myself!

Except for a couple of experiments, I’ve mostly avoided print-on-demand. I prefer to have a direct connection with the customer and full control over product quality. I want to create something special with hand-signed limited-edition archival prints, rather than mass-produced items. Except for extra-large prints (and prints on metal or canvas), I do all my own fine art and photographic printing using a Canon Prograf printer.

I hadn’t tried selling digital images before joining Excio, other than direct sales. My main focus has always been fine-art print sales through my own online store. I also sell my prints through Chooice, where I have separate stores for my art prints and photographic prints. I’m also represented by a number of galleries around the country, many of whom also sell online.

It’s taken a lot of work, a mix of exhibiting, persistence with social media, and making and taking opportunities. I can’t overstate how much persistence is needed. You can’t just stick your images on a site and expect them to sell without any further work. As a shy kiwi, that can be extraordinarily hard to do and it takes a lot of time, but it’s necessary.

What has been the most challenging aspect for you so far?

In general, in my art business, it’s inconsistent income. I’m either too busy or not busy enough. Covid has changed the game hugely, and it’s impossible to predict what the market might do. Over the past couple of years, normal seasonal variations were distorted with lockdowns and many kind kiwis looking to support local businesses. But that was never sustainable long-term. People are far more willing to buy online now, which is great, but I’m not giving up my day job just yet.

Have you sold your work through an image library before?

Not really. I’d heard horror stories from some amazing wildlife photographer friends (who made their names in the 1970s and 80s) who had their incomes decimated in recent years. The traditional stock photography model is dead. I did look into Adobe Stock at one point, but couldn’t see how to make it worth the effort. What I have done is donate a lot of photos to Wikimedia Commons with a CC-BY-4.0 license. People can use them for any purpose providing they use an attribution. They tend to be photos I’ve taken with scientific interest, such as a rare breed or strange anatomy, not ones that would be of interest as a fine-art print.

Why did you decide to put your work into the Excio Image Library?

I loved that Excio was audaciously trying to fix the broken stock photography model, and I wanted to be part of that change. Will it work? We won’t know until we try, and it’s not like I have a shortage of photos to upload! I’ve built up a huge library of “things” for my photo art, not just of birds, but landscapes, flowers, leaves, books, teapots, trinkets, cracked concrete, a sun flare, a mouldy flowerpot, you name it, I’ve probably used it! There’s no such thing as a failed photo as there’s likely something I might be able to use. Blurry bird? Maybe its foot is in focus and can be composited onto another bird that has a blurry foot! Bumped the camera shutter while walking? Maybe that sweep of green can be turned into a texture. I do delete most of my photos, but I still have thousands and it’s great to have a separate outlet for some of them.

How do you select what images to publish for sale in the Excio Image Library?

The sort of photos I submit are usually quite different from those I’d sell as fine art prints. Recently, I submitted photos of compost piles, dog poop bags, and rubbish bins - there’s a story there for someone! I also search the Excio photo library to see if there are already a lot of images on the topic, and to try and fill the gaps. One of my first uploads was a huge number of photos from the Chatham Islands, where there were essentially none before.

I greatly appreciate Excio’s regular emails saying “customers are looking for XYZ”!

To be successful at stock, I believe photographers need to keep the end-user first and foremost in their minds, rather than just submitting their favourite photos. For instance, photos with the subject to the side with lots of negative space and background blur allow more cropping options for different formats and for branding placement.

Do you plan to make selling your images your main source of income?

It’s not quite my main income yet, but it is getting close. Having diversified income streams, like stock photography, is important to help get a more consistent income, which then enables me to do more art and photography.

What do you like most about the Excio Image Library?

It’s chock full of uniquely kiwi images that NZ’ers can relate to. And for a content creator, that’s gold!

Is there anything else you would you like to share with us?

I’d just like to say how much I’ve appreciated what Excio is doing to energise the photography base in NZ. Fusty camera clubs are dying left, right, and centre, but Excio, with its positive and supporting structure, has helped elevate so many photographers by supporting our passions. I especially appreciate all the support Excio has given my Art of Birding Wildlife & Nature photography challenge.

Where can we find you online?

For my fine art, check out:

Website www.artbyjlm.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/artbyjlm

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/judi.lapsley.miller/

Chooice https://chooice.co.nz/store/art-by-judi-lapsley-miller

For Skrark Art photography, check out:

Website www.skrark.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/skrark.art

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/judi.lapsley.miller/

Chooice https://chooice.co.nz/store/skrark/

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