Covering flora and fauna from urban backyards to the wildest places on the globe, the Minden Pictures collection includes some of the finest — and most diverse — nature photography in the market. We recently spoke to company owner Larry Minden, who gave us his views on new species and places, ecological responsibility, and the history of image-selling.
CORBIS: WHICH SPECIES ARE MOST IN DEMAND AS PHOTOGRAPHIC SUBJECTS?
LARRY: In our experience, high demand subjects among buyers don’t tend to be species-specific. Instead, demand tends to focus on broader subjects. Thus, whereas Humpback Whales, African Lions or Hyacinth Macaws may all be in high demand, it isn’t so much that any one of these species is in such high demand relative to closely related peers as it is representative of high demand for whales, big cats and colorful tropical birds. In general, highest demand tends to be among large and/or colorful mammals and birds.
CORBIS: IS THERE AN ELEMENT OF SEASONALITY TO YOUR BUSINESS? DOES DEMAND MATCH WHAT’S GOING ON IN NATURE?
LARRY: Unlike Craig Aurness, founder of Westlight, who could give a statistical answer to any question like this, we’re more seat-of-the-pants in our approach. Our focus includes animals, nature, landscapes and the like; we try to offer great breadth in all seasons, and thus we try to have available a good solution to the customer’s image needs, regardless of season.
If there is a seasonality to the business matching changes in nature, its not very evident to us. Sure we all see publications featuring more colorful foliage in the fall, snowy scenes in winter, and greenery in spring and summer, but those images tend to get sourced well before the season in which they appear in print. The same is true when we sell picture stories; they tend to be published at a time of year consistent with the season most evident in the coverage, but the feature could have been sold at any time of year.
CORBIS: HOW HAS THE BUSINESS OF NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED?
When Minden Pictures began in 1987, virtually all images in the industry were licensed under a rights managed licensing model. Nothing was online and if a potential customer wanted to see a submission, they’d pay a $100 research fee just to get you to spend some time pulling together a selection and shipping it out for review. Royalty free didn’t exist nor did micro stock and there was no such thing as subscriptions except in the news sector. We never sold photos for less than $125 and that was for kids’ editorial or perhaps non-profit projects with minimal print runs. However, one of the biggest changes I’d have to point out is that stock agents used to act more like agents, not just distributors. Agents seemed to have more of a concern for their photographers, a concern over the protection of the copyrights of their images, and a general support for healthy rates and rights in the industry. We still strive to be our photographers’ voice in the market and to provide a fair revenue share.
CORBIS: WHAT QUALITIES MAKE FOR AN EXCEPTIONAL NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER?
LARRY: There are myriad qualities that make a good nature photographer. Some of the more important include tenacity, patience, great technique, a good eye for composition, sufficient interest/understanding of biology to know what subjects and processes are relevant and how to caption properly, an understanding of the market, and if you’re lucky — a rich patron.
CORBIS: THE MINDEN PICTURES COLLECTION RANGES FROM THE INTIMATE TO THE EPIC — DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL PREFERENCE?
LARRY: My favorite is wild animal photography. My early professional experience as a field biologist led me to remote regions studying birds and reptiles, and I find working with images by today’s best wildlife and nature photographers allows me to continue this interest by living vicariously through their eyes. I take great delight in editing new material, seeing species and places unknown to me. My hope is that bringing this work to market helps raise understanding and awareness of the increasingly critical impacts we humans are having on the earth’s biodiversity and natural systems.
CORBIS: WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW TO PHOTOGRAPH WILDLIFE?
LARRY: Any place a photographer can see an image and/or opportunity that others do not. My favorite example is a story shot nearly 20 years ago by Dr. Mark Moffett for National Geographic called “Life in a Nutshell”. The story was shot in his backyard, portraying the different animals that inhabit or consume an acorn after it has fallen to the ground. With so many of the obvious and/or easy subjects photographed ad nauseum and the costs of remote field work steadily heading skyward, I think more shooters need to consider this approach.