Hi folks! If you haven’t heard, we just recently opened up 500px Prime for everyone to see. 500px Prime is our brand new commercial licensing marketplace. We started this initiative because we wanted to bring in more ways for the amazing 500px photographers to earn a fair living. We plan to do this by offering buyers an uncomplicated purchasing plan (the simpler, the better!) and by giving 70% of the revenue from every sale back to the photographer.

One 500px member has already benefitted from our new marketplace. We corresponded with Rob Williams, a photographer from Ottawa, Canada, to get his thoughts on photography and 500px Prime.

500PX: Hey Rob! Thanks for taking the time. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

ROB WILLIAMS: I work in Ottawa’s hi-tech community, developing software for a small company. When I was growing up, my family went camping every summer, and I grew to love being out in the woods. I find that photographing nature lets me unwind from the pressures of hi-tech and focus my attention on lakes and streams instead of lines of code.

Those are quite the dichotomous interests. How did you get into photography?

ROB: My father gave me my first camera, an old Kodak fold-out bellows camera when I was in elementary school (a Kodak Vigilant Six 20, manufactured between 1939 and 1949). He taught me the basics of exposure without a light meter, using a basic manual camera. I think that background gave me a deeper understanding of photography than I would have had with today’s technology. My dad also taught me how to develop and print black-and-white film, which I continued to do until I bought my first digital camera.

Is photography your profession or hobby?

ROB: Photography is a passion, but unfortunately it does not pay the bills! I have been selling photographs for a decade now, earning enough money to buy new equipment. The photography business has changed dramatically in the last 5 years, and that means photographers have to look at new ways of earning income from their photographs.

You licensed 7 photos with 500px Prime – that’s a $1,225 commission for you! What about your photos do you think make them really saleable?

ROB: I think that good graphic design, and strong colours make my photographs appealing, although at times soft colours are very successful. That, and getting up before dawn to photograph the sunrise!

Did you have licensing in mind when you took the photos?

ROB: No, I never photograph with licensing in mind. When I’m in the field photographing, I need to be totally focussed on the image in front of me. If you limit yourself to photographing “saleable” images, you have put your mind in a straight-jacket instead of being open to different opportunities. When I’m editing photographs afterwards, I can decide whether a photograph “works” and might be suitable for licensing.

What type of gear do you use to shoot?

ROB: I use a Nikon D800e, with a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D lens for most of my landscape photographs. I also use a Nikon 105mm f/2.8 macro lens for wildflower photographs. I can’t forget about my tripod. I use a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod and ballhead.

What advice would you give to an amateur photographer looking to improve?

ROB: There are a couple of things to do to improve your skills. One is to constantly view other photographer’s and to learn what kind of images make an impact for you. 500px is a great site for this — there are so many great photographs to see.

I also learned a lot by seeing work by masters like Ansel Adams and (one of my favourite photographers) Freeman Patterson. Early on I read “Photography and the Art of Seeing” by Freeman Patterson, and this book completely changed the way I think about photography. I have heard him speak a couple of times, and I always come away with a lot of enthusiasm.

You also need to take lots of photographs using techniques that you have learned, and become totally familiar with your camera so that you don’t have to stop and think too hard when you are looking at a great scene at sunrise.

As a photographer, what do you like most about 500px Prime?

ROB: Marketing photographs is hard, time consuming work, in a business that is constantly changing. I appreciate 500px Prime’s knowledge and skills to market my photographs in a competitive marketplace.

Did you choose to license your photos exclusively or non-exclusively? Why?

ROB: I chose to license my photographs non-exclusively, because I also sell prints and license my photos through another agency, and through my website.

Thanks for taking the time, Rob! All the best.

What are your thoughts on licensing? To have your photos considered for 500px Prime, be sure to enable your store.