Having Fun Creating Stock Images

Our merry prankster and sometime contributor and ALL TIME Stock Photo Guy understands how to have fun in business!

Sometimes you just have to have some fun making images … the driving force behind this nuclear Armageddon image.

© John Lund
© John Lund

Fun And A Mushroom Cloud of Flame

Every once-in-a-while you have to just have some fun. That is what I did with this image of a fiery mushroom cloud of flame rising up from behind the silhouette of a city skyline. Of course, I still intend to make money with this image, though I hardly expect it to be a best seller. Because the image is not something that there are many uses for I am pegging it as a Rights Managed image … though as I submitted it to the Getty House collection it may yet end up as an RF image.

A Metropolis Skyline Silhouette

The image began as a skyline shot of New York. I pen tooled (created a clipping path) of the buildings, created a selection and created a new layer. I used the hue and saturation control to create the silhouette by bringing the lightness slider all the way down. I wanted the city to be a more generic metropolis so I added more buildings from a San Francisco skyline shot to create the final city skyline. Next I experimented with different sunset and sunrise images behind the skyline finally settling on a sunrise shot from Mexico.

A Sunrise And A Nuclear Explosion

It was while I was playing with the sunrises behind the city silhouette that the idea came to me for the “nuclear explosion” image. One particular fiery sunrise image looked as if the city was back lit from and explosion or fire. I went to my archives for flame shots … I had some fireballs from my time at Burning Man … and was able to fashion them into the mushroom cloud explosion.

Cropping Flexibility And Copy Space

As usual I made the image to have cropping flexibility and room for headlines and copy.  When making stock images I believe it is better to err on the side of extra room for art directors and designers to use than to make tighter crops that might be a bit more esthetically pleasing.

Creativity, Science Fiction And Getting Seen

I can see this photo being used as a book cover for a science fiction thriller, or perhaps for a sensationalistic editorial on the danger of nukes or terrorist attacks. Certainly the image can serve to illustrate concepts such as “Armageddon, nuclear holocaust, and the end of the world.” With stock images you just never know when an art director or designer will come up with some really creative way to use your work. Of course, the biggest challenge, as always, is getting your work seen by those creatives.

Skilled and seasoned photographer John Lund can be found blogging here when not creating images: http://blog.johnlund.com/

Share this post:


  • Laura Lucas says:

    As a visual researcher I have often wondered how long it takes to create a stock image. It’s a bit different than simply posting a photo you’ve taken. There’s some art here. How many hours did it take and what is the likelihood you will get that time back in dollars from a stock image? I’m curious if this is a job or a passion for you? Thanks for sharing.
    Laura Lucas

  • John Lund says:


    For me stock photography is a full time job and has been for over a decade (before that I did assignment photography for twenty plus years). The time and resources that go into creating a stock image can vary wildly. For example, I once hired a lion for a stock shoot at $5,000.00…and I have put as much as $20,000.00 into some shoots. In the case of the lion I have created probably a dozen images from that shoot which have brought me back around $50,000.00. But much of that income was before the last seven or so years in which stock prices have fallen dramatically.

    I would not shoot stock if I did not expect to make a profit from my imagery…but you can’t count on any one individual image being successful. In the case of the image shown it required shooting the fireball, shooting city skylines and so forth. Those images were already in my archives. To find them, experiment with the image and complete it took about six or seven hours. To date that image has earned me around $20.00. Clearly not worth the effort…but you can’t look at it that way. My collection of stock images are doing very well for me…and that is what counts.

    Hope that helps!