The conventional wisdom I have been given by other photographers about selling macro photography is that the subject has to be perfect. These are some guys who have been in the business for a long time, having gone through the ringer more than once. The pictures have to be technically correct of course, but the subject also has to be a flawless specimen.
This makes sense in some instances of course. When you are crafting an advertisement you want to show that the product is perfect so everything around has to be as well. If you are trying to illustrate the animal itself you want to show it exactly as it should be. There are many more examples along these lines.
There is a “but” and I have come to see it as a big “but.” If you do this you are leaving so much variety, beauty and potential creativity on the table. Every beat up insect with torn wings or flower with imperfect petals has a story to tell. They are like scars, each one giving some insight to what the subject has experienced. These characteristics can add some great design elements to an image as well.
As I have been redoing my website and getting ready to offer stock images for sale I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I want it to look like. I have talked to friends in the business as I mentioned above who have given advice. The more I thought about it I wanted to offer those images of imperfect subjects, with scars if you will. I have no idea if there is a market for them, but I love the stories they tell and the character they bring.
In a moment I will show the contrast between the two types of images I am talking about, but first a little cultural commentary. In society in general and in images particularly we never want to show our you fill in the blank; I’m sure there is more than one. Models are retouched to appear perfect and conform to a specific preconceived idea or notion. People are worried about hiding scars and the like from view. Why? We all have these “imperfections”. Why do they make us self-conscious or uncomfortable? Has this practice crept into other areas of photography and influenced our craft?
Back to the matter at hand. The image at the beginning of this article is a Swallow Tail. The wings are undamaged, a great looking subject. The little extensions coming off the bottom of the wings are just as they should be. These are the kind of images traditionally selling well in stock. The image above is also a Swallow Tail in a similar condition. They are some beautiful creatures that could be the fashion models of their group.
The butterfly below has taken a beating. There are large parts of the wing missing producing many jagged and irregular edges. I like the jagged edges and the way they let the blue from the opposing wing show through. I love the character the Butterfly has, like the photos of the man on the street with a weathered face. If it could tell stories there would be some great ones.