Glen Allison's Fabulous Adventure
TEXT BY ERIN HARRINGTON-PLONSKI • IMAGES BY GLEN ALLISON
This spirited travel photographer has done it all, seen it all, and sold upwards of 50,000 iconic images worldwide. He answers to no one-"I don't have assignments, I only shoot stock, so I don't have clients." His stock photo agencies-Getty Images, the world's largest stock photo library; MIRA; Alamy; Workbookstock; and AGE Fotostock-handle all order fulfillment for him.
"I go anywhere I want. I just need to keep capturing commercially marketable images."
A DOLLAR AND A DREAM If it sounds like a dream job, it is. But what a long, strange trip it's been. Allison began his photographic journey earning his degree in
When one of his images was selected as the cover of Germany's most prestigious architectural magazine, Bauen & Wohnen, his 20-year career as an architectural photographer took off like a shot.
Riding high until a real estate investment soured, he channeled his misfortune and new-found freedom into traveling the world-his lifelong dream.
"Virtually penniless, I decided to reinvent myself as a travel photographer, though I had no idea how I'd finance my ventures," recalls Allison. In the right place at the right time, he was accepted as a contributor to a small L.A. stock agency, After Image, which soon became part of Tony Stone Images, a premier stock agency in London. Five years later, TSI was acquired
Eventually he was earning about $250,000 annually from stock royalties. He's photographed 131 ocuntries and territories, slowing down just long enough to buy a condo in Marina del Ray, California.
DIGITAL GLOBE-TROTTER According to Allison, the key to creating highly marketable travel icons is "emphasizing their shape, form, depth, and perspective. I might spend hours, or sometimes days, waiting for the most magic, the most sculptural light angles to happen."
These days he captures that magic digitally with the Canon EOS-1Ds. He switched to digital in June, because, with the advent of this camera, the 32MB file was finally big enough to compete with film. Explains Allison, "Until recently, 35mm digital cameras hadn't produced
During his travels, Allison doesn't go anywhere without his 23-inch high-definition Apple Cinema Display flat panel monitor, which he transports in a foam-padded hard suitcase.
He notes that creative post-Photoshop manipulation is not that different from what he was used to. "I always bracketed three exposures in third-stop increments when shooting transparency film, more than three brackets if the scene was contrasty and backlit. With digital, I bracket three exposures in two-third-stop increments. With today's digital sensors,
Staying focused on his love for people, different cultures, and beautiful images, Allison is big on keeping it simple, and saleable.
"Cameras are so sophisticated these days that, much of the time, I just set my Canon EOS-1Ds on program mode, and about 90 percent of my images come out perfectly exposed. For the other 10 percent, I just override the camera's brain with my own interpretation. After 30 years as a professional photographer, I know f/stops and shutter speeds inside out, upside down, and backwards
And then there's what Allison calls "the least of all evils." For example, a particular composition might be better if he moved a little to the right, but then he'd get a telephone pole in the picture. So if he has the exposure with "the most magic lighting imaginable" and a composition that is "the least of all evils," chances are he'll wind up with another successful image.
STAYING THE COURSE Stock libraries fluctuate in the kinds of styles they seek at any given time. Trends come and go. "Naturally," Allison notes, "stock photographers should seek input from art directors at the various stock libraries so they can target their needs. But, we still have to shoot in a style that's true to what we love to do."