Photography: Vlad Gerasimov (VladStudio.com)
Wouldn’t it be great to shoot a picture that you love, have thousands of people pay to own a copy and know that they’re going to see it, appreciate it and enjoy it several times a day… before coming back to pick up another one?
That’s not likely to happen through gallery representation, and even regular stock buyers are unlikely to give an image a second thought once it’s served its purpose. Turn your photo into a desktop wallpaper however, and you can be sure that it’s going to be unmissable. Create the sort of payment plan that lets buyers build a collection of your artwork and you can be sure that your creations will continue to be appreciated, even as they’re covered in icons and windows.
Wallpapers Bring More Joy, More Money
That’s not going to be easy. Toss “free wallpaper” into Google and you’ll be shown more than 31 million results, including plenty of sites offering tens of thousands of images for nothing. But when so much is free, quality is valuable and stands out. For image-makers with talent who can build a following prepared to pay for their work, that creates an opportunity.
Vlad Gerasimov, for example, is a Siberian designer and amateur photographer who offers wallpapers through his website VladStudio.com. He began his career while a student, creating interface designs for his brother’s software company – a job that forced him to get to grips with Photoshop. After nine years, he says he’s still learning how to use the graphics program, but in that time he’s also managed to migrate from graphic design to focus almost exclusively on wallpapers, work that he says brings him both more joy and more money.
Recently however Vlad has started a new project that swaps the sketching for photography and which provides a lesson for any photographer interested in selling their images as computer decorations. Drawing on camera skills that he describes as “advanced amateur,” Vlad is recording the old houses of his home town before they disappear completely, and offering the images from his website as desktop wallpapers.
“The city I live in, Irkutsk, has a lot of wooden houses more than 100 years old,” he explained to us. “I could see how they degrade over the years, because the city does not have enough money (or will) to keep them all in good shape. I wanted to take photos of them before they become history. The idea is quite simple – to show the ‘sad’ beauty of old wooden architecture.”
Dark is Good
The images themselves are as good as you would expect from someone with a photographic eye and an understanding of light, composition and technique. They capture the texture of the old wood and provide a gloomy sense of their slow disappearance. Part of that feeling comes from the images’ dark colors, one of Vlad’s rules for creating successful wallpaper. Other guidelines include going easy on the details so that the image doesn’t appear too busy, leaving empty space for icons and placing the most important parts of the composition in the center of the screen so that the image can be cropped for different screen sizes. Vlad’s Siberian Wooden Houses project now consists of more than 70 different images which are presented as photographic prints in the center of a textured background. They can be downloaded in more 24 different desktop sizes as well as in formats suitable for mobile phones. His original images, he says, are 3840 x 2400 pixels but he has been asked to produce dual 2560 x 1600 wallpapers which would be 5120 pixels wide.
While the layout and format of the images are important, it’s in his business model that Vlad provides a particularly interesting example. Although he provides free low quality downloads, Vlad also runs a subscription program that offers membership from $8.99 for three months to $29.99 for life. Paying members can help themselves to high-quality, signature-free images and Photoshop source files. Payments are one-time and not self-renewing, a policy Vlad borrowed from DigitalBlasphemy.com.
“I evaluated many ideas (pay per download, pay for member gallery access, recurrent payments, etc),” Vlad said. “I chose what I considered to be most fair. That is, I looked at my website as a usual visitor, and decided that this is the way I would buy it.”
It’s an approach that seems to work. VladStudio.com now has around 11,000 registered members.
Perhaps the best example Vlad provides though is of someone who has found a way to do work that he enjoys — and earn from it. Creating the Siberian Wooden Houses Project has, he says, been “a fun and relaxed process,” helped by the fact that although membership to his site might be time-limited, he only adds new wallpapers as they’re ready rather than according to a fixed production schedule. That laid back approach might well be the most important reason for his success.
“[A]nyone can make a good photo these days,” he says. “You will have luck selling photos that tell a good story and make people happier… Most importantly, love what you do. If you do not, all else fails.”