Do our photos frighten you?

I heard it again today and this time I just have to speak up.

“Your images are great, but they would scare our readers.”

Huh? Our images/photos/pictures would scare someone? Really? Inspire – yes. Motivate – for sure. But scare? As in frighten… of what? Someone performing their sport, which they are passionate about, in a beautiful mountain environment. Trail running, mountain biking, road biking, hiking…….. scary? Like the very photo above in our header.

This is happening all too frequently, we’re being told we are too hardcore.

Come on. Hardcore is not running on a dirt trail. Hardcore is a wingsuit.

I am trying to be understanding, and I am the first to acknowledge that in selling a product a company must appeal to a targeted audience. But I have to question if some of these photo buyers know who that person is. And if they are short changing and underestimating their audience, most of whom are, you.

We would love to hear your comments.

I must refer again to the previous blog post.

Topher Gaylord on the Italian side of Mont Blanc

Inspiring, motivating or frightening?


Comments 15

  1. It depends on the audience. I think the photos are inspiring, but I’m probably about 60% crazier/more intense than an average consumer. I love pushing my limits, so I’m excited by images that do the same.

    Making up numbers, but I’d guess real athletes (like the ones in your images) make up 15% of the audience, and 5% of the revenue. Most outdoor equipment consumers aspire to be more adventurous than they really are. But frankly, they’re not about to move to the Dolomites to do it 🙂 More likely, they’re buying trail running shoes so they feel like an athlete on their way to Starbucks.

    1. But doesn’t a beautiful landscape with an athlete doing their thing in it inspire? Regardless of the users ability or a realistic potential to travel. I grew up in Sacramento, California, the flat lands. I vividly remember being a teen and looking through Chouinard and Patagonia catalogs, dreaming. And those dreams worked out for the best thanks to some eye opening potential in the form of photography.

  2. Your photos are gorgeous, inspiring and incredibly motivating! I am the editor of a regional magazine in California (in which many of your photos have appeared) and for me and our readers, your images capture the mountain lifestyle that we are describing (and subscribing to) in our stories.
    Certainly your latest-posted images of Dolomites trail running (a happy, fit woman running on a flower-lined path) are the furthest thing from scary–as a matter of fact, they’ve got me planning a hiking/running trip to Italy and Switzerland in 2010.
    Wouldn’t that be exactly the sort of reader reaction a magazine would hope for?
    I know our advertisers would!

    1. Thanks Stacey – and your reaction is exactly what we are hoping for. People being inspired to try something new at some new place. We assume that what fuels us is what fuels many others, and so we share what we find. Great comment, thank you!

  3. Dan & Janine,

    As a friend and former editor who has worked with you extensively, I’ll chime in. I love your work. You and Janine are gifted beyond measure at capturing people at their peak of outdoor athleticism in extreme, exquisite landscapes. Technically, your among the best shooters out there. Connected in the outdoor industry, without a doubt. I remember thinking to myself (while editing your work) ‘How do these guys know so many gorgeous, fit people?’)

    Your level of commitment to your work, passion for the subject matter and attention to the finest details is unparalleled. And your skill as marketers even better. Gorgeous human beings with single digit body fat, crushing it through mountains, downhill skiing, trekking, etc. What’s not to love?!

    My guess is this: The truth you are facing is consumer magazines are struggling themselves to hold onto whatever paying customers they can. AND, people like to see themselves or at least someone they could maybe, possibly, someday become in their lifestyle magazines—unless we’re talking celebs, then it’s just entertainment or diversion.

    I’m guessing the life you & Janine have created for yourselves has (perhaps?) removed from everyday humans. If you take the lowest common denominator approach (and your problem may be somewhere in the middle) most people eat too much, drink too much or are smoking to escape the stress they’ve brought on from overextending themselves at home, at work, financially.

    I know here in the states, lots of people hope they can find the money and time to take a vacation. If they do, they want to just lay on a beach or go camping with their kids vs. one that demands a 7,000 ft trek, before kicking out for a trail run before the sun goes down.

    You guys are incredible ‘Lifestyle’ photographers, and know your game so well. But who (other than you and probably the people you’ve surrounded yourselves with) is living that lifestyle?

    I think at our core, we want to believe we can achieve something, or at least have a flicker of hope its’ within our reach. You could be capturing and promoting a lifestyle few, if any, believe is possible or even have the desire to achieve?

    My 2c. How many lire is that? Or are we talking euros now?

    1. Oh Liz, how I miss working with you! I learned stacks from you back in the day, you helped us so much through the learning curve. Thanks. And now listen to you, go on. Love it.
      You are so right, I know for sure that these clients are hanging on to a mainstream audience during lean times …..the thing frustrating me is that some of these clients are trying to be something while not engaging it at all. It is sad to see a lowering of standards, a reduction in the real while increasing the fluff. I believe in inspiration from what is real and absolutely obtainable, on many levels.

  4. Yes they scare the hell out of me. Every time I see one I know it’s one less sale for me!!!

    For all your softcore outdoor photo needs please visit our website.


  5. Oh well! Think positive!
    There are readers out there getting scared watching the mountains. Their place is then behind the walls of some big beach resort in the middle of nowhere.

    This way our “playground” doesn’t get overcrowded from lazy ppl complaining there is no elevator, no Fast Food with Drive through etc.

  6. lol! I didn’t realize I’d written so much!

    I guarantee any photo editor (one who’s dedicated to storytelling, at least) is equally frustrated with having to haggle or search for good, quality images that are either sub-par, cheap or free.

    There’s many factors at work: digital makes good photographers out of average ones — some of which are willing to work for small bones & credit. You were probably like that when you started out. I had a similar conversation with another shooter recently. Different specialty. It’s a crowded market. You’re not alone in frustration.

    You have to remember what’s real and obtainable for you may not be for 80% of the population . . . or even desirable. Doesn’t mean you should change your vision, you just have to get smarter and work harder to find your audience. Those relationships (the high dollar ones) often take more time, money & fancy footwork to develop and maintain.

  7. I have to say your photos do frighten me in a way. A good way! They make me realize that if I’m not careful I could miss out on amazing adventures and experiences by not seizing the moment and believing in my dreams.

    I got so scared that I booked a flight to Europe to run the Alta Via 1 with you nutcases!

  8. Yeah, your photos scare me. Maybe not the photos themselves, but the fact that I have as many photos of Patitucci’s in my house as of my own family. Catalogs, magazines, the Iceland Patagonia poster hanging in my basement stairway, etc.

  9. It’s all relative. Years ago I worked in a small mountaineering shop. This was just as Patagonia was starting to hit a mainstream audience with their clothing. We carried most of the line, but could not get many people outside our “hard core” customers to come into the shop. We did a small survey of the public and found out that the fact that we had climbing ropes hanging in plain sight at the front of the store scared many people and they were too intimidated to come in.
    This came as a complete shock to us as they were just ropes and even the non climbers among us did not think twice about them. We moved the climbing gear to a different location in the store and more casual customers came in.
    I think your response to hearing that your images scare people is much that same as mine was hearing about climbing ropes. It’s hard to put yourself in the place of someone for whom running anywhere is scary, let alone on a trail in the mountains.

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