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Popular Calendar Photography Subjects

Updated on January 15, 2017
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

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There are many subjects that can be made into a photographic project and many photographers approach the art from various perspectives and with various motives in mind.

There are those that only conduct their photography with a commercial sale in mind and this is perfectly fine.

There are others that approach the art from an artistic mindset. I personally have never done a photographic project with anything in mind but to practice the art and of subjects that I feel will be well represented in my images.

However, I also always think ahead and will take shots that can be used by a potential client. Therefore I always shot various angles and in various formats such as verticals and horizontals.

After all, there are expenses to cover and equipment to buy or upgrade, but commercial interests are never my first reason or priority for taking a shot.

One of the most lucrative of all the photographic endeavors that a photographer intent on making a sale can do is to do a theme with a calendar in mind. There are literally hundreds of applications for calendars and literally thousands of applicable subjects.

For example one can do a nature theme and this can be divided into various categories such as nature scenes, one type of ecosystem, one region, one country and so on.

The same goes with wildlife themes. One subject, various subjects, subjects from one region, one country or one ecosystem, just mammals, just birds and the list goes on.

Food calendars tend to be very popular especially if they are accompanied by recipes for each photographed dish. Fashion, cars, images that evoke feelings such as love, solitude, passion, compassion etc. Cute kids, pets, flowers, sunsets and so many more always are in demand.

Photographing women or men is a very lucrative set of calendars but keep in mind that depending on how you conduct this particular theme your audience may be very specific and therefore limited.

One main advantage of specializing in calendars is that you will almost never run out of subjects and with each new year bringing an opportunity of doing the same theme but with a different twist.

One can literally do the same theme year in and year out using different subjects such as "emotions'. One series can be dedicated to scenes of love, another series to scenes of passion, another with scenes of solitude,scenes of calmness and now you have just done five years worth of work. Actually is five different projects but each for one year.

Before considering making calendar photography your field of expertise you better make some contacts with some calendar publishers and research their topics, their timeline, their want lists and received permission to submit on a regular basis.

This arena is very well covered and it also includes the wallpaper area especially formulated for the computers screens.

One thing that you should never underestimate is the quality of your competition, they have probably been doing this for quite some time and have very good contacts and they always shoot technically perfect shots. Where you can compete is by doing the same subjects but from totally different perspective.

The Grand Canyon has been shown in calendars for as far back as I can remember, but most just show scenes of it grandiose mountains, rifts, valleys, sunsets as wildlife.

Do the same but try taking shots from the base of the canyon looking up, try doing some shots of people riding down on donkeys and include elements of the great distance between where the are and the bottom of the canyon.

If you also want to be published in the pages of a photography magazine or featured in fine art galleries or have even considered doing a photography inspired book, then you can do a theme focused around a specific subject, change its perspective with every edition and uses different model/subjects with each.

Take for example the Victoria's secret calendars or the Sport"s Illustrated Swimsuit issues. Each new edition features the same topic; girls in lingerie or girls in bikinis, but each edition is shot with totally different models and in totally different locations.

In other words; there must be something new each time or it can quickly become over used and boring.

Popular Calendar Themes

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Now that you are probably thinking that you can make a pretty penny doing this type of photography.

You may even think that you have made the right contacts, that you have a good idea of what topics you will focus on and if so then let me tell you that there are still thousands of other topics applicable or rather suitable for a calendar which you have not thought about.

By now you should have realized that I have not mentioned adult oriented calendars such as those featuring beautiful and well endowed nude women or in some cases men.

Although I have done no more than about 250 nude shots in my photographic career I have never ever had one of these shots be turned down by any photographic stock house or calendar printer to which I have submitted them.

However, even though this style was one of my main money makers I stopped doing them about 15 years ago after the birth of my first daughter and will leave this type of photography for others to continue.

Not only is it a competitive style but it also brings other "side" effects not suitable for my lifestyle besides more stringent legal issues and stricter verification, releases, locale procurement, nudity laws and permission issues.

Bottom line, nudes are a hot commodity in the calendar industry, but keep in mind that we are referring to tasteful nudes not in any way pornographic as these have another set of themes and standards.

With that said, nude calendars remain one of the most popular of calendar themes and will probably be so for many years to come with the industry emphasis being new "faces" all the time.

If you are able to, and have no qualms about nudity and furthermore, are interested in making money or commercialism is your driving force behind your photography, then by all means pursue it.

One word of advice, always have a female assistant with you if you are male or a male assistant if female, in the presence of nude models. Make up artist should also always be present.

Set fees and take care of model releases well in advance and be very explicit with what you want before taking your first shot including the locations and the duration of the shoot.

What will never change is the strict demand by calendar publishers and photographic stock houses that your images must be technically flawless.

Not even one tiny speck of dust and each image must be different enough and pleasing enough to be chosen over many others.

If your images look like many others, the more likely scenario for a newcomer into a very competitive industry is that editors, buyers and publishers will not risk bringing on board someone untested.

They much rather go with their regular photography suppliers whom as per the industry standards have stood the test of time and whose images continue to be big sellers for these clients.

Persistence and top notch photography is the only key on which you must continually focus until at last you are given the opportunity of making a sale.

Once you do make a sale, keep in mind that you must continually take photographs and have a readily available base of images on file to supply a potential client at a moment's notice.

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For starters; fine art works, the work of popular contemporary artist, abstract art, views of cities, sporting events, everyday scenes, architectural shots, restaurants, nightlife, city life, work themes, art nouveau, newborns, pregnancy, weddings, home décor, and jewelry.

These are just but a few of the many others which are rarely thought about but nevertheless popular calendar subjects and each with its own clientele.

Don't forget power tools and tools in general, weapons, hunting gear, hotels, beaches, shoes, hair styles, computer gear, landscaping, motorcycles and should I stop now?

Which calendar theme is more appealing?

See results

Look for shots, no matter how insignificant they may appear at first, that seem to never be featured in a Grand Canyon calendar for example if you happen to be photographing it.

Thinking out of the box is often the best approach if you want to create memorable images that will capture an editor's gaze and attention.

Show your audience something that they may not know about this subjects and have probably not seen before on any calendar of this type.

© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 3 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Douw de Jager: Thank you

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      Douw de Jager 3 years ago

      You are just great. I have read many blogs on photography but you answered all my questions.Thanks