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Eyeballs and Fine Art: Tyler Shields’ Take on Standing Out as a Photographer


Tyler Shields has led a very successful career — both as a photographer and previously as a skater — and in his talk at Luminance 2012 he spent some time explaining how he differentiates himself in an increasingly photographed world.

Specifically, he spends time explaining that there is photography that gets you “eyeballs” (viewers and attention for your work) and photography that gets you paid. (Warning: The video includes some strong language and a few potentially offensive PG-13 photos.)

For him, the photos that fall into the “eyeballs” category all seem to be controversial in nature: Glee starlet Heather Morris with a black eye, or actors dressed up as police officers being sprayed with real pepper spray. These photos don’t sell to collectors, they garner attention. It’s that attention that then pays off when he creates a fine art print he means to sell.

The photos in the second category are fine art that you would want to hang on your wall, and he’s made quite a successful living as a photographer selling many of those prints. His argument is that you don’t get the sales if you don’t first have the eyeballs — it doesn’t matter how good your work is.

His opinions are interesting if not a bit controversial, which has led to a career full of both fans and ardent detractors, many of whom are photographers. But if you want to get Tyler Shields’ take on making it as a Fine Art photographer (or any type of photographer for that matter), and you happen to have 23 minutes to kill, click play and enjoy.