Well damn, that's a lot of HDRIs.
I don't know about you but I think it's high time for an update!
*cue wall of text*
Since about last May we've been rocking steadily around the $2000 mark in donations, which has been amazingly predictable, allowing me to start paying other photographers to shoot HDRIs for HDRI Haven.
Thanks to you guys, instead of saving up for months and months to travel across the world to shoot HDRIs, wasting huge sums on air fares and hotels, I can simply hire people already there to shoot for me :)
Perhaps "simply" is an understatement though, as shooting quality HDRIs is very tricky, and even by explaining some of the process one-on-one to experienced panorama photographers, I've struggled to find people with appropriate equipment and technical understanding to do a good job in every type of environment.
Struggles aside, you've probably noticed the "Author" line under the HDRI info, and that it's often not actually my name there :)
Sergej and Oliksiy, both professional Ukrainian photographers, have been shooting a TON of amazing HDRIs for me lately. Philip from the US did a bunch a few months ago, and Andreas from London is starting to do a few now as well.
The variety of HDRIs they're sending me is super great - a lot of it is from the type of places I don't have down here in South Africa, or simply wouldn't have thought to shoot.
The steady Patreon donations have been particularly useful in being able to pay these guys a predictable amount, which obviously helps them decide to keep sending me more stuff :)
The system of payment I'm using is a little complicated, considering it has to vary based on the exact amount of donations each month, while also being stable enough to be predictable for them, as well as pay more for the additional work of shooting backplates, and reward the more popular HDRIs to encourage them to shoot stuff that you actually want to use. If you're curious about how it works, just take a look at the monthly finance report spreadsheets.
There's a lot more admin involved in running HDRI Haven than I initially anticipated :)
The downside of not shooting that many HDRIs myself recently is that my savings for travel and new equipment has slowed down a lot (although as I said, it's a lot less important now that there are other photographers from around the world shooting for the site).
The next Patreon goal, "New camera gear!", seems to be impossibly far away, and I'm not even completely sure it's necessary as a "monthly income" goal. Once I have enough saved up I'll just buy the new gear, even if the goal hasn't been reached.
It's a similar issue with special trips to places like Norway for the Northern Lights, or Namibia for its amazing deserts, or Chernobyl for... well, Chernobyl. It doesn't make sense to have these trips as goals on Patreon, as they're each only a once-off cost and don't necessarily require an increase in monthly income. Although I personally save most of my earnings from HDRI Haven for travel and equipment upgrades for shooting HDRIs, the other photographers for HDRI haven don't necessarily do the same with their earnings.
What do you think about the idea of running a separate short term kickstarter-style campaign for a special once-off trip somewhere amazing? Obviously I'd use my travel savings as well, but depending on the trip it (and if it's even me who goes) it would definitely need more funding.
If you're someone who is currently supporting me on Patreon, would you lower/cancel your pledge and donate to the trip's kickstarter instead? The main thing worrying me about this idea is that it might affect the income of the other HDRI creators by lowering the Patreon donations, or that you might all just think I'm greedy by asking for donations in two places :D
Basically I've been wondering a lot lately about what the next step for HDRI Haven should be. I'm not entirely comfortable with just carrying on what we're doing now for the rest of time, I'd like to spice things up, or branch out and expand the project somehow. If you have any other big ideas, I'm all ears :)