Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shooting Stock Photography: Tips and Ideas

Stock photography is a very generic term.  If you shoot images with the hopes of selling them somewhere but with no idea where, then you are capturing stock.  They are images that could sell anywhere and could show anything.  Is that broad enough for you?  It's crazy confusing and will leave most people sitting around thinking, huh, what should I shoot then?  Chances are, if it's worth you taking the time to compose a beautiful image, it's possibly salable as stock.  Stick with what you know, and capture subjects that you specialize in.

Stock agencies are the outlets for your stock work, unless you would prefer to try your luck with your own online website or marketing book.  I highly recommend joining an agency, however, because they will do the marketing for you.

Stock can be anything and everything that you are hoping to sell but don't have a buyer for yet!

Here are some tips I have for getting started with stock (in no particular order):

1- Scenic images are overpopulated in the stock industry, therefore, shoot and try to submit them anyway, but don't try to only sell scenics.
2- Stock images with people or strong ideas behind them are the ones that will sell.  If you can showcase an idea it will have more worth (i.e. think green, pollution, economy, well-being, health)
3- Just because it's easy to shoot, doesn't mean it won't make a great stock image.  Some of your best stock images will be the easiest ones you've captured, will have no flash, and will take less than 5 seconds to create.
4- ALWAYS CARRY MODEL RELEASES AND HAVE THEM SIGNED BY EVERYONE IN THE SHOT.  These are required by stock agencies for images with people in them.  Property releases are also necessary for images with private property.  I CANNOT STRESS RELEASES ENOUGH!

5- Don't worry about carrying lots of flashes for natural looking stock shots.  I tend to bring one or two, but a lot of my best stock images are natural light.  Simple, eh?  Agencies/customers like a natural look.
6- Shoot high-key.  If you look at the top-selling images, they seem to have one thing in common: Their Bright!!  I overexpose a little, but never let my whites wash out.  People prefer bright images because it looks more upbeat and is more likely to help them sell their service/product.
7- Keep your sensor clean.  Stock agencies require dust-free photos, and this will save you time in post-processing.
8- Don't spend all day setting up a single shot, plan an event with a group of people: hiking, swimming, walking, biking, skiing, whatever you want to shoot.  Capture as many images of it as you can and shoot the most unlikely moments including downtime.  Spending a day on a shot falls more in the commercial realm.
9- Compose with some extra empty space allowing writing to be placed on the image.
10- Shoot on blue sky days, these make the most upbeat images.
11- You will need a lot of good, available images before you will be signed with a traditional agency.  With microstock you can get involved right away even if you only have one image.
12- Traditional agencies will pay higher per image, microstock is all about volume.

13- The larger the quantity of images in your library, the more profit you will see.
14- Stock is a great way to have someone else deal with selling your images.  Use this to your advantage and build up that huge library!
15- Most agencies expect you to do your own edits.  Either learn how to edit well and within their specs, or use an editing company to do the edits for you (this allows you to be shooting more too!)
16- Shoot anything and everything, but make sure you get those releases (unless it's travel photography which in certain cases doesn't require releases).
17- Keep your images well-organized and tracked.  You don't want to create a lawsuit by selling an image that is listed through your agency, on your own.
18- Micro-stock is a form of stock where the images sell for very cheap, around $1.  Join these if you plan on having TONS of images for sale.

19- Browse online agencies for certain areas you specialize in shooting.  If you can find a subject that has not been covered well, or that you can/have captured better, then use that to your advantage and fill that area up with your images.
20- It takes time before you make money, don't lose your confidence, and don't give up!  You will make it if you keep working at it.  Like all professional businesses, photography is no exception in this area.
21- Set up your own shoots, and pay the models if you can.  Even if it's only $50 per model, this money will keep them motivated and help them create great shots with you.
22- SHOOT A LOT!!!
23- Make sure the release is fully filled out by everyone as they sign, if they miss a spot you may not get a second shot, or see them again.

These are just a few tips that I have come up with.  Hopefully they help!  If you have any additional suggestions, please add them in the comments below.

That's the BUZZ for Today!  Please check back soon for more.


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