Stock photography is a numbers game. The more images you have with an agency, or in your own files, the more chances you have to sell and make money. Having a diverse collection makes a big difference too, especially when it comes to photos of people, which, after all, is always the most marketable subject in nearly every agency.
Whether you’re a full time stock shooter or a if it’s only a small aspect of your overall photography business model, you’ll want to maximize every shoot so that you can get the most out of your time and monetary investment, which could include model fees, equipment, prop or location rentals and, most importantly, your own time. Your goal should be to produce the greatest number and highest variety of potentially sellable images as possible in your given time frame.
These days, most big agencies request image exclusivity in their contracts, which means you can’t sell or submit the same image, or any similar images, to other agencies. With this in mind, one idea is to try and make every photo shoot look like more than one shoot. You may not be able to get extreme variation within a single shoot, but you may be able to produce a couple of unique looking collections from the same session. If you’re able to pull that off, you can send images from the same shoot to different agencies. And even if you can’t, you can still get the variation you need to maximize your sales potential for the images from that one shoot within a single agency.
Here are a few tips that can help you maximize your shoots and achieve the highest variation of imagery.
Shoot Different Poses: You’ll want to try and evoke as many different emotions, expressions and poses from your model as possible. Happy, sad, introspective, thoughtful, stressed, confident. These are the concepts that photo buyers look for and if you can give them as many options as possible, you can increase your chance of making the sale. If you’re focusing on activities instead of expressions, think running, walking, jumping, cycling, exercising, reading, talking, sitting, standing, anything to vary the look of the shot.
Shoot Different Clothing: This is the best way to make each image look distinct. Photo buyers not only like variation, they also want shots that have a unique look. Shoot some expressions with the model wearing one outfit and a few different expressions with a separate outfit. I usually like to have at least two or three different clothing options.
Shoot Different Backgrounds: Combine this with clothing and expressions and you can really start to vary the look of your imagery. Try to go simple and uncluttered with your backgrounds, and look for settings or camera angles that don’t make every shot look like they were taken in the exact same place. Again, variation is key.
Shoot Different Vantage Points: Shoot some far away, some closeup, some with the model looking at the camera, some with them looking away. Shoot side views, front views, back views, whatever you can think of.
Have a Shot list: I always take an idea/concept list with me of the shots I’m thinking I’d like to get. I refer to it regularly to make sure I’m covering all my bases. If I don’t have a list, chances are good that I’ll forget something that I’ll wish I’d shot later. The list can be a photo set on your iPhone or a handwritten note in your pocket, as long as it’s handy. Second Shootr app for the iPhone could help you keep your shoots and concept ideas organized.
Go for Perfection: The stock photo industry is so saturated with imagery that only the best shots will stand out to photo buyers. Your shots need to be technically and artistically perfect in order to compete. Train your eye to look for all the details that could detract from a potentially great image, like untucked clothing, skin blemishes or stray elements in the background. You’d be surprised how easy it is to miss this stuff in the moment. Stay alert.
Additional reading- 6 Steps for Producing a Creative Photo Shoot.
Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska. Follow his own blog at danbaileyphoto.com/blog and see his daily updates at facebook.com/danbaileyphoto.