The junkmail lesson of the day: No matter what you sell, sell it with a smile!

Many photographers take photos of people, but not too many make the images with a market use in mind. Yes, taking pictures of people is great and if the models are professionals, all the better, because usually they know better than the photographer what to wear, what expressions to make, in what context their images will fit and above all, they know how to smile… But do stock photographers know these things as well? To be honest I would not swear on it.

Let’s analyze some interesting spam ads that I received during last week. This one of the family is a great shot, although the background cleaning to accommodate the text was done pretty drastically. The family is natural looking with what looks like natural smiles. Also, the styling is consistent and looks appropriate for the surroundings.

And what about this couple? Again, a really big happy smile just like one on your first date. A nice blurred background, good styling with ordinary clothing and a great couple become a picture that can be done easily at home on an overcast day if you have a good window with natural light. It’s difficult to see the setting, but that doesn’t matter, because you only want the atmosphere the happy smile is creating. Again, there is negative diffused space, created by the graphic designer, but certainly an image with great dynamics that makes one tempted to call eHarmony without delay!

Medicine and chronic diseases, like diabetes, require regular control and thank God that today almost every chronic disease, from hypertension and asthma to diabetes has devices to monitor these conditions from home. The models here show that good control of their illness boosts their self-esteem and makes them confident in the future, hence the smile. The photo was shot from slightly below in order to give the models a predominant position, and well-lit from behind with great reflector in front to open up the foreground. Nothing to complain about.    

Some people don’t need a ton of cash to live; they only need enough to raise the family. Here is a picture that says it all. The negative space was artificially created with a brush of blue but the mother and kid do the job beautifully with a great smile. Sounds familiar? Nice neutral clothing and a very affectionate hug help emphasize the idea that she does need time to take care of her children. And all revolves around a natural smile.

The vendors that used these images had a clear idea in mind and looked for images that fit their idea. The images were carefully selected to match their products or services; in other words, they were looking for images that expressed the sentiments they needed to “wrap” their product around. They were not looking aimlessly, but were searching for very specific images. Those images are not that difficult to do, you just need to stop puttering around and start thinking about what you are going to produce next. Are you producing a product that the market will be able to use?


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Hello photographers!  Are you lounging seaside with your favourite model, sipping a deliciously cold and beaded glass of the local brew?  Or is it more like watermelon clean-up and sprinkler duty with the shrieking pack of neighbourhood kids?  (Your Johnny dearest might be among them, but they seem straight out of the Lord of the Flies!)

Well, wake up from your fantasy or nightmare, and get back to work!  A stock photographer should take advantage of the summer months to prepare images for the upcoming season.  And after the slow sale summer months, it’s a good idea to provide a fresh supply of relevant images right as the season kicks off.  One such topic which can be easily produced by almost any photographer is The Return to School.

Come August, September and October, children and youth of all ages will be returning to their nurseries, day-cares, schools, and universities… and we need photos for this moment.  The images can run the gamut from quite realistic to utterly creative and artistic.  No matter your level of originality, the images should reflect your style, and you should keep in mind the following 6 tips.

  1. Styling - As we mentioned in an earlier post (styling) it´s important to use a wardrobe which is not just specific to summertime.  You can make the images less season-specific by incorporating clothing like jeans, jackets, sweatshirts, etc into some of the images.

  2. More Styling - Alternating styles to include both classic and trendy/extreme clothing will open your possibilities of creating images that will meet both an immediate vs. long-term and trendsetting vs. conservative demand.

  3. Coming and Going – Show children going to school, walking, biking, in a bus or a car, hand in hand with big bro/sis.  Try to capture details like the hands being held, the backpack being carried and different perspectives like a frontal shot of the child arriving and a shot from behind or the side.

  4. Study Time – Show children and youth studying in different environments such as: the classroom, the library and at home.  The children should use schoolbooks and notebooks, as well as tools such as laptops, calculators, etc.

  5. Social Time – For many, this is the best part of school (for others, the only part!) so be sure to take photos of kids interacting with each other at school, in outdoor areas, and at home.  Show them talking, laughing, smiling, walking and studying together.  Add textbooks or a laptop to some of the shots, and change nicer, more formal clothing for a more relaxed, casual look.

  6. School Stuff – When you´re tired of keeping the kiddies under control, take a break and photograph common school materials such as books, computers, backpacks, notebooks, pens & pencils.  Warning! There are many boring studio shots of these materials!!  Please have mercy on your photo-editors and send in creative and evocative images of school materials by using lighting, composition, selective focus and more to create an original image.

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People may think that I’m crazy for loving spam; isn’t everyone fighting spam with sophisticated anti-virus tools? I was too, until I wanted to see the commercial stock images the advertising market is using.  I concentrate on these subjects when I want to shoot commercial stock instead of wandering around taking pictures without planning, strategy or purpose. Let’s talk about taking pictures with a market segment in mind.

We all have older relatives or friends and here is relatively easy image that contains all the elements of a good seller: the right age, a frontal view, excellent modeling with a natural, self confident expression, good lighting, and plenty of negative space for text and titles.  In summary, an excellent example of an image that covers a very clear market need.  Isn’t that what stock photography is all about? Covering the needs of the market with images that are ready to be used? Otherwise it would be assignment photography...  The images in this post came to me as spam and weeks ago, before I developed my love for spam, my filter would have deleted them before I got a glance. Thank goodness that that I did…



You might think that none of your friends or relatives would like to pose for you and appear in an ad like this one. Yes, I know, people have prejudices, personal pride or are too shy to face the realities that we all have to accept… but are you going to give up so easily? Well, you shouldn´t!  Why don’t you take a more anonymous image? Below is an example of an unrecognizable senior person that fits the add beautifully, at the same time fulfilling the basics of great advertising photography with a frontal view, good lighting, carefully selected depth of field to emphasize the idea of the image, and again, negative space. What more could you ask for?


 
If you are not ready for retirement yet, but eager for a more social life, what about this one?


Here is another great advertising image. These models might be pros, but you could produce an image like this with close friends willing to pose in exchange for a weekend barbecue.  They don’t have to be a paramount example of senior beauty; they only need to be believable and healthy.  This image shows a luminous, natural atmosphere, confident expressions, and classic clothing. All in all, it’s an excellent example of an image that covers a very clear market need.

Many photographers seem to have lost direction and their only drive is to complain and give up, just because a bunch of young talents have proved that by organizing and industrializing production, they can sell masses of images at peanut prices and still be profitable. The solution is not to attack those who have accepted the challenge and profited from the digital revolution, but to change your production of images and to shoot what the market demands.  It is difficult to sell images that the market doesn’t want. See the light?  Now if you´ll excuse me, my spam filter is blinking...

 

 


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From a keywording point of view this is not an image

If someone asks you what can you see in the image above, what would you answer? Is that a landscape, a single tree, farmlands, the horizon, blue, green, yellow…? What would you say?

Perhaps you have something more conceptual in mind - like nature, isolation, solitude or tranquillity. If that's the case, we are on the right track. However, how many photographers do you think would add obvious, but not needed words like photo, photograph, photography, image or shot to their keywords (unless, of course, your photo shows indeed a photo)? Let me give you the answer: many!!

From a keywording point of view not everything is “holidays”

Keywords like holidays, vacation, relaxation, tourist destination, tourism or leisure should be used with moderation. Not every photo we take on our holidays falls in the holidays category. We can take a pleasant walk across the field in the above image during a holiday trip, but that doesn’t make it's a holiday pic.

Images of an indigenous community in Africa or a garbage can on a street corner are not holiday pictures either, even if you were comfortably seated on a safari jeep, or in a tour-bus, or walking around with your backpack when you took the picture.

From a keywording point of view this image is not a calendar

Keywords like calendar, postcard, greeting card, etc. shouldn’t be used unless that’s exactly what the photos are showing. Surely this image would fit perfectly in a wall calendar; it could make for a nice postcard as well, but the image is neither a calendar nor a postcard. Therefore, why are many photographers adding keywords which have possible end-uses of their images in mind?

Deciding how the photo is going to be used is up to the customer, not to you; your responsibility is locating the tree precisely and giving the date it was taken, although now we extract the date from the Exif data automatically. When analyzing searches logs that the www.agefotostock.com site creates, we don´t see clients searching using keywords like calendar, greeting card, postcard, etc., but we do see many searches for trees, fields, nature, isolation, solitude, colors, dates and precise places on earth. Why waste time loading up your images with plenty of unnecessary words? They won´t sell more, I tell you!

From a keywording point of view this image is not abroad (not for Czechs, at least)

This photo was taken in Southern Bohemia, in the Czech Republic. There’s little doubt that this place is abroad for the most of us, but someone who lives in Prague could feel quite at home there.

And that’s the point: foreign, abroad, overseas, faraway… all those relative concepts are dependent on the observer’s location, because if you are in Texas, the Czech Republic may sound like the end of the world, however in this global community, just when we all are trying to be world citizens, it’s not a good idea to use distance keywords to separate places, because nowadays distances are relative. Therefore foreign, abroad, overseas, faraway, alien, foreigner, etc. should be avoided unless the photo actually depicts these concepts.

Well, in fact this image is not a lot of things

It doesn’t help us to find keywords which don’t belong to the photo in question, even if they were quite appropriate for other images you sent us along with this one. It may sound obvious, but we must be careful when we assign keywords to a batch of images using Lightroom, Capture One or any other similar program because you should make sure that all keywords are valid for all images before synchronizing metadata. Otherwise search results will be inaccurate, and worst of all really frustrating from the client’s perspective.

From a keywording point of view this image only needs common sense when describing it

When thinking of keywording, keep in mind that common sense is the basic rule and minimalism is the required approach. Using less keywords but the appropriate ones, is often better than maximalism, using every single word that you think will make your images appear. In other words: less is more and common sense is required. Are you using some common sense when keywording your images? I bet most of you’re not!


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