Really, it's not so scary.  Before you run for the street to take yet another unreleased image of "The Window Shopping Old Lady in a Red Coat" or "The Large Woman in Bikini at the Beach" or "The Hungry Looking Street Child in the Third World"… listen for just a moment.

Models are people too.  The difference between them and the characters mentioned above is: they know that you’re taking their photo, they want you to and most importantly of all, they sign a release which gives you permission to license that image.

Why bother to shoot model-released images of people?

Good images of people will sell. The general consensus across the industry is that people, lifestyle, and business/industry are stock’s all-time, consistent top sellers.    That is the positive reason.  The negative reason is that nowadays, photographs of random people without releases are becoming more and more risky for stock agencies to show, even when marked for editorial use only.

What do clients want and buy?

Clients want model-released images of people that convey a message and thus help sell a product, be it a vacation, a retirement fund, a heating system or a magazine.  And usually (but not always) they want the image to be a good photograph, well composed and with good copy space for the client’s message.  Logically, it’s easier to sell with a positive message than a negative message, so generally the images should communicate positive ideas such as happiness, confidence, peace, health, etc. 

Are you up to the challenge?

Could you make a model-released image that communicates an idea like the following? Senior enjoying golden years.  Connected teens.  Good customer service.  Those images could be used to advertise medicines, investment plans, phones, universities, insurance, hospitals and much more.  If you don’t think you could make an image like this, but you would like to try, stay tuned to the blog.  In upcoming posts, we will talk about how to photograph (people) models.  We will give you shoot preparation do’s & don’t, talk with a lifestyle photographer, examine the ever elusive client request for “real people” and give you lots of ideas.


age fotostock images of happy seniors, connected teens, good customer service.

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6 in 10 members of the population in the U.S. are overweight and 5 in 10 members of the population in the U.K. and Spain are overweight.  If the latest health statistics for the general population are true for photographers, than probably at least half of you reading this are overweight.  So why are dignified, overweight models an endangered species in stock?

You might contend that our societies prefer to show men and women with impossible bodies (literally, in the case of some photoshop touch-ups) on the covers of magazines, etc.  And you might be right.  But that doesn’t explain why photographers don’t make photos of overweight models.  Believe it or not, clients are looking for those photos.  See these excerpts from real researcher/client requests:

“We are always looking for overweight people…”

“Please note, they want an overweight man doing all sorts of typical, everyday activities like eating breakfast at home, leaving his house, getting in the car, driving to work, stopping for coffee, maybe working near a window, eating lunch on a park bench, coming home to his hyper and/or loving kids, watching a little league game outside, riding bicycles with his wife, or roller blading with wife and kids, etc...”

“Also, some slightly overweight people doing everyday things i.e. not on the scale, or eating but just living…”

Please note, they didn’t request photos of obese people on the scale, in bikini on the beach, or stuffing their mouth with fried snickers at the state fair.  So, let’s forget about those immature, stereotypical images and move on to show slightly (or less slightly) overweight people living, working, laughing, and loving just like the rest of the population.  Like in these images...


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Rights Managed photo YA4-1052055 by John Banagan caught the eye of our editors this week.  Why?
It’s natural, surprising and it has negative space.

NATURAL - The woman is real-looking and gazing at the camera with a quiet, natural expression.  She isn’t smiling a big, saccharine-sweet smile.  Most photographers tend to produce models being stagey or stocky, but it’s the expressive and natural models that connect as authentic and real with clients. 

SURPRISING - Stock agencies are full of standard spa and beauty images. Most of them are the “same old same old” approaches to the subject.  The bold, contrasting colors and almost snapshot feel of this image stand out.  When you look at over 35,000 new images a week from photographers, it’s nice to be surprised!

NEGATIVE SPACE - Negative space is the “empty” space in the top half of this image.  Generally speaking, it’s the area where the subject is not, and where there is an absence of distracting elements.  It gives designers an ideal space to include text and other design elements for advertising and magazine images.  If you don’t leave negative space in your stock images, you are limiting their commercial possibilities.

Is there any downside to the image?  Well, the model’s hair might be too “natural looking” for some clients.  A quick pass with the comb would have smoothed it down a bit more.

But that’s our opinion. 

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Focus on: the Entrepreneurial Spirit

In crisis times, not everyone is looking for salvation in a safe, company job.  Some people choose to be their own boss, and start a small business.  A recent Gallup study shows that despite the risks of failure, entrepreneurs are often happier than employees because they still make their own decisions, right or wrong, rather than waiting for the axe to fall.  Also, some countries encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in crisis times with micro-credits, grants and other public assistance. 

Situations:  Show the owners of new, small businesses at work and on location in garden centers, landscaping, bakeries, delis/cafes, gift shops, pet stores, shoe shops, jewelry stores, craft shops, etc.

Subjects:  Seek entrepreneurs, 25-40 years old, who communicate energy, confidence and pride.  These could be friends, family members, or acquaintenances of yours.  However, don’t forget to get signed model releases! (sample release here: )

Client request:  Please send photos of “real people entrepreneurs,” not models posing as entrepreneurs.

Editor tips:  (a) Include some frames which show the entire body of the model and give an idea of location, not just close-ups. (b) Leave enough negative space to add texts. (c) Don´t over "wide-angle" the image, a 28 or 35 mm. is more than enough.


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