Last week’s article on ways that stock photographers are missing out on sales mentioned “Imagery that is not relevant” among the top 5 reasons for low sales results.  What imagery is that?  And the moment of truth…Is your photography relevant? 

Frequently, we publish 10x10 portfolios of photographers who know how to shoot relevant images and have a clear and well defined style of shooting.   Surely those photographers that still haven’t reached those shooting levels must be analyzing what differentiates their not relevant photography to those 10x10´s in order to improve their photography, right? Wrong!

Editing today is sometimes frustrating when the “point & shoot” without the backing of relevancy is repeated time after time. If there is no idea, no intention and no reason for clients to use your images, shooting is playing lottery: you’ll shoot a lot and fortune may smile once in a while.  If there is an idea, an intention and a reason for clients to use your images, shooting is making an investment:  you’ll shoot a lot and will earn more interest the more images you have in the bank.

Admittedly, many shooters today are not trying to run a business, but even if just shooting images in your free time and placing them with a stock agency one would expect some regular sales… otherwise, why shoot images anyway?  However, if you regularly shoot images with little relevancy like these below, it is clear that your photography has room for improvement.


 
Here are some solutions though, because relevancy doesn’t have to be the lost grail!

5 Steps to Relevancy

  1. Think about what your images can illustrate.

  2. Consider whether you have seen better images of the same or similar situations.

  3. Try to analyze what your images are missing compared with other, better ones, of the same subject.

  4. Find one that you like and that is clearly better than anything you have done and decide if your photography is weakened by use of the wrong lens, poor lighting of the zone you are photographing, lack of a clear point of interest, a bad camera angle in relation to the subject or bad cropping.   Now try to take your next shot “marinating in your mind” the image you like.

  5. Try not to be a combination of Ansel Adams, Henry Cartier Bresson and Richard Avedon together in one image.  Instead, focus on analyzing and practicing one distinctive style.

The lack of a purposely practiced shooting style directly impacts the quality of the images that I see daily. I know that in the end, it triggers certain shooters to take their photos on these non-exclusive pilgrimages, from RM to RF and LBRF and then finally ending at microstock, because at 14 cents, almost everything can be sold, eventually.

Now, leaving aside the question of relevancy, image editors sometimes find another problem. Indecisive individuals with good photographic practices that use their imagination, have good technique, know what can interest clients and resolve well many photographic themes, but, ooh la la, at the last moment the photographer’s dilemma appears: which one of the 20 shots below is the good one?  Maybe my agency can resolve the dilemma for me, the photographer might think.


And there is a reason for that though, because for some portals with a few more millions of images than age fotostock (and less sophisticated searching software), the good trick is to send 5 or 6 equals because among so many millions with basically the same keywords (Italy, Venetia, dusk, blue, etc., etc.) how else will the images be seen if no miracle occurs and the photographer isn’t one sending images every week?  Quantity of equals is the key.

However, at age fotostock, 20 equal images will be returned with a note saying: “edit your work tightly…”  Therefore, it becomes just another way of delaying your images appearance on the web… which is another way of losing income. Because the faster the images go live on the web, the more sale possibilities you have.


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Don´t say cheese!   Please say and do something different!  For all of you photographers and clients out there who are getting tired of seeing yet another photo of a sacharine-sweet-smiling stock model, take a look at this gallery.

age fotostock Portraits

 

Stock portraits do not have to be predictable and generic.  In your next session with a friend or a model, why don´t you explore some new expresssions?  Ask your model to express different emotions, to go beyond just a smile or a silly face.  Some of the initial images might be too posed or "forced" to work, but as your model relaxes, and you communicate with him or her, the true expresssions will emerge.  Encourage natural acting and avoid overly theatrical poses and faces.  Keep it real! An expressive portrait can be very effective at communicating a concept, or catching the viewer´s eye.  

Stock models do not have to be all "pretty" people.  One of the most frequent requests of our clients is for "real people."  Real people might be less than perfect, they might be slightly overweight, they might not be young.  Especially look for models with interesting, expressive faces like the people in this gallery.  Avoid overly made up models, unless the make-up is integral to the shot (a goth teen, for example).  

Let your motto be "Extraordinary images of ordinary people."    Do not mistake our call for real, less than "perfect" models to mean that sloppy, less than perfect images of those models will be successful.  Look for the best lighting for every situation.  Be sure to create images with ample copy space (neutral space where the designers can add text and other design elements).  This is especially important in your vertical shots.  Consider how the photographers of the images in the "Portraits" gallery left copy space on the top, bottom or sides of the images.

Still in need of inspiration?  Don´t just copy the micro and/or stock photographer of the moment who boasts in the forums of big earnings (if any of them still do).  Look at portrait photographers outside the stock photo industry or go back to the classics, such as these masters of portraits: Julia Margaret Cameron, Yousuf Karsh, Arnold Newman and Irving Penn.  Their images might be old, but they have lost none of the visual impact and expressive force that first enthralled viewers.  And learn an important lesson from those pioneering photographers; Don´t be afraid to experiment!


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Have you ever taken a photo that you were absolutely positive would sell like hot cakes… and it didn’t sell…at all?  But then a random image you took of the back of an old box, broken glasses or some odd thing, has sold.  And keeps selling.  And you’ve wondered: What are those clients looking for?!


Well, we don’t promise a miracle, get-rich-quick, wish-list of ideas… but we would like to share some ideas, based on the requests of real age fotostock clients. 

If you are interested in receiving these photo ideas, follow age fotostock on twitter where you’ll find this first Production Tip: images in demand... a large pile of clothes on a white background (still).  We will be sharing these tips through Twitter only, not the blog, so click on through today.

Now the fine print.  It’s not just the idea or subject; it’s your creative interpretation and competent execution of that idea which will produce a good sellable image. Are you up for the challenge?


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You might finish your shopping the night before Christmas, but image buyers don´t!  Image buyers preparing for Christmas campaigns have already started looking for photos.  What will they find?  Your fresh images of sandcastles and bikinis or your one year old images of the children opening Christmas gifts? 

This photo was sent at the end of August.  Good job, Franck!

Our expert photo-researchers recommend submitting your seasonal images 3-4 months before the actual season, so that they appear on our website right when the buyers are looking for them.  It’s not easy to plan and shoot so far ahead, and in some cases, it might be impossible or too expensive, but there are many seasonal images of objects or models which can be made in advance and released into the market right when the buyers want to buy them. 

The following calendar can help you transform from a procrastinator to a strategic planner:

JANUARY - Submit for Mother's day
Photos of gifts, homemade cards, hugs, kisses & other affectionate moments between mother/grandmother and children, spending time together (cooking, playing, talking, sports, crafts) portraits of mothers.

FEBRUARY - Submit for Father’s day & a Birthday Party
Like with Mother's day, photos of gifts, hugs, kisses and affectionate moments between father/grandfather and children, spending time together (sports, talking, playing, cooking, etc) & portraits of fathers.
Also, you can shoot a kid’s birthday party or one for a senior with photos of balloons, candles, cake, gifts, games, surrounded by family or friends etc.

MARCH - Submit for summertime
Show models with summery clothing/sandals, preparations for the summer like putting sunscreen on kids, sunglasses, drinking water, etc.
Also, make images of couples/families preparing and enjoying vacations.

APRIL - Submit for summertime
Photos of a family on a picnic or outing in a park, relaxing on a picnic blanket, details of the picnic food.

MAY - Submit for “Back to school”
Photos of children preparing/going back to school and details of school materials of all kind. This subject was fully covered in this blog entry.

JUNE- Submit for Autumn & Halloween
Photos of people dressed in fall clothing, hats, scarves, etc.
Also photograph pumpkins that are finished or being carved, children in costumes, candy for trick or treating, autumn fruit.

JULY - Submit for Thanksgiving
Photos of traditional food like the turkey, pies, etc and a family eating together at a table full of food. 

AUGUST  - Submit for Christmas and Winter
Photos of Christmas ornaments and tree, gifts, mistletoe, hot chocolate, gingerbread cookies and other traditional foods.
Shoot excited/happy kids, adults and kids opening gifts, playing with new toys (the kids at least).

SEPTEMBER - Submit for New Year
Photos of champagne, toasts, clocks striking 12 o’clock, people kissing each other and dressed for a party, lists of New Year’s intentions, illustrate the most common intentions (quitting smoking, diet, etc).

OCTOBER - Submit for Valentine's
Photos of couples holding hands, kissing, hugging, talking & giving gifts, hearts, chocolates, romantic gifts, ring boxes, love letters or a kid’s Valentine.  Make portraits that convey happiness and excitement.

NOVEMBER - Submit for springtime & "Operation Bikini"
Images of spring cleaning, cleaning equipment and products (natural)
Also, you can shoot healthy foods to get in shape for the beach and people exercising.

DECEMBER- Submit for Easter
Easter eggs, baskets, chicks, rabbits, sweets, stuffed animals, spring flowers such as narcissus, children with flowers, bright colored clothes, etc.

Nowadays, any photographer who is serious about making a living in stock, must plan strategically to make the right photos at the right time.



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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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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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