I am so glad you found this article on my top five tips for shooting stock photography! I have been shooting stock photography for 4+ years now and I have learned a ton while growing my 1400+ image stock portfolio with Stocksy United. I mostly shoot stock on the side – my portrait business is my main focus, but it has been fun to use my creativity and work towards something different – I have found it works a totally opposite side of my brain. Stock can be a lot of fun and a great way to earn additional income but it can also be unpredictable for sales and frustrating to know what to shoot. Everyone will have their own journey, but hopefully, these couple of tips will help you get started!
- Pick The Right Agency: There are a million different reasons you can choose an agency, so before you put your precious time and energy into one place make sure it is a fit. You want to make sure you “match” in style, price, and usage among other things. Before you make a commitment, make sure you know the terms of your agreement, what your payout will be and what kind of exclusivity they will want you to commit to. Each agency is extremely different, and you will want to carefully weigh your options. If you commit to an agency that requires exclusivity, your images may live with them into perpetuity OR if you submit to the wrong place you may make pennies on your photographs.
- Think Conceptually: Concepts are huge in stock photography. How can you show an example of a good idea in your portraits? Can you show anger? How about disappointment? Bloggers, magazines and ad agencies are just a few of the buyers that are looking to tell a story with their writing and therefore are specifically looking for images that add to that message. Creating an obvious concept is sometimes difficult to master and therefore you have less competition when you shoot these photographs correctly! Sometimes it helps me to brainstorm those more difficult concepts and make a list of what I am trying to convey!
- Edit clean: Let’s be real here- photography trends change (Do you remember selective coloring?). When you do a shoot, you want your images to stand the test of time and be able to be purchased over and over again. If you have the latest color trend on your images, eventually they will become outdated and therefore unsellable. Instead of selling for multiple years, maybe it only is sellable for one year. So, avoid color trends and keep it simple with your editing!
- Include Lots Of Variety: When shooting stock photography it helps to shoot lots of different images of the same subject. This means if you are photographing a child being pushed in a swing, make sure you have a wide shot, a detail shot of the hands doing the pushing, the face of the child being pushed, their legs flying in the air and any angle you can think of! Buyers are often looking to tell a story with the images and this will allow them to purchase more. Also, providing more options may lead to additional sales from the same series.
- Use Releases: This might seem like a no-brainer, but I hate it when I hear someone has shot a session without the proper release and then goes through the rigamarole of trying to get one later. Make sure you use the proper release before you shoot. The proper release is one meant for stock and is much more detailed than a regular model release. Your agency will usually have one for you to use, or you can use the Easy Release app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/easy-release-model-release-app/id360835268?mt=8
I recommend that if you are giving payment to your models in the form of digital images (trading their time for digital images of their family), that you do not give the images until you have completed reviewing the model releases. It is really difficult to get a model to sign or revise a model release after they have received those digitals!
I hope some of these tips help you on your journey to shooting stock photography. This type of photography can be fun, exhausting, exhilarating and frustrating. I advise you to take your time, shoot with intention and choose your agency carefully. Everything else will fall into line after that!
If you want to check out my guide on shooting and selling stock photography, you can find it here. It covers all the different agencies you can sell with, how to work with model releases, what buyers are looking for, keywording your images, how much money you can make and so much more!