Tips to Building a Strong Stock Photography Portfolio

I have been contributing images to a stock photography website since 2008, and have spoken to many photographers about making stock photography a part of their business income. I’m pleased to say that many have added stock photography income to their business. If you are already making money from stock photography or are considering getting into it, here are ten tips to building a strong stock photography portfolio.

Tip 1 – Communicate a clear message or concept. Stock images which communicate a clear message or concept are the most popular. Don’t fall into the trap of shooting random images. Decide on a theme and then create images which communicate a clear message.


bullying

This very simple concept is one of my most successful stock images.

Tip 2 – Create flexible images. Often as a stock photographer I won’t know exactly how a buyer wants to use my image. So I shoot with some flexibility to ensure the image is useful to the buyer. That might be allowing extra copy space so that a designer can add text, or to not shoot too tightly so that the designer can crop the image to suit their page layout. Shooting with some flexibility will allow more buyers to use your images. That means more sales for you.

Tip 3 – Look for a niche where you have an advantage. Everyone has an niche that others don’t have access to. It is a matter of finding that niche and then turning that niche into strong images. I have an example from wildlife photography. Some people believe wildlife is too competitive to be profitable as stock. I’ve had a different experience. I live in Melbourne, Australia about 20 minutes drive to a large group of flying foxes. I’ve been visiting them for years now and have developed an extensive range of flying fox images. Not everyone has access to a location like this. It has become a profitable niche for stock images, and sales peak each year near Halloween.

Flying fox

Consider what niche you may have, and how you could capitalize on it

Tip 4 – Maintain a steady upload pace. Success in stock photography is a long term game. It is a business model that rewards continuous, steady effort. To do that you need to operate at a pace you are able to sustain. For some that may be five hundred images a year, for others it may be two thousand images per year. Whatever level you are able to contribute at – focus on establishing and maintaining a steady upload pace.

Tip 5 – Variety counts. Shooting a wide variety of material gives you the best chance to achieve sales steadily throughout the year. You may be tempted to specialize in Christmas themed images, but if you do that, you will have 2-3 months each year with strong sales and 9-10 months with limited sales. Cast the net wide. Shoot a wide variety of themes.

Tip 6 – Expect to have images which never get downloaded. Every stock photographer has images which are unsuccessful. I have over eight thousand images in my portfolio and have hundreds which have not ever been downloaded. So when this happens to you, don’t panic. It is part of the game and process of being a stock photographer. Some files will be successful and others will not. Don’t stress. Learn the lesson and move onto the next concept.

Money problems

The strength of your concept and how well it is executed is important. The gear you use is not.

Tip 7 – It’s not about your gear. Purchasers of stock photos are really interested in the image and whether it fits their purpose. They have no interest at all what gear you used to make the image. So if you are starting out, don’t let not having the best pro quality gear hold you back. If you can create useful images, it doesn’t matter whether they are made using a pro quality DSLR, a cheap point and shoot, or even your phone. (See this post for a different take on this subject.)

Tip 8 – Organize your files well. Like any type of photography where you are handling large volumes of images, it is important to be well organised. There will be times when you need to go back to old files or want to check the camera settings or date the image was made. Take time to plan for how you will organize your images.

Tip 9 – Develop a manageable workflow. Stock photographers deal with large numbers of files. It is important to develop a strong workflow that sees the images coming out of your camera, through post production and uploaded onto your stock photo library quickly. I like to finish editing one shoot and have started uploading it before my next shoot. To do that I need to be very efficient to avoid having a computer full of images which never make it into my stock portfolio. Develop a workflow which suits you, and sees images being added to your portfolio at regular intervals.

Tip 10 – Research in advance. Take time to plan your concept and your shoot. Part of this time should be spent in researching what files currently exist. That will give you a feel for the level of competition and the uniqueness of your concept.

Thanks for reading these ten tips to building a strong stock photography portfolio. Stock continues to be a steady income earner for me, and can be for you too. For more information please see this post on Why I Shoot Stock. Best wishes.

Creating New Revenue Streams

The photography business is a very competitive one, with limited barriers to entry and extensive competition. This makes it challenging for both new and established businesses to generate an appropriate financial return. This week I’ve been working with a major financial services business. They are tackling the future needs of their business in a very structured way. I can see their approach to creating new revenue streams being appropriate to photographers. Let me explain.

So what is happening in this financial services business? Their CEO sees a rapidly changing environment driven by new technology, changing client needs, and heightened competition. It seems that in their business, the old model is dying – much like traditional photographer being overtaken by the new tech savvy weekend warrior.

Coins

Are you deliberately setting aside time to create new revenue streams?

This financial services business is preparing for the future. It’s how they are doing it that is really interesting. They are preparing by explicitly focusing on different parts of their business. They are very deliberately trying to build capability in creating new revenue streams.

  • 70% of their resources are dedicated to their core business
  • 20% of their resources are dedicated to emerging new growth opportunities, and
  • 10% of their resources are dedicated to long term experiments

So, how might we learn from the corporate world?

Most of the photographers I speak to are focusing one hundred percent of their time and energy on their traditional core business. Most are also seeing eroding margins for this work, or increased competition, or both. They don’t dedicate any of their time to creating new revenue streams. They are hoping that what they have always done will be relevant for their future clients and enable them to make a living. Can you see a flaw in this logic? Without change, the best they can hope for is a slow decline in their business and some seriously long hours.

How could we implement a strategy similar to the financial services business? If you are working 5 days per week, dedicating 20% of your time to emerging new growth opportunities is the equivalent of one day per week. What might this look like? Well, this will be different for every different business, but a traditional wedding photographer might spend that time investing and learning about implementing drone technology into their wedding photography business. This would give them a unique point of difference, and stop their business being overtaken by competitors. Exactly what you do in that one day per week is up to you, the point I want to make is that you could be spending one day per week creating new revenue streams for your current business.

Jigsaw puzzleAnd what about long term experiments? The financial services business was dedicating ten percent of it’s resources to long term experiments. How could we do this? Ten percent of our time is one day every two weeks. Could you set that aside to focus on a completely new income stream for your business? Could you build onto your current business something that you have an interest in? Maybe a new line of photography, new products, a blog, photography seminars, photography tours? Again the activity is up to you, but I want to encourage you to deliberately set aside time for creating new revenue streams.

Thanks for reading this blog. I hope it has given you insight into how another business is tackling the challenge of creating new revenue streams that can be translated into something meaningful for your business.

More Photography Business Tips from the Under 12’s

I recently wrote a post for Beyond Here called 6 Photography Business Tips from the Under 12’s. It traced the season of an under 12 basketball team, the lessons they were learning, and how that might apply to photography businesses. The season has progressed and last week was the final round robin game of the season. The team has been making steady progress and has won five games and lost four in the final nine home and away games. They have now qualified for the finals series which commence this weekend. As I reflect on the season so far, here are more photography business tips from the under twelves.

basketballerBusiness Tip 1 – Weaknesses Can Be Turned Around. Every sports team has strengths and weaknesses. In this basketball team we have two very tall kids who are invaluable for their rebounding. They regularly grab the defensive rebound and provide the outlet pass to a running guard. On the other hand, both of them have not been strong on scoring. And if you know basketball, you will know that it is difficult to win games if your centers are not scoring.

As the season has gone on, these two kids have gradually built their scoring to the point where they are now regular contributors. So what’s the business tip? Your weaknesses don’t have to remain weaknesses! Work at them. Practice. Bring them up to a level where they are making a positive contribution to your business. Weaknesses can be turned around with focus and time. Don’t accept them as weaknesses which hold you business back. Identify yours and focus. They can be turned around.

focusBusiness Tip 2 – Success is Not Defined in a Few Weeks. When I wrote the previous post we were just three games into a long season. The team went through a tough stretch where wins were hard to come by, but in the second round of the competition they have managed more wins than losses. That’s progress. Now they head into the finals on the back of two successive wins feeling optimistic about what the final weeks of the season might hold. If we assessed the season after three games we might have viewed it as a failure. But success is not measured in a few weeks. Business progress, like a basketball team’s progress, can be massive over a few months. Keep moving forward. Don’t define your business based on current results. Keep pushing on. (For another post about business success please see Fail Fail Fail Succeed, Irony)

Business Tip 3 – There Will be Setbacks. Setbacks in business and setbacks in sport are a normal part of life. Don’t panic when they happen. Keep focused, your difficult days will pass. Right at the moment one of the under 12 players is out of action with a broken finger. She is a strong player and will miss four games. In basketball, that’s one of the reasons you have ten players on the team. And it is why you practice with different combinations on the court. Whether it’s a player in foul trouble, or a player out with injury, a basketball team practices with these challenges in mind. While she is out injured there is the opportunity for someone else to shine. Similarly we need to prepare our businesses for tough times. When they arrive, our businesses are ready.

Business Tip 4 – Good Practice Produces Good Performance. One of the most enjoyable aspects of following this young basketball team is the effort they are putting in. There are ten kids and two coaches giving one hundred percent effort at each training and game. And the good work going into practice is starting to produce good performances on game day.

So what can we learn from this? Did your last big shoot meet your expectations? Was there any room for improvement in either your photographic output or the way you conducted your business? I bet there was. So have you practiced since then so that your performance is better next time?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can turn up on game day and just produce the goods. Be like the basketball team and put in quality practice. Then you can expect a quality result on game day.

possibilityBusiness Tip 5 – Persistence is Powerful. There is an element to this basketball team that keeps on keeping on. They don’t give up. Sometimes after a heavy loss they look worn out and dejected but, by the time the next practice session comes around, they are focused on having fun, working hard, and improving. While some teams are limping towards the end of the season, this team is still working as hard as ever. And guess what? They are starting to close the gap on the stronger teams.

Are you letting your business get on top of you? Are you letting short term failures define you and hold you back? Believe you can get to your goals, and persevere. Keep going. Persistence is powerful.

Business Tip 6 – Teamwork is Everything. In basketball and business, teamwork is vitally important. There’s an old sports adage that a champion team can beat a team of champions. That means a well coordinated group can beat a more talented team, and it is the same in business.

Are you building a champion team? Do you have partners and suppliers who you trust and make your business stronger? Who are we talking about? A print supplier, album supplier, second shooters, accountant, business adviser, equipment supplier. The list goes on and on. Focus on building a champion team who will support you when you need them.

Thanks for reading more photography business tips from the under 12’s. Best wishes.

 

 

What is the Summer Slowdown in Stock Photography

Are you wondering what the summer slowdown in stock photography is? Have you heard this terminology but don’t really understand it?

Like many types of photography, stock photography goes through seasons or cycles. There are peaks of demand around major events. Think of large events like the US presidential election, the Olympics, or Valentines Day, or major upheavals and social unrest. And there are also peaks and troughs at certain times of the year.

Couple

July and August are typically slow months for stock photography sales

The bulk of the world’s population lives in the northern hemisphere – the United States, North America, Europe, and major parts of Asia. Because of the population base these countries or continents represent the majority of the buyers of stock photography. So when those economies slow for a summer holiday, stock photography sales also slow down.

The summer slowdown in stock photography refers to the time of the year when northern hemisphere clients are having a summer holiday, and so stock photographers are experiencing fewer downloads of their images. That happens in July and August each year.

What should you expect in the summer slowdown in stock photography? My own experience as a stock photographer is that the total number of downloads of my files reduces each July and August and then picks up again in September and October. I am writing this post in the first week of August, so if you are experiencing a reduced number of downloads of your files, this is normal for this time of year. Don’t panic. You should see it pick up again in September.

So, it is one thing understand what the summer slowdown in stock photography is, but what do we do about it?

baby

Consider doing more client work in July and August while stock photo sales are down

Exactly what you will want to do about it depends on your own business and circumstances, but here are three options to think about.

Option one. Do nothing. This option recognizes that sales will slow at this time of year, and so your stock photography income will decline during these months. If you have cash flow from other sources, the summer slowdown in stock photography is nothing to worry about and no particular action is required.

Option two. Develop more client work at this time of year. If you are wanting to develop a consistent flow of income you’ll need to build up income from other sources during the northern hemisphere summer months. I do this by shooting more family portraits at this time of year. Family portraits might not be the solution for you depending on what you like to shoot and what your typical client looks like. With planning and preparation its possible to adjust your client work to increase at this time of year. Keep in mind your stock photography income is likely to drop in July and August, and you will need to increase income from other sources.

Girl with Australian flag

Not all stock photography sales slow down in July and August. Consider shooting content which will sell well during this period

Option three. Develop stock content which isn’t impacted by the summer slowdown in stock photography. Not all stock photography markets experience a slowdown in these months. Where I live in Melbourne, Australia it is the middle of winter in July and August. It is also a time where there are very few public holidays. This is generally a good time for stock photography sales and I see steady downloading of my Australian themed images in July and August. Perhaps there are geographic markets or specific content you could shoot for which don’t slow down in the northern hemisphere summer months?

Thanks for reading what is the summer slowdown in stock photography. I hope it has helped explain the seasonality which occurs in stock photography and given you some options to consider. Happy shooting.

Superior Customer Service Tips

In the business of photography, do you think of yourself as being in the image business? The photo business? The print business? Those items are part of the product we deliver, but ultimately we are in the customer service business. It’s about finding and keeping the right sort of clients. We need to look after them, so that they will refer us to people they know, and keep coming back to us year after year. Different photographers deliver customer service in different ways. Here are 12 superior customer service tips that all photographers should be doing.

Customer Service

Running your own photography business – you are in the business of customer service

  1. Be on time, always. Being on time shows that the client is important to you. You have put aside other commitments and the client is the focus of your attention. Have you had a customer service commitment where the person is late? When someone is late it screams ‘you are not important enough to me for me to be on time’! Always be on time.
  2. Communicate the way your client wants to communicate. Some of my clients like to meet face to face, some like to chat on the phone, some like to email, and some like to message me from their smart phone. Old customer service advice suggested you should always speak to your client. I’ve found it better to communicate the way that they prefer. I like my first meeting with a client to be face to face, but after the initial meeting If text messages work best for them, that’s how I’ll communicate with them.
  3. If a client has an ‘urgent’ request, get back to them immediately. When my clients have an urgent need it usually isn’t too urgent, it’s usually a bride wanting confirmation of the details. But if it is urgent in the mind of my client, I will treat it with urgency and contact my client as soon as possible. Take their concerns seriously, and work with speed to put their mind at rest.
  4. Don’t let your smart phone distract you. When you are meeting with a client there is nothing more important than them. Don’t look at your smart phone. Don’t answer any calls. Don’t let anything distract you from your client. Don’t keep looking at your phone as messages and prompts pop up. The client is important and you need to respect them by giving them your full attention. If you let yourself get distracted, you are telling your client ‘you are not important to me’. It’s likely that they will respond by finding another photographer who does make them feel important.
  5. Make the client feel like an individual. Clients want to know their photographer has experience and has shot similar work in the past, and they also want to be made to feel like an individual. Find out what they like. Find out what they are interested in. Can use that knowledge to produce images which are tailored for the individual? I had a wedding client tell me that she loved nature and she particularly loved tall trees. You can better that the signature image from her wedding day featured a large tree.
  6. Prepare your gear the night before. Everyone forgets something sometime. Most of us have done it. Reduce your risk of forgetting something by preparing it when you have time. 20 minutes getting organised the night before is much better than a panic the next morning. Batteries charged. Equipment checked. Bags packed. All done the night before.
  7. Always be polite. No matter how tired, overworked, or stressed you feel, always be polite. You can bet your client will remember if you are abrupt or dismissive. And you can bet that they will tell their friends. This applies to all clients, not just the ones you have an instant connection with. Always be polite.
  8. Don’t avoid discussing the bill. Clients expect to pay, so don’t avoid discussions of price or payment. Don’t leave things unsaid, or leave your client guessing. Clients are expecting to pay, so make it clear how much, when, and how.
  9. Listen with a sense of care. Clients have all sorts of concerns and worries. Our job is to respectfully answer questions and make them feel comfortable. This starts with listening attentively and with a sense of care.
  10. Ask questions. Very few clients can give you a completely comprehensive brief that is totally understood without some dialogue. To meet and exceed your clients expectations you need to know what is important to them. To do that you need to ask questions. Whatever sort of client it is – from commercial work to weddings to portraits and anything in between – be prepared to ask your clients questions. If you are struggling, use big open questions. ‘What is the most important thing to you from this photo shoot?’ ‘When I present the images to you, what are you expecting to see?’ ‘What does success look like to you from this shoot?’ ‘What style of images do you like best?’
  11. Take time to follow up with clients. This is about making clients feel like individuals and feel important to you. I still like sending my wedding clients anniversary cards and prints. You can guarantee they will consider me for their family portraits if they feel like I care for them enough to remember their wedding anniversary. Have you considered how you can keep in touch with your clients? And how you can continue to make them feel important?
  12. When things go wrong, do whatever it takes to put it right. When you are running a photography business and dealing with a lot of clients, no matter how good you are, inevitably something will go wrong. And this is when you need to shine. Superior customer service tips would not be complete without addressing this issue. When things go wrong you need to do whatever it takes to put it right. Even if that means losing money on that specific job, you need to put it right. A dissatisfied client will poison your business. Do whatever it takes to put it right.

If you have found this post useful, you may like to read Things Your Photography Clients Don’t Care About. Thanks for reading 12 superior customer service tips. Do you have your own superior customer service tips to share?

Student on smart phone

Show respect for your client, by not using your smart phone in client meetings.

8 Reasons Renting Pro Photo Gear Makes Sense

More and more professional and semi professional photographers are choosing to rent gear rather than buy it. Have you started to rent equipment too? Here are 8 reasons renting pro photo gear makes sense.

Reason #1 – Renting is very cost effective if you are not using that piece of gear often. Perhaps this point could also read, buying gear is not very cost effective if you are only using that equipment a few times per year. Let’s use an example, if you are only going to use a tilt shift lens three or four times per year it is not going to be very cost effective to purchase a pro quality one. At the rental store I use, that same lens can be rented for just $70 for 2 days.

Saving

There are significant financial benefits if you don’t have all your money tied up in gear

Reason #2 – Renting leaves cash flow free to invest in promotional activity. When you choose to rent instead of buy it leaves cash in your business to spend on sales and marketing activity. That activity then generates more jobs for you. Instead of tying up your money in gear, renting leaves you cash to promote your business.

Reason #3 – Renting allows you to tackle a broader range of jobs. Any photographer is limited in what jobs they can take by the equipment they have. Renting gives you access to an almost unlimited range of equipment, which greatly increases the types of jobs you can tackle. Whether you need a 600mm lens, a specific lighting rig, or a super high mega pixel camera body, they can all be rented. Don’t let your equipment limit your business. Use rental gear to expand the number of possible jobs you tackle.

Kids jumping

Be radical. Leave your gear at home and pick up rentals at your destination.

Reason #4 – Renting gear at your destination means fewer headaches when you are travelling. Most photographers have a close affinity with their equipment. We get used to the camera bodies and lenses we use. But travelling with them produces some anxiety. Will all my cameras and lenses make it through the airport ok? Will I be able to carry all that gear onboard? If I check them in, will my bag get lost?  So what if you had identical gear waiting for you at your destination? Try it. Jump onto a flight with just your memory cards, and leave the rest to the rental company. Top quality gear and no travel anxiety.

Reason #5 – Renting let’s you work with the latest equipment. Most photographers don’t buy new camera bodies and lenses the moment they are released. I use Canon equipment and shoot with a 5D. It’s not the latest model. I have a range of L series lenses. Some are also not the latest model. Here’s an added benefit to renting, it gives you access to the latest models and the best technology.

Save money

Renting saves on your insurance as well

Reason #6 – Renting equipment rather than buying saves on your insurance bill. For gear I own, I choose to have it insured so if I lose of damage it, it will be replaced. That comes at a cost. When I rent gear, it is insured through the rental company’s business insurance. I save by not having to buy the gear, and I save again on my insurance bill.

Reason #7 – Rental equipment from reputable stores is well maintained. I rent my equipment from a well known store. After each rental the equipment is checked and cleaned, so that it is in top condition for the next person who rents it. It’s ironic that rental gear might be better maintained than your own equipment.

flash triggers

If you want to experiment with new kit, consider renting it first

Reason #8 – Renting lets you experiment with new equipment. Have you ever shot with a 600mm lens? Or the latest full frame camera body? Or with pocket wizards? Before you commit the big money by buying your gear, rent them first and experiment. How heavy is that 600mm lens? Does it help me get the results I am after? Renting let’s you experiment before you commit.

Thanks for reading 8 reasons renting pro photo gear makes sense.

 

5 Opportunities When You Are Asked to Shoot for Free

Have you been asked to shoot for free? Are you outraged that potential clients ask you to help them in return for exposure? I regularly read social media ‘rants’ from photographers who are livid that a potential client doesn’t want to pay them. Being asked to shoot for free does happen, and I challenge you to find a positive in this experience. Having any client approach you is an opportunity. Here are 5 opportunities when you are asked to shoot for free.

Opportunity #1 – Expand your photography business. The opportunity to shoot without payment is potentially an opportunity to expand your business into a new field. For example, if you’ve built your business on shooting family portraits and weddings, doing a product shoot for a local business is an opportunity to showcase your skills to a new market. An unpaid job comes with less pressure than a highly paid one, and gives you the chance to explore whether you like a different type of work and to see if you are good at it. Opportunity #1 – consider whether an unpaid job has the potential to help you expand your business.

beach huts

Unpaid jobs can expand your business. A wedding shooter might be able to expand into lifestyle or real estate work

Opportunity #2 – Build great contacts. Any client represents one immediate job and a potential pipeline of future work. Before you feel your blood pressure rise and unleash a tantrum on social media, consider whether an unpaid job will benefit your business through the contacts you can make. I have found this can be beneficial when shooting for charities. Charities have people who support them. Often the key supporters are influential business people who have future photography needs. Opportunity #2 – consider whether an unpaid job has the potential to build valuable contacts.

Wallaby

Can payment be in kind? An annual pass to a wildlife park would be valuable to me.

Opportunity #3 – Get paid in kind. The reality is some clients really need and want professional images but just don’t have the immediate cash flow to pay the photographer’s normal day rates. If you are inundated with work, you might let this job pass. But if you’re not, have you considered other ways to get paid? Does the client have goods or services that you would be happy to accept instead of cash payment? Does a new accommodation provider want you to shoot for them? Would you accept free accommodation instead of cash payment? Opportunity #3 – consider whether payment could be made in goods or services instead of cash.

Opportunity #4 – Use the images in your stock photography portfolio. Clients that are not in a position to pay cash may be prepared to sign a model release or property release to let you use the images in your stock portfolio. While the job itself would be unpaid, you have the potential to generate an income years into the future by making the images available through a stock photo library. I have written extensively about stock photography for Beyond Here (see Why I Shoot Stock and other posts) and always consider this option with cash strapped clients. Opportunity #4 – shoot the job unpaid, and use the images in your stock photography portfolio.

dead line

If you are going to say no, give your client plenty of time to find an alternative

Opportunity #5 – Say no, and still help the client. After you have explored all options, sometimes there will be jobs you don’t want to do on an unpaid basis. In this case, there is an opportunity to still be helpful to the client. Firstly, say no promptly. Don’t drag it out. Give the client time to make alternative arrangements. And secondly, suggest a way to meet the clients needs. Do you know an emerging photographer who would happily shoot the job unpaid? Is there an opportunity to help the client and the emerging photographer? Opportunity #5 – say no, and still be helpful to the client.

Thanks for reading 5 opportunities when you are asked to shoot for free. I hope this has encouraged you to think differently and find a positive out of this experience.

Great Location Great Options

If you are shooting weddings, portraits, or stock – the venue you choose will have a significant impact on both the style and variety of images you can produce. Some venues only allow for one style of image, while others will allow for multiple different styles. For maximum variety and impact, I’m looking for the double – Great Location Great Options.

Winter portrait

Take time to research your venue. It will lead to more successful shoots.

For this shoot with Ayona we were shooting with a dual purpose – the images were going to be used on her fashion blog (Her Style Saga) and also in my stock portfolio.

Woman on stairs

Large stairways always provide options and the leaves add to the wintery feel

I had wanted to shoot at this venue for some time, as I love the old architecture and building facades. I visited the venue twice before the shoot to check which locations would be suitable, and to see how the light would fall in the late afternoon when we were shooting.

That research made me realize there were a wealth of different options within short walking distance.

There were areas which showcased archways and classic architecture, others with beautiful building facades, some with park backgrounds, and yet others with fallen leaves which highlighted the late autumn, early winter time of year.

This was a venue with lots and lots of options (I liked it so much, I’ve already done another shoot there!)

So, what should you look for in locations?

Point 1 – Backgrounds which will add impact. I look for buildings or landscapes or architecture which will give a real sense of presence to the image. I want to add to the impact. This set of images was about a young woman and her passion for fashion. It could be shot in the studio, but there was more impact shooting outdoor. And in an outdoor venue, I wanted to be able to create a set of different images in a short space of time. That leads us to point 2.

Woman walking

Arches, classic architecture, fashion, and an overcast day are a great combination

Point 2 – look for venues with variety. I don’t want all my images from a shoot to look the same. This is particularly the case for wedding photography and stock photography where I am expecting to shoot and use a large number of images. So I don’t want all the same backgrounds.

I want to be able to easily move (ideally walk) between different areas which will give me different looking images. In this case, all the venues we used were within 5 minutes walk of each other. For me, that is perfect! The entire shoot lasted for less than 90 minutes and we produced a wide variety of images.

Point 3 – the location needs to be free from over crowding. To be able to shoot in a public space, you need a venue which will not be overcrowded. I didn’t want people wandering through the background of my images, so we chose to shoot on a Sunday afternoon on a fairly cool early winters day.

It was cool, but the wintery conditions meant we didn’t often have to pause for people to walk through the background where we were shooting. All the people were inside keeping warm!

Boots

Fallen leaves and leather boots added to the wintery feel.

Point 4 – choose venues with good accessibility and parking. This venue is about 25 minutes drive from where I live, which I would call fairly close to home. It is in a built up area and parking can be difficult during the week. So we chose to shoot on the weekend when we both had availability, knowing that the location would not be too crowded and we wouldn’t have much trouble finding a car park.

If you haven’t been putting much time and research into choosing locations, perhaps you should take a lesson from the advertising industry. In planning for TV commercials, ad agency staff spend hours and hours researching the perfect venues to support the story they are looking to tell. If you are a photographer shooting weddings, portraits or stock, perhaps you should spend more time researching venues to help you produce really strong images?

Architecture

Architecture can add impact

As well as Great Location Great Options, you need a good model to work with. Thank you to Ayona who was a very easy person to work with, and the shoot was a lot of fun.

If you would like to check out the images Ayona selected for her blog, or if you just love fashion – visit her blog out at Her Style Saga.

Thanks for taking the time to read Great Location Great Options.

Tips for Models For Stock Photo Shoots

Over the last twelve months I have been shooting an extended series of Melbourne lifestyle images for my stock photo portfolio with iStockphoto and Getty Images. Along the way I’ve written these blog posts to explain the journey and to provide insight for photographers (A Step By Step Guide to a Stock Photo Shoot, Inside a Stock Photography Shoot, and Why I Shoot Stock).

More recently I’ve also written this blog post for models (What Models Should Know About Stock Photo Shoots) to demystify stock photography. That post is general in nature, and the others explain the mechanics of a stock photo shoot. In this post, I move to more specifics for models – Tips for Models for Stock Photo Shoots.

Student

Many stock photo shoots, like this one, involve just the model and photographer on location

Why explain these tips? The modelling business is a tough and competitive one, and paid work is hard to come by, particularly for models who are part time or starting out. Stock photography is an almost unlimited source of paid modelling work for the right people with the right approach. I see most models miss an opportunity for ongoing paid work which is right in front of them.

Tip #1 – Use Facial Expressions to Communicate a Message. Stock photography is about producing useful images that communicate a message. It is not necessarily about producing beautiful images. So use different facial expressions to communicate different messages. The same scene with a smile, a scowl, and a look of concern are all useful to me as a stock photographer. Use facial expressions to communicate a range of emotions. Try to avoid being an expressionless run way model when doing a stock shoot. Let your personality shine.

Tip #2 – Don’t Expect High Production Values. Stock photo shoots come in all shapes and sizes, but don’t expect all shoots to be high production value. Often it will be just the model and photographer working together to produce a range of images. Sometimes there might also be a hair and make up artist and a stylist. And only rarely will there be a full set with support staff moving lights and running to get you coffee. So when you think about a stock photo shoot, it’s only rarely that it will be glamorous and with lots of people running around assisting. More often than not, you will be working with just the photographer. If your ego needs stroking by assistants running to the coffee machine, stock photo modelling might not be for you.

coffee time

Taking an active interest in the images will help achieve a good result

Tip #3 – Take An Interest in the Images Being Produced. If the model takes an interest in the images being produced it helps the model understand what the photographer is trying to achieve. With that understanding comes a better shoot. And with a successful shoot comes more shoots. Stock photographers are constantly looking for models who understand and help them achieve useful images. If you are one of those, you will be offered more and more stock photo shoots.

Tip #4 – Bring Your Creative Self to the Shoot. A stock photographer will have a range of images in mind before the shoot starts. That is often based on market research or on a specific request from a client. Check with the photographer during the shoot if the images are meeting the photographers needs. And then see what else you can add. I really appreciate it when a model says “How about we try this look?” That adds a lot of value and will often help to produce a broader range of images, or a different angle, than I originally had in mind. Don’t just be there in person, bring your whole creative self to the image making process. It will help the photographer produce a range of useful images.

Student

To great more paid modelling work, followup after a stock shoot with ideas for future shoots

Tip #5 – Followup the Photographer with a New Idea. Stock photographers are always looking for new ideas and new concepts to shoot. If you have enjoyed the first shoot, follow up with a new idea. See if it is a concept the photographer would like to shoot. Does the photographer see a commercial use for the idea? It’s very likely that a good idea will immediately lead to another paid modelling job for you. Strike while the iron is hot, and followup in the first few days after a shoot to secure another one.

Thanks for taking the time to read Tips for Models for Stock Photo Shoots. I hope it has been helpful to you, and helps to generate more paid stock photo modelling jobs.

Fail Fail Fail Succeed, Irony

Today I was watching a corporate video which examined the difference between invention and innovation. (Please keep reading – I know that was a boring first sentence but it does get better). Invention is about making something for the very first time, while innovation is about building on something that already exists. (Trust me it does get better, just keep going). Innovation is the buzzword of the corporate world. Everyone wants more innovation. So why fail fail fail succeed, irony? The video pointed out that to have an innovative business, you needed to be prepared to fail and accept failure as a stepping stone on the path way to success. At this point the corporate world started to explain what I often try to explain to photographers. Their photography is good, but their business is lousy. And it’s not about simply stepping back onto the right path.

Success

Success and failure aren’t different paths like here. Failure is a stepping stone to success.

I work with photographers to help improve their businesses. Unfortunately many come with the mindset that “I’m on the wrong track, can you just get me back on the path to success?”. It is not that easy, and doesn’t work that way. What works for one photographer, may not work for another. So you can’t copy what someone else is doing and expect it to succeed for you. Just because a successful photographer is advertising on facebook, if you advertise on facebook it doesn’t guarantee business success for you.

This is also what makes it exciting. There are lots of different ways to business success – you have to find the one that works for you and your business. There is no set formula – you have to find your own path.

So if success and failure are not different paths, how does it work? Explaining this is easy – living it is difficult!

Failure and success are on the same path. Failures are stepping stones to success. If you want to improve your business, challenge yourself to make more mistakes. Try things, learn from them. Have more failures, have more learnings. Trust that each failure is getting you closer to business success.

Take steps forward towards success. And once you get there, redefine success. That’s how it works. Failures are stepping stones toward success. If you give up, you may have stopped moving forward when you were just one step from business success! I’m grateful for the corporate video explaining it so well. Lots and lots of photographers could benefit from this insight.

So where does the irony part come in? Ironically, as photographers and creatives we understand that mistakes are ok.

Who takes only one landscape shot, knowing it is the best shot they could possibly take? In short, nobody does – especially in the digital age where it doesn’t cost more to shoot more. We take multiple images. We compose and recompose. We shoot, then review, then shoot again.

Sunrise

I can’t remember how many shots I took of this sunrise, but I certainly didn’t view the others as failures

We find new and different ways to view a scene. We might take 50 shots of a sunrise to get the image that really speaks to us. Do we view 49 of those images as failures? Heck, no! We know they were stepping stones and experiments that got us to the image we love. They gave us a point of reference to then shoot the best image of the day.

See the irony? As creatives we get it, and as business people we don’t. This insight can change your business today. Those 49 shots aren’t failures, they were helping you build up to the success.

See failures as the stepping stones to success. Fail fail fail succeed, irony. Pick up your camera and go and fail some more! Your business success depends on it.