iStock New Beginnings Week

This week marks the end of an era and new beginnings in the stock photography world. iStock, one of the original microstock sites, is changing the back-end technology used to run its site. What does this mean for iStock contributors? Read more about the iStock new beginnings week.

If you are an active contributor to iStock you will be well aware of the changes going on with the site. You should have received several emails over the last 6 months explaining the changes, the implications, and the timelines. If you are an occasional uploader, then this brief summary might be useful.


plan

iStock changes in February 2017 mean contributors will need to re-plan how they upload and track performance of their files

What’s changing? iStock is ‘retiring’ its legacy uploading system and replacing it with the system used by Getty Images (and also currently used for iStock video contributors).

So what does that mean? It means that – if you have been uploading directly to the iStock site – the way you do that will change from February 2017. You will no longer upload directly to the iStock site, but instead through a Getty Images application called ESP (or Deepmeta or Qhero, more on those in the next paragraph). Between 1 and 3 February 2017 you will receive an email from iStock / Getty Images which provides details for ESP.

What if you currently upload using Deepmeta or Qhero? Many contributors use Deepmeta as their way to upload and track their files. More recently Qhero has been available as a tool to upload your images. The upload process remains unchanged for Deepmeta and Qhero.

Do you really need to know about ESP? Yes, as a contributor you do need to know about ESP. As well as being a tool to upload images, it will also be the place where you find data about downloads and royalties. So, look out for the that email this week, and make yourself familiar with the ESP tool.

What else? If, like me, you are an active iStock contributor the past month has been very frustrating. During the current changes, stats about downloads and royalties have not been available. To a degree contributors have been ‘flying blind’ in January 2017. That all ends in February 2017 when details will be available in ESP. Here’s hoping it is a smooth transition and a success.

Thanks for reading iStock new beginnings week. I hope it goes smoothly for you and that the new world is an improvement for both contributors and buyers.

Five Reasons to Start Your Photography Blog Now

As photographers we’ve all heard that writing a blog is an excellent way to promote our work and connect with potential clients. Yet many photographers have put off starting their blog, finding all sorts of excuses and other priorities. We are all busy and it is easy to fill the day with editing images, contacting clients, and updating our social media profiles. If you know that a blog would benefit your business but have been putting it off – read here for five reasons to start your photography blog now.

Before we start, let’s clarify. I’m not going to tell you why blogging will be good for search engine optimization or where your business appears in Google searches. I’ll leave that to the online marketing experts. I’m going to give you five reasons to start your photography blog now which are good for you, the photographer.

Reason 1 – A Photography Blog Brings Focus to Your Online Activity

In today’s online, connected world it is very easy to spend hours online on a range of different activities which really don’t do much for your photography business. Think about it, how much time have you spent updating images on your facebook profile, adding images to your Instagram account, and otherwise just browsing what other people are doing online?

Writing a photography blog can transform the time you spend online by bringing focus to your activity. If you are wedding photographer writing a blog about wedding photography, you are likely to waste less time online and spend more time writing about wedding photography. There’s a benefit for you! You will spend more time focused on your area of expertise by writing a photography blog. Winner!

bird

A photography blog will help bring focus to your online activity

Reason 2 – A Photography Blog Provides You a Target Audience

The second of the five reasons to start your photography blog now is that writing a blog means you have a target audience.

If we use the wedding photographer example again the blog is likely to be targeted towards engaged couples or other wedding photographers. Each would produce a different focus and a different approach to writing. In the case of engaged couples, a photographer might share key insights for brides and favorite images of each wedding. This will be useful for potential brides as they get to learn from the photographer’s experience and see how other brides approached their wedding day. In the case of other photographers, the blog might discuss overcoming lighting challenges in candlelit churches or tips for managing workflow to ensure images are delivered on time.

The blog content will be very different depending on which target audience you choose – but like the first reason – having a target audience will bring you focus. And having focus means your online presence will, in time, produce content which benefits your business.

puzzle

Is a blog the missing piece in the puzzle for your photography business?

Reason 3 – Writing for Your Blog Forces You to Learn Lessons

Reason 3 is self explanatory. Since starting my own blog, each time I have something go right or wrong I am very conscious of the lesson which comes from the experience.

Why is that? Well, if I am going to share it with the readers of Beyond Here, I will need to describe what happened as well as how it might be a learning for my readers. And why is that good for me? It’s good for me because it forces me to learn the lesson and apply it to my own photography business. Let me give you an example. I wrote a blog post for Beyond Here called Tips for Building a Strong Stock Photography Portfolio. Just the act of writing that post forced me to assess how good a job I was doing implementing the tips. And that will lead to different content being added to my stock photography portfolio in the year ahead. Writing the blog post helped me to learn the lesson and apply it in my own business.

Reason 4 – Producing Images for Your Blog Can Super Charge Your Creativity

Reason number 4 is something I learned from another photographer. She is a long term, successful wedding photographer with a large number of happy clients.

She found that when she started posting images to her wedding photography blog that many of her key images were very similar to images she had produced in the past. She had taken her successful formula and was repeating it. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but she found that she was in a creative rut where she was reproducing successful images rather than finding new and creative ways to shoot. Interestingly, she never got this feedback from her clients – she discovered it herself by looking at the images she was posting to her blog. Fascinating!

Reason 4 to start your photography blog now is that you will get feedback from your readers, and from yourself, which can super charge your creativity. No more shooting similar images, now there is a challenge to produce better, more creative work.

variety

A photography blog can help you break out of a creative rut

Reason 5 – Writing a Blog Drives You to be Productive

The final of the five reasons to start your photography blog now is that writing a blog drives you to be productive. Nothing is more depressing than reading a blog and suddenly realizing it hasn’t been updated for a year. A commitment to a photography blog is a commitment to your readers to add content regularly. That commitment drives you to be productive. It drives you to produce content for your target audience when it would be easier to browse online. Writing a blog drives you to be productive and that’s good for you personally, and will ultimately be good for your business.

Thanks for reading five reasons to start your photography blog now. Happy blogging!

Great Reads – Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

When I started Beyond Here in 2014, I developed a series of posts called Great Reads. The idea was to put together a series of posts which would provide recommended reading for photographers. This initially focused on books, and particularly books about the business side of photography. In this post Great Reads – Backyard Silver I expanded the scope of Great Reads to include online resources. Backyard Silver is an excellent blog detailing the experiences of US stock photographer Steve Heap. Today’s post Great Reads – Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin looks at another excellent online resource.

BooksI should start by saying that I’ve never met Michael, and possibly never will given that we live on opposite sides of the world. That said, you can read about Michael and his background on the ‘about’ section in his blog.

He has a very interesting history – both as a photographer and as a person with a technology background. He chose to be an exclusive contributor with iStockphoto for 6 years, and also worked for iStockphoto and Getty Images promoting their business in Europe. More recently Michael has chosen to drop his exclusivity with iStockphoto and become an independent contributor.

Like Steve Heap’s blog Backyard Silver, Michael’s independent contributor status means he has a wealth of knowledge about the broader stock photography market which he can share. This is a key difference to Beyond Here. I am the primary writer for Beyond Here and as an exclusive contributor to iStockphoto I can only bring you my experience with the one agency I work with. So I encourage you to check out both Backyard Silver and Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin to read about their experiences with a wide variety of agencies.

I particularly encourage you to check out Michael’s three recent posts:

If you are already a stock photographer or are considering stock photography for your business check out Michael’s blog. Please also see the Stock Photography section on this blog. It has a wide variety of posts explaining stock photography and how it works from a contributors point of view.

Thanks for reading Great Reads – Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin.

Four Year End Ideas to Make Your Photography Business Stronger

As we approach the end of the calendar year I am coming to the end of a busy three months. Normally in the week before Christmas things start to slow down. Prints and products have all been delivered well in time for Christmas, and my wedding work takes a break for a few weeks.

This year I’m shooting a wedding on Christmas Eve, which is unusual, but with all of my client Christmas orders delivered I am starting to unwind and expecting to have a quieter few weeks. This time of year is ideal for assessing what your business has achieved for the year, and to plan for next year. To help with this, here are four year end ideas to make your photography business stronger.

Chess

Is your first move of the new year to renegotiate with suppliers and immediately boost profitability?

Business Improvement Idea #1 – Analyse and Negotiate with Suppliers

In the majority of photography business tips I read there is a never ending debate about photographers needing to raise their prices. Then there is the inevitable push back from some photographers who fear their work is not worth the higher prices, or that their clients will suddenly vanish. In 20+ years in the business world, I’ve learnt that the quickest and most effective way to increase business profitability is to reduce expenses.

Looking at my own expenses this year I see I have ordered 65 canvas prints for the year from 3 different suppliers. I’m currently paying the same price per canvas print as someone who only orders only 1. In January I will be speaking to my preferred supplier (of the 3) to see if they can offer me a special rate, fixed for the year, to reflect the volume of canvas prints I plan to do with them. The savings will be an immediate benefit to the profitability of my business.

Have you looked at your expenses and found areas for savings? Can you negotiate with a supplier for a better deal?

Business Improvement Idea #2 – Invite a Trusted Friend to Review Your Business Operations

One challenge in running a photography business is that you can be so close to the operations that you can no longer see the strengths and weaknesses. By inviting a trusted friend to review your business operations you have the potential to see things more objectively than you can on your own.

Don’t ask them to review the quality of your work – just ask them to look at the business operations and offer feedback for improvement. It could be as simple as them saying – “I see expenses have increased 8% while you revenues have only increased 2%” to focus you on addressing issues you couldn’t see yourself.

help

A trusted friend can help see your business in a new way

Business Improvement Idea #3 – Killers not Fillers

There are only 2 key criteria your potential clients will assess you on when considering which photographer to hire. The first is your reputation, and the second is your portfolio.

It is the portfolio which is easiest to influence and is worth continually assessing. We all like to include work in our portfolios which is meaningful to us or comes attached to special memories. But a potential client is not aware of this. They are only assessing what they see. Make sure your portfolio is the strongest it can be. Display only your strongest images. Ensure your portfolio is full of killers not fillers.

(If you are reading this and expecting to see price as a key consideration from a client – price is an important consideration, but not as important as reputation and portfolio. If it was, the cheapest photographer would get all the work.)

Showing only your best work is very important. Please see this post on Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer.

bird

A potential client’s decision will be driven by your reputation and the quality of your portfolio

Business Improvement Idea #4 – Streamline Paperwork Which Slows You Down

It seems incredible in today’s digital world that there can still be any paperwork! My business still has plenty and it has the potential to distract you from your main purpose – meeting the needs of your clients.

As we come to the end of one calendar year and the beginning of a new one – consider, are there any paper based processes which you can streamline? The objective is to create more time for client related activities, and to spend less time on administration.

Thanks for reading four year end ideas to make your photography business stronger. I hope they have been useful to you, and will give you something to consider over the holiday period. Merry Christmas!

Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer

I have the good fortune to speak with a large number of pro photographers. Sometimes it’s helping with the business side of their photography, sometimes it’s at industry events, and often it is simply in a social setting. Those discussions give me a lot of content to share on Beyond Here, and in this post I share the doctrine of a successful pro photographer. If you are a pro photographer or an aspiring pro, these points should give you goalposts to measure your progress and assess the next step forward.

Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer

  1. Know Your Gear. Put very simply, pro photographers have the equipment for the job and know how to use it. This knowledge means they know they can get the job done, and even if something goes wrong on shoot day – they know their gear well enough to be able to meet the client’s needs.

    bird

    The successful pro photographer shows only their best work

  2. Aim for Genius. Here’s an ambition! Successful pro photographers don’t just want to grind out another job and get paid. They want to exceed the clients needs and break new ground themselves. Every shoot is another opportunity for their best shoot ever. The doctrine of the successful pro photographer means they must keep pushing forward. Ok is not good enough. Raise your standards. Aim for genius.
  3. Be Ethical. The successful pro photographer knows that life as a photographer is both a career option and part of their being. By default, they plan to be in this business a long time. This is not a summer job, this is their life. They know they need to deal ethically with everyone they come in contact with. Always.
  4. Back Up. The successful pro photographer knows that shooting, producing and delivering great images is part of the job. There will be times when clients lose files and need help. Living the doctrine of a successful pro photographer means organizing files and backing up so they can be found when they are needed.
  5. Show Only Your Best Work. If you are aiming for genius you will show only your best work. Being a successful pro photographer is not about sharing the most work, it’s about sharing only your best work and showing potential clients what you are capable of. Don’t be tempted to share anything less than your best.

    Money

    Doctrine of the successful pro photographer. Know your worth. Every job has a price you won’t go below.

  6. Know Your Worth. Number 6 is what sets the successful pro apart from the successful non pro. Pro photographers know what their time and skills are worth. Often that is built on having dealt with a lot of clients over a period of time. Successful pro photographers typically have some flexibility in their pricing structure to meet their clients needs – and they all have a clear picture about the price they will not go below. Know your worth.
  7. Know Your Client. Successful pro photographers know their worth and they also know their client. More importantly they know who is not their client. A high end wedding shooter knows that if a potential client’s first question is about budget they are unlikely to be a suitable client for them. boy
  8. Stand Out. Successful pro photographers are not run of the mill. They stand out. They build a reputation. They continue to work on their art and evolve over time. What was excellent this year, will be so-so next year. The doctrine of a successful pro photographer is continuing to strive to stand out. This process never ends.
  9. Keep Learning and Evolving. To aim for genius and to stand out mean the successful pro photographer must keep learning and evolving. Photography is an art that is never mastered. There is always something new to learn or a new piece of equipment to master. There is a new way to see and to express. Keep learning and evolving. Keep shooting. Keep breaking new personal frontiers.
  10. Be Authentic. Successful pro photographers know that their business is about producing great images and experiences for their clients. It is not about the photographers ego or desire to look good. To that end, successful pro photographers are authentic. There is no pretense. They are genuine and authentic in their desire to serve their customer and at the same time express their artistic vision.

Thanks for reading the doctrine of the successful pro photographer. How are you measuring up to these 10 points?

 

How Not to Run Your Small Business

I love to share good news stories and experiences to help us run our businesses better. This week I’ve got a bad news story to share. There are lots of lessons to learn from this one – and they are all about how not to run your small business. (I’ll try to focus on the lessons and avoid a rant!)

I am currently planning a stock photo shoot where I need an environment that looks like a shared working space or creative collaboration area. (It’s a concept shoot for my stock portfolio with iStockphoto and Getty Images). I have researched possible locations and have found a venue which looks suitable. It is a studio space in downtown Melbourne, Australia which has two large studio areas and a rooftop outdoor space. It looks very cool and I could imagine it as a creative collaboration area or even as a workspace for a funky advertising agency. I was impressed that they also have a range of tables and chairs and props which could make it look like an active work space, and flexible enough to look like a café.

Here’s where my problems started and the lessons for how not to run your small business begin.

customer service

In small business, you are at the center of customer service

My first step was to call the studio to arrange a time to view the space. I was going to be in the area last Friday and wanted to visit. So on Tuesday I gave them a call. The only contact number on the website is a mobile number. I called. There was no answer. There was no option to leave a message. I thought that was odd, but I pressed on. I went back to the website and got the email address. On Tuesday afternoon, I sent an email to the only email address listed on the website.

I didn’t expect an instant reply to my email, but by Wednesday night I was wondering if they had received it and if they were going to reply before Friday.

I have been following this studios posts on Instagram for several months and was encouraged when they added a new post on Thursday. I sent them a private message on Instagram asking if it would be possible for me to visit them on Friday.

By Friday, I hadn’t received a reply to my email or Instagram message, but I was in the area and decided to visit them. Again I drew a blank. At 10.30am the studio roller door was down and there appeared to be nobody around.

As I’m writing this post it is Tuesday afternoon, one week after my first attempt to contact the studio. I haven’t had a reply to my email or Instagram message.

So, what could possibly explain what’s going on for this studio? I’m assuming it can only be one of two things. First, is that business is so good and they are so busy that they have not got back to potential clients. It is a busy time of year and it is possible that they have lots of bookings prior to Christmas. The second possibility is that business is terrible and they have more pressing issues than getting back to a potential client. Who knows, they could be in financial trouble? Or be about to shut down? Or a key person may have health issues? Or there may be other issues that I know nothing about which means they haven’t got back to me? Who knows.

serviceSo, what are the lessons we might learn from this? I’ve come up with five. If you have some to add, or want to share your own experience please add some thoughts in the comments section below.

  1. Make sure website details are correct and up to date. I wondered if they had mis-typed their own phone number and email address? That sure would have an impact on the number of bookings they get.
  2. If there are special circumstances, let your clients and potential clients know. I assumed this was a poorly run business with no focus on responding to clients. But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe it’s a one person business and they have a sick child? or a major health issue? To avoid clients thinking the worst – keep them informed. Let them know via your website or phone message or auto reply from your email that they are currently experiencing special circumstances.
  3. Clients expect you to respond promptly. Make doing this a priority. I thought the idea of contacting the studio on Tuesday and visiting on Friday was giving them lots of time. (I have some clients contact me today and want to visit same day!) Given the ease of electronic communication clients expect a prompt reply. Set aside time in your day to get back to people.
  4. Word of mouth is a big influencer. Unfortunately I’ve already told this story to several people. It’s annoyed me that I thought I’d found a great location and I haven’t heard back from them. The studio might be getting an unfair wrap, but I’ve shared my experience with other photographers and I know it will influence their choice of studios in the future. Reputation is important. Word of mouth – good or bad – is influential. Do everything to make the word of mouth feedback for your own business positive.
  5. Doing the basics well is important. Many, many small businesses are built on providing excellent customer service. Excellent customer service does not have to be fancy or special. Often it is about doing the basics very well, every day of the year.

Thanks for taking the time to read how not to run your small business. If you have an experience to add for other readers, please use the comments section below. And to finish this post on a high, please read this post about a great customer experience I had.

Changes to iStock Royalty Payments

iStock is one of the large players in the microstock photography market, an industry where thousands of photographers are earning an income from their images. During October 2016, iStock announced changes to iStock royalty payments most of which come into effect in 2017. (At the same time, iStock are making changes to the technology they use and the tools and reporting they provide to contributors). In this post, I look at the changes to iStock royalty payments.

man with piggy bank

iStock royalty changes need to reflect the growth of subscriptions in microstock

Why Change? The microstock photography market has changed very significantly in the last 5 years, which has meant iStock needs to change it’s royalty payment structure to reflect the industry’s new realities. For iStock itself, the biggest change has been a movement away from ‘credit downloads’ to the ‘subscription’ model.

iStock was initially built on the credit download model – where a customer would purchase credits and then redeem those credits when they bought images. The subscription model has superseded the credit model for most frequent customers.

Under the subscription model, a customer purchases a monthly subscription with a limit on the number of images that can be downloaded in that month. For example, a customer purchases a subscription which allows them to download 100 images per month.

Until now, iStock’s royalty system for paying contributors has not kept pace with the change in the industry.

So what’s changing and what does it mean? The changes are in four different areas.

Change 1 – Redeemed Credits. The redeemed credit system was introduced to encourage contributors to continue to upload fresh, relevant content. It was based only on ‘credit downloads’ and so has not been effective in recent years (if ever!) The redeemed credit system is being replaced by a revised system which recognizes all types of sales, not just credit sales. The good news is – all sales will be recognized. The bad news is the system and targets have not been announced yet. iStock have advised that contributors will start 2017 on the same royalty level as they finish 2016, and that the targets will be announced before the end of the year.

In summary, we will have to wait and see what the system and targets look like.

Change 2 – Exclusive Royalty Rates. This is a change without much change. Exclusive contributors currently earn between 25% and 45% royalty rate depending on which tier they have achieved under the redeemed credits system.

This royalty structure stays the same. The change is that all downloads will be recognized and that Signature+ collection downloads will count double. The impact for an exclusive contributor will depend on the system that replaces redeemed credits – so again, this is a case of wait and see.

After these changes, all downloads will be recognized (good), and it will be helpful to have files in the Signature+ collection.

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Non exclusive contributors will not like the 15% flat royalty rate

Change 3 – Non Exclusive Royalty Rates. From later this week (25 November 2016) royalty rates for non exclusive contributors move to a flat 15%. Previously the minimum you could earn was 15% – and you could earn more by meeting the redeemed credit targets.

This change will be negative for non exclusive contributors – 15% is less than many were previously receiving, and is less than is available on other microstock sites. I would expect that some non exclusive contributors will stop contributing new images to iStock – and I expect this is an outcome iStock is happy with.

They are looking to encourage exclusive content so that they can compete with other agencies based on the content they provide (in addition to the functionality of the site and price).

For non exclusive contributors – since I published this post iStock have changed the implementation dates. The move to 15% flat commission for non exclusive contributors will now happen on 23 December 2016 for subscription downloads, and 1 January 2017 for credit downloads. (Edited by Craig Dingle on 24 November 2016).

Change 4 – Subscription Download Rates. Until now, subscription downloads have paid a flat fee to the contributor. For me as an exclusive contributor, that has been predominantly US$0.75 for files in the Signature collection and US$2.50 for files in the Signature+ collection.

This flat fee is being replaced by a ‘price per file’ system where the exact amount will vary based on the number of downloads a client makes and the price they paid for the subscription. In some ways, this makes it less transparent but I like that the contributors interests and iStock’s interests become aligned in this process. The contributor will share in the rewards with iStock. The exact impact on a contributors income will be seen in the next few months.

So what does this all mean? The changes to iStock royalty payments are recognition that the current system is not working effectively given the industry move to a subscription driven model. In that sense, change is good.

The changes announced significantly favor exclusive contributors over non-exclusives which will force some contributors to make a choice which camp they would like to be in.

Overall, I am encouraged that iStock are adjusting their royalty structures to reflect the new realities of the industry. If anything, it is a bit late, but I am optimistic that 2017 will bring stronger returns from iStock.

 

 

Great Reads – Backyard Silver

I started the Great Reads section of Beyond Here two years ago, with the intention of building a library of resources about the business of photography. The early posts featured books that I read and recommended, and which were available via Amazon. A good example is this post about a book titled Taking Stock by Rob Sylvan. With today’s post I’m expanding the Great Reads section of Beyond Here to include online resources as well. Here is Great Reads – Backyard Silver.

Books

With this post – Great Reads expands to online resources

Backyard Silver is a blog written by US based stock photographer Steve Heap. Steve and I recently discovered each others blogs, and while we live on opposite sides of the world, we had many things in common.

We are both stock photographers. We both started in microstock at about the same time, and we both stuck at it. We both have thousands of images available via microstock libraries, and both count income from microstock as a key portion of our photography businesses.

It turns out the similarities didn’t stop there. We have both written an ebook encouraging photographers to make money from their images through stock photography. Please see:

The one significant area we differ is that I chose (in 2010) to become exclusive with iStock (and still am) while Steve chose to be an independent stock photographer. By independent, I mean that he submits his images to a wide range of microstock sites. And this key difference is why I encourage Beyond Here reader’s to check out Backyard Silver.

Specifically Steve covers two areas which I am often asked about – the first is feedback about different stock sites, and the second is exactly how much money it is possible to make. Steve outlines each of the sites he contributes to, how many images he has with each site, and the monthly income he generates. Here is an example of a post which gives this detail.

As an exclusive photographer with iStock I like the simplicity of uploading, tracking, and payments which come from dealing with just one agency. I recently asked Steve how he handles the workload of submitting to multiple sites, and he kindly wrote this post outlining how he does it and which tools he uses.

If you are interested in the world of stock photography, I recommend you check out Steve’s blog. Thanks for reading Great Reads – Backyard Silver.

Shooting Lifestyle Stock Images

In Melbourne, Australia it is spring (though today sure doesn’t feel like it!) It is a time when our weather starts to warm up and we move into daylight savings. This year over spring and summer I am adding to the stock photo series I started last year focusing on Melbourne lifestyle images. This is in response to a brief from Getty Images, which encourages photographers to shoot authentic images on location. This post covers my most recent shoot and is all about shooting lifestyle stock images.

Melbourne

We started this shoot at Flinders Street Station, in instantly recognizable Melbourne location.

Planning. Melbourne is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city down here at the bottom of the world. I have been building a portfolio of lifestyle images like the ones displayed in this post. One of Melbourne’s distinctive features are the cafes and restaurants in the laneways of the inner city. They are part of what sets Melbourne apart from other Australian cities and these were the primary locations I used on my latest shoot. Shooting lifestyle stock images is a lot of fun, and having a plan of what and where you are going to shoot is an important first step.

Finding the right model. To find models for this series of shoots, I placed a casting call on Model Mayhem as I outlined in this earlier post. So far I have had 10 models express interest in this type of shoot giving me a reasonable selection. For this shoot, I worked with Julia. We exchanged messages on Model Mayhem followed by speaking on the phone about the shoot. I generally try to meet the model before the shoot so that we can talk through the details, but on this occasion it wasn’t possible and we made do with a phone conversation.

Melbourne

Degraves St is a classic Melbourne laneway in the city

Hair, Makeup, Wardrobe. When I’m shooting lifestyle stock images I generally ask the model to look after their own hair, makeup and wardrobe rather than having a hair and makeup artist and stylist involved. This keeps production costs down and generally the model is comfortable doing their own hair and make up and wearing their own clothes. I am aiming to shoot authentic and realistic images, and being comfortable with their clothes and look helps the model to relax and be authentic.

Logistics. For this shoot we organised to meet at Flinders Street Station in the city. Before we started shooting we had a coffee in Federation Square which gave us time to discuss the shoot and to sort out model releases, invoice and payment. The shoot was then conducted over 2 hours. During this time we started shooting at the front of Flinders Street Station and then walked to Degraves Street, Southbank, Southwharf, Webb Bridge, and we finished by the NAB Building at Docklands. It was a relaxed and easy shoot where we enjoyed Melbourne city and produced a range of useful Melbourne lifestyle images.

Melbourne

In our 2 hour walk around the city we shot at Seafarers Bridge near Southbank

Post Production. When I’m shooting stock images I put time and effort into planning the shoot and composing shots. I also try to keep post production time to a minimum. This usually involves importing the RAW files into Lightroom and making minor adjustments to white balance, cropping, brightness, color, and highlights. This typically takes a few minutes per file. (The most time consuming part of this process is selecting which files I am going to use and which I will delete. The actual editing of each image is a quick process).

Uploading and keywording. The shoot is not complete until the files have been uploaded to the stock photography site and keyworded. I generally do this in the evenings over several days. As an exclusive photographer with iStock for several years I have the process relatively streamlined and spend just a few minutes keywording each image. Where I am uploading a series, I copy and paste the keywords to reduce time and then make minor adjustments to keywords for each file.

Expectations. There is strong demand for authentic images which feature real locations (it’s one of the reasons I enjoy shooting lifestyle stock images). In the case of Melbourne, the city has a population of approximately 4 million people and features several national and world sporting events like the Australian Open Tennis, the Australian Grand Prix, the AFL, NRL, and A League soccer games. At present, there is also fairly limited competition for this style of image. For those reasons I expect sales to be strong, particularly around the time of the major sporting events.

Thanks for reading this post – Shooting Lifestyle Stock Images – I hope it helps your own stock photography.

Lamington

Simple Stock Photos Using Everyday Items

Shooting useful stock images doesn’t need to be a complicated process or involve high production values. This weekend I’ve had my photography plans disrupted by bad weather in Melbourne, and so I did an opportunistic stock photo shoot on Saturday afternoon. This post is to show you how to shoot simple stock photos using everyday items.

Lamington

Lamingtons are a traditionally Australian cake

The subject. The subject of this shoot was part of our weekly grocery shopping! My wife had bought a large packet of lamingtons. According to wikipedia “A lamington is an Australian cake, made from squares of sponge cake coated in an outer layer of chocolate sauce and rolled in desiccated coconut.” If you live in Australia, I’m sure you know them. If you don’t, it’s worth coming to visit Australia just to try them! They are fantastic.

Why would these have value as a stock photo? The lamington is traditionally Australian. That makes them a good subject and I expect sales of these images to peak around Australian public holidays – particularly Australia Day near the end of January. To add to the “Australian-ness” I added several Australian flags to the image. Again, this is to enhance the appeal of the images around Australia Day and to tie the image directly to Australia. I have gathered a lot of stock photography props over the years, including these little Australian flags on a toothpick. If you want to buy some – look for them at two dollar shops or general merchandise stores. A packet of fifty will cost around three Australian dollars.

Lamington

The flag adds to the Australian theme.

Lighting and Background. These shots were lit with 2 lights – one above the lamingtons and one to the side. It is a simple lighting structure and could be achieved using off camera flash and light from a window. In this case it was shot in my home studio using two continuous lights and soft boxes. (See this post for How To Build a Home Photography Studio). Any white background will work for these shots, and I had the subject on a white plate to catch any of the coconut when it fell off.

Lens and type of shot. I used just one lens for this shoot, the Canon L series 100mm macro. With this lens it is possible to shoot extreme close ups, as well as shots which take in the whole of the subject. To create images which have the most flexibility for the buyer, I shot both vertical and horizontal, some with flags and some without, and others with a varying number of flags.

LamingtonTime commitment. This type of shoot is straightforward and doesn’t take long. I started by taking the lamingtons from the kitchen, and returned them after the shoot 25 minutes later. If you plan your lighting and background in advance, setting up, shooting, and wrapping up can be done in a very short period of time.

Post production. I made small adjustments to the RAW images in Lightroom – increasing contrast, whitening the whites, increasing the saturation of the blue color, and cropping where necessary. Again this is a simple process and took about 2 minutes per image.

The purpose of this post was to show you that it is not complicated or expensive to create simple stock photos using everyday items. Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Happy shooting.