Tag Archives: iStockphoto

Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional

As I’m writing this post for Beyond Here, iStock is going through some ‘teething’ pain in its unification with the Getty Images enterprise submission platform (ESP). The long awaited first lot of stats were delayed, were then ‘under-whelming’, and then needed clarification. What is an iStock exclusive photographer to do? I’ve decided to focus on something more positive and share a recent studio shoot. It was a shoot which went really well and so I’ve called it – Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional.

I have worked in corporate environments for more than twenty years and have developed a good sense for the type of image which will be useful in a corporate environment. For that reason, I regularly shoot business themed stock images.

Business frustration

There is strong demand for business themed images which communicate a clear message

From time to time I look for new models to work with – as was the case in this shoot. I generally do my first shoot with a new model in the studio so I can assess whether the images will be popular, and whether there is a good working relationship. That leads to knowing whether it will be worthwhile to progress to a shoot which involves higher cost (like hiring a specific venue).

For this shoot we worked in my small studio.

So what goes into making good stock photo shoots exceptional? An exceptional stock photo shoot for me is when you can produce a wide variety of effective images in a short space of time. And how many images is that? This will vary by photographer but for me, an average shoot of this type will produce 60-70 images for my stock portfolio. This specific shoot produced more than 120 – making it exceptional. Here are 5 tips to fast track you from good to exceptional.

Tip #1. Use changes of wardrobe to create different looking images. In this shoot we used 2 simple wardrobe outfits – one dark suit and one light suit. As you’ll see from the images on this post, a very simple change of wardrobe can create very different images.


A simple prop like a whistle can be used to produce specific messages in your stock images

Tip #2. Use simple props to create variety and communicate a message. There are a limited number of images you can produce if you are just relying on changed facial expressions to communicate a message. Simple props can enhance the theme you are going to create. I have a range of them on hand, and generally use the props the model feels most comfortable with. You can see them in the images on this page – my glasses even suited her nicely!


I expect this type of image to do well as stock. It communicates a message and can be used in a wide variety of situations.

Tip #3. Real emotions make strong stock images. This tip comes down to the ability of the model, and the ability of the photographer to help the model express genuine emotions.

In this shoot, both the photographer and the model liked to work quite quickly. We went through a series of poses and props before we started working on images expressing frustration and confusion.

This model was really good at expressing those emotions, and so we spent a little longer than usual shooting this type of image. I expect images like these to do well as stock, as they effectively communicate a message and will be relevant for a wide variety of situations.


Black backgrounds can help an image stand out on a white website

Tip #4. Use Different Backgrounds to Create Variety. I shoot the majority of my studio stock images against a white background as that gives a designer the most flexibility in how they use the image. Greater flexibility means greater potential uses, and that means more downloads.

But I also shoot on different backgrounds to create different looks. In years gone by stock images were mainly being used in print and usually on near white backgrounds (the page).

Today, stock images and most extensively used online, and specifically on websites which can be any color background.

To meet this need, I’m shooting more images on black backgrounds as well, which often help the image stand out on a white website.

Tip #5. Very literal messages do work in stock photography. In the past it was often images which were subtle in communicating a message which did the best as stock images. That was mainly because they could be used in a wide variety of situations. Today, there is a growing trend for stock images which communicate a very literal message doing well. I see these used most commonly as the lead image on blog posts where the author is trying to grab a readers attention with the image so that they will continue and read the text. So, I have started to shoot stock images with very literal messages as well.


She’s choosing love over career, a very literal message

This was a really fun, enjoyable shoot which produced a large number of images for my stock portfolio and helped me demonstrate these 5 tips. I hope these tips will help with your own stock photography projects.

If you are new to stock photography, there is an extensive number of posts on Beyond Here to help you. Here’s one to begin with, Starting in Stock Photography. Thanks for reading Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional. Happy shooting!

iStock Unification One Week Along

Photographers who contribute to the microstock site, iStock, have been going through weeks  and months of change. This culminated at the beginning of February 2017 with the ‘turning off’ of the old methods for uploading still images as part of the unification with the Getty Images site. I outlined those changes in this post. So, how is iStock unification one week along? And what do we think the future holds?


Contributors are all hoping these changes generate more income for the artist.

Gaining Access. As an exclusive contributor I was in the first group who were to be sent emails to gain access to ESP (Enterprise Submission Platform). Unfortunately my email didn’t arrive when promised, but I knew why. Four years ago I experimented with video, and have the grand total of 50 video clips in my portfolio. Video contributors were invited to join ESP approximately 2 years ago. (I can’t remember the exact date as I was no longer contributing videos). So Getty Images figured I already had access to ESP, when in fact I had deleted their email without ever using it.

Getting Help. So, what did I do to get help? And what can you do if you need help? There is a Facebook group for ‘iStock Exclusive Contributors’ where Brenda and Chris (who work for iStock) are actively helping contributors. I posted a note in there, and within a few hours Brenda had me sorted out and able to use ESP. What if you are non exclusive? There is another active Facebook group called ‘iStockphoto’ only. I’d recommend posting any issues in there and seeing if iStock staff or other contributors can assist.


If you need Help, try the Facebook groups for iStock contributors

Uploading in the New World. There are now 3 options for uploading still images to iStock. They are to use ESP itself, to upload through Deepmeta, or to use qHero. I had always uploaded to the site directly, so in preparation for the change I researched qHero. It seemed to be a simple tool to use, and I have begun uploading using qHero.

Changes in the Upload Process. qHero is a straightforward tool to upload, keyword, and submit images. I find it easy to use and quite different to uploading to the site itself. Key benefits I see are – you only need to upload the model release once and can use it on multiple files, and you can keyword multiple files at the same time. Both these changes will save me time in the uploading process. They make it particularly easy to upload and keyword multiple files from the same shoot.

File inspection. So far 5 of the 10 batches of files I have submitted have been reviewed. The review times have been approximately 48 hours for each of these batches. This is slightly slower than the norm for exclusive contributors but has been explained by iStock as due to training needs for image inspectors.

File display. Of those 5 inspected batches none are yet visible in my portfolio. I am not alarmed by this (yet!) as the files were approved in the last 48 hours, and iStock have indicated it might be slightly longer than usual for files to become ‘live’ in portfolios. Hopefully that starts to happen late this week.

File Editing. For one of my batches the inspector asked me to update keywords. I was able to edit that detail easily within ESP itself. I’m glad to say that was a simple process. I found that at first ESP looked a bit daunting, but after some time exploring it, the tool is logical and simple to use. So don’t be overawed – once your files are within ESP, editing and updating is straightforward.


I’m hopeful that the changes will bring real benefits to buyers and sellers, and iStock won’t have to resort to sales to drive traffic

What’s Next? Within ESP there is currently no download or royalty detail. The first time this data will be available is due around 20 February 2017. While you can’t see any data at the moment, you can see the framework for more detailed information than has been available in the past. That’s encouraging and I’m looking forward to that data being available.

Other comments. Overall my transition and experience of iStock Unification One Week Along has been positive. I see real benefits in the improved functionality of being able to upload and keyword batches of files from the same shoot. I typically upload about 100 files per month. In the last week I have uploaded more than 100 files for the week alone. The new tools are definitely going to make submitting and keywording content simpler.

Concerns? While it’s nice that images submitted in the ESP world have been approved already, that’s meaningless until they are available to be downloaded. I’m waiting to see how long it takes from image acceptance to image display. On a separate note, I’m optimistic about what the reporting will bring come 20 February 2017.

That’s my experience of iStock Unification One Week Along. How is your experience? Which tools are you using? Are they helping your workflow?

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Why iStock Must Change Exclusivity Criteria

I have been a contributor to iStockphoto since 2008 and have written extensively about stock photography for Beyond Here. One significant point of difference which iStockphoto has compared to other microstock sites is the volume of exclusive content. That is – images which are available only from iStockphoto. They have achieved this by providing incentives for contributors to be exclusive such as higher royalty rates. Much has changed in microstock, but one thing that hasn’t is the criteria for becoming an exclusive contributor. Read on to see why iStock must change exclusivity criteria.

What are the criteria for becoming exclusive on iStock? Ever since I have been an iStock contributor, the criteria for becoming exclusive are to have 250 downloads and an image acceptance rate of greater than 50%. Once that has been achieved a contributor can choose to become exclusive or continue to remain as an independent contributor.

Flinders Street Station

iStock’s point of difference is it’s volume of unique content

Why choose exclusivity? Exclusivity brings several benefits to contributors. The keys ones for me are the higher royalties paid on exclusive files, better placement for exclusive files in the best match algorithm, and a faster inspection queue. The key benefit for iStockphoto is that it can promote material that is only available from iStockphoto. These files are not available on any other stock site.

What’s changed? I have written extensively about the changes at iStockphoto in recent years. (Please see the ‘stock photography’ category on the side of this blog to check out those posts). The major change is that iStock has moved away from it’s credit based download system to a subscription system. This on its own is not a problem. It rewards high volume buyers and locks them in (to some degree) by having a subscription where they can buy a certain number of files per month. The problem comes in that iStock only count credit downloads towards the total of 250 required to be exclusive.


New iStock contributors are likely to see small royalty payments under the subscription program

What does this mean for contributors trying to become exclusive? Currently, only 20% of my monthly downloads are credit downloads. The remaining 80% is made up of downloads from the subscription program, the partner program (where files are sold through partner sites), and the Getty Images site. So, for contributors working towards being exclusive, only a small percentage of their actual downloads count towards the qualifying total. That means it will take much longer to meet the qualifying criteria.

So what? This has 2 significant implications. First, many contributors who have the ability to contribute high quality content are being discouraged and choosing to submit their images to other sites. At the same time, their content on iStockphoto will be selling under the subscription program for which new contributors are currently only receiving $0.28 per download. This is a disincentive to put all their eggs in the iStockphoto basket in the future. And secondly, one of iStockphoto’s main points of differentiation is the millions of files only available there. The more contributors who are independent, and uploading their files elsewhere, then the smaller percentage of the iStock database is unique.

To maintain a unique selling point through exclusive content is why iStock must change exclusivity criteria.

What Models Should Know About Stock Photo Shoots

I am currently shooting a series of lifestyle images for my portfolio for iStockphoto and Getty Images. It is a fun and challenging project featuring parts of Melbourne, Australia. I am working with a wide range of models, and have put together this post for – What Models Should Know About Stock Photo Shoots.

What is stock photography? The concept of stock photography is that a person who needs an image can go to an existing library to find it, rather than commission a photographer to do a new shoot for them. A stock photo library offers choices of many, many images. The buyer can purchase a licence to use the image, and download it immediately. For the buyer, this is much quicker and cheaper than organizing a photo shoot themselves. For example, a magazine may be featuring a story about the rise in numbers of female pilots entering the aviation industry. They could commission a shoot if they had the time and money, or they could find an appropriate image from a stock photo library, purchase a licence to use the image, and download it immediately. (If you would like to visit a stock photo library and have a search through their images, have a look at iStockphoto).

Female pilot

Stock images are made available through stock photo libraries

How does the payment from stock photography work? When a buyer downloads an image they make payment to the stock photo library. The photographer then receives a percentage of this amount as a royalty payment. For the model, you need to be aware that the images you help to create are going to be used for commercial purposes, and so you should be paid. Most stock photographers (myself included) will pay the model at the beginning of the shoot based on an hourly rate. After the shoot, the photographer then takes all the financial risk. If the shots do not ever get downloaded, the photographer will make a loss. And if the images are very popular and are downloaded many times, the photographer will make a profit.


Stock photos are for commercial purposes and models should expect to be paid

What about model releases? When the photographer submits the images to the stock photo library they go through an inspection process. The library checks that the image meets its quality criteria and has all necessary releases.

A key element of this is the model release. A model release a legal document which provides permission from the model to use their likeness in the picture. The stock photo library will make sure that any image that has a recognizable human face, and is being sold with a royalty free licence, has a model release to go with it. The stock photo library does not want legal problems for themselves or the photographer if a model claims that their likeness is being used without their permission.

So, when you are doing a stock photo shoot, expect to sign a model release before the shoot begins. Ask the photographer for a copy, and keep it in your records.

What is the photographer trying to achieve? I try to explain to models that the emphasis in stock photography is slightly different to other types of photography. The photographer is trying to shoot images which communicate a message and will have broad commercial appeal. In that sense, it’s more about ‘useful images’ than it is about ‘beautiful images’.

So, how can the model help to make useful images? The images need to be realistic. So if you are doing a stock photo shoot about life on a college or university campus, make sure your wardrobe and makeup look realistic for that environment. Or if you are portraying a business person, make sure you have wardrobe and make up that suit that theme.


Models need to be realistic for the shoot concept

What is the photographer looking for in a model? First and foremost the photographer will be looking to work with models who are reliable. As a model you need to prepare well, and turn up on time, ready to shoot. Second, the photographer is looking for a model who appropriately matches the brief. For example, if I am shooting a series on retired couples planning their finances, I will be looking for models who look like they are in their sixties. If I am shooting a fitness series, I need models who are physically fit. Thirdly, the photographer will really appreciate a model who can both understand the brief, and bring a new dimension to it. A model who can understand and then extend the brief to create new images that I hadn’t thought of is a model I want to do further shoots with.

How long do stock photo shoots go for? This can vary and will depend on the photographer and concept. My own stock photo shoots normally go for 90 to 120 minutes depending on whether it is a studio or location shoot, and the concept we are shooting.

What about logos and trademarks? Logos and trademarks are not allowed in stock photography. Essentially the images need to be free of any corporate logos. Be sure to consider that when you are selecting wardrobe. The ideal is clothes which have no logos on them, while having small logos is ok (the photographer will edit them out in post production).

Key Points. Let’s recap:

  • Stock photos will be made available via a stock photo library
  • They are for commercial purposes, so the model should be paid
  • Models will be asked to sign a model release
  • Stock photography is more about ‘useful images’ than it is about ‘beautiful images’
  • Wardrobe and makeup need to be appropriate for the shoot concept
  • Logos and trademarked items are not allowed in stock images
  • Photographers will value the model being able to understand and extend a shoot concept

Questions? Please add a comment and I will do my best to answer.

Thanks for reading What Models Should Know About Stock Photo Shoots. I hope it has been useful to you and can have a positive impact on your next stock photo shoot. If you have questions, please add a comment on this post and I will do my best to answer it.

Great Reads – Taking Stock

Are you ready to tackle the new year? Is this year going to be the one where you turn your photography hobby into a serious venture? Is stock photography going to play a role in your business? If you are looking for a great book about stock photography I highly recommend Taking Stock by Rob Sylvan. It is the subject of this review, Great Reads – Taking Stock.

There are not a lot of books available specifically on the subject of stock photography. Rob Sylvan’s book stands out among them.

Taking stock

I highly recommend Taking Stock by Rob Sylvan if you are serious about stock photography

What is it about? Taking Stock is a book of just over 200 pages filled with insight from Rob Sylvan. The book was published in 2011 and draws on Rob’s extensive experience working at iStockphoto from the early 2000’s. Rob’s reputation is well known to people who have been long term contributors to iStockphoto (like me!) where he used to be both a contributor and an admin.

The book’s subtitle is “make money in microstock creating photos that sell” and that is exactly what it is about. If you are looking to make money in stock photography, this is a must read.

What can you expect? Taking stock covers all topics to understand and succeed in stock photography from the history of stock photography, to what equipment you will need, to the different types of licences in stock photography. There are an extensive number of examples of successful images with commentary on why they are successful.

I particularly like the examples he provides from a range of stock photographers, not just his own. In each case he provides an example of a successful image with the photographers commentary. It is a powerful way to highlight successful images and draws on the authors wide network of stock photographers.

If you are new to stock photography, you will enjoy the sample images and details about the number of times they have been downloaded, and how much money this has generated in royalties to the photographer. It will show you how financially successful a single image can be.

The book is several years old now, so don’t expect it to cover today’s trends in visual imagery. But the principles and examples Sylvan provides are still relevant and it is well worth reading.

Outcomes? If you want one single resource to help you understand the stock photography world, Taking Stock is an excellent book. Most importantly it draws on the experience of people who have been working in the stock photography industry. Learning from your own experience is the best teacher, and learning from someone else’s experience isn’t far behind.

For me, I’ve considered why some people are successful in stock photography while others are not. Within this book, Sylvan sums it up nicely – he says that successful stock photographers are ‘highly motivated, self directed learners’. That sums it up. He doesn’t say they are brilliantly creative, or have photography qualifications, or use certain equipment. He says they are highly motivated, self directed learners.

If you study the work of some of the most successful stock photographers you can see the development in their portfolios. They keep learning, and their images keep improving. So don’t think you have to be a genius to succeed.

If you are highly motivated, keep learning, and apply what you learn – you will succeed in stock photography.

Rating and Recommendation? 10 out of 10. Highly recommended.

Kick off the new year by reading a book that will set you up for success in stock photography.

Thank you for reading Great Reads – Taking Stock.

How to Photograph Simple Stock Images

In this post for Beyond Here I show you one example of how to photograph simple stock images. It’s a beginning to end look at how to create this image.

Why shoot this style of image? There is strong and ongoing demand for simple, well lit images of a huge range of subjects. Often they are used on websites and blogs to support a written story. Sometimes they are used in printed newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and documents.

Australian savings

Successful stock images have a wide range of potential uses

In this case, the image has a business, savings, investment theme. Well lit images with a business theme have a wide range of potential uses and strong demand. That is the main reason I keep shooting them.

Consider this image, it could be used – in tough economic times to emphasize savings, in good times to highlight an abundance of wealth, in a home finance theme about small amounts adding up, in a theme about the value of the Australian currency, or by financial planners to emphasize the importance of saving and investment. It has a multitude of different potential uses. So, let’s look at how to photograph simple stock images. How was this image created?

Step 1 – Decide on the type of image you would like to create. This is an obvious first step. Put time into considering the type of image you want to make and its potential uses. The variety of potential uses will impact the number of sales the image receives.

Step 2 – Assemble requirements. For this image I needed to gather – the glass jar, dollar notes and coins. These were relatively easy to assemble. Next steps were to make sure the glass jar was clean, that I had enough coins to fill the jar, and the right combination of notes to add some color to the image.

Step 3 – Determine lighting requirements. This image was shot in my studio using 3 continuous lights. I like to use continuous lights when shooting products as I can see where the shadows will fall before I shoot. For more information on continuous lights please see this post.

Step 4 – Consider copyright issues. When shooting any sort of stock photography you need to consider any copyright or legal issues. The glass jar in this image was an old one from our kitchen. It has some writing in the glass at the bottom. I don’t want that in my image as it may get rejected in the stock photo library inspection process – so I need to be aware of that and position the jar so it doesn’t show. In addition, Australian coins have a picture of the Queen of England on the back of them. They are not allowed in stock images, so I need to position the coins so the Queen’s image is not visible.

Step 5 – Shoot. Yes, get in there and shoot the image. Consider different variations on the same theme so that you have a range of stock images.

Step 6 – Post production. For this image very little post production is required. I cropped the image very slightly, increased the saturation of the colors, and made sure my background was pure white.

Step 7 – Upload and Keyword. The final step in making this image available to be downloaded is to upload it to my stock photography portfolio and to add keywords. For this image I use keywords like – australian currency, currency, coin, australian coin, jar, savings, investment, finance, home finance, isolated, isolated on white, white background, nobody.

Thanks for reading how to photograph simple stock images. Good luck with your stock photography.

7 Business Lessons from Being a Stock Photographer

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know that selling images through iStockphoto and Getty Images is an important component of my photography income. I’ve written many posts about stock photography, from getting started, through to how to use props, and many topics in between. I regularly get asked about the business or financial side of being a stock photographer. Based on my experience, here are 7 business lessons from being a stock photographer.


What starts as a small trickle of coins, can transform into a rapid flow

Business Lesson 1 – Small Amounts Do Add Up. The first image I received a royalty for on iStockphoto back in 2008 was a cityscape from Melbourne, Australia. I shot the image while a friend and I went on an evening photo shoot. We walked around the city, chatting and shooting night city images. The royalty from that first download was US$1.26. While that amount seems tiny, I was excited as I could see the potential for that amount to grow, and for an individual image to be downloaded hundreds of times. That image has since been downloaded a further 49 times to reach 50 in total. So far. While each royalty amount might be small, over time they will add up, and can add up to a significant total. Don’t be discouraged by small amounts when you are starting – be excited for the potential of those amounts to grow.

Business Lesson 2 – Significant Income is Possible From Stock Photography. While I have a large portfolio of stock images I am a ‘small fish’ in the stock photography world. My annual income in US dollars is well into the 5 figures and has been since my third year as a stock photographer. That makes a significant contribution to my overall photography income and adds to my wedding and portrait work. More successful stock photographers are generating incomes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Many people start out in stock photography thinking that you can not earn worthwhile amounts. I’ve found that to be untrue. (If you’d like to read more about how to generate a worthwhile income please check out my e-book Build A Five Figure Income in Your Spare Time.)

Fruit bat

Flying fox images have been a lucrative niche for me

Business Lesson 3 – Finding a Niche can be Very Profitable. When I started contributing images to iStockphoto my portfolio was a diverse collection of random images. It took me some time to find what I liked to shoot, and where there was a market. I found the intersection of supply and demand in my Australian wildlife images and specifically in flying fox images I shot near my home in Melbourne, Australia. I have continued to upload flying fox images as they sell year round and peak in sales just before Halloween. Finding that niche helped me realize that stock photography could work for me.

Business Lesson 4 – Buyers Care About a Useful Image. And nothing else. Buyers don’t care where the image was shot, what camera you were using, or who you are. Buyers only care about the image. So, if you think your equipment is not good enough, or that you will start when you get the latest version of Photoshop – realize that they are just excuses. Buyers don’t care. As long as you can meet the stock libraries quality standards there is no reason not to get started.

Location free careers

Many stock photographers no longer need a home base

Business Lesson 5 – Location Free Careers are Reality. What’s a location free career? It is a career which is not dependent on where you live – and many of the world’s most successful stock photographers are making that real. They can travel and shoot and upload and get paid all without needing a permanent home base. As long as they have a digital camera, a laptop, and an internet connection they can work anywhere. And increasingly they don’t even need to carry all their gear with them – they can rent it at their next location.

us dollar

US dollar income is handy for my business

Business Lesson 6 – A US Dollar income is handy. My royalties from stock photography are paid in US dollars. When they are transferred to me each month they are converted into local currency. As the Australian dollar goes up and down versus the US dollar it is very handy to have a US dollar income. The price of photography equipment in Australia goes up and down in line with the exchange rate – so having a US dollar income protects me from exchange rate volatility.

Business Lesson 7 – Successful Images Keep Selling. I wrote this post analyzing my recent downloads on iStockphoto. It showed that nearly 50% of my current income was being generated by images shot and uploaded 4-5 years ago. This was an important lesson for me. It highlighted that successful images have a lifespan of several years. It is worth taking the time to shoot well thought out concepts as they will generate an income for many years. In many ways, building a stock photo portfolio is building an asset which will generate an income into the future. It is worth taking the time to do it well.


Successful images are likely to keep selling for several years

Thanks for reading 7 business lessons from being a stock photographer. I feel it only captures a tiny fraction of what I’ve learnt since first getting into stock photography in 2008. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me via email or by leaving a comment on this post.