Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown

It is very challenging times right around the world as we deal with the coronavirus. Here in Australia the government is encouraging people to stay at home and only go out when absolutely necessary. I recently wrote a post called Coronavirus Realities for this Photographer. Today, it’s shooting stock images during the coronavirus shutdown.

Background

We had a small amount of advance notice that there will be restrictions in daily life as the world tries to ‘flatten the curve’ in growth of coronavirus cases. During this small window I was able to do one outdoor coronavirus themed stock photo shoot. I also made a visit to the craft shop to stock up on supplies which I could use in stock photo concepts.


Shooting stock images in the coronavirus shutdown. I was able to do one outdoor themed shoot recently.

Early Feedback

There are currently a lot of coronavirus themed images being added to microstock sites. To date, I have been concentrating on local themed images like the one above. Why? Firstly, because it is relatively easy for me to shoot this style of image, and secondly there is very little competition. Encouragingly, there have been immediate sales on each of the microstock sites where I submit images.

From Here?

Now, with daily movement restrictions increasing, I’m not expecting to be able to do outdoor shoots in the near future. The increasing requirements around ‘social distancing’ are going to make this impossible in the short term. So where will I focus? I built a small home studio several years ago and am planning to shoot a series of simple stock images there.

There is strong demand for coronavirus themed stock images right now

What Can You Shoot?

Right now is a unique time to be able to shoot specifically themed images. The whole world is reporting on the virus, and there is high demand for relevant images.

You don’t need a studio to shoot coronavirus themed stock images. With the large push to stay at home, work from home, social distancing, and ‘flattening the curve’ there is real opportunity to use your own home surrounds to shoot relevant images.

Final Thoughts

In a world turned upside down I am grateful for the small amount of revenue coming in through stock photography. All my booked jobs for the next 2 months have cancelled, with no current time line for when normal activities might resume. In the meantime I’ll be staying home, keeping safe, and doing what I can with stock imagery.

Social Distancing is a theme to consider for your stock photo shoots

Thanks for reading Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown. Good luck!

Coronavirus Realities for this Photographer

Wow, we are living in interesting times! Right now many events and activities around the world are facing cancellation or suspension as we try to halt the spread of coronavirus. This is already having a major impact on all industries and is clearly impacting photographers. In my business, all my jobs for the next 2 months have been cancelled or are likely to be cancelled. Here are the coronavirus realities for this photographer.

Coronavirus is having a major health and business impact around the world

Immediate Impacts

The response from health officials and governments has been significant this week. Here in Australia, gatherings of over 500 people are being discouraged. This is causing the cancellation or postponement of major events. As the majority of my work is in sports, the cancellation of many sports has meant my pipeline of jobs for the next 2 months has disappeared.

How Long Will this Last?

I wish I knew! With 2 weeks left in the local school term followed by Easter holidays I can’t see any change being likely until at least the end of April. I really don’t know what to expect from there. I am now planning for an extended period without major sporting events.

What to do in the Meantime?

The cancellation of sports events will have a significant impact to my business. To keep busy I am planning to shoot stock images and upload them to my online portfolios. My income from stock is well below what it has been in previous years but it is steady and comes in every month. Unfortunately I don’t know how long this challenge is going to last, but for the next few weeks I plan on creating stock images relevant to the current health crisis.

What will that look like?

I am conscious of helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus by limiting social interaction. For me that will mean shooting stock images in my home studio. I can see I’ll need a break from that at some point (!) and plan to visit wildlife areas close to home.

Do you have an action plan in place to get through the next few months? These are the coronavirus realities for this photographer. What are they for you?

Helpful Resources

If you’d like to look into stock photography please check out

Featured Photographer Sally Jacob

Today’s featured photographer on Beyond Here is sports photographer Sally Jacob. Sally is originally from Yorkshire, England and is now living in Melbourne, Australia. Read on to learn more about sports photographer Sally Jacob.

Background

Sally, tell us about Sally Jacob Photography and your work in sports photography …

Well, it’s always been about sports photography. I have done a bit of food photography, I spent some time publishing a recipe book with my mum. Just sold our 400th copy. Woo! I worked a season in Greece photographing holidaymakers participating in sports activities and portraits. I’ve always been most interested in sports photography. I recently gave up hospitality work to devote myself to photography full time, mainly for Melbourne Sports Photography. I’m from England where I shot a lot of local football and since being here in Australia have found it fun learning Australian Rules Football whilst photographing a lot of junior games. I have just been photographing a lot of basketball, which was another new sport for me, which has been fun.

Junior football celebration. Sports photographer Sally Jacob.
Image copyright Sally Jacob

Deciding to Pursue Sports Photography

How did you decide you wanted to be a sports photographer?

I did skydiving while at school and was fearless! There was a guy jumping alongside me photographing it. I thought what a cool job and that’s when I decided how fun it would be to be a sports photographer. Following a photographer, Christian Pondella, I just couldn’t quite believe that photographing in the mountains was his job. How cool.

I went straight from college to university to study Press and Editorial Photography at Falmouth University and got into photographing the local rugby for the paper, which I found a lot of fun and I learnt a lot about how to shoot sports. Currently I’m thinking a lot about how to get access to big sporting events, whilst trying to build up my range of equipment. I can tell I still have far to go however I moved to Australia a year and a half ago and have felt a huge amount of encouragement and am learning everyday.

Favorites

Which are your favorite sports to photograph?

Anything outdoors! Tennis is currently number one. I grew up with tennis and had a great time at the Australian Open this year. I didn’t have media access but still managed to get some shots on the outside courts of some top players. This was a huge highlight for me and has made me realize how much I want that accreditation.

Close up of squashed tennis ball. Sports photographer Sally Jacob.
Image copyright Sally Jacob

Challenges

What challenges do you come across as a young sports photographer?

I guess finance is a big challenge. The top gear is really expensive for anyone but I haven’t got a lot of savings or money! Older, more experienced people are constantly telling me that there’s no money in sport photography anymore which can sometimes be off putting when you’re about to put everything you’ve got into a new lens. But then again, I guess the fact I am young, I don’t have a mortgage or family I need to provide for . I do love to travel though, and maybe the job could help with that.

The Future

What opportunities do you see?

Well, every year I hear more and more stories about women in sports, and women working in sports. It seems like there are so many more opportunities out there for me than there perhaps would have been in the past. It was great to watch some tennis this year at the Australian Open and see a good handful of female photographers.

Looking forward, which are the sports you’d most like to shoot in the years ahead?

Well, the Australian Open tennis is something I can’t stop thinking about. So that’s a goal for the next year. In the future I’d love to shoot the Olympics and the winter Olympics would be pretty cool. I still feel I have far to go and need to work out what I need to do to reach these goals, but I’m feeling ambitious these days!

Australian Open tennis, sports photographer Sally Jacob
Image copyright Sally Jacob

Advice

What advice would you give to aspiring sports photographers?

Shoot, shoot, shoot. Always ask for feedback and take it on board. If you are new to sports photography, start with a sport you know – it’s easier to shoot something if you know what’s about to happen. Don’t be afraid to shoot in tight. And just have fun with it, play around, try a different perspective.

Thank you for reading about Melbourne based sports photographer Sally Jacob.

(Editor’s note – I have known Sally for the last 12 months and have done work with her for Melbourne Sports Photography shooting basketball, Australian Rules football, diving, cheer leading and dance, gymnastics, and cycling.)

Lessons from Pricing this Photography Job all Wrong

Last month I was asked by another photographer to assist on a shoot. I like helping other photographers and appreciate the opportunity to expand my contacts in the industry, and to learn from the way they shoot. The shoot was great, but I badly misjudged the pricing. Here are my lessons from pricing this photography job all wrong.

What was the job?

The photographer was looking for assistance on a shoot for his sports wear client. The client is a large international sporting brand pushing hard in the Australian market. The photographer has worked with this client on several shoots, most of which he has done on his own. For this shoot he was looking for someone to assist on action shots.

money

What Happened

The intention was for the main photographer to lead on both studio stills and video, and for me to be an extra pair of hands to assist and to shoot action images. Straightforward – or so I thought!

When the shoot got underway the client had very specific requirements for the video component. That meant shooting video in a different part of the stadium away from the studio area and the court we used for action images. Can you see what’s coming? Yes, instead of playing a support role, I am now leading all studio and action photography while the ‘main photographer’ is elsewhere shooting video. (Note, I’m not blaming the main photographer. He did a great job meeting the client’s needs, and is clearly talented with both photography and videography.)

It was a terrific, enjoyable shoot and the images are currently being used by the client in a national campaign. Great. The drawback – I hadn’t priced this job in a way which reflected doing the majority of the photography on a major national campaign. So here they come! The lessons from pricing this photography job all wrong.

Lesson 1 – Be Clear on the Brief

I should have been clearer on making sure I understood the brief and based my pricing on delivering those services. That would have given me room to renegotiate the price given I delivered a very different set of services.

The job was a success, but mis pricing any job is not a “slam dunk” towards financial success

Lesson 2 – Put the Quote in Writing

I had assumed this would be a straightforward shoot and didn’t provide a written quote. The business side was simply a discussion and a verbal agreement. Again, that makes it very difficult to renegotiate should the brief change. While I could have tried renegotiating, that didn’t seem like ‘good form’ after the shoot was completed.

Lesson 3 – Industry Contacts are Valuable

Despite getting the pricing for this job badly wrong, I got on well with the other photographer and know that, should our paths cross again, we have the foundations for a strong working relationship. He has already been in touch with me to see if I could help on another shoot, which unfortunately clashed with one of my own. Such is life! When the opportunity comes, you can be sure I’ll price it more appropriately.

Lesson 4 – Working with Others is a Learning Opportunity

Many photographers, myself included, often work alone or with the same people. In this case, we had never met before and it was a great opportunity to see this experienced commercial photographer in action. Most impressive was the way he was able to move effortlessly between video and photography, while also managing the needs of his client who had 4 people on set. Nice work, and valuable lessons.

Lesson 5 – Don’t Undervalue Your Services

This job was at a quiet time of year and I was keen to take on the role. Combined with being interested in this type of shoot, I may have undervalued the skills I could bring to the role (despite the brief changing). I feel like I’m too old and too experienced to make this mistake, but don’t undervalue your services!

Thanks for reading Lessons from Pricing this Photography Job All Wrong. I’m determined to take the lessons and make them into a positive – much like in this post Turning Negative Experiences to Positive. Happy Shooting!

Common Sense, Real World Experience, and Practice

Thanks for being a reader of Beyond Here. I’ve just taken an unannounced 6 month break from writing this blog. A visit to the bookshop and the library this week have been enough to kick me back into action! Why the sudden return? At both the book shop and the library there are no resources for people wanting to learn the business side of photography. Literally I couldn’t find a single book. I’m not planning to write a book anytime soon, but I can add to Beyond Here regularly. So today I’m back, and here is common sense, real world experience, and practice.

Why the 6 Month Break?

I started Beyond Here 5 years ago, thinking it would be relatively straightforward to write at least one post a month about the business side of photography. Most months it was, even though I am not a natural writer and the words don’t always flow. But mid last year I finally missed one month, and soon realized that became 2 and 3 and 4 months. I enjoyed the break, and spent a lot of time shooting and working in my sports photography business.

Writing a blog, it’s not always easy to know how well (or not) received it is. Readers don’t tend to comment on blog posts anymore. They are more inclined to add comments on Facebook than to bother commenting on the blog. Even though Google Analytics makes it easy to see how many people are visiting and what they are reading, that doesn’t always equate to knowing the information is valuable. So in one of those months where I felt like I might be the only person reading what I was writing (!) I took a break, and here we are 6 months later.

Consistency of effort is key in sport – perhaps in blog writing too!

Common Sense, Real World Experience

One of the reasons I sometimes doubt the value of the content here is that it is not rocket science. It is not brilliant insight which no-one else in the world could possibly have. Common sense and real world experience make up most of the content. It is trying things in my own business, and sharing what works and what doesn’t. If you are expecting amazing insight, I’m going to let you down! But if you are looking to speed up your learning, and apply that to your own creative business then I might be able to help.

I do like the saying – common sense is not so common – so maybe I can add some value there. I can certainly add my real world experience from the ups and downs of my own business.

Sport is a great example where you can’t perform without practice. Are you practicing your photography skills?

Practice

And now for today’s dose of common sense! We are very lucky today that it is easy to start a photography business. It is literally a matter of some basic equipment, a few clients, and you are away.

While it is easy to start that in no way means your skills are at a professional standard. In fact, they are likely not to be when you are starting out and your portfolio consists only of family portraits taken of friends. It takes time and practice to build skills so that you can meet different photographic briefs, and produce high quality images in a variety of lighting conditions.

So what’s the answer? The answer is really a question – are you practicing and building photography skills? For much of this blog I assume your photography skills are strong and we focus on sales and marketing and other topics. But I see too many photographers who have not built their skills and are not practicing. I’m a sports lover, and to draw a sports comparison, can you imagine a pro sports person who doesn’t practice? They are not likely to last too long. Are you practicing enough?

I wrote a post called Photographing Different Commercial Jobs. Sometimes we get in a rut shooting the same types of jobs in the same way. Doing those commercial jobs was challenging, and helped me build new skills. Sometimes it’s best not to take on paying jobs to learn new skills, the key questions is are you taking on different challenges?

Thanks for reading common sense, real world experience, and practice. I hope it has given you food for thought. Invest in practice, and go ahead and comment on the blog. Happy shooting.

Do Photo Prints Still Sell

One year ago I revamped my website and refocused my photography business with an emphasis on photographing junior sport in Melbourne. I have been shooting juniors to elite level across a variety of sports with a specialty in action images. In many cases it has been a thrill to see the look on kids faces when they see themselves as the subject of high quality action images. When I started shooting junior sports I expected the strongest demand would be for digital images. A year on I am in a better position to answer the question do photo prints still sell?

Action images of junior sports games have been very popular

What Did I Expect?

The first major event we photographed was a large junior basketball tournament. You can read about that in this post Photographing 1000 Junior Basketball Players.

We photographed more than 100 junior teams over 2 days. I expected the majority of demand from players and families would be for digital images. Social media is driving communication and shared experiences, and I imagined a large number of the digital images would appear on social media. I wondered whether it was worth even offering prints as it is straightforward to purchase the digital images and make your own prints.

Since then we have been shooting many sports including more basketball, netball, dance, cheer leading, volleyball, and football.

What Has Been the Reality?

Interestingly, across a wide variety of sports, the trends have been similar.

  • Action images of junior sport have been very popular
  • Two thirds of all sales have been digital images
  • One third of all sales have been prints
  • Almost no-one orders both prints and digital images
One third of all sales have been prints

Key Learnings

When starting out selling action images of junior sports I expected most sales to be digital images. That has been the case, though I have been surprised that one third of all sales have been prints.

Offering prints does come with some challenges. I fulfill my print orders through an external supplier, and ship direct to my customer. Every now and then I have an issue with quality where I may end up having to organize a reprint for my customer.

Despite those occasional challenges there is still a very strong market for photo prints. Do photo prints still sell? Yes definitely.

Thanks for reading Do Photo Prints Still Sell. I hope you can use my experience to benefit your own photography business. Happy shooting.

Turning Negative Experiences to Positive

I recently wrote a post for Beyond Here called Choose Your Photography Jobs Carefully. It outlines my experience doing some interesting sports photography work but having issues with payment. In this post I have an update, it’s called turning negative experiences to positive.

My recent experience, like this basketball player, had me down but not out

What Happened?

I was dealing with a reasonably well known business, but having issues getting paid. I remained polite through all communications and provided details of which invoices were outstanding, when they were due, how long they were now overdue, and copies if requested. There were a series of reasons provided about why payment had not yet been made, and then steadily, one by one, each was paid over a period of weeks. So there’s the good news – payment came through ok.

Ready to rise again

A Choice to Make

I’d committed to shooting another job for them, but hadn’t received payment for the earlier jobs. What to do? I considered what was my best course of action, and perhaps they anticipated this as payment was made a few days before the job.

Turning Negative Experiences to Positive

So with a degree of uncertainty I shot the additional job – a 5 hour sports photography assignment shooting a cross country event. I was shooting alongside the owner of the business. How did I go about turning negative experiences to positive? It turns out I had many things in common with the owner of the business. Perhaps the biggest and most important was a common enjoyment of photography and sport. We got along reasonably well, and were able to put aside the slow payment issue and focus on doing a good job photographing the cross country event.

What Is the Positive?

There were three clear positives which came from this experience.

First was that I enjoyed the cross country photography assignment and made stronger industry contact in the process.

Second, while on the job I was asked if I could help with an additional job. This is the sign of a good relationship.

And third, payment from the cross country assignment came through 4 days after the invoice had been sent through. I am expecting that prompt payment will be the norm in the future.

There it is! Thanks for reading Turning Negative Experiences to Positive.

Preparing to Shoot Gymnastics

This week the Australian Gymnastics Championships start here in Melbourne, Australia. This is the national champs and is the highlight of the Australian gymnastics year. I’m shooting a big football job tomorrow, and at the same time am preparing to shoot gymnastics. Here’s a run down of the gear which will be in the bag from Monday.

Gymnast on Pommel horse
Gymnastics action is fast so we need gear that can keep up

Gear Considerations

I’ll be carrying all my equipment for this event, so gear selection is a balance between taking everything (!) and being able to carry it. One thing which is non negotiable is having backups in case of a gear failure. There will be a minimum of 2 DSLRs and 2 lenses in the bag. Unfortunately I won’t know the access my media accreditation gives me until I get to the event. This makes planning tricky. Last year I had full access to the gym floor, meaning close access to the athletes. I hope that is the case this year!

Lens Choices

My go to, and most used, lens is the 70-200mm f2.8. It will definitely be in the bag and will likely to be the lens which gets the most use.

Canon 70-200mm lens on dslr with red background
The 70-200mm lens will definitely be in the bag

I will likely only take one other lens to minimize the weight of my bag. That will be the 24-70mm f2.8.

Shoot Planning

Shoot planning is a key part of preparing to shoot gymnastics. At this stage I’m planning for access to the floor area like last year. I’ve studied my images from the previous national champs, planning for some I want to repeat, and some which I want to improve. This year I’m planning to shoot plenty of fast shutter speed “action freezing” images, more multiple exposures, and also to experiment with slower shutter speeds.

Minimal Weight

My key driver in preparing to shoot gymnastics is having enough equipment to get the job done, but also to minimize weight. The event runs every day for 2 weeks (though I’m not planning to attend it all) and so minimizing weight becomes even more important. The bag will have 2 lenses, 2 DSLRs, plenty of memory cards, back up batteries, battery chargers (to use between sessions), a cloth to clean lenses, food and a bottle of water. Thanks for reading – preparing to shoot gymnastics. Here’s to a great 2 weeks!

Gymnast in mid air above the beam
I’m looking forward to the spectacular action of the gymnasts

For more on photographing gymnastics please see Thoughts from Photographing a Major Gymnastics Competition.

Choose Your Photography Jobs Carefully

When you are starting out in a photography business it is exciting to pick up new clients and new jobs. In time, you learn that it is important to choose your photography jobs carefully. Some jobs are definitely better than others, and some clients are better than others. I’ve had a reminder of this in the last 4 weeks.

What’s Prompted the Reminder?

I’ve had a busy start to this year. I like being busy and shooting a lot, so this is the best ‘problem’ my photography business can have.

In the last 4 weeks I have shot a series of sports events (not related to the images in this post) and a wedding. The wedding was at short notice as the photographer was unwell. I took a risk by taking on a client I didn’t know very well. As it happens they are a lovely couple and had a beautiful outdoor wedding in a local park. The entire experience was enjoyable.

My sports photography work was shooting for another photographer to cover several events in different locations. The work is varied, challenging and enjoyable. The problem is that payment has been slow. I have done a series of jobs over February, March and April. Payment has been made on one invoice, but remains outstanding on the others.

What is the Lesson?

This experience has been a good reminder to choose your photography jobs carefully. A job which does not pay is not really a job at all. And a job which pays slowly can mean I spend more time following up payment than I did creating images! That’s a scary thought.

How to Choose Your Photography Jobs Carefully

This depends on exactly the type of work you do but I suggest:

  • Be sure the client’s expectations are aligned with your photography skills and experience
  • Agree and confirm the time commitments to create and deliver the images
  • Make clear the price which will apply and the time frame expected for payment
  • Be prompt in your invoicing and reconfirm the expected payment date
  • Where possible, collect payment in advance
  • Follow up to ensure payment is made

What’s Going to Happen with My Payment?

The business and people I am dealing with are reasonably well known. I am confident that I will get payment, but am not sure exactly when. It’s certainly not going to be in the time frames I expected. This has been a healthy reminder to choose your photography jobs carefully. I’ll be continuing to follow up until payments are made.

5 Tips for Photographing Basketball

I photograph a lot of basketball. Over the last 5 years this has mainly been kids basketball, and in the last 12 months much more senior basketball. Basketball can be tricky to shoot – it’s fast moving, players movements are unpredictable, and often it is in dark stadiums. Here are 5 tips for photographing basketball.

Tip #1 – Use Fast Shutter Speeds to Freeze Action

Basketball is a fast moving sport. In the junior age groups there is lots of running and dribbling. As the players get older there is more passing and shooting. Whether you are shooting juniors or seniors you’ll need to shoot at 1/1000s as a minimum to freeze the action and have sharp images.

Use fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. This shot is 1/2500s.

Tip #2 – Shoot Close Ups AND more Distant Images

The first image in this post shows a close up of the player as she drives to the basket with a defender right in her face. These make interesting images as they show what spectators can’t see in a fast moving game. Shoot plenty of close up, and don’t forget to shoot images which show more of the game, the court, the spectators and the scoreboard. Look to shoot a variety of images which show all aspects of the game, not just player close ups.

Shoot a wide variety of images at different focal lengths

Tip #3 – Look for People Interacting

Action makes great images, and interaction between people makes great images. Look for interaction between team mates, between one team and the other, between coach and players, and particularly between referees and coaches. Tip number 3, look for people interacting.

It’s very common for the referee and coach to have a discussion. Look for that interaction to create strong images.

Tip #4 – The Bench is a Great Source of Images

You may not always think to look to the bench, but ironically this is where you’ll find a lot of players. And where you find players you find interaction, communication and emotion. Take time to shoot the emotions you find on the bench.

Take time to shoot images of the bench. Here you’ll find a lot of interaction, communication and emotion.

Tip #5 – Shoot Close Up Details

My final tip is to shoot what a spectator can’t see from the stands – the close up details. It might be a player lacing up their shoes, the facial expressions in a timeout, or the moment before a free throw is attempted. Zoom in to see what a spectator can’t see – shoot the close up details.

Thanks for reading 5 tips for photographing basketball. Happy shooting.