I am in the process of significantly expanding my stock photography business, by contracting other photographers to shoot for me (I hinted at this in this post). We’re focusing on lifestyle images and are aiming to be the leading provider of images in our niche. A ‘go to’ source of lifestyle images if you like. Starting on this path, the early stages haven’t been as smooth as I expected. Some very technically strong photographers haven’t got the results I was expecting. Without wanting to sound too demanding (!) it seems some of the things I’ve learnt in 10 years of shooting stock don’t come without practice and preparation. So here’s some pointers – a photographers guide to lifestyle stock photo shoots.
Point #1 – No logos, trademarks or branded items
This is a very important point to get right. In shooting stock images you can’t have logos, trade marks or branded items. Why? Think about an image bought to be used in an advertising campaign. If it is full of logos, the owners of those logos may claim you are using their brand to help sell your product and take legal action against the image library or the photographer.
How to get this right? Make sure you’ve briefed your model, and then double check everything. If there are small logos visible, edit them out in post production. Check carefully on objects like buttons, earrings, smart phones and sunglasses.
Point #2 – No business signs, or brand names
Point #2 is similar to point #1. Look out for business names and logos in your backgrounds. This is especially important when you are shooting in crowded city settings.
How to get this right? Shoot at shallow depth of fields to ensure your background is blurred. A city background is fine where names and logos are not recognizable. I typically shoot at f2.8 in this kind of setting. If you are shooting at f2.8 and are not managing to blur the background sufficiently, typically it will be because you are not close enough to your subject. Get closer to the model.
Point #3 – All recognizable people must have model releases
The simplest way to do this is to have your model complete a model release and then make sure they are the only recognisable person in the image. You can still have people in the background as long as they are not recognisable. To maximise your chance of doing this, follow the tips in point #2, shoot at shallow depth of field and get close to your model.
Point #4 – Have a plan and keep moving
Shooting lifestyle stock images is a challenge to produce the largest amount of useful stock images in the time you have available for the shoot. I typically shoot for 2 hours and walk around key locations during the shoot. This generates a range of different backgrounds and a range of different shots. I will shoot up to 600 images during this time, and expect some where between 80 and 130 usable images.
How to get this right? If a particular shot isn’t working don’t dwell on it for too long. Move on. Find another location. Find a message for your image that the model is more comfortable with. Don’t get bogged down getting one image perfect, keep moving and generate a range of images that communicate a range of messages.
Point #5 – Use the environment around you
Lifestyle stock photography is evolving. In years gone past very generic imagery was all that was available as stock. While it still has a place, there is growing demand for imagery that ties the viewer to the location. Think about a lifestyle image of the place you live in – done well the viewer can imagine themselves in the exact spot the image was taken.
How to get this right? Let the location be seen in your image. Make the shot about ‘person in location’ not just about ‘person’.
Point #6 – Avoid artwork, graffiti, or tattoos
Artwork, graffiti and tattoos have people who own the copyright to that work. Like the issues with brands, avoid artwork, graffiti or tattoos in your stock images unless you have a release from the copyright owner. In most cases getting a release is unlikely or impossible so don’t waste time in your shoot in graffiti covered alley ways as you won’t be able to use the images.
I hope these points will help fast track your learning and mean you don’t end up with a large number of images that you can’t use in your stock portfolio. Thanks for reading this photographers guide to lifestyle stock photo shoots.