Stock Photography

Some Pretty Good Tips

I like tips – the kind that show you the right path to take, to avoid – well, to avoid taking the wrong path.

Last month, I came upon a seminar going on in the hotel I was staying in. It was on stock photography, so I thought I’d peek in. I didn’t know the instructor, but she was giving out some pretty good tips – so I sat in a seat in the back of the room and listened in for a bit.

She was saying, “Most beginning stock photographers are shy and don’t move in close enough. Notice how close the pros get with their cameras. You’ll know you’re close enough to people you’re photographing when you can see the color of their eyes.

“The best guides on how to take editorial stock photos are the very magazines and books themselves.

The pictures in the publications exhibit certain characteristics: They evoke a mood. Their composition is bold in design (no cluttered background or extraneous distractions). Also, since an editorial illustrative photo is not a documentary photo, there’s no need to tell the whole story.

Don’t insult the reader’s (viewer’s) intelligence. You want to allow the viewer to ‘read into’ the picture – allow the reader to be engaged in the picture’s meaning.

“These are tips to make your picture-taking more efficient. Follow them and you’ll soon be able to match the fine story-telling quality of the pros.

"Any creative work involves the venerable ‘form and content.’ I’ve shown you the form, or ‘format’ of an editorial stock photo. However, I can’t give you the ‘content’ – that’s up to you. That’s the ‘spirit’ of the photo. That’s the secret only you can discover for yourself. Each photographer will bring a special spirit to his or her photographs.”

THE CRITIQUE

Then the instructor presented a slide show of images that the attendees had brought along for critique. The audience appeared to be people who were just starting out in editorial stock photography.

I’ve noticed that newcomers often seem to make the same mistakes in composing their editorial stock photos.

The students usually arrive with prize-winning calendar-type scenics or slick ‘posed’ commercial shots, complete with highly-paid models.

The postcard-type pictures the attendees had brought were great shots, but the instructor let them know that if they want to become editorial stock photographers and selling to books and magazines, they’ll need some “retraining.”

Their photos may have won blue ribbons, but photobuyers won’t be interested in those shots. Buyers have those calendar-type pictures hanging on the walls of their offices, but they are writing checks for editorial stock photos.

At the break, I hung around and mingled with the attendees – there were about 25 or so. After speaking with several of them I came away with the feeling that no one I spoke with learned anything. Each one had brought along with them an entrenched mindset of what editorial stock photography is. That mindset picture did not match the professional realities the speaker was revealing. Each of those folks arrived with their preconceived notions, and they evidently were going to go home with them.

As an editorial stock photographer you are going to find much more enjoyment when you are photographing subject matter that you like to take. Learn more about how to sell those pictures at PhotoSource International and the PhotoSourceBANK, Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Rohn Engh is director of and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. E-mail: info[at]photosource[dot]com Fax: 1 715 248 3800; www.photosource.com

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