So…how to work out what stock photography subjects to start shooting first
When thinking of ideas for stock shooting, don’t just think of a subject! Break it down into categories and even sub-categories, you will find an almost endless stream of ideas once you do this. Then when you add concepts and context, it gets even better…
Along with the saying “sex sells”, so does food. We see pictures of food everywhere and the food industry is huge but…so is the database of food images.
You will have to make sure that firstly, your images are spot on with regards to exposure, composition and interest and then make them different to what is already out there.
Rather than simply plonking a chicken pie on the table and shooting it, you will have to really study the industry, see what is selling, see which foods are “hot” and try to better what you see.
Add food in a context such as the fore-mentioned chicken pie on a wooden fence with a chicken coup in a “slightly blurry” background. Maybe add some steam coming off it in post processing. The technique in this next video isn’t perfect but it should give you a good idea of where to start when adding steam for example…
Note: This is a very quick illustration on how to do this, please feel free to perfect my pathetic attempts : )
Flick through home or recipe based magazines for ideas and even cut out some photos that you want to attempt to shoot. Study the images and try to figure out how that image was taken.
- What lighting did they use? Natural mostly I bet for home based stuff. Specialised food shots are sometimes shot in the studio with a really dark background, shiny base and powerful lighting…try that.
- How much depth of field is showing? What aperture did they use?
- What angle is it taken from and from what distance?
- What is in the background and how does it emphasise the image?
- Is there a series of images?
You see, when you look at images in depth, not only can you replicate or better them, but you normally find that you become inspired with fresh ideas. Repetition, practice and focus can all help you to improve your portfolio and techniques.
Now, if you are stuck for more ideas for shooting food images, let’s roll some out off the top of my head…(Disclaimer: I am not guaranteeing that these images will sell, these are just ideas that I may also try myself).
Huge industry and new images are always welcome. Again, think in context and add conceptual ideas. Grab some fresh coffee beans and set up a small table top scenario with the beans falling out of a small linen sack, two nice cups, maybe a plate of (unknown branded) biscuits and think of the background too.
Bake your own is the best way as you get to shape and decorate it how you want making it totally original (plus you get to eat it afterwards ; )
There are many, many cakes you can make and I was surprised to see a couple of years ago that some of my most simple macro shots of mince pies sold quite well!
Please note: ALL images on this page and website are copyright to Freefly Multimedia Ltd and must not be copied or used elsewhere. We regularly check for copying using various web tools…thanks : )
As I said, when you look at an image, try and work out the camera settings. This was taken with a Sigma 105mm Macro 2.8 and shot wide open at f2,8. Shutter speed was irrelevant as the camera was on a tripod in a constant, controllable light environment. There is barely any depth of field which buyers seem to like.
Health sells and food plays a huge part in fitness. Fruit images do well but again, think about how you can make them different. I have seen some stunning images with really original ideas and you can see why they would do well.
If you do a search for “fruit” on Dreamstime and then sort by “downloads-descending”, that will sort them by most popular. You should see this image placed at around the 6th most popular out of more than 2,000 images for the single keyword “fruit”…
This was taken and uploaded around 4 years ago and the reason I am highlighting this in particular is because as you see, the fruit plays such a small part in the image. The Kitchen is the “contextual” part of the shot but it still sells well.
Notice that all the lights are on too?
This was again, shot on a tripod meaning I could set the aperture for greater depth of field, ISO to 100 and not worry about the shutter speed. In fact, a slower shutter is good in this shot as it allowed the ambient lights to burn in for a more “homely” look.
For this shot (from a large shoot) I “borrowed our friends daughter in return for a full set of family portraits…
Taken with a 70-200mm lens at 200mm with a wide aperture to blow out the background. Notice how the shallow depth of field lets the eye concentrate on the subject?
…and this is my daughter, a few years ago now, in the “studio” (living room ; )
Of course, the health industry doesn’t only illustrate good foods but bad foods are also shown regularly.
- A shot of a kid in his school uniform tucking into a burger on the way home?
- A family feeding chips to the seagulls by the beach?
- Someone lazing on the couch lit by just the television whilst tucking into a curry or bag of crisps?
You could kill two birds with one stone here. Your keywords would include garden and food giving yourself twice as much chance of being found.
Picture someone, kids maybe, digging up spuds with a basket-full in the foreground. Or a person in a greenhouse tending to newly potted plants. Maybe a lady in a summer dress picking blackberries from a bush.
Note: To be honest with you, as I am researching and writing this I am becoming more and more motivated to get out there myself! I hope you are feeling the same?
Now here is a simple shot, no big set up needed but it has sold (to date) 122 times at Dreamstime alone, with myself being number 122 (it cost me $9 to add this to the tutorials but that is cool as I know the photographer will get half)!
So the sales of just this one image at Dreamstime, combined with all other sites have probably earned the photographer a couple of hundred Dollars plus, and as I said before, once its online it just sells with no extra work needed from you!!!
So, if you have a greenhouse in your garden and access to some kids, grandparents or anyone really, you could set up any number of shots and never leave your home! Try shallow depth of field and close-ups too!
Booze (Wine, Beer etc)
Again, a huge topic that covers so many areas. Partying, health, danger (drink driving)…
I spent an afternoon with just three bottles of wine (like you do) when I got started in stock. I tried to think of as many variations as I could with such a simple set up. These images sell, not amazingly so but they earn a few Dollars here and there. More importantly, I learned a lot about studio lighting and patience during that day.
I plan to re-shoot this whole set with a completely different theme and set up one day. I think the plain background just doesn’t work for most people as it is neither completely white and isolated or holding any interest in context with the wine.
You can expand on this theme (alcohol) in so many ways and add all sorts of concepts…let your mind wander and jot down ideas as you get them. In fact, that is something I should mention. Always keep a notebook handy wherever you are, you never know when inspiration will strike and you will want to remember it.
Foods of the world
Whenever you travel outside of your own country, look at the foods available. There are some amazing shots to be had in restaurants and the wonderful, colourful markets of the world.
So you see, when you really start to think about it, food photography is endless. We as humans are constantly changing our diets and thoughts about what is and what isn’t good for you. There is always a new theme or concept to shoot with food.
Open your eyes to what is around you and what you eat yourself. Try contextual and conceptual shooting. Try macro. Try different and crazy angles or lighting set ups. Get away from the norm and make your images stand out from the crowd.
Objects or subjects on white (isolated background) have been done to death!
Note: I have included quite a few photos here with a $ value as to what they have sold for at Alamy. I have done this to both motivate you and illustrate just how easy it can be to sell average images for top Dollar.
Similar or better images would do well with greater volumes of sales at microstock websites if you get it right. Start now and build up a large online portfolio! If you get shots rejected at Microstock or if you think some are particularly good and worth more, upload those to Alamy or at another traditional library if you get in.
If you want to shoot daily objects against a white background, make sure they are different. What many people did in the early days of stock was to look around their homes, pick something up and shoot it. Then when the isolation technique came about, everyone was shooting against a white background.
The theory is, and it is probably right to a degree, that designers like this effect because for one it allows room for text placement around an image and secondly, it allows the designer to “drop in” any background that he likes.
I must admit, as a test I gave it a go way back in 2005 with a ridiculous object…my old, worn out mouse and guess what? It was accepted and has actually sold a few times on most of the agencies! Earned its keep seeing as it took all of less than a minute to set up and shoot.
Then I added the kids…
Now I am not saying this is what you should spend your time on but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. Just think of something radically different. Here is a very quick video of a very crude and simple set up!
…and here is a slightly more complex set up using backdrops…
…and if you really want to get arty, this shot took me the best part of a day to shoot and process.
It made it into The Times newspaper, various magazines and won me the title of “Commercial Photographer of the Year 2005” with the SWPP and BPPA.
It sold 4 times at Alamy in the same year making nearly $800 so the work was worth it in the end.
You can see how I did it here. Check out the appalling original “snapshot” taken before I got asked to stop by the supermarket staff!
Other forms of still life (without the white background) could literally be anything. Again, think of a theme…
and then maybe add some human interest…(1 copy of this sold for $359)
Now think of other objects such as taps…
…drinks (back to food again…this sold for $108)
Food (it’s everywhere)…
…more food (with a jar)! This was a very early shot of mine with the Canon EOS 1D Mark II (8mp) and 16-35mm lens. Settings – 60th/sec at f4 and ISO 200, a real starter shot. I just used a white sheet as a background and bounced flash…ah, the early days of digital and stock.
It sold for $297 at Alamy.
Probably wouldn’t be accepted nowadays but don’t fret, you just need to improve on this kind of thing and you are away.
…and don’t just think of objects in the house, get out and about and shoot everyday objects with a difference such as fence shapes…
…environmental objects (passing car used to emphasise the size)…
… signposts (great for a magazine cover…
…more signs or symbols…(this sold for $362)
…beach objects…(sold for $439)
I think you are getting the idea here.
Whenever you are out and about, look for objects of all shapes and sizes. Look at how the light is hitting it and move about to recompose or come back later if necessary. Think of the weather and how it affects the shot. Would it look better in the sun, overcast or rain?
If you don’t have a camera with you, make a note of things you see (in your notebook) and where they are so you can return another day when either the time or light is right. I do this all the time!
When shooting objects and still life, think about what it is “saying”. Why would someone want to buy it? Remember to leave some space around it and think about the composition. Is a designer likely to want to add text to the image?
Sometimes, you can completely throw those rules and thoughts out of the window because here is something that may surprise you (and is a reason to take your camera everywhere). I took this image whilst jumping out of my car to go into a shop…it just stood out at me.
I uploaded it to Alamy and not long later a 4 MB, 916 x 1508 pixels, 318 KB compressed version sold for $176!
This image of a truck with the logos removed was taken whilst out at the funfair with the family, it sold for $272!
So listen to me when I say take your camera everywhere! Again, digital is free…so fire away.
You must make sure that images are cropped well with no distractions other than what the image needs to enhance it. You can see the tight cropping in the examples above, the van and bike are dominating the image as there was nothing around them that would improve or enhance them.
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