Composition – Macro, wide, cropped, up, down, in, out…
Composition also plays a huge role in your stock images, remember, these are not just snapshots for the family album, these have to be the best they can.
You must think about both the subject and the background at all times when shooting stock, this will separate you immediately from the snapshot brigade!
Ok, you have thought of a subject that you know is a good seller because you have done your research. You have the tools, the props, the kit and you have “mapped out” the shoot by doing a timeline.
Do not simply fire away even if you have the lighting perfect and all is looking good.
Really look at and study your subject. Would a different angle enhance the shot you are trying to get? Would a wide angle lens add impact to the subject? How about both?
A low angle shot with a wide angle lens could add real “oomph” to the image as opposed to simply shooting as is with a standard lens. If in doubt, shoot and submit both…the agencies will decide which one, if not both is more likely to sell!
For example, you may remember my efforts at posing for these images using natural light and a 50mm lens…
Well, there’s no reason why you can’t put on a 16mm super wide angle lens and place the camera on the floor for a completely different perspective…
Have a play, practice and experiment!
The same applies to travel shots or any outdoor shots come to that. When you come across a particularly interesting subject/object that you want to shoot, don’t do the tourist thing and shoot it from where you stand, that will have been done to death. Look around.
Are there any higher viewpoints you can see where you can go to shoot it from, even if it means using a telephoto lens. Can you add something else to the foreground or background to emphasise and enhance the main subject? Is there anything nearby that will enhance the shot such as a passing horse and cart?
Should you use a wide aperture to kill the background completely, a little or not at all? Anything you can do to distinguish yourself against the typical shot that most other people would have got will no doubt lead to more sales.
If shooting people, the angle of view from which you photograph them could also have an impact on whether an image sells or not. Sometimes a full frontal facial will work and sometimes it won’t…it depends on what you are trying to “say” in the image.
For example, if you think the image would be good for the cover of a fashion or make up magazine, a colourful, frontal and evenly lit image of a heavily “made up” model would sell well. If the person is in context with another object such as a telephone, laptop or iPod, she may need to be further back and shot from an angle that accentuates the overall message.
So once again, before you fire away, really think about your shot:
- How can it be used
- Where can it be used
- Who will use it
- What are you trying to “say”
- What is the most important aspect of the image
- Shallow or deep depth of field
- and so on…
Once you start to think like this, more ideas come to mind and I recommend that you jot those ideas down.
A simple and relatively inexpensive piece of kit such as the macro lens could open up a whole new world of stock for you. Not many people opt for a macro lens in the beginning but adding one of these to your “arsenal” of lenses early on will serve you well.
A good macro lens will allow you to get closer to your subject than ever before and you can pick out the extreme finer details of whatever it is that you are shooting.
Look around you at everyday objects. Now look again and get closer…look at the fine detail and imagine how it would look from a macro point of view.
The opportunities with macro really are endless and this is still a relatively specialised area of photography. It may even be worth investing in a set of macro speedlights such as these at B & H or Amazon.
Just remember that when shooting macro, your depth of field is seriously reduced so be careful with your focussing. Also, use a good, sturdy tripod and learn to use the mirror lock up feature of your camera to reduce vibration caused by the mirror flipping up during exposure.
Very, very important and something that a lot of people don’t think about.
If you are shooting against a white background or creating “on white/isolated” images, make sure the background is 100% white. Don’t rely on your monitor to check this, use Photoshop or whatever imaging software you are using by clicking the eyedropper tool and testing all areas of the white background. The result should be 255, 255, 255 in the RGB settings (pure black is 0, 0, 0).
When shooting any other image, always make sure to check all four corners of the image as well as the general background. Do you want it blurred or sharp, clear or with additional details, people or no people and so on.
Whichever type of stock you shoot or intend to shoot, always think of the composition and as a safeguard, always leave a little “extra” space around the subject. It is easier for you to crop away any space than to try an add it later. Also, the designers sometimes want dead space on an image for them to add text.
Look at this image as an example:
It has sold well over 100 times and made more than that in Dollars (and is still selling), so for a quick snapshot taken on the beach whilst there with the family, not too bad!
The colours are attractive and bright, the subject is simple with no need for anything else and there is plenty or space for text. Holiday brochure cover?
Next Page – Camera Settings