Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stock Photo Success By Thinking Inside The Box

Classic picture of a patient in a body cast and traction

Sometimes thinking inside the box can work extremely well for stock photographers. After all, most of us think inside the box most of the time, and if we, as stock photographers, can create images that take advantage of that thinking, then we have a good chance for a great selling image. A good example of this is seen in the case of clichés.

A cliché is something that is very familiar to all of us, so familiar that it must have some basis in truth, or perceived truth, and, like going into Starbucks, can have that comforting feeling of the familiar. If you can find the right cliché and illustrate it in a new and interesting way, then thinking inside the box can really pay off.

In the example I have here, we have all seen cartoons of patients in a body cast and traction. We all have a mental picture in our minds from those cartoons, a stereotypical image that probably doesn’t actually exist in real life. I did a search on the major stock sites and found only a smattering of body cast images, none of which matched that ubiquitous cartoon version that resides in our heads.

I arranged for permission to shoot in a surgery center. My associate, Stephanie Roeser, created a body in a plaster cast using pipe insulation and, plaster impregnated gauze purchased from a medical supply company. I photographed the body cast prop in position on a hospital bed in the recovery room. Next I lay down on the bed and had Stephanie photograph me. Then it was a simple matter to use Photoshop to add my fingers, toes, eyes and nose to the cast double.

The finished image works for a wide variety of concepts in business to business (B2B), consumer advertising, and even editorial use. This “traction” image even goes beyond medical and pharmaceutical categories one would expect. It can be used to illustrate themes such as dependency, catastrophe, and risk. Creative art directors will no doubt be able to find yet other uses for the image (one of the fun things about shooting stock is seeing the cool ways other creatives use your work).

Thinking outside the box is a great goal, but sometimes thinking inside the box can produce some pretty good results. Learn to leverage those visuals that are familiar to your potential audience and your stock photos will be in demand for a very long time.

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