Thursday, October 29, 2009

Creating A Compelling Stock Photo

Diversification And A Primary Focus
There is just no getting around the fact that we are drowning in images and it will only get worse.  As any of you who regularly read this stock photo blog will know, this is something I think about constantly, along with how stock photographers can continue to thrive in such an environment.  I believe in diversification, which in this context, for me, means creating royalty free and rights manage imagery and distributing those images through several agencies. But I have a primary focus. My primary focus is on rights managed images.

Focusing On Rights Managed

There are several reasons I am focusing on rights managed images. First, I believe that overall the payment for those images is more commensurate with the value a user of that imagery receives. That is, for important uses, the price point is higher. Secondly, my percentage is higher. I get twice the percentage for RM as I do for RF. Thirdly, if the pirating of images is ever curbed it will probably be primarily, if not exclusively, for rights managed images.  That reason, however, might be wishful thinking. Who knows.

Compelling Photos And Premium Prices
So, given that my priority is rights managed imagery, and given that there is a lot of resistance out in the market to using rights managed imagery, I want to create photos that are so compelling that people will want to use those images badly enough to use the rights managed system and to pay premium prices. But what makes a picture compelling? It can be a lot of things. It can be that the photograph is unique in its content, or has a style that sets it apart, or perhaps it is just that the image is perfect for a particular users need.

Information And Data Management
The idea for this image came from a topic that seems to be very much on every photographer's mind; data management. Particularly as stock photographers we have to deal with storage, retrieval, tracking, uploading, and tagging our digital assets.  We have to enter metadata, track sales and, heck, even pay attention to our social media efforts. Information, data and digital asset management takes a huge chunk of my available time, and so it is reasonable to conclude it must be something that every business is struggling to keep on top of. In my mind that means that there is a market for imagery that addresses information management and technology as a general concept.  There is opportunity here to create images that can both stand out from the crowd (hey, another great concept) and be applicable to a wide range of products and services.

Intention, Streaking Lights And Information Flow

I gave myself the intention of coming up with an image that would illustrate a futuristic sense of data management and technology that would be appropriate for a large range of applications. Then I began to go through my files (I use bridge because I am too lazy to learn Lightroom or the various other programs available) and look for something that might spark my imagination.  I came across this cool shot of streaking lights at night that seemed to me could illustrate data or information flow.  I began to "play" with the image to see if I could make it look as if it were streaking through an urban environment.  After about an hour-and-a-half of trying different combinations of images I realized that what might really make the image come together was a person.  At that point I put the half-complete image into an "ideas" folder and decided to complete it after shooting a model in an appropriate pose.

A List, A Model And Getting To Work

Two weeks later (last week) I was ready to hire a model to use for this and a number of other ideas. I like to create a list of ten to twenty ideas and then do a shoot to get the parts for them.  Last Saturday I photographed the model. Yesterday I got around to stripping her out, pasting her into the streaking light image and getting to work.  I spent about three hours noodling with the image before I felt it was complete.

Flexible Cropping, A Sense O Place And Motion
A couple of points that I feel are important.  As I referred to in an earlier stock photo blog, I created the image so that it could be cropped as a vertical or horizontal, as a spread in a magazine, or as a magazine cover. It can work as a billboard or in a newsletter. The image is a bit busy at thumbnail size, but its square crop insures a maximum footprint when viewed on a stock site, and the story can still be grasped quickly.  By having a hint of a city skyline in the background the image is given a "sense of place" which is an important plus for a stock photo. Tom Grill, a true master of stock photography, is fond of saying that "motion sells" and the streaking lights give us that sense of motion.

Headlines, Art Directors And Designers

The woman is re-directing the flow of information and apparently pleased at what she is doing. The image can adapt easily to various headlines such as "Get A Handle On Your Data Management" or "Information Distribution At Your Finger Tips". I will quit with the mock headlines before I lose too many readers! Perhaps most importantly, I haven't seen this approach done by any one else yet. I believe it to be new, fresh, attention getting and relevant to a need in the marketplace.  I just hope art directors, art buyers and designers agree with me!

Intention, Interesting Images, And A Targeted Shoot
To kind of sum things up, I set my intention to come up with an information technology stock photo. I utilized a collection of interesting images I keep on hand, for possible inclusion in stock photo composites, to help come up with an idea. With an idea in mind (actually a list of approximately fifteen ideas in this case) I hired a model and did a very targeted shoot.  As I composited the image I kept in mind important criteria for a successful image. Last, but not least, before I left my studio yesterday I submitted the image to a stock agency.  Now on to the next one!

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