Thursday, April 30, 2009

Committment To Your Photo Shoots (And Photos!)

Networking and making connections through social media

Word on the street is that the “low hanging fruit” in the world of stock photography is gone, harvested by Micro stock and the glut in RF images. I don’t know if it is totally gone, but I certainly agree that the bar is being constantly raised. For those of us serious about making a living at stock photography, now is the time to bring a new commitment into our shoots. For me, that means being more disciplined, more organized and more prepared.

In the past I would throw together a shoot and not worry too much about getting the most out of it. I pretty much knew that whatever I shot was going to earn me money. My dilemma now is how to have increased efficiency without bringing in a dark cloud of concern, how to make each production dollar and minute be more productive without taking the fun out of my stock career. Keeping the shoots fun is very important to me. I didn’t get in to this business to have it become work! For me, success in stock photography is more than just money, it is also an interesting and fun lifestyle.

I pulled together a shoot last Saturday that is typical of my new way of working. I managed to still keep it fun while having it also be one of my most productive stock photography shoots to date. What I did differently: Checked my shot list with an agency art director (Blend Images); Rehearsed and set-up each lighting scenario ahead of time; Added a video component to the shoot; And hired an extra assistant with the understanding he would also do some modeling.

To keep it fun I kept the shoot to only five hours in length and allotted extra time for each set up. I also had a separate photographer there to shoot the video; all I had to do was add a couple of suggestions (I also provided the camera, lights, studio and models). Another very important ingredient to insure that I am having fun is to be working on shots that I am genuinely excited about. I am not concerned about squeezing every last drop out of a shoot, rather I want to have a well thought out production that gives me the resources to do the best possible job of creating images that are interesting to me, relevant to the marketplace, and as low-stress as possible.

I base my shoots around one or two central ideas; then fill the shot list out from there. The central image for me, with this shoot, was based on Social Networking or what is now called Social Media. The shot is comprised of endless hands reaching out to each other. In some cases the hands will be clasped in a handshake, in other cases the hands will be about to touch. The need for images illustrating Social Media is huge and growing. I wanted to create an image that could be used to illustrate and advertise themes based around the social networking groups such as MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like.

I ended up putting more prep time than usual into the shoot. I also hired more crew. The shoot ended up costing a bit more, but I was committed to the shoot and to the final images. In the long run, especially in these new more competitive times, the commitment to spending a little more money and a little more time (in this case pre-shoot set up) to get the best possible outcome will prove to be a very “economical” strategy…and a fun strategy as well!