Monday, June 14, 2010

Learning To Shoot Lifestyle Stock Photos

Blend Images and Lifestyle Images

In my last blog I mentioned that I learned to shoot lifestyle stock when I became involved with Blend Images. It was only with great reluctance that I agreed to join the group of photographers that founded Blend. Thankfully Shalom Ormsby and Trinette Reed twisted my arm until I said yes. The problem was that I had never shot lifestyle imagery…and not only would I need to do that for Blend, but I had to come up with 150 Royalty Free images in the first couple of months. It seems pretty funny now, but back then it had taken me ten years to come up with around 250 images…all rights managed. I had never even considered shooting an RF image. The idea of coming up with 150 lifestyle images in a couple of months seemed impossible. Seriously!

Camaraderie, Teamwork and Enjoyable Shoots
My first few attempts at lifestyle shoots were kind of pathetic. But I persisted and soon it became relatively easy. I say relatively because I still don’t think I am really suited well for it; my passion is for creating Photoshop intensive conceptual imagery. However, I can honestly say that at the end of the day I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of my lifestyle (I include business in this category) shoots. I love the sense of camaraderie and teamwork with the models and crew.

Confidence and Preparation

The biggest problem with lifestyle photography for me is really a lack of confidence. I am far more comfortable having a concept and a clear idea of how I am going to execute that idea. The antidote for a lack of confidence is preparation.  In my experience the more thoroughly I prepare for a shoot the better it turns out.  Following are some rules that I use to prepare for both my lifestyle and business shoots.

 1.    The most important thing is the location.

A location can make a shoot or break it. I prefer locations that are full of light, locations with large banks of windows. With great available light you can shoot more quickly and avoid time-consuming lighting. You can add supplemental lights to add interest to the image much more quickly than having to light the whole thing. Scout your locations with the quality and quantity of light in mind (and with your camera in hand). Tip: Get the property release in advance…and for that matter, the model releases as well!

 2.    The most important thing is the talent.
If you really, really want to be sure of your talent, have a casting call and get each potential model in front of the camera. Do they act naturally? Do they freeze up?  Also, if a model shows up to the casting call they are much more likely to show up for your shoot. Have them wear apparel like you want in the shoot. Tip: On the phone the models will tell you they have the clothes you want…they don’t.

 3.    The most important thing is your shot list.

Create a list that has more ideas than you can possibly do. If an idea isn’t working, drop it and move on to the next idea. Spend enough time to really get what your after, but avoid overshooting on a given shot. If new ideas come up during the shoot, that is great. One of the best things about shooting stock is that you can go with the flow! One useful idea is to base your shoot around a “day in the life”. Fore example, you can have a couple in bed, turning off the alarm clock, brushing their teeth, getting dressed for work…you get the idea. Tip: Create check boxes next to each idea and check them off as you go…in the heat of action it is easy to forget important ideas.
 4.    The most important thing is attention to detail:

Focus…stop and check after each major set of shots to make sure your images are sharp. Check the exposure Make sure that the collars are adjusted, ties are straight, hair the way you want it. Tip: If possible have someone on set just watching for wardrobe problems.
5.    The most important thing is having fun. 
I mean, if you aren’t having fun, what the heck is the point? If your having fun, everyone else will be too. Happy models will work harder and longer for you. They will want to work with you again…and the happiness will show in the photos. Tip: Check with your models to see if they have family and friends who will also want to model.

 6.    The most important thing: Rules are made to be broken!

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