Saturday, March 30, 2013

Anatomy Of A Stock Shoot

A despondent woman stands in corporate offices with a monkey on her back in this funny business photo.
The models for this stock photo of "A Monkey On Your Back" were shot  of  during three different shoots over a period of several months.

Many Ways To Shoot Stock Photos
There are probably as many ways to go about shooting stock photos as there are stock photographers. In the twenty odd years that I have been shooting stock my own approach has gone through numerous changes. As I have spent the last several days preparing for a shoot that I will undertake tomorrow I think that now is a good time to share my most recent approach.

Fine Tuning Shoots And Profit
Since the returns on stock photography have plummeted in the last few years I, like pretty much every other photographer I know, have fine-tuned my shoots with economy in mind. Keep in mind that my approach is simply my approach. There is nothing magical about it, but it works for me. One thing I can say about it is that I never fail to make a significant profit from one of these shoots…though it can take up to a year before the returns become “significant”.

A "Motivating" Idea
I start each shoot by coming up with an idea that I really want to execute. For this shoot that image started out as a dollar sign formed from people.  Once I have a “motivating” idea I create a shot list that expands on the original idea. My shot list for tomorrow’s shoot now has 24 image ideas not including variations of portraits and any of the inevitable spontaneous ideas that will no doubt come up.  Because creating a dollar sign from people involves twelve models, and to have them all in the studio at one time would be very inefficient, I am starting the first “installment” with three models. Most likely I will photograph the remaining nine models each in a separate shoot.  My “idea” list is all over the place. One shot will involve a woman throwing a man’s belongings out a second floor window…another involves a tug o war in an office cubicle (yeah…I do produce a lot of “corny” imagery…but I do try and make it entertaining and it does sell…).

Casting Models
BTW, I found these models on S.F. I am paying them $30.00 per hour with a two-hour minimum, and am providing them with digital copies of the photos for their portfolios.  I have used bank tellers, my loan officer, a restaurant hostess, waiters, and people I see on the street and friends and family as models. A great thing about bank employees is that they have good business attire! The important thing is to be clear with the models about what you doing and what you are paying and to always get the model release BEFORE you start shooting. I have asked the models to bring three changes of casual business clothes and to be camera ready (hair and make-up). I have extra clothing on hand from previous shoots (it is rare that the models actually show up with entirely satisfactory clothing).

Rehearsing The Shoot
I spent today "rehearsing" the shoot...working out the lighting and set-up for each shot including the sequence in which I would take them. On my shot list I included the various power pack settings ( I use a combination of ProFoto and Speedotron power packs), light placement, f stops and so forth. I also include check boxes for each set-up to insure I don't miss anything. At this point in my career I seldom, if ever, hire an assistant, so I put the camera, in this case a Nikon D800 (I also use Canon gear), on a camera stand, set the self-timer, and played stand-in. A slow process, but stress-free which is really important to me. No one to please or worry about except myself.  Tomorrow, for the actual shoot, I will have my partner Stephanie working with me…otherwise I would definitely hire an assistant for the day.

Raw Materials...For Years
After I finish, well, even before I finish shooting all of the models on succeeding days, I will be spending a lot of time putting images together.  Shooting these models will provide me the with basic raw materials I need to keep me busy making images for about two months and in some cases will provide raw materials for years down the road…assuming there will still be a need for stock photos years down the road!