Have you ever opened a brochure and seen, for example, beautiful people having fun on the beach with happy smiling faces? Or an item against a white (or colored) background?  This is stock photography.

Stock photography encompasses many different objects for many different uses but they all have something in common.  The photo helps to sell a product or service.  It has a message behind it.  Happy, smiling faces on the beach might be a great way to sell a resort destination whilst an image of a pumpkin against a black background might not be.  But the pumpkin might help promote a Halloween party where the happy, smiling faces will not.

Stock photographs tend to be technically perfect.  What kind of graphic designer or advertiser would want an image that is not lighted well or is under or over exposed to help sell their product?  Good lighting, the right setting, proper focus and good composition are all taken into account when setting up for a stock photography shoot.

Some companies will hire a photographer to take photographs of certain things for their campaign. While this is expensive, the company is ensured to get the photographs they need with exactly the right composition. On the other side of the coin are stock photography sites such as istockphoto and shutterstock that have massive libraries of images and many thousands of contributing photographers.  These mass sites can afford to sell their stock images at extremely cheap rates.  All the buyer needs to do is type their keywords into the search engine and scroll through the relevant photos until they find the image that suits their needs.

It’s up to the individual, or company, which way they choose to get their stock images but most design and advertising companies have accounts with at least one stock photography website and if they can’t find what they are looking for on there then it’s usually a last resort to hire a photographer for the day, unless of course it’s an extremely specialized photo they are looking for.

Stock photography is an extremely competitive business and for most photographers it accounts for only a small percentage of their yearly income.  There are a select few who have been able to make a good living from it but these photographers are very rare and extremely good at their craft.

To become good at stock photography takes a lot of time and patience.  A big portfolio helps (10000+ images) but sellable photos work even better.  A portfolio of 10000 images is no good if they are images no one wants.  Good stock photographers play to the markets and produce what the market wants, when they want it.  Christmas images and other major event photos are all prepared, shot and uploaded to the respective stock libraries months in advance and then promoted heavily in the weeks leading up to that occasion.  It’s not good enough to only start shooting christmas images in the weeks before christmas because it becomes a big rush and this shows through in the images.  Good images are well prepared beforehand.

And that’s probably the major rule with stock photography… Preparation!  The photo itself should only take a fraction of the time it took to set it all up.  The right lighting, background and composition should take precedence over just pointing and taking the shot.

Don’t rush it.  Good stock photos take time to prepare.

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