06 May 2010 The New Business of Microstock – Three Distinct Methods for Success
The ‘New Business of Microstock’ session at iStockalypse Cannes provided insight into three very diverse stock photo production businesses. The three speakers each shoot different subjects, with different objectives, and different business models. They’re all accomplished iStockphoto contributors so their advice and tips were well received by the audience.
Here’s what they had to say:
Alexey primarily shoots models in studio, focusing on beauty and fashion. Here’s the summary of his tips:
- It’s not expensive to start out shooting for microstock. You can create ‘home made’ images in your house. Choose the biggest space you have available.
- Post-processing is the second half of the ‘art’ of photography. It can’t be done by others.
- Even photographers with professional make-up artists do a lot of post-processing. Don’t be afraid if re-touching takes six hours per image.
- When starting out, use friends and family as models so you’re relaxed and can focus on the photography.
- Models must have relaxed lips, slightly open. They also need to be ‘unavailable’, with high attitude.
- As you move up to the second level and move out of your home, find the biggest available space. This helps you do more with lighting and you can raise your quality higher and faster.
- Models are left alone and bored whenever you’re looking at the back of your camera. Be aware of this and keep in touch with the model.
- Alexey shoots 600 images per shoot and just chooses one to upload.
- Instructing models in detail on how to move and making corrections makes their poses unnatural. Natural poses are more desirable.
- Great lighting can be achieved with a single light and a reflector.
- The best school is experimentation.
- The quality of an image is more about the content of the image rather than the technical aspects.
- Working with a make-up artists provides the biggest jump in the quality of your photos. But be aware that make-up artists are creative people and want to have input into the ‘art’. You need to manage this and talk with all people who have creative input.
- When working with a professional team, the best models will want to work with you.
Joan is an ideas man. That’s his strength and he works with it. This is his advice:
- There are two types of photographers: good ones, and yourself. The first step is desire with inferiority. Ambition is critical. You need to want to be the best photographer in the world to get good.
- Be conscious about what photography schools tell you about becoming a professional photographer. Joan said they laughed at him when he said he wanted to become a professional.
- Schools tell you how to shoot but not what to shoot.
- If you shoot every day, you will eventually get good.
- There’s a big difference between concept and story. Everyone tries to shoot concepts. Go beyond the theme / topic of the image and show what happened before and what will happen after.
- A story can save a picture but a concept will never save a picture. A concept is one of many ingredients, but the story is the complete recipe.
- The story is what is remembered. Hollywood films have the best actors and the best production, but the stories are rarely memorable.
- Images can create more questions than answers.
- Create an atmosphere that matches the idea of the image.
- There’s also a big difference between stereotypes and characters. A character is a step beyond a stereotype. He or she has personality – something that makes him or her different.
- Characters are real people, not mannequins. They need to be credible.
- When everyone else is shooting stereotypes, you will make more money creating characters.
- Create ideas and keep a notebook to record them. Put everything in the notebook. Ideas evolve. They might not be great initially, but keep them evolving until they are. There are no bad ideas. Just better and worse ideas, and more developed and less developed ideas.
- The best source of ideas is your own life.
- Ideas are like Bonsai. They are small and detailed, not big and expensive.
- Stock photographers are no longer just photographers because they shoot the photos they want to shoot. They are now art directors too.
- Joan still rarely shoots with professional models. He continues using his family and friends.
- Stock photographers shoot much more regularly and have larger portfolios than most other types of photographers. Use that to your advantage.
caracterdesign. From Barcelona, Spain – Exclusive Black Diamond canister level contributor and site administrator.
Eva is another graphic designer turned photographer. She’s been with iStockphoto since 2004 and the photo of her daughter blowing a dandelion, above, is iStock’s top selling photo with over 18,000 downloads so far.
- Always get releases for locations. Even in public, get permission to shoot to avoid problems.
- Explain to the model what the shoot is about. Send the release at the time of requesting their services and have them send it back signed before the shoot date.
- Time for Prints (TFP) & Time for CD (TFCD) are ok for small productions but not so much for big productions.
- Be careful with TFP tax implications. You may need to declare the expense and service both ways and at market value to comply with laws.
What Works for You?
Given the different methods and styles of these three photographers, much of the advice conflicts. You need to take what works for you and leave what doesn’t. Which tips can you integrate into your production and workflow?