Sunday, October 25, 2009

Finding Props for Stock Photo Shoots

Props are one of the key items that can make or break an image for stock photography. Some props just add clutter, others are cheesy, and every prop at some point, becomes outdated. Beware of props that add a current touch to an image, as they can also make the image quickly outdated, such as stylish glasses, women's pointed shoes, hairstyles, and the list goes on and on. Coffee mugs, flower arrangements, cell phones, and the like can get you into trouble just as well. I keep learning to shoot images of people with more traditional clothing, so the style lasts a little longer. I also try and leave the shoes out of the image if possible, because they can be a dead giveaway as to the time frame the photo was taken.

Some props are more timeless. A few years back, I was in a costume shop and stumbled into this hat, at upper left. It was part of an Uncle Sam costume. I rented it for the weekend for just a few bucks, and then made my way to drain my ATM. I shot this over the weekend and I think it's a good example of a prop that may sell time and time again. The concept of government waste is timeless, so this has turned out ot be a popular image.

Other props such as furniture, office equipment, and medical equipment are an entirely different story. Many cities have "prop houses" which rent all kinds of props for theater and film. You can check google or your local listings for the prop houses in your area. Many times, you can just make a deal with someone in charge of props at the local theater company. Another suggestion is to look in furniture stores. Most will allow you to purchase the furniture and then return it for a nominal fee.

One day while out looking for cool props, I found a 6x5 lime green shag rug for $500. I explained to the store owner why I needed the rug, and we agreed on 10%, so in this case, it was $50. I found the chair at another furniture store that has a wonderful return policy, so I was able to use the chair and then return it at no charge. I make certain I use the store for my personal purchases to make it up to them, and they are fine with the arrangement. I simply hung the rug using it as a back drop, and it worked great.

I always purchase the furniture on a credit card and then return for a percentage of the original bill. If you damage the furniture in any way, it is not returnable, so there is risk you can wind up with some pretty funky furniture unintentionally. I have a few things myself.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Casting Models for Stock Photography

In my last blog, I gave a few ideas of how to find models for stock photography. The next step is picking the right model your image concept. This is one of the most important steps, because if the model does not convincingly sell your concept idea, the image will not sell. Resources, such as your time, props, editing, and retouching are all getting increasingly more expensive as time goes on, so picking the wrong model is a waste of time and energy. Everyone makes wrong choices when it comes to hiring models, and yes, I still continue to make gigantic mistakes. It's a learning process and you learn as you go. It's all part of shooting stock photography.

One suggestion, is to have a pretty solid idea of what type of image you are trying to produce. If it is a youth lifestyle photo shoot, try thinking though a range of ideas, so you have the concept in mind as well as how you are going to accomplish your goals for the shoot. After conceptualizing your idea, it will be much easier to pick a model.

Another suggestion is to think in terms of the keywords that will sell the photo. You are already keywording your images, so why not think in terms of the most relevant 3 or 4 keywords? For example, when picking keywords for the image above and to the right, I chose the keywords of wholesome, adorable, lively, and fun. With the keywords in mind, you can begin to look through the model portfolios, and match up the concept/theme with a face. It is certainly not a fool proof plan, but it helps to put things into perspective.

For the image left, the keywords might have been summer, kids, fun and play.

Remember to consider, most models look different than the photos in their portfolio, this is especially true with child models. Many times, the model is a few years older and much bigger, which can create stress on shoot day. I get around this by having a pre-shoot meeting in which I meet the model or models with my makeup artist. This way, there are no surprises on shoot day, and it allows me to put a live person into the concept in my head. From there, I am able to work further on the concept mentally before shoot day.