Monthly Archives: April 2015

Why I Shoot Stock

This week I’ve been fielding lots of questions about stock photography. Those questions ranged from what rates to pay models, to the best stock libraries to work with, to what is the best sort of content to shoot. The answer to those questions vary with each photographer and what you like to shoot. To set a foundation to answer those questions for yourself, I’ve outlined here ‘Why I Shoot Stock’.

First it’s important to understand that stock photography only makes up a component of my photography income. I am not a full time stock photographer. Many of the points I make below I would take a different point of view if I were a full time stock shooter. Stock is an important foundation to my photography business, and makes up one part of an overall strategy.


Stock makes up an important part of a wider strategy

So, this is ‘Why I Shoot Stock’

1. Stock generates a consistent income year round. Outside of stock photography, I primarily shoot weddings and portraits. Both of these have significant seasonality. I live in Melbourne, Australia and most of my weddings and portraits are local. Down here at the bottom of the world we have hot summers and cold winters. This brings seasonality to my work especially in wedding photography. I am typically busy in spring, less so in mid summer, and busy again in autumn. Winter tends to be very quiet. There are not many people getting married in the darker and colder months of June, July, and August. On the other hand, stock photography provides a consistent income all year round. There are some ups and downs between months, but for the type of content I shoot, the demand is steady year round. That means my downloads and income from royalties are also consistent.


In stock photography, I work on the image. The stock library looks after the sales and marketing.

2. The stock library looks after the sales and marketing. With my wedding photography I look after everything from meeting with potential clients, building a relationship, quoting, pre wedding preparation, shooting on wedding day (with a second shooter!), post production work, delivering images, organizing prints and albums, and delivery of the final products. It is a ‘full service’ proposition and I look after each step of the journey. Stock photography is different. I look after the shoot planning, shooting, post production, and uploading to the stock library. Then they take over. They look after marketing images to potential clients, the download process, the payment from the client, the licencing agreements for use of the file, and any client inquiry or complaint. They also look after payment to the photographer, which happens automatically. For me, the simplicity of this model works well. I shoot and upload, the stock library looks after everything else. That’s why they keep a percentage of the price paid by the end customer.

3. Stock gives me leverage. With my wedding photography work, there is a limit to the number of weddings I can shoot per year. Even with a number of really good second shooters, there is a limit to the number of clients we can look after. And they are nearly all local to Melbourne. Stock on the other hand allows potential sales worldwide and, in a lot of cases, my stock sales happen when I am asleep. They are selling to clients in the USA and Europe during their day time hours, which is in the middle of the night in Australia.

4. Shoot once, sell multiple times. When I shoot a wedding, the income from that wedding only comes once. Now and then a couple order additional items for their first anniversary or another occasion, but mostly the wedding produces an income for me just once. Stock is different. I started shooting stock in 2008. Today, files from 2008 are still producing an income. I love the idea that if I can develop a strong concept, and execute it well, then it can keep selling for years. A single stock image can generate an income multiple times.


Stock photography allows me flexibility. I am not dependent on the client for when I can shoot.

5. Costs today, income tomorrow. Combined with the point above – with stock photography I incur my costs associated with producing the files today. I receive no income until into the future. Some people don’t like this model – they like to be paid today for the work they have done. On the other hand, I like the concept that my costs are incurred today, but my income from those costs is spread out into the future. As my portfolio grows I am building an asset which has value to me in the future. It is the basis for a revenue stream in the years ahead. I like the concept of ‘planting’ now and ‘harvesting’ later.


In portrait and wedding photography, I work to the clients timetable.

6. I work to my own timetable. When I shoot a wedding for a client I plan around meeting their needs. That means I work to their timetable and to their brief. I work hard to make sure I understand their needs and then exceed them. If they really want a shot of the first kiss with a fish eye lens from an upstairs balcony – I’ll do my best to get it for them. By necessity I work to the timetable they set out. In stock, the timetable is all mine. If I have a brilliant idea in the middle of the night and want to get up and shoot it straight away, I can. If I want to work long hours and uploads hundreds of files per week, I can. And if I want to take a holiday and do no stock shoots for 3 months, I can. In stock, I can work to my own timetable. I can work as much or as little as I want to.

7. I can shoot a wide variety of subjects. Image libraries don’t care that I mainly shoot weddings. As long as my images are up to the technical requirements they set, I can shoot any subject matter. I like this variety and flexibility. There are times of the year after a series of weddings where I need a break from shooting with people all day. It’s especially at these time that I enjoy shooting wildlife images and relaxing outdoors. Stock allows me to do this while still being productive. Win, win.

If you have read some of my earlier posts about stock photography you will know that I value the stock photography model as a key part of my business.

Thanks for reading why I shoot stock. If you would like additional information, please see the previous posts I have written about stock photography. The most popular have been Starting in Stock Photography and Simple Stock Concepts. I also have an ebook called Build A Five Figure Income in Your Spare Time. It is for the photographer who is full of enthusiasm and needs a little guidance and encouragement. It goes into more detail on my own stock photography journey and the lessons learnt along the way. You can download it here for $5.

Thanks again for reading ‘why I shoot stock’. Happy shooting.

What Do You Need for a Mobile Photography Studio

Producing high quality portraits in different environments can be challenging. There can be issues with lighting, backgrounds, even models! So, how do we have the best chance of creating strong portraits – we take our equipment with us. What do you need for a mobile photography studio? Read on.

Single light portrait

This portrait was shot with a single light to the right of camera

Here I have outlined the minimum gear you will need to have a mobile studio. Sorry, if you were hoping I’d give you reasons to buy thousands of dollars worth of new gear! I have taken the opposite approach – and will show you just how affordable it can be to have simple mobile equipment which will allow you to shoot strong portraits in different locations. As you will see this set up is best suited to indoor conditions where you are trying to generate professional quality light with the minimum of fuss and effort. First, we need a light source. The simplest way is to have one external flash unit. Not the pop up flash on the top of some cameras, but a separate flash unit. This will enable us to control the level and direction of light in any situation. Most readers of Beyond Here will already have an external flash unit, but if you don’t, you should consider getting one. You really can’t produce excellent quality portraits using pop up flash. Once you do have an external flash unit, you will have flexibility in how you light your subject.

flash photography

A flash unit and radio trigger mounted on a light stand

Once we have a light source we need to know how to use it! For simple portraits we want just one light, but we will need a light stand to put it on. Once we have a light stand we can position the light anywhere relative to our subject. At the online camera store I use, you can currently buy a 1.8m light stand for $30. Light stands are very handy, and pack up to a manageable size to carry. Mine fit inside a small bag, making them easy to transport.

Ok, we have a flash unit and a light stand. What’s next? The light produced from a single flash unit will be harsh. To create high quality portraits we need something to soften the light from our flash unit. For this, I mainly use a shoot through umbrella. A 33 inch umbrella at my favorite online store is currently $35 (though they are often much cheaper than this. Bring on the sales!) When we fire the flash through the shoot through umbrella it will produce a soft, flattering light.


The umbrella fits into the swivel adapter

To mount the camera and umbrella we need a simple adapter which fits on the end of the light stand. If you haven’t done this before, it is this piece of equipment which often gets overlooked. It is often referred to as a ‘swivel umbrella adapter’. The current price at the online store I use is $34. Look out for them in your camera store.

The final piece of the lighting puzzle comes with having something to fire the flash while it is off the camera. A simple option here is a radio trigger (I wrote a separate post here about how to use flash triggers). To make radio triggers work you place one in the hot shoe of your camera, and attach your flash unit to the other one. When you press the shutter button the trigger on your camera sends a signal to the other trigger, and fires the flash. Cool eh? A pair of radio triggers is currently just over $100, though you can get them for half this price when they are on sale.

With this small amount of equipment you are now ready to go. The equipment is easy to carry, with the light stand being the bulkiest item.

(If you want to be able to control your background as well, you can buy a ‘pop up’ background. I have one of these which is black on one side and white on the other, cost $100. It is useful, particularly for shooting corporate portraits on a black background. If you are not ready to buy one, look for a plain wall to use as your background and position your subject 2-3 meters from the wall.)

So there you have it – what do you need for a mobile photography studio – in a few easy steps. Note, this set up works very well in indoor situations. If you are using it outdoors, be careful with the shoot through umbrella. Even a small amount of wind will catch the umbrella and blow your light stand over. Not a good look!

Thanks for reading ‘what do you need for a mobile photography studio’.

5 Easy Ways to Rediscover Your Phojo

I recently discovered the word phojo! What a great word. If you haven’t figured it out yet, it is short for ‘photography mojo’, or ‘photo mojo’. And when we have lost our phojo it can take months to rediscover it. Here are 5 easy ways to rediscover your phojo.

street art

Yo! Looking for your phojo? Join a photo walk and learn from other photographers

1. Go on a photo walk. Not an aimless stroll on your own – actually go on a photo walk with other photographers to see something new. I recently joined a group here in Melbourne, Australia to discover and photograph the street art in a suburb called Windsor. (Images from that walk are shown in this post.) I found it was fun to meet new photographers and to learn from their point of view, and in this case I got inspiration from the street art we were seeing. There was a fantastic attention to detail shown in the artists work, and real impact with color.

street art

Looking to other artists can provide inspiration for a lost phojo

2. Buy a new lens. Buying a new lens helps you to see the world differently and discover new shots. If you’ve always shot studio portraits, go out and get a 400mm lens and aim it at some wildlife. There is a whole new world out there waiting for you. (I can hear some people saying they can’t afford a new lens. Renting a lens is an acceptable alternative – so is borrowing one. But they are not nearly as much fun as buying a new one, and let’s face it, if I am ever going to get Canon and Nikon and Tamron and Sigma to sponsor Beyond Here, it won’t work if I am suggesting “borrow a second hand lens off Aunt Betty”). Go on, invest in some new glass.

3. Shoot new subjects. Sometimes to break out of a photo rut, we can do it ourselves by shooting something new. If your shooting weddings every weekend and getting tired of it, its time to try something new. Landscapes, studio portraits, macro in the backyard. It really doesn’t matter, just shoot something new.

Street Art

A new lens can provide a new perspective. Bring back the phojo.

4. Learn something new – take an online tutorial. We are all guilty of sticking with what we know and repeating it. If you find you have lost your phojo, it’s time to learn something new. One way I like to do this is to learn a new post processing skill. Search online, and put yourself through a free YouTube tutorial. Bring back the phojo by learning something new.

5. Take a break! Yes, radical I know! Sometimes we need to take a break to refresh and rejuvenate. It’s ok to put the camera down for a short time – just make sure that you tell yourself its temporary. And when the phojo returns, make up for lost time and shoot, shoot, shoot. Take a break now, shoot like a madman later.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read 5 easy ways to rediscover your phojo. And if you are from Canon, Nikon, Tamron, or Sigma – do give me a call. Get in first, sponsor Beyond Here and this cool community of photographers!

Street Art

Shooting new subjects can reinvigorate us and bring back the inspiration