Inside a Stock Photography Shoot

I am in the process of shooting a series of stock images of business people. This is a very popular category of stock images, with continual demand for fresh content. Images like these are used extensively in websites, brochures, corporate communications etc. You can probably imagine, this is a very big market. So this post looks behind the scenes, and takes you inside a stock photography shoot.


Lighting is important. The model needs to be well lit, with a pure white background

Lighting. Once you understand how to light images like these, it is straight forward to produce a wide variety of business images. And equally, if you make a mess of the lighting it can be very hard to produce usable files. For this shoot I used a lighting set up very similar to what I outlined in this post. It has one off camera flash to the left of camera, fired by a remote trigger through a shoot through umbrella. In this case it was a 43 inch umbrella. The model is lit with just the one light. The background (a white muslin backdrop) is lit separately through another off camera flash, again fired by a remote trigger (you can read more about the triggers here). This ‘blows out’ the background so that it appears completely white. That flash unit is placed between the model and the backdrop.

Space. It’s a misconception to think you need a large studio space to be able to shoot these kinds of images. The room this image was shot in is 3.2m wide and 6m long. The backdrop is 3m x 3m and just fits across the width of the room.

Smiling business woman

Makeup, wardrobe and posing are key to effective images.

Wardrobe, Makeup, and Posing. Wardrobe, make up and posing are very important in shooting this style of image. The model needs to be believable and realistic – in this case she needs to look like a professional business person. For this shoot we used two different colored shirts – one white and one blue. We also took images with the jacket on and jacket off. That helped provide a range of images – some of which look more formal, and some which look more informal.

The brief for her makeup was ‘light and natural’ which she did very well. It helps to reinforce the ‘real business people’ theme.

Posing is also important for this type of shoot. When we weren’t using props we focused on a ‘natural and confident’ look like in this image. Because of the studio setting and the beauty of digital photography we were able to shoot and review each image until we got the right look. While this image is very simple it has flexibility – the model could be anything from corporate executive to a home based entrepreneur.

Shoot Length and Process. This shoot took 90 minutes and that is fairly typical of my stock photography shoots. I find that is long enough to get a range of images, but not too long that the model or the photographer get bored!

We started this shoot with straight forward poses like the one above and then move to more specifically themed images using props. Mid shoot the model took a wardrobe change giving us the opportunity to assess the images taken up to that point and to plan how to make the most of the remaining time.

Corporate Whistle Blower

Corporate Whistle Blower. This image uses a sports whistle as the only prop.

Post Production. I aim to keep post processing to a minimum on stock photo shoots. I import the files to Lightroom, check for sharp focus, set the white balance and make minor changes to color saturation and contrast. Importantly, I make sure the background is pure white. This is a short process which takes 1-2 minutes for each image.

Where to from there? I complete model releases and look after any paperwork with the model before we start the shoot. That means that after post production, the file is saved as a JPEG image. From there it is uploaded to iStock (along with model release form). It then goes through an inspection process and, assuming it passes, is added to the stock database and is available to be downloaded. That’s it – inside a stock photography shoot.

Note, the model in this shoot is Klara. She is an up and coming model in Melbourne, Australia and is originally from Frankfurt, Germany. She is a great person to work with. See her current work here.

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