Monthly Archives: January 2016

What Models Should Know About Stock Photo Shoots

I am currently shooting a series of lifestyle images for my portfolio for iStockphoto and Getty Images. It is a fun and challenging project featuring parts of Melbourne, Australia. I am working with a wide range of models, and have put together this post for – What Models Should Know About Stock Photo Shoots.

What is stock photography? The concept of stock photography is that a person who needs an image can go to an existing library to find it, rather than commission a photographer to do a new shoot for them. A stock photo library offers choices of many, many images. The buyer can purchase a licence to use the image, and download it immediately. For the buyer, this is much quicker and cheaper than organizing a photo shoot themselves. For example, a magazine may be featuring a story about the rise in numbers of female pilots entering the aviation industry. They could commission a shoot if they had the time and money, or they could find an appropriate image from a stock photo library, purchase a licence to use the image, and download it immediately. (If you would like to visit a stock photo library and have a search through their images, have a look at iStockphoto).

Female pilot

Stock images are made available through stock photo libraries

How does the payment from stock photography work? When a buyer downloads an image they make payment to the stock photo library. The photographer then receives a percentage of this amount as a royalty payment. For the model, you need to be aware that the images you help to create are going to be used for commercial purposes, and so you should be paid. Most stock photographers (myself included) will pay the model at the beginning of the shoot based on an hourly rate. After the shoot, the photographer then takes all the financial risk. If the shots do not ever get downloaded, the photographer will make a loss. And if the images are very popular and are downloaded many times, the photographer will make a profit.


Stock photos are for commercial purposes and models should expect to be paid

What about model releases? When the photographer submits the images to the stock photo library they go through an inspection process. The library checks that the image meets its quality criteria and has all necessary releases.

A key element of this is the model release. A model release a legal document which provides permission from the model to use their likeness in the picture. The stock photo library will make sure that any image that has a recognizable human face, and is being sold with a royalty free licence, has a model release to go with it. The stock photo library does not want legal problems for themselves or the photographer if a model claims that their likeness is being used without their permission.

So, when you are doing a stock photo shoot, expect to sign a model release before the shoot begins. Ask the photographer for a copy, and keep it in your records.

What is the photographer trying to achieve? I try to explain to models that the emphasis in stock photography is slightly different to other types of photography. The photographer is trying to shoot images which communicate a message and will have broad commercial appeal. In that sense, it’s more about ‘useful images’ than it is about ‘beautiful images’.

So, how can the model help to make useful images? The images need to be realistic. So if you are doing a stock photo shoot about life on a college or university campus, make sure your wardrobe and makeup look realistic for that environment. Or if you are portraying a business person, make sure you have wardrobe and make up that suit that theme.


Models need to be realistic for the shoot concept

What is the photographer looking for in a model? First and foremost the photographer will be looking to work with models who are reliable. As a model you need to prepare well, and turn up on time, ready to shoot. Second, the photographer is looking for a model who appropriately matches the brief. For example, if I am shooting a series on retired couples planning their finances, I will be looking for models who look like they are in their sixties. If I am shooting a fitness series, I need models who are physically fit. Thirdly, the photographer will really appreciate a model who can both understand the brief, and bring a new dimension to it. A model who can understand and then extend the brief to create new images that I hadn’t thought of is a model I want to do further shoots with.

How long do stock photo shoots go for? This can vary and will depend on the photographer and concept. My own stock photo shoots normally go for 90 to 120 minutes depending on whether it is a studio or location shoot, and the concept we are shooting.

What about logos and trademarks? Logos and trademarks are not allowed in stock photography. Essentially the images need to be free of any corporate logos. Be sure to consider that when you are selecting wardrobe. The ideal is clothes which have no logos on them, while having small logos is ok (the photographer will edit them out in post production).

Key Points. Let’s recap:

  • Stock photos will be made available via a stock photo library
  • They are for commercial purposes, so the model should be paid
  • Models will be asked to sign a model release
  • Stock photography is more about ‘useful images’ than it is about ‘beautiful images’
  • Wardrobe and makeup need to be appropriate for the shoot concept
  • Logos and trademarked items are not allowed in stock images
  • Photographers will value the model being able to understand and extend a shoot concept

Questions? Please add a comment and I will do my best to answer.

Thanks for reading What Models Should Know About Stock Photo Shoots. I hope it has been useful to you and can have a positive impact on your next stock photo shoot. If you have questions, please add a comment on this post and I will do my best to answer it.

Photography Business Advice to My 2008 Self

This week I have been working with a photographer who has just started to consider the possibility of making photography her career. It is a very exciting time. She has so many dreams, and possibilities. It made me think about the lessons I have learned since I was in her position back in 2008. (Amazingly, it is not far from ten years since I was in her position!) So here is photography business advice to my 2008 self.

IMG_3924Creative and Financial Success are Possible. I’m not sure why it is, but people like to tell you that you will not be able to make money in photography – or if you do, you will have to sell your creative soul. Perhaps it’s because deep down they really wish they were brave enough to tackle what you are tackling? or maybe the security of their corporate pay check is just too much for them to give up, and they are projecting those values onto you? My experience since 2008 is that creative and financial success can co-exist. In fact, the more I learn about and experience the business of photography, I’m convinced that there are more ways to make money in photography now than ever before.

It’s Not Easy. Reality check! If you’ve been in your photography business for a while and are finding it hard going – you are not alone. Everyone finds it this way. The hardest part is finding which part of the business best suits your skills and personality. In that sense, everyone’s story is different. There is no single formula to follow. You have to find your own way. (If you’d like to read a great book that tackles this topic, see here).

If this was easy, would it be as attractive? If you just had to hang up a sign on your front door saying ‘Photographer Available’ and a queue of customers lined up … would that have the challenge you are looking for? Embrace the difficulty, and work out your own way to both business and creative success.

Good Partners are Invaluable. When I started in the business of photography I didn’t realize how important good partners would be. What type of partners? I’m talking about those people I rely on to deliver for my clients and my business – my second shooters, my accountant, the people I work with for wedding albums, the models I work with, the people who I outsource post production work to, and an expert print shop. These are just some of my go-to people, who help me deliver a great experience for my clients and help me run a strong business. If you are trying to do it all alone, or your business is struggling – have a critical look at the partners you are working with. A strong network of partners is invaluable.

Make Decisions for the Long Term. When I began in the business of photography I set up as a sole trader. It wasn’t long before I out grew that business structure and was better served by setting up a company. In hindsight it would have been easier to set up as a company first, as I always had in mind that would be the structure which best suited where I planned to go. My business advice to myself is – have a vision of where you want to be in the medium and long term, and make decision with that in mind.


Happy clients are key to your long term business success

Happy Clients are the Key. Don’t over complicate this. If you build a following of happy clients your business is going to grow. Those clients are going to come back for repeat shoots, and they are going to refer their friends. Forget about how great your work is or how good you feel for a moment. Are you clients happy? How can you make them happier? Happy clients will see your business grow.

Gear Backups Bring Huge Peace of Mind. When I started my photography business I had just the one camera body and several lenses. As I headed off to each job I couldn’t help worry about what I would do if my gear failed. How would I get the job complete? Would it be fatal if I let one of my early clients down? So I started borrowing a friends camera body to take along as my ‘just in case’ solution but felt bad each time I asked. So I bit the bullet and bought a second camera body. The peace of mind has been worth it! I now have 2 camera bodies and several lenses at every shoot. In the unlikely event of gear failure, I will still be able to get the job done.

You Won’t Always Shoot the Same Thing. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to shoot different subjects or styles as your business evolves. In fact, it would be unusual to be shooting the same things at the end of your photography career as at the beginning. Things change. Be prepared to change with them. To fulfill your creative goals, shoot the subjects which interest you and expect that to change over time.

Social Media on it’s own is not the answer. This piece of business advice comes since I have started working with other photographers to help them improve their business. Several seem to have it in their heads that if they regularly share their work via social media that the clients will roll in. Social media is potentially a source of new clients, but it’s not likely when used in a very unsophisticated way. Sharing images and generating new clients are different things.

Thanks for reading Photography Business Advice to my 2008 Self. I hope it is useful to you and your photography business. If you have questions which you would like help with, please post a comment and I will do my best to respond. If you’d like a business coach to help guide you, please check out the service now available on my website.


A business coach can offer you individual business advice.

How to Find Models to Work With

Making the step from working with friends and family, to photographing clients, through to working with models are big steps in a photographers career. They are also challenging steps unless you have a network of appropriate people to shoot with. This post – How to Find Models to Work With – details ways for you to source models for your shoot.


Facebook groups and specialist sites are great places to connect with other creatives

Facebook. If you are a Facebook user and live in a place with a reasonable population, there is likely to already be a Facebook group set up which will help you.

As I’m writing this post I’ve gone to the Facebook search field and entered “Sydney models” and it has proposed a series of relevant groups.

As I scan down them I can see one called ‘Sydney Models / Photographers / HMUA’ which currently has 3716 members. So what is this? It is a group of models, photographers, and hair and make up artists (HMUA) who participate together in the group.

They make requests for relevant services, share work, put forward their name for shoots, and use the Facebook group as a place to find other creatives to work with.

Specialist Sites. There are also specialist web sites which create communities of creatives. The two that I am most familiar with are Model Mayhem and StarNow. Go ahead and check them out. It is free to set up a profile on each of them, and like the Facebook groups, they are a place for creatives to come together.

How should a photographer use these communities? Start by setting up a profile and include details of what you are looking for from people visiting your profile. I am a stock photographer, so my profile includes details to let people know the projects I am working on, and the type of creatives I would like to contact me.

Secondly, there is the opportunity to share your work. Add images to your profile so visitors can assess the style and quality of your work.

Thirdly, each of these communities have the ability to post a ‘casting call’. That is, you put forward details of your shoot, and ask people who are interested to get in contact with you.


Include all relevant information in your casting call to help get qualified responses

What information should you include in a casting call? The short answer is – as much information as possible. Consider these points as a minimum:

  • when is the shoot? Include the date and time
  • where is the shoot? Be specific. A suburb is better than just the city name.
  • how long do you anticipate the shoot will go for?
  • is it indoor or outdoor? Studio or natural light?
  • is the shoot paid or TFP (time for print, or time for portfolio)?
  • what is the shoot concept?
  • what special requirements do you have? (for example, if you are looking for a model of specific cultural background and with long hair, be sure to specify that in the casting call)
  • who is doing hair and makeup? A HMUA? or do you want the model to do their own?

If you were not sure how to find models to work with, I hope this post has helped you.

If you already use these sites or others, what is your experience? Which sites generate the best response for you?

Thanks for reading – how to find models to shoot with. Happy shooting.

5 Productivity Killers to Avoid

A photographers workflow is key to business success. A well organised and efficient workflow sees them getting jobs completed and delivered to clients – allowing time to find more clients and shoot more jobs. As I work with photographers to improve their businesses, I see weaknesses in their workflows which hold them back from booking and shooting more jobs. It’s ironic – they are struggling with booking more jobs, because they are captive to an inefficient workflow. Check out the 5 productivity killers to avoid.


Using your time well is key to an efficient workflow

Productivity Killer 1. Believing That All Time Spent on Social Media is Productive. Social media is very, very important to most modern day photographers, but how you use it is key. When I hear from photographers that they have spent all day working on their marketing I ask what they have achieved. Too often, it has really been hours surfing on social media. Staying connected with friends and topics of interest is fun and important, but does not generate income for your business. Make sure your business social media time is effective, not glorified time wasting.

Productivity Killer 2. Sitting at A Computer with No Objective. It is really easy for today’s photographer to sit down at their laptop or tablet and get very little done. I see it with nearly every photographer I talk to about their business. It seems to come from the idea that ‘being busy is good’, and ‘I must work on my business’. I see people talking about working on their business when the reality is they have no objective and no outcome. So what’s the alternative? Before you sit down with that coffee and your laptop decide ‘in the next 2 hours I am going to finish editing last Wednesday’s family portrait shoot’. Sitting at a computer without an objective is likely to be a time waster and enthusiasm killer. Set an objective. Get it done. Complete. Deliver. Bill. Next please.


Set the task, set the time frame. Get it done.

Productivity Killer 3. Spending Too Long Editing Images. Editing images is a really easy way to fill the week, especially when you haven’t got any other jobs to shoot. Sound familiar? Running a successful business is about getting jobs shot, edited, packaged, delivered, and billed. It’s not about spending 70 hours a week working hard and not making a return. Do yourself and your business a favor – get into the habit of getting jobs completed promptly. Give yourself time to find more clients. Too long editing images is not the way to make a strong business.


Time really is money. Refine your workflow and spend more time finding clients

Productivity Killer 4. Allowing Distractions to Your Workflow. This productivity killer sits right along side numbers 1, 2 and 3.

Most of the photographers I work with are running owner / operator businesses from their home. Working from home has advantages, mainly the commute from the bedroom to the lounge room. And it has disadvantages – like household jobs and the kitchen being just a short walk away.

To minimize distractions – create a work space where you work, not one where you sit and then get side tracked. Make it separate from your living space. Know that when you go there, it’s to get your business moving.

Don’t allow distractions to slow your business. There’s thousands of potential clients waiting for you to get out and meet them!

Productivity Killer 5. Using Multiple Devices at Once. I’ve been amazed to find photographers allowing their workflow to be interrupted. And more amazed at how they do it. One of my photographer clients regularly sits down in his ‘editing time’ with his laptop open, his smart phone alongside, and his ipad next to him. He doesn’t want to miss a message or a phone call while he edits. Needless to say, he is not efficient at getting jobs completed, delivered, and billed. Then he suffers by not having enough clients. Focus is needed. Don’t let multiple devices distract you.

Thanks for reading 5 productivity killers to avoid. Let’s focus and get the job done.

Starting Your Best Photography Year Ever

Welcome to the new year! How exciting, you are starting your best photography year ever!

Over the Christmas and New Year period I’ve been catching up on my editing backlog and did one stock photography shoot. As I’ve worked through the editing and uploading of those images, I’ve had time to look back on my most recent shoots. They have been very enjoyable sessions – my three most recent shoots were a family portrait session and two stock photo shoots. They’ve provided the impetus for this post – tips for starting your best photography year ever.


My latest stock photo shoot tackled a new challenge. Shooting on location with city backgrounds.

Tip 1 – Tackle Something New! If you are going to have your best photography year ever you are going to need to get out of your comfort zone. If you typically focus on flowers and objects, is this the year to start photographing people? Or if you are a wildlife shooter, is the time to get to know studio photography and lighting? If you’ve toyed with getting into the business of photography, is this the year to make the leap?

I’ve done a lot of stock photo shoots since I became an iStock contributor in 2008. Most of these have been in studio settings, and so I’ve ended 2015 the way I want to start 2016 – tackling something new.

I’m responding to a brief from Getty Images and iStock to shoot stock images in real locations. My latest shoot was using iconic Melbourne locations as a background. It was different, it was fun, and will bring a new dimension to my stock photography in 2016. Tackle something new.

business woman

Shoot images of markets you understand

Tip 2 – Play to Your Strengths. While tackling something new will help you stretch, playing to your strengths will bring a strong foundation to your business.

After 20 plus years working in the corporate world, I have a strong understanding of the types of images which work well in that environment. I can imagine the use of the image before and during the shoot. I can almost see in advance the images being used on a website or in a corporate document.

I have a much better understanding of this market than I do for technical and industrial images. While I will tackle new things, I will also play to my strengths and shoot for markets I understand.

Tip 3 – Look After Repeat Clients. My most recent family portrait session was for a couple whose wedding I photographed in March 2012.

I’ve subsequently done family portraits for them when their son was born, and again when he was 6 months old. Last month I had the opportunity to do another family portrait session – this time with a baby daughter added to the family! Repeat sessions are a lot of fun, as you already know the client and have your previous sessions as a reference point. I feel very lucky to have great clients like them.

Look after your repeat clients as you are starting your best photography year ever.

Weight lifting

Is this year to get help with the heavy lifting in your business?

Tip 4 – Get Help. If you are going to make a leap forward as you are starting your best photography year ever – look at where you can get help.

If you keep doing the same things, you’ll get the same results. If you are bogged down with editing – is it time to reorganize your workflow? Is it time to outsource your image editing? is it time to free up your time by having someone else setting appointments and responding to email for you? is it time to partner with others to let you focus on your strong points? is there a specific style of image you want to learn to create? is there a local photographer that can help you? Plan for great things as you are starting your best photography year ever. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Get help.

Thanks for reading Starting Your Best Photography Year Ever. The new year is a great time to re-assess, refresh, and set your business on the path to success. Have a great year.

Great Reads – Taking Stock

Are you ready to tackle the new year? Is this year going to be the one where you turn your photography hobby into a serious venture? Is stock photography going to play a role in your business? If you are looking for a great book about stock photography I highly recommend Taking Stock by Rob Sylvan. It is the subject of this review, Great Reads – Taking Stock.

There are not a lot of books available specifically on the subject of stock photography. Rob Sylvan’s book stands out among them.

Taking stock

I highly recommend Taking Stock by Rob Sylvan if you are serious about stock photography

What is it about? Taking Stock is a book of just over 200 pages filled with insight from Rob Sylvan. The book was published in 2011 and draws on Rob’s extensive experience working at iStockphoto from the early 2000’s. Rob’s reputation is well known to people who have been long term contributors to iStockphoto (like me!) where he used to be both a contributor and an admin.

The book’s subtitle is “make money in microstock creating photos that sell” and that is exactly what it is about. If you are looking to make money in stock photography, this is a must read.

What can you expect? Taking stock covers all topics to understand and succeed in stock photography from the history of stock photography, to what equipment you will need, to the different types of licences in stock photography. There are an extensive number of examples of successful images with commentary on why they are successful.

I particularly like the examples he provides from a range of stock photographers, not just his own. In each case he provides an example of a successful image with the photographers commentary. It is a powerful way to highlight successful images and draws on the authors wide network of stock photographers.

If you are new to stock photography, you will enjoy the sample images and details about the number of times they have been downloaded, and how much money this has generated in royalties to the photographer. It will show you how financially successful a single image can be.

The book is several years old now, so don’t expect it to cover today’s trends in visual imagery. But the principles and examples Sylvan provides are still relevant and it is well worth reading.

Outcomes? If you want one single resource to help you understand the stock photography world, Taking Stock is an excellent book. Most importantly it draws on the experience of people who have been working in the stock photography industry. Learning from your own experience is the best teacher, and learning from someone else’s experience isn’t far behind.

For me, I’ve considered why some people are successful in stock photography while others are not. Within this book, Sylvan sums it up nicely – he says that successful stock photographers are ‘highly motivated, self directed learners’. That sums it up. He doesn’t say they are brilliantly creative, or have photography qualifications, or use certain equipment. He says they are highly motivated, self directed learners.

If you study the work of some of the most successful stock photographers you can see the development in their portfolios. They keep learning, and their images keep improving. So don’t think you have to be a genius to succeed.

If you are highly motivated, keep learning, and apply what you learn – you will succeed in stock photography.

Rating and Recommendation? 10 out of 10. Highly recommended.

Kick off the new year by reading a book that will set you up for success in stock photography.

Thank you for reading Great Reads – Taking Stock.