Stock photography : thinking outside the box

Teddy_bear_abandoned_in_snowWe’d all like to make some money from our photography. But as good digital cameras have become more affordable, competition has increased. Whilst there’s no magic solution, over the coming months I want to share my thoughts about earning an income from stock photography.

What is stock photography? In a nutshell, it’s the marketing of existing photos – ones that have already been taken – to potential buyers. Why does it appeal to photographers? Because they can build up a stock of pictures in their spare time, photographing subjects that interest them.

Today I’d like to use my picture of an abandoned bear, to show how a photo taken for pleasure can be marketed. Whenever possible, I take a camera with me. On this occasion, I’d just left home when I stumbled on this scene. I took four or five shots from different angles, before continuing my journey to work.

Although I liked the photo well enough to print and hang a copy on the wall, I struggled to imagine how picture buyers might use it. Obviously it can be used to illustrate winter – but what else? Left outside in the snow, the bear had been abandoned. Without stretching the truth too far, you could say that it was homeless (and possibly lonely).

Loneliness, homelessness and abandonment are all topical issues. But they’re also sensitive issues, so great care is needed if you’re going to use photos of people to illustrate them. If you do, I’d recommend two precautions:

-Try taking a picture where the individual can’t be identified – perhaps a rear view or silhouette


-Always obtain a model release (written permission) from the person you’re photographing.

With a toy bear, you don’t need a model release. And as a bonus, you avoid the hackneyed images that are seen too often – of homeless tramps or lonely pensioners, for example.

When marketing your own photos, remember to think outside the box: what ideas can they be used to illustrate? And let me know how you get on.



6 Responses to “Stock photography : thinking outside the box”
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