Stock photography and how we make it work

Stock photography and how we make it work
Woman in silk dress in the sea, used as book cover.

Developing concepts and ideas for a stock shoot pays off when you see the published work.

For us stock photography is producing and creating a curated collection of innovative still images and motion clips which are fresh, dynamic, compelling unbranded and released. The content is distributed by our agents to fulfil the needs of creatives who are looking for immediate images. This post explains a bit about stock photography and how we make it work.

OK, so we know what stock photography is but how is the content created, what is in demand, where do you shoot, who do you photograph and when do the photos get selected by licensed stock agencies?

Also stock video clips are making a huge impact on the market these days. Look closely at TV advertisements, how many can you spot which are mainly a bunch of video clips strung together as opposed to a full production? Thus we shoot video clips too.

The journey of a still or motion clip is basically the same from ideas to production to revenue in the bank and this is how we do it.

  1. Research. We research topics, keep up to date with latest trends, seek and meet interesting people (old, young, in between, active, individuality) seek advice on photo requirements from creative advisers and take note of interesting and suitable locations. It’s important to think of a concept for the shoot beforehand then build the storyboard around that.
  2. Planning. Sometimes a shoot is planned in fine detail with a production plan, models, crew, travel and budgeting but sometimes it is a walk on the beach with the camera, yet even this simple pastime has been given some thought, for example, the time of day, the location, what to wear and whether we need props.
  3. Production. Getting the right shot takes many, many captures and much patience from all involved. The lighting, camera exposures, props and talent adjusted and tweaked. Then the talent, be it a friend, relative, new talent starting out or a pro has to sign a model release…otherwise the pictures will be worthless. This needs to be agreed beforehand. Even dogs, cats, homes, offices, boats require a property release.
  4. Editing. Back in the office the photos are edited with a fine tooth comb leaving the best to be distributed to the agency for their selection.
  5. Key wording. Generally about half of the edit will be selected, these then get cleaned up in photoshop, removing logos and a little colour adjustment, uploaded to the stock agency portal where the metadata and description is completed using those conceptual keywords and phrases, these have to be good to get the images found, selected and sold.
  6. Selling. Images are now live and ‘for sale’
  7. Revenue. It could be 3 months before we see any revenue..it could be as little as a dollar or enough to book a plane ticket to a nice location for the next production.

That is stock photography and how we make it work for us.

Companies are asking us to produce in house libraries of content for their social media and advertising requirements. If this interests you contact us with your needs, we will be happy to help you. hello@garyjohnnorman.com

 

Homeschooling and Wholesome Imagery

 

Young girl being homeschooled studying through technology at home
Young girl being homeschooled studying through technology at home

Homeschooling and Wholesome Imagery

I was honoured to meet a young girl who welcomed me into her home to shoot a day in her life at her school. She is homeschooled, a difficult decision for her parents but one that is paying off. I just photographed what I saw, no tidying, propping or styling, just the camera and one light followed her moves. In her bedroom at her desk she twirled around on the swivel chair. She used the laptop for research, scribbling notes and listening to music as she worked. In a quiet snug in the playroom she curled up on soft cushions to read a book. Occasionally her loyal dog joined her, only distracted for a moment to stroke his silky ears. Whenever she wanted to she headed outdoors to explore her natural environment, climbing trees and building dens. At the weekend she met a friend to explore the nature in the woods, again I tagged along capturing the friendship and trust between the young girls.

The structure of public school is not for everyone and the popularity of homeschooling is rising with studies showing that students who are homeschooled are scoring higher than public school students in standardised tests, they seem to be smarter and more mature earlier and become self directed learners as adults.

The educational, physical and emotional freedom means students are learning what they want when they want, they can pace themselves to learn when they are ready and live in a world unencumbered with peer pressure, adolescent trends and dangerous experimentation. They can learn in their outdoor environment, exploring and being inquisitive and adventurous. Of course, advances in technology together with the availability of resources over the internet make homeschooling easier and more effective today.

Reflecting on the shoot I learnt two things. First I had to scale down the production to limited equipment, using available lighting and one strobe enabled me to capture moments as they happened. Secondly I saw how being homeschooled can be good wholesome fun, promoting moral well-being, independence and a positive approach to learning.

A new product needs new dynamic imagery

Lifestyle and motion shots of Talaria 34R a new product for Hinckley yachts
Shots of Talaria 34R on the water

When a new product is created there is the need for new images and promotional material.

Often a rebranding is happening too, so it is likely that a lot of time has been spent discussing, planning and producing between clients and professionals.

As the image producer for a client who wanted fresh new images and a taster video for a bright, new, shiny boat just out of the box. I collaborated closely with clients, augmenting ideas. This accumulated to a two day shoot involving two sets of talent, a stylist, a drone for details aerials that helicopter just can’t achieve, a support boat and me and my assistant capturing both stills and motion.

However, an hour before leaving to begin the project I was notified of a problem with the new product that was out of our hands and would delay the start of the shoot and could even postpone it. Knowing a lot of planning and preparation went into this between everyone I was determined to carry on if we could. Eventually we got word the boat was ready but in a different location! Not deterred, a few calls and rearrangements enabled us to move the people and equipment to the new start location and work continued. The first day was shorter than planned and my shot list went out of the window, but the planning and preparation beforehand was invaluable as we still got great material for the client.

Day two ran according to plan shooting a few more hours bringing the total of the shoot to six hours. In this shorter time I was still able to deliver a bunch of enticing stills to enhance the new marketing of the product and a fun, sizzle video to wet the customer’s appetite. Best of all the client went home smiling!

Bad weather challenges a photo production

 

Family sailing vacation on luxury Hinckley Yacht
Family sailing vacation on luxury Hinckley Yacht

Despite bad weather this shoot has been my most memorable this year so far.

I was shooting for a regular client who I love to shoot for, putting a breath of real life living into the images for their brand of yachts. This image was captured in the last few minutes of daylight on a section of the intracoastal near Stuart, Florida.

However, it almost didn’t happen due to a bad weather front delaying our start by 1 hour. I have never called off a big production/shoot in all the 25 years of my career but this one was touch and go. An unexpected change in weather with heavy rain and stormy clouds challenged me to make a decision with the client. I held out and 3 hours later it paid off with this shot.

It just happened that in the end the ingredients were right. The sky with it’s moody grey clouds reflecting the amber glow of the sun as it descended from the sky and the perfect talent and crew on board all played a part in allowing me to get this great shot.

The talent on the yacht were a real family who live locally and are happiest in and around the water. Having worked with them before I had a good relationship with the children who trusted me with my directions and I trusted them to be confident on the paddle board and not fall in! At such a young age they were so accomplished but if they got tired I just hung on to the back of the board and paddled them into position, still holding my camera to get some great POV shots and wide shots of the boat for the collection. In this one I was shooting from a small boat, a Boston Whaler, with a shallow draft perfect for getting into shallow water and close up when needed. View a short teaser video below.

Elegant style in photography, how to capture it

Luxury travel vacations
Elegant woman on luxury yachting vacation

Classic postures coupled with clean, simple styling are the ingredients for an elegant style in photography.

Sprinkle these in to alluring locations, atmospheric lighting and the results are exceptional pictures.

When shooting in a luxury location or with a luxury product we aim to get the balance between high end and affordability to encompass various travel and leisure markets.

First, consideration is given to choice of model. Long elegant arms limbs and good posture, someone who just looks elegant in a comfortable way is ideal. Secondly, models are often asked to bring their own wardrobe. If you know your talent from previous shoots then you will have an idea of the styles and colours of pieces in their wardrobe and may be able to use some elegant pieces from their selection. However, we never totally rely on this. We will include one or two luxury items from our own collection or purchased especially for the shoot. Depending on the budget hair and makeup stylists may be onset or talent comes makeup ready. In our experience, for shooting lifestyle a subtle, natural look is perfect which most models can achieve themselves.

Finally, the scene has been set and the model is in place, stylist is happy with wardrobe, accessories, hair and makeup. Now the skill happens through the experience, knowledge and eyes of the photographer using the light at the beginning or end of the day to breath life into the images.

In these two images wardrobe was quite simple but with an elegant feel and subtle tonal colouring, layering and accessories were a key element in the first shot which has proved to be a popular image and one of our highest sellers with Getty Images. The second image has a carefree feeling to it with the woman wearing just a simple cotton dress. Using natural fibres for wardrobe choices is another trick for this type of image, the way it feels, looks and flows is more relevant than you would imagine and the model feels comfortable too!

Aerial photography, making smooth water.

Aerial photography
80ft motor yacht cruising at speed in open sea.

Sometimes using experienced professionals is the only way. These images were created using aerial photography, utilising the skills of an experienced helicopter pilot often hovering 3ft off the water at speeds of 40 knots. By using a gyro stabiliser it allowed me to create the the illusion of smooth seas while enhancing the movement of the beautiful yacht through the water. Knowledge coupled with experience and coordinating skills allows me to create powerful images using aerial photography.

When this job came in I was very pleased to be back working in my speciality, photographing aerial shots of moving boats and yachts. Once known as the ‘Boat Photographer’ in Florida who created many covers for yachting and boating magazine my passion of dangling from a helicopter has not diminished. Since being back in Florida I have branched out to shooting film clips and purchased the newest, up to date equipment. The gyro stabiliser  being one piece which I use constantly when creating short movie clips.

I use the same contractors Ocean Helicopters . They use professional pilots who are frequently flying photographers and used to their demands! For these images my pilot was able to get me as low as 3ft travelling at 40 knots. Using hand signals I directed the crew and talent on the yacht. I prefer this as an instant command rather than rely on a walkie talkie or mobile to relay instructions as this causes delay and sometimes a missed moment.

Silver sea

Mature woman in red stands in stormy ocean
Mature woman in red stands in stormy ocean

The joy of my job as a lifestyle photographer is producing my own shoots. I enjoy having an idea in my head then capturing it in the camera. I had previously made a similar image in the same location in Key Biscayne. This is a favourite of mine, it is away from the skyscrapers in Miami allowing for a clear horizon and shallow water making it easier for models, crew and photographer working in the water.  This time I wanted to use a mature female model with natural, long silver hair standing in the sea, hence the title Silver sea. The idea was to see how the long hair mimicked the gentle waves breaking on the surface of the water.

When the wind chose to change direction and stir up the calm seas and clouds gathered in the sky it was looking like my vision would be abandoned. However, with perseverance and patient talent we waited for a gap in the cloud and took a few shots. What transpired was powerful and engaging. I could not have planned the weather, in fact usually I plan around it. Yet this time the stormy weather made the shot. The contrast of the woman’s red costume against the greys of the sea and sky and the strong wind blowing waves through the woman’s hair make the viewer entranced and curious.