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

 

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.

A Cuba journey

Couple kissing in street in Havana, Cuba
Couple kissing in street in Havana, Cuba

Cuba is almost untouched since 1959, its beauty still visible in the crumbling buildings and in the innocence and openness of its people. With the impending possibility of increased tourism from America I travelled a Cuba journey to record the Cuban lifestyle as it is today.

I travelled to Cuba as a photo journalist to capture some Cuban lifestyle in the camera with a wide brief which excludes crumbling buildings, fat cigars or Vintage American cars – there is an abundance of that out there.  I wanted to get to Cuba  before Americans destroyed it by installing McDonalds and neon signs at every corner.  I travelled through Nassau, Bahamas into Havana as I was travelling with a US passport and advice seemed to suggest this caused fewer problems, I had no problems clearing immigration either way.

The itinerary was to explore areas of Cuba from Havana to La Boca, Trinidad, then back up to Havana for a couple of days then out to the west to submerge ourselves in the National Park around Viñales where the fields are full of tobacco plants. I planned to say in Casa Particulares, the Cuban equivalent to Airbnb, families opening their homes for 25 CUC a room for the night, followed by a hotel in Havana for a treat in the middle of the trip.

I got up at 3:30 am to catch a train to Miami at 4:45, a plane to Nasseau, Bahamas,at 9:00 am then another to Havana at 11 :00am.

As Havana is never in a hurry ( a pleasant virtue, not a criticism) by 2pm I was in a queue for exchanging money – you have to get your CUCs in Cuba, ( CUC is the tourist currency, locals use Peso) At 2:30 we were still there! I believed an American Visa card could be used in most hotels and restaurants but  soon discovered this is not so. Thankfully my wife’s trusty UK Barclays debit card saw us through the week and never got swallowed in a machine, it was all we had!

I picked up a pre-booked rental car and got on the road, getting lost leaving Havana and being stopped by police for a document check, thankfully all ok there.

The journey continued, long winding roads which wound through national park and mountains. The sea came in and out of view, another 30 mins would see the end of the road. Suddenly, on coming traffic was swerving as objects appeared in the road! Moving, scuttling and sometimes frozen to the spot, dozens of large red crabs took over the route. I tried to avoid them as many others had not, alas soon it was clear the swerving was, A. dangerous and B. impossible to dodge a carpet of crabs!

We did eventually arrive at our first Casa Particulares in La Boca, Trinidad. We were booked in at El Galeon but ended up at La Terraza – another casa belonging to a brother, great place with lots of space, bathroom, air con, breakfast etc. We ate at El Galeon in the evenings. Both highly recommended.

Trinidad is a Spanish colonial town seemingly  untouched since 1850. It was built on the fortunes from sugar plantations in the early 19th Century and it has stayed the same way as if clocks have stopped. The arrival of tourists in 1988, when the small city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, has not prevented the charm of this enchanting, quiet, sleepy outdoor museum where the clip clop sounds of horses hooves mingle with the leather faced, local cuban bands which can be heard around street corners drawing you in and making your hips sway. The cobbled streets, dusty roads, colourful buildings and red rustic roof tiles are all part of Trinidad’s soul. I hope it never changes.

While having drinks on the steps of Casa de la Musica, I met Di a single Chinese traveller taking pictures of herself with her camera and tripod. I got chatting and found out she is a freelance journalist from China and  had the same desire, to explore, photograph and capture Cuba as it is today. We teamed up and wandered the streets taking photos of Di as she explored the Historic town. We climbed the bell tower at the Museo Historic and peered down at the rustic red roofs, we listened to Cuban music and wandered in and out of the little squares and streets. We ended our morning having drinks together listening to a Cuban band at a cafe on the steps of Casa de la Musica, where we watched as the locals showed their best salsa moves and we couldn’t help but join in with the beat.

Next we headed back to the city to explore Habana Vieja ( Havana Old Town). I expected to see the crumbling buildings and historic cars which were in abundance. However, I was not prepared for roads dug up and left, holes, open drains full of rubbish, wandering stray dogs. I wasn’t getting any vibe. Tourists are constantly hassled for taxis or hotels and it takes the pleasure away from exploring. Later in the evening we did find Plaza Vieja which was regenerated and a nice place to people watch. We learnt there are 4 squares in Old Havana like this and they are worth taking a stroll to along with a meander along Mercedes a pedestrianised street ,so no hassle for vintage taxis or bike taxis.

Having dinner that evening, people watching in the street, looking up at the architecture and identifying different eras and styles, watching the men proudly cleaning their American cars, the city grew on us. It dawned on us that this place is stress free. No shop fronts, neon signs, sale signs. People chatting, kissing, holding hands, no heads buried in iphones. No heavy police presence..had we seen any? Happy, healthy people and well educated, the literacy rate is 99.8% .

 The next day I went out early to get some shots in low light around the harbour and a walk in the cool before the sun got too hot, then back for breakfast.

I decided to use a taxi for the next leg of of the journey. I liked to idea of a road trip in one of the classic American cars, with the potential of turning the drive into a photo shoot. However scouting the taxi ranks I found the prices inflated and lack of potential model appeal in the sweaty faced, bloated bellied local drivers.

Then I spotted Alejandro. Having dropped off a fare he was proudly polishing the dust off his 1959 Chevrolet Belle Aire. He was young, friendly, genuine and full of energy.  I negotiated a price ( 50 CUC ) and arranged to meet at the same place at 1pm and we all arrived on time, setting off on our road trip to Soroa, a National Park in the region of Pinar Del Rio, deep in tobacco growing country.

The following day we took a trip to Viñales, a beautiful drive through the National Park, winding roads , lush vegetation, valley and hills. We passed fields full of tobacco plants and drying huts, it was possible to see through the cracks and broken doors thousands of leaves hanging up to dry. Before heading back we enjoyed a panoramic view- and a gin and tonic, over the valley in a little cafe run from a house which we discovered at the end of a side road in the town.

The next day I summoned Alejandro to take us to the airport. He appeared as if by magic as we ate breakfast, the sound of the reliable vintage Belle Aire rumbling up the drive and our happy, enthusiastic driver leaping out with a welcome “Buenos Dias Gary!”

Link to more images here.

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.

Woman’s strength, Australia.

Strength coach in Australia exercising outdoors
Strength coach in Australia exercising outdoors

I met Michelle as she got off the bus and straight away saw something I wanted to shoot. She emanated a great sense of independence, strength and purpose getting off that bus with the surfboard under her arm.

A quick introduction and exchange of email lead to a conversation and her keenness to let me photograph her surfing. We met at Manly Beach, her with her surfboard, and a friend. Me with my camera, assistant, light and reflector. We chatted as  we waited for the light to get low and I discovered Michelle was a body strength coach.  This added a new dimension and became the focus for the photoshoot. At sunset when the sun was lower we began shooting Michelle as she demonstrated a woman’s strength in some poses of incredible strength and balance. Moving from the beach I wanted to show the urban backdrop of Manly. This is where the local people work out and get fit. The great outdoors, no indoor gyms for them. Rocks and wooden jetties became the platforms from where Michelle balanced and twisted. She roped her friend in to hold poses together, making shapes with their bodies. Remembering my first sight of Michelle as she got off that bus I intended to shoot something with her surfboard, however it started to rain, but the surfboard was not wasted as it came in handy to shelter under!

 

 

 

Sailing adventure photos

A sailing lifestyle around the islands of Croatia
A sailing lifestyle around the islands of Croatia

In June we went on a swashbuckling adventure around the islands of Brac and Hvar in Croatia. Three fearless and daring models came on board to shoot some lifestyle sailing adventure photos. This shoot included some fashion shots for a customers swimwear collection. We sailed out early in the morning or later in the afternoon to catch sunrise or sunset. Timing was crucial to capture the low subtle light that is so important for the style of Gary’s images. Switching between stills and footage and dealing with extreme weather changes which caused calm seas to become tumultuous, meant we had to be very adaptable…often at the last moment.