How to Shoot Successful Lifestyle Stock Photos
An Ongoing need for Lifestyle Imagery
Despite the glut of images in the world of stock photography, there is still a huge and ongoing need for well done, relevant, lifestyle stock photos. In addition to the ever expanding market and the need to address changing fashions, there are still large holes in the libraries of agencies.
There are tremendous rewards to be reaped by photographers, who do their research, cast intelligently, use the right locations, surround themselves with good support personnel and edit smartly.
Before undertaking a lifestyle stock shoot it is important to make sure you are shooting something that the market wants and needs. If you are lucky enough to work with an agency that offers research and/or support, take advantage of it!
If not, check what the agencies have, and then do your own research. Who is advertising? Who are they advertising to? What are the new demographics of the marketplace? Become an expert on what is needed and you can’t go wrong. A couple of hints: When shooting lifestyle stock photos, think Ethnic, and think seniors.
Casting is Essential
Once you know whom the audience is you need to be shooting for, and what that demographic is, casting becomes the next critical step. If it all possible, conduct a casting call in which you get to see the models in person and shoot a test shot. It is pretty amazing how misleading a headshot can be!
In my last shoot I didn’t bother with the casting call and one model showed up a good 30 lbs. heavier and considerably older than his headshot indicated. He confessed to me he hadn’t modeled in over ten years! A couple of other points about models…when they say they have plenty of clothes for the shoot…don’t believe them! Get their sizes and make sure you have some back up clothes!
It isn’t a bad idea to hire an extra model or two either. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have had models fail to show up. That is another good reason for that casting call; if a model shows up for the call there is a better chance he or she will actually show for the shoot as well!
With Lifestyle Shoots it’s Location, location, location
The competition in the stock photo industry is unbelievably fierce. You can help set yourself apart from that competition by having a stellar location. A couple of friends of mine just shot at a resort in Tahiti…and their images reflect the upscale nature of the location. It cost a fair amount for them to do this shoot, but the results are going to insure that they make a tidy profit, and the images they produced won’t disappear into the morass of mediocre pictures.
You don’t need to fly to Tahiti for your lifestyle stock photo shoots, but don’t skimp on your location. Choose one that enhances your shoot, and is appropriate for what you are doing. And get that property release! If money is tight, find a location that will trade you time for use of the photos (something that can work with models too).
Another tip; I prefer locations with lots of natural light. Being able to utilize available light makes everything go faster than if you have to rely on elaborate set ups for every shot.
Assistant, Stylist or Producer: Support is Important!
Another aspect of a successful lifestyle shoot is having the right support staff. I am not very good at spotting wardrobe problems, crooked ties, collars flipped up and awkward wrinkles. Whether it is my assistant, a stylist, or a producer, I always have someone checking for those kinds of things.
If it is a large shoot I will hire an extra assistant or even two. The cost of an extra pair of hands or eyes, when you really need them, is a bargain. You have to have confidence in your shoot, confidence that it is worth doing and worth doing truly well.
The Shoot List
During the actual shoot there are a number of things you can do to help insure its success. Have a shot list and check it frequently. It is all too easy for one to get caught up in one scenario and forget several others. Budget your time and check that shot list.
Stop between scenarios and reassess your shoot. Take the time to see that you got your shot, that the images are sharp and exposures accurate. There is a fine line between wasting your time after you have your shot, and moving on before you have what you need. Another thing you can do to make your shoot more productive is to make frequent wardrobe changes.
I try to have at least three changes for each model. Finally, if something just isn’t working, let it go. I always have more shots on my list than I can do. That way, if something isn’t working it isn’t a problem to move on.
A Tight Edit: The Final Step in Lifestyle Stock Photography for Stock
The final step in completing a successful lifestyle stock shoot is in the editing. You don’t want too many similar photos. If you have a hard time deciding which is your best image, think how hard it is for someone else! A tight edit is a good edit.
Choose your best image form each scenario, three at the most. A loose edit will bring the whole shoot down, waste your time and every one else’s. One photographer I shoot with edits the most tightly of anyone I have ever met…and he consistently gets the most images chosen by stock agency editors.
Of all the photographers I work with, he earns the most in stock. Edit until it hurts!