Released images of people and lifestyle are THE MOST IN-DEMAND STOCK IMAGES. They often command MUCH HIGHER PRICES than other subjects, especially if they have a unique Kiwi point of difference (KPOD)…

What are “people images”? images featuring identifiable people. For instance, a family in their daily life, a group of friends travelling, colleagues working in an office, a businessman negotiating contracts, sportsmen in action, people moving to their new house. The opportunities to shoot people images for stock are unlimited and can provide some of the highest ROI (Return On Investment).

Want to start shooting people images? Here are our top tips to help you create and earn more from stock images featuring people:

1- Work with what you have.

Plan photo shoots using people and resources you have easy access to. Your time is precious so start with people and locations around you. Your friends, family, workmates, local baker… they are all potential models – use them! They are easy to access and if they know you and want to support you, they will very likely sign model releases.  If you are new to shooting people and looking for inspiration, simply go back to “basic, realistic concepts”. Start with who your models are and what they like doing. If your wife is a chemist, organise a photo shoot with her being a chemist in her lab. If your boyfriend is a personal trainer or loves fishing, shoot him doing these things. They will look more confident and natural on your images.

2- Plan, Plan and Plan!

We see plenty of images featuring people where there has obviously been no planning. And in most cases, opportunities will have been missed, time will have been wasted while shooting and frustrations may have arisen. Remember: your time is precious and so is your sanity! Ideally when shooting for stock, you’ll want to set up, have models show up already knowing what they need to do, shoot, pack and go home. And there is only one way to pull this off (or at least limit the majority of issues): by planning and sharing what you want to achieve with your models. You’ll be surprised how much easier your photo shoots will become and how much more relaxed your models will be, once you get into the habit of letting everyone know what you’re trying to achieve. 

3- Keep your photo shoot simple.

It is usually better to organise simpler and shorter photo shoots over different days than to concentrate everything into a packed and stressful long day. If you try to compact too many set ups into a 10-hour day, your models will get tired and let’s face it, you probably will too… It will show in your images and your shoot will likely turn into a bad experience for everyone. So, if your plan is to shoot images of the same talent in different set ups, and you want to keep working with this talent, try to organise shorter sessions on different days to keep motivation and energy up.

4- If your model is uncomfortable in front of the lens, stop!

When you work on your own, it can sometimes be hard to both shoot and also direct people during a shoot. Make sure you scan through your first shots while you shoot and keep an eye on your models to make sure they don’t look stiff, nervous or odd. If they are, stop shooting and talk to your models, make them laugh, run through the setup a few times, make them do breathing or stretching exercises until they are relaxed. If they’re still nervously looking at the camera you may need to consider stopping altogether as you might be wasting everyone’s time by continuing. Over time you should build up a group of models you can trust and rely on for upcoming shoots. You may also consider collaborating with an art director / a mate who will take care of directing the models so that you can focus on what you’re good at: shooting.

5- Get your models to sign a Model release!

A model release is a written and signed contract between you and the person you are photographing. It is very important because, once your model has signed a release, you are protected from liability in future lawsuits which that person might file (or threaten to file) against you. A model release will grant you permission to license your images for advertising purposes, which is where the bigger bucks are in stock photography. We will generally not accept images featuring people without a release. Want to know more about model releases? Read our blog post on Everything you need to know about Model Releases.

6- Struggling to find people who agree to sign model releases? Consider trading / offering services in exchange!

Trading / offering services in exchange will open new doors for your stock photography and will also help you limit your costs. Afraid to ask? Repeat to yourself: you don’t get what you don’t ask for! You’re going to hear “NO” sometimes but you will as well hear some valuable “YES”. Here are a few examples of trades:

A new client wants a family photoshoot? How about offering a discounted rate or free photoshoot in exchange for

  • a couple of hours of their time to shoot for stock; and
  • a signed model release?

A new business has opened in your neighbourhood? How about offering to come and take staff or venue shots for free in exchange of the opportunity to:

  • use the location for free; and
  • get some of the staff to model for your next photoshoot; and
  • get signed model and property releases?

7- People yes… but with a Kiwi Point of Difference (KPOD)!

Let’s be honest, there is not much point in shooting generic people images in settings that could be anywhere. Bazillions of stock images of pretty caucasian people taken in generic settings already exist and are often available for a mere few dollars via large international libraries. So, if you want to make the most of your time and efforts, remember that the real opportunity in New Zealand lies with shooting for the Kiwi Point of Difference (KPOD). We have unique demographics and images which portray the ever-changing face of New Zealand are in high demand (i.e. images featuring Maori, Polynesian, Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Indian (etc.) people as well as mixed families).  We have unique locations in the form of our styles of houses, our landscapes and cityscapes (etc.). We also have a very particular Kiwi lifestyle and dress in a particular way. So always make sure your shots have a KPOD, either through the people, the location, the clothing or some other subtle way such as props and you should see interest for your images increase.

8- Expression consistency

If you are working with more than one person, ensure that they are all ‘on the same page’. Too many times we’ve seen shoots ruined because 2 people are happy and interacting and the third person looks like they’re bored and would rather be somewhere else. Or one is smiling and ‘chatting’ and the other is looking the other way. Remember: if the shot looks uncomfortable or inconsistent, it will not sell.

9- Don’t focus on the obvious: focus on the story!

Today, advertisers are all about “story-telling” and your stock images need to reflect this. The peripheral or sideline shot usually works far more than the literal shot. For instance, if your subject is “surfing”, images of a bunch of mates hanging out by their cars at the beach with surfboards lying to the side will be much more appealing than images of a guy simply surfing. Don’t get hung up on the subject matter – focus on creating images that convey a message or have an underlying concept or theme… which leads us to our next point …

10- What’s the message?

A stock shot needs to have some sort of message. We see a lot of people images where people are just standing there with a pretty bland or neutral expression.  What are they doing? How are they ‘feeling’ about what they are doing or where they are? Are they interacting with someone else? If they are using a product (eg cellphone, tablet etc)how are they feeling about using that product? Some example of concepts: freedom, peace of mind, security, well-being, being connected, etc.

11- Fashion shots don’t work for stock. Simple.

While it is a good idea to work with professional talent (if you have access to them) steer clear of fashion models who can only “pose for fashion”. Their idea of modelling for fashion is VERY different to modelling for stock, which is more about acting than modelling. Pouting or ‘poker face’ expressions don’t work for stock and fashion models often have a predefined idea of how they should pose. Much easier to work with talent who are actors and comedians. The will act more natural in front of the camera and their look will be more authentic too.

12- Stop aimlessly wandering around town, looking for opportunities to shoot images.

We love street photography but unfortunately, ‘Street’ photography styles generally won’t work for stock. In addition, it is a potential minefield due to a key element: model releases. Most of the time, when you take pictures in the street and approach people afterwards to sign a release, they won’t even have the time to talk to you, or they may feel like you have invaded their privacy because you should have asked permission first. Which means: you will not get them to sign a release. Another issue that may come up – if you do manage to get people to sign a model release – is that it is highly probable that they won’t remember signing it or won’t clearly understand what it meant when they signed it (see point 5, 6 and 7). And next time they see their image being used in an advert, it is very likely that they will “freak out” and pick up their phone. Which is why we recommend you stay away from ‘street photography’ if you want to earn a decent income through stock. It is not an efficient nor financially rewarding use of your time. But! If you see a person that you’d like to shoot for stock, introduce yourself and get their contact details. Take the time to explain what you do and if they agree to model for you, then organise a proper photo shoot.

So remember, if you want to earn a steady income through stock and diversify your online portfolio, do not shy away from people images! There are TONS of opportunities to earn good money from people shots. So get out there and get on with it!

If you have people and a location for a shoot and are looking for inspiration, have a look at our shooting ideas or even, TALK TO US! We will give you some ideas of shots that our clients are looking for.

Got more recommendations for working with people? We’d love to hear from you! Share your tips via the comment section below. 

Signing off,
The One Shot Team