Over the past few months I've been bombarded (a lot more than usual) with stock photos in commercials, banners, books, magazines... I even saw a bunch on TV in some static commercials. I started looking at their use more closely and I observed something very interesting. It's probably no news to some of you but others might benefit from it.
Before I continue, however, let me first as you a question. Do you photograph the final product or do you photograph an element from the (probably unknown to you) final product? Do you deliver a final product or an element from that final product? As similar as they sound these are two different questions... yet, both pointing to my observation. Take a moment to answer them.
You probably guessed my observation. There's often two types of stock images:
1) The final product
- images which usually get cropped a bit and/or some text slapped on top and that's how they are being used.
2) An element from the (probably unknown to you) final product
- images which are most likely going to live in Photoshop for a few hours or even days before they make it to their final destination.
Note that these two types are not necessarily exclusive. It's just a margin that many of your customers seem to fit in, judging by the used stock images you find out there. Some images can easily serve both purposes, others are more likely to be used only one way.
So many of you are asking questions about their portfolios and how to improve, especially in reaching more customers. One thing you can do now is focus on filling your portfolio with both types of images. This means that sometimes you'll need to spend
quite some time in preparing a certain scene, photographing it, processing it, etc. Other times you will only need to find the most useful angle and shoot on a seamless (and perhaps prepare a true isolate after that).
Lastly, why I asked you two questions earlier on - what you photograph shouldn't immediately become what you deliver. There's a lot of steps in-between and it's important not to skip them. It's also very important to have a clear idea what you want to deliver before you start creating it. You could go ahead and snap till you drop but chances are you won't be using all of your skills and creativity. The final results won't be as impressive as they could have been.
Variety is crucial, especially in a competitive market. If you consider these two categories of images you can easily create variety in a very niche-oriented portfolio. Or, if you have a very general portfolio you can reach a larger audience by providing two slightly different (or sometimes very distinctive) products.
It might also be useful for you to browse your portfolio and try to identify which of the two categories your images fit. Is it difficult to decide for an image? Perhaps this image doesn't have a strong presence, clear message and/or is not well processed. Think of how you can improve this in your new images.