What Makes a Good Outdoor Stock Photo?

WHAT MAKES A GOOD OUTDOOR STOCK PHOTO?

 

Stock photography is in a never ending evolution while agencies and markets continue to evolve in an effort to meet the market needs. Photographers will still shoot many of the same subjects but must shoot them in a new way.

Marketable stock photography is part of the photography business where less than stellar images have little chance of success in the markets.

Here are some guidelines to consider when creating stock images:

Subjects that are timeless and have long lasting appeal will do best in the markets. These might be photos that provide a substantial amount of information such as a newsworthy image or a photo with historical value like Marilyn Monroe photos for example. We will continue to see those images published for many more years.

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This photo has succeeded in the markets for more than 20 years because it is timeless.

 

Concepts are KEY! An adventure image strong on concept will be successful if it meets the communication needs of the buyer. A company planning to run an advertisement, in which the copy talks about Success, could be illustrated with a rock climber on top of a rock celebrating the successful climb. Nature images that can apply strong concepts will also succeed. Like a tree seedling sprouting from a nurse log could illustrate many concepts like Growth, etc.

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Newsworthy events of natural disasters, such as the great Yellowstone fires in the late 80’s or the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill made for great selling subjects at the time. Good selling images also are interesting, unique, or capture a spectacular moment and are colorful, artistic, and visually compelling.

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Yellowstone after the big fire

 

Drama or some form of uniqueness. Other images could also be a spectacular moment in nature such as lightning or an animal antic. These images never age like fashions, technology, and lifestyles photographs do.

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Clear of clutter. A backpacker in a beautiful meadow of wildflowers with Mt. Rainier in the background may sell well for a few years, but the backpack and clothing could become outdated in a few years. Images of people and products would be devoid of logos, outdated objects that date it, out of style clothing, yet would have technical excellence and a broad appeal.  Most outdoor apparel has logos so you would need to retouch those out.

bicycle stock photography

This image was shot for a clothing catalog and then the images were returned to me for stock sales. But the orange riding jacket was only in style for one year and the image never really sold well. Use colors that are more timeless like blue and green.

 

Known subjects and locations need to be shot in new way. How many more images of Delicate Arch shot on an average day under average lighting conditions can the market bear? Instead images of lightning around the arch or shot during a blizzard or painted with light, are much more rare and likely to be more successful in the market.

 

Stay current. There is always a demand for current city skylines for example. Most publishers will not use them if they are over 2 years old. Skylines continually evolve and change and need to be updated regularly.

 

Leave room for text. An image that has enough room for a magazine header or double page spread can lead to more sales. Keep that in mind but use it carefully. A salable image needs to be a strong image first. Leaving room for text will not make a lousy image a selling one. Instead, shoot the well composed hero shot first then look for ways to add room for copy in your composition without sacrificing the impact of the original composition.

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Special techniques can make a marketable image. In the waning days of film, cross processing was a popular technique. You saw images processed this way used everywhere from advertising to editorial. Then the hot technique was HDR and there are a lot of images still produced using the grungy look, but we see very little if any of that technique published in advertising or editorial. Do experiment and try new things and tell the world about it.

 

Some ways to determine good selling photographs is to simply view what’s being published. Magazines related to outdoor and adventure subjects are superb examples of the style, technique, and even locations that markets are seeking. Adapt to what your markets are publishing. If you’ve been shooting landscapes for years and your favorite publication has begun using nature images with people in them, then the natural response is to start including people in your images.

 

The key to successfully creating marketable images is to research the markets carefully and understand what photo editors are looking for and adapt your shooting accordingly. Your business depends on it.

 

To learn more check out this amazing Outdoor Photography Course

 

The DIY Light Box

FOR YEARS I ENJOYED SHOOTING A TWO-LIGHT SETUP with my two White Lightning Ultra 1200 studio strobes, placing each in a softbox – one on the floor, pointed up, and the other on a light stand, pointed down. Between these two softboxes would be a 4′ x 4′ sheet of 1/8-inch white Plexiglas on which I’d place numerous subjects, including flowers and fruit and vegetable slices. The image below is an example made this way. But as much as I enjoyed this setup, it did take up a large corner of a room, and it was expensive!

 create your own light box

Then one day I stumbled upon the obvious. I lined the inside of a medium-size cardboard box with white poster board, replicating a softbox. I put one of my portable electronic flashes inside the box, pointing it up. On top of the box, I placed a sheet of 1/8-inch white Plexiglas which I found at Home Depot. I mounted another portable flash on a light stand overhead about 2 feet above the box. Due to the obstruction of the one flash in the box, you will need some kind of wireless device to get both of the strobes to fire simultaneously. I’ve found a radio remote, such as a PocketWizard, to be most successful.

To start, set both flashes to the same output – full power and in MANUAL FLASH MODE. Make sure that both flash distance scales indicate the same f-stop. (F/11 is a good place to begin since this is a set-up where depth of field is not an issue). Keep in mind that the flash in the cardboard box will be illuminating the subject through the 1/8-inch Plexiglas, so don’t place a diffuser or any other light-filtering device on that particular strobe. The Plexiglas becomes the diffuser. However, do place a diffuser on the flash sitting atop the light stand flash. Next, call on a normal sync speed of 1/125 sec., 1/200 sec., or 1/250 sec.; that choice is yours. Then place a flower or other small subject on the 1/8-inch Plexiglas, and shoot down on the setup. Check your exposure. Your goal is a subject floating in white space while being well exposed from both front and back. Many subjects will appear to glow. This is due to the strong backlight of the strobe firing from inside the box. You may end up decreasing the power of one strobe to make it mesh more with the light output of the other. It’s easier to make any changes to the strobe outside the box (the one on the light stand). Here are two examples of how magical this lighting set-up is! Both photos: 105mm lens, ISO 200, f/11 for 1/125 sec.

how to make a light box

 

Click below to watch a video stream that makes this idea even easier to understand – and keep on shooting!

All my best,

Bryan F. Peterson

Color Tips for Everyone!

It is difficult to imagine a world without color.

Helen Keller said:

“I understand how scarlet can differ from crimson because I know that the smell of an orange is not the smell of a grapefruit…Without color or its equivalent, life to me would be dark, barren, a vast blackness…”

Yet most often, we take color for granted and often do not really see its true spectrum. Like light or air we know surrounds us, we miss the nuances. Learning about color opens eyes and enhances photographic vision.

As photographers, we focus on color and color’s narrative voice adds emotion, impact, and metaphor.

Color affects the food we eat, the clothes we wear, our purchases, our moods, even our body temperature. Marketers are well aware of the psychological and biological powers of color, and they use these factors to influence our behavior. Consider that nearly 85% of all purchases are powered by color, decisions are made within 90 seconds based on color, and color can improve reading, learning, and comprehension. (Psychology of Color, Hubspot, Lindsey Kolowich).

Read along to learn some interesting information on the colors red, yellow, and blue (pigment primary colors).

Photography by Cheryl Machat Dorskind

I often suggest that young children wear red shirts when photographing in a field of greenery. Red and green are complements, colors opposite each other on the color wheel (a topic thoroughly explored in both my color classes). Pairing red and green creates color harmony and adds contrast – POWer.

 

RED

The human eye is most sensitive to red and red evokes strong emotions. Seeing the color red can raise blood pressure and stimulate appetite – that is why so many restaurants use red as wall coloring or décor. Red, an attention grabber (think stop sign), is often used in packaging to stimulate impulse buying.

Red sits on top of the rainbow and brands such as Netflix, CNN, LEGO, Canon, Adobe, and YouTube embrace the power of red in their logos.

 

Notice how red logos pop or move forward against a white background. Red, considered a warm color moves forward. The use of black in the font adds contrast to the logo.  White enhances the space of the name. Consider these same logos against a black background. I offer these logos to ignite thought. Are you using the right color in your logo and background to best convey your brand’s essence?

Notice how red logos pop or move forward against a white background. Red, considered a warm color moves forward. The use of black in the font adds contrast to the logo. White enhances the space of the name. Consider these same logos against a black background. I offer these logos to ignite thought. Are you using the right color in your logo and background to best convey your brand’s essence?

 

 

Food for thought, as some photographers prefer a black background for their websites. Notice how the yellow outline in the LEGO logo creates a shimmery effect and is therefore more eye-catching. Which background do you prefer, white or black?

Food for thought, as some photographers prefer a black background for their websites. Notice how the yellow outline in the LEGO logo creates a shimmery effect and is therefore more eye-catching. Which background do you prefer, white or black?

 

 

 

Yellow

A yellow shirt was selected purposefully to create a high key (light tones). In addition to yellow’s warm qualities, a high key image evokes purity and hopeful notions. The yellow shirt adds a happy notation.

A yellow shirt was selected purposefully to create a high key (light tones). In addition to yellow’s warm qualities, a high key image evokes purity and hopeful notions. The yellow shirt adds a happy notation.

 

Yellow connotes cheerfulness, optimism, intuition, and warmth. Yellow stimulates the nervous system, encourages communication, but causes fatigue and eyestrain. For many yellow awakens our inner child – maybe we think of the yellow-rubber duckies or the happy face emoticons 😀

Yellow is used to grab attention, show clarity, and represents optimism. Notice how companies such as National Geographic, IMDb, Best Buy, Sundance Films, and Nikon incorporate yellow into their branding.

A yellow shirt was selected purposefully to create a high key (light tones). In addition to yellow’s warm qualities, a high key image evokes purity and hopeful notions. The yellow shirt adds a happy notation.

A yellow shirt was selected purposefully to create a high key (light tones). In addition to yellow’s warm qualities, a high key image evokes purity and hopeful notions. The yellow shirt adds a happy notation.

 

Yellow is the lightest of colors and evokes warmth, therefore it is the most common color found in home décor.

 

Blue

Blue, perceived as a constant, represents calmness and serenity and is associated with water and peace. Arguably the most popular universal color, the color blue also curbs appetite.

 

Blue, a cool color, recedes, creating depth and makes a perfect background for white. This color pairing fact can be applied to clothing, still lifes, and landscapes to enhance compositions.

Blue, a cool color, recedes, creating depth and makes a perfect background for white. This color pairing fact can be applied to clothing, still lifes, and landscapes to enhance compositions.

 

Why are so many corporate offices decorated with blue? Working in a blue environment is known to increase productivity. Blue also infers trust and security – a blue suit remains the symbol of professionalism. Think about how many tech and social media companies use blue for their branding. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo, Dell, and Tumblr are just a few examples of corporations reinforcing trust, reliability, and confidence with color.

While these companies use blue as the hue (another word for color), you can see that there are many shades of blue and each has its own cultural connotations. For instance, dark blue is often associated with trust, dignity, intelligence and authority, whereas, bright blue connotes coolness and strength.  Blue works beautifully against a white background.

While these companies use blue as the hue (another word for color), you can see that there are many shades of blue and each has its own cultural connotations. For instance, dark blue is often associated with trust, dignity, intelligence and authority, whereas, bright blue connotes coolness and strength. Blue works beautifully against a white background.

 

So how do these color facts fit in with your photography?

First, learning about color theory, color psychology, and color biology will sensitize you to the world and your environment. Like wearing 3-D glasses, you will see depth and added clarity and feel more alive. You will be in tune with the power of color and understand how it is affecting and influencing you.

Second, you will notice more about your color preferences and hence your photographic motivations – chances are they are not as arbitrary as supposed.

As an exercise, review your photo library surveying color. I bet you will see a pattern, a propensity for a certain color or a category such as warm tones (red, yellow) or cool tones (blue, violet).

Lastly, strategize using color on your next photo outing. If you are photographing people, think about the colors of the clothes. Create color harmony and experiment to narrate personality. In my examples, I used family and children to illustrate the color theory logic, but the theories apply to all types of photography.

 

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Quick question: Which do you prefer the cool blues or the warm reds?  Send me an email: cheryl@cherylmachatdorskind.com and let’s start a conversation.

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Join me for All About Color and More About Color (July only) and allow me to share my passion for color, a topic I have spent over ten years researching. I fell in love with the theory of color while working on my first book, The Art of Handpainting Photographs. Using washes of oil paints to enhance my photographs, I discovered the power of color and have been sharing my discoveries ever since.

 

Click here to read testimonials about how my color class has impacted students’ vision.

I also teach Photographing Children Naturally, based in part on my eBook and Painting Photos at bpsop.com.

I hope to see you in one of my online classes sometime soon!

All my best,

Cheryl

PS I am running a sweepstake on my FB page. I am giving away three Premium codes to a fantastic task management and to-do-list app – Todoist (yearly subscription $29 value).

Come on over to Facebook, like my page, and sign up (click the sweepstake tab) to win a fantastic tool to stay organized. Three winners will be chosen on July 15th. And of course, color labels are an intricate detail of this popular app.

 

Color Matters

By Cheryl Machat Dorskind

ABOUT NEGATIVE SPACE

Few weeks ago we had in our Project52  group theme called “Negative space” and I was surprised to find out, how many people had a trouble to visualize this idea. Many many times it was represented by something negative. Negative emotions, negative thoughts, negative places etc… But the idea of negative space has nothing to do with any negative thoughts! To help my fellow friends and photographers, I have decided to go through my library and put together images from my archive, which I believe represent powerful photography concept of negative space quite well and will help to get the idea by examples.

using negative spaceSpain

When shooting negative space, don’t forget – it is not about negativity… it is more about the space! You want to find vast spaces, mostly without anything or with a boring, uninterested pattern… and then somewhere in the picture (typically towards the corner and at the intersection of golden thirds) BOOM! there’s something unexpected, which will break the picture. This “unexpected” will bring the meaning, will give the scale, will explain the rest of the space… So it will be the contrary (hence negative, meaning opposite) to the rest of the available, but unused space…

As always, picture is worth thousand words, so let me show you what I mean in following examples.

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Switzerland

 

 

This photo tip with and many other fresh photography ideas you can find on my blog here.

Think negative! 😉 And have fun!

Patrik Banas | www.patrikbanas.com

 

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Death Valley, CA

 

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Greece

 

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Greece

 

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Death Valley, CA

 

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Greece

 

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Switzerland

 

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Greece

 

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Corsica, France

 

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South Korea

 

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Switzerland

 

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South Korea

 

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Greece

 

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