Sunday, August 3, 2008

First things first

To be successful, a stock photo must first grab the viewer’s attention. That’s something of a given. What comes next is something often overlooked by even the most seasoned stock shooters.

Before you ever pick up the camera, you need to know the end use of the image you are about to take. Specifically, this means knowing the industry being served and how the subject of the photo relates to that industry. Let’s look at an example.

The insurance industry needs images for auto insurance, home owners insurance, theft insurance, fire insurance, flood insurance, and on and on. The list is quite extensive. Once the stock shooter has the industry list of needs, the next step is to determine how these topics could be illustrated.

We can divide the coverage into negative and positive methods. For instance, showing a crashed car, burnt home, or the results of any disaster is the negative way of illustrating the point. Showing a person feeling secure because he or she is protected by insurance is a positive was of illustrating the same point. In general, positive images will always outsell negative ones in stock photography. That is because advertisers want to gain allegiance from their customers by imbuing their ads with a nurturing feeling, as opposed to showing them something that scares them to death. Positive trumps negative.

In sum, to create marketable stock photos you should fill the advertising needs of a specific industry, actively illustrate these industry needs in a positive way, and make the image powerful enough graphically to grab the viewer’s attention in a fraction of a second. Note the order here. We don’t start with a photo idea and work towards the industry. We start first with a researched understanding of the industry and work back to a powerful image.

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