Shooting for Stock Photography


Lesson Info

All About Stock

We'll jump right into stock, and kind of the history of stock, what is stock, where stock is now. So all about stock. What is stock photography? That picture there, I think is my very first stock photo, it was when I was in college, it's a frog eyes. That frog is like that big, little tiny one. Even way back in college, I was still playing with all those different toys. I had a little adapter, you could take a 50mm lens and turn it around and shoot through it backwards and it turns it into a real macro lens. That was a camping trip when I was in college, I just held the little frog like that and took the picture. Kinda warm on the edge, that's just my hand. So again, always be looking. I'll ask you guys, what do you think stock photography is? When I think of stock photography, I think of things that are pretty generic, but it's looking like you're pulling in a lot of very interesting and very different types of images in your archives. So generic, that's a good one. Anybody else h...

ave any other, any insight, what you think it is? I think, as far as the people pictures go, a lot of it is like daily life, you show people working, or I imagine with food, people in the kitchen cooking or something like that. Yeah the lifestyle, daily photos. Yeah that's definitely stock is. Stock is generic. It doesn't have to be generic, but it is a little bit generic, but in a good way because it needs to be something that's not specially stylized for one specific use, and one specific client. The idea is that you're creating something that anybody can see. And yeah, nowadays it's definitely lots of lifestyle and lots of showing everyday life, and what sells best is the idea of kinda feeling like you're there and part of it. So yeah, stock has evolved and we're gonna talk about that and the history of stock, I'll give you a brief rundown on that. So what it really comes down to is the idea of taking photos on speculation. It's the idea that you can take pictures of a subject for a certain amount of money, and be able to sell them to multiple people to generate more money. So if you take a picture that costs $100, and you sell it to three different people for $75, then you make a profit. So that's where it all comes down to, and that's what it was based on. I've got a little cheat sheet here, of bullet points of history of stock. So of all the pictures that are in here, this is the only picture that is not mine. This is my grandfather's picture of my grandmother. A little side thing I've been doing is I've gone back and gotten my grandfather's archive of Ektachrome and Kodachrome 35mm slides that are just in boxes and I've been scanning them and bringing them back to life. It's a super fun side project when I have actual time to work on it. So the history of stock. Stock started in the 20s, most people agree that it started with someone named H. Armstrong Roberts. I think that Robert Stock still might even be an agency today. He was a photographer in the 20s who saw what was happening in Hollywood in these big productions and this money being spent on these big, glamorous, beautiful pictures. So he thought "I could bring that into photography" so he went out and started taking pictures on speculation. He took pictures of everything from models, lifestyle, technology pictures, still lifes, and then he would sell them to clients. Back in the 20s, taking pictures was pretty expensive. It was 4x5, it was black and white, it was really slow, so he was able to take a picture of a real pretty model and because there wasn't a lot of money to spend to take other pictures of these models, he could sell it to three different advertising clients and they'd use that same model in different poses to sell their products. So he was kinda the pioneer in the beginning of that in the Roaring 20s when people had money. In the 30s, the depression happened, womp womp, there's not really much money. Not a whole lot happens in the 30s. Forties, as we know history, the war happens. We come out of the war and there is a ton of money in the United States, lots of money. Advertising is going crazy. So you get kinda the 40s, 50s, there's not a whole lot of stock at that time either. It's still expensive to take pictures, it's still mostly 4x5. It's also the time of Mad Men, I know all of you guys love that show. Yeah these Madison Avenue ad agencies are spending money, they're not buying stock, stock is second rate to them. They wanna go out and spend money. So there's not a whole lot that's happening, 40s and 50s. But kinda into the 50s and 60s, technology in photography starts to change a little bit. 35mm film comes out, people are starting to own cameras, and more and more people are taking pictures and that creates a different industry. The magazine industry starts to really kinda pick up at that time. So there's a lot more photographers taking editorial photos, and there's more ad space in the magazines, so that's kinda picking up. It's kinda the introduction of film technology, and it starts to change it. Tri-X film comes out so you can shoot high speed. Color film starts to come out at that time too, so it's changing a little bit, and the demands of what people actually want are changing. So you kinda get into the 70s, and magazines start to become more popular. Another technology change that sort of happens, not so much on the photography side, but on the printing side, printing starts to become cheaper, and there's more of it. Catalogs become very popular. By the time you get into the 80s, there's a huge magazine boom. There's magazines for everything. There's weekly publications, people were running around taking pictures of everything for everybody. '76, the copyright law is enacted, gives photographers and other artists the rights to own their pictures. There's more control over our pictures. ASMP gets rights to photographers to not work on speculation and to be hired to take pictures. So photography is a legit business now, and this is when stock really starts to come in. So 70s and 80s, with the technology coming in in printing, these stock catalogs start to get all of these editorial photographers pictures, that are pretty good quality, and start putting them into these catalogs, and they're shipping these catalogs out, these really fat, thick catalogs, to all these ad agencies and they flip through these catalogs, find a picture they want, and they've gotta call back and get someone to run that slide over to them. There's a whole industry in stock photography, agencies have to hire people to just manage a stock catalog and look for pictures. And then technology gets even more advanced in the 80s, going in toward the 90s. That's the Digital Age, but not so much digital for the photography age, it's more digital for the printing age. Scanning film happens, and digital press happens. People now have digital files and there's a quicker, easier way to get a picture sent to a magazine, to an ad agency, to use. This is kind of a big change in stock photography because it's much easier to get photos. The idea of royalty-free is introduced, and that is something that a lot of people feel really changed the stock world and killed stock photography. We'll talk about that later on, because it had a big influence, but it did not kill the stock photography world at all. Then the 80s, 90s is full of all the entrepreneurs, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, all these computers, all these innovators. There's so much more demand for pictures, and then this new digital platform, computers, and showing pictures on computers happened. '93 was a real kind of game changer in that stock photography was put on the internet, and now you could look on the internet for a picture, and you couldn't necessarily download it at that time, wasn't quite there yet, but you could look at stuff online. It gave some of these smaller agencies that were popping up everywhere now the idea to put images onto CDs and ship these CDs out. And that wasn't royalty-free, it was pay for this CD, it's got a bunch of images on it, and you can use it for whatever you want. And that changed stock quite a bit there. Also, the kind of ease to start transferring files grew even more in the late 90s. And this is when there was a huge boom in agenices. Little agencies were popping up everywhere in the 90s. Some of the bigger agencies even had trouble keeping up because it was expensive for them to go and try to scan their database, when these newer ones had newer contributors. Slide duping was happening, it was easy to take a picture and duplicate it and then have it scanned in different agencies. Once it was in the computer it could transferred to anybody. '95, Getty is one of the small companies, and they're popping up everywhere. The late 90s, early 2000s, that was my introduction to stock photography. A little side note is when I graduated college, I drove up here to Seattle, I applied for a job at two different small stock agencies. Didn't take a job at either one of them, ended up in New York and that's how it went but it's where I got the start. Then in the early 2000s is when technology on the photography side really changed everything. That's when digital cameras came out. That was when, you used to have to shoot on film and you had 24 or 36 pictures to take and it was expensive to get those processed, and then it took time to scan them. Digital cameras came out, pretty quickly the quality of those digital cameras was the same as 35mm, and everybody was taking pictures. Everybody. There's so many pictures out there. Stock really kind of, it was tough to keep up in the early 2000s, all these small agencies that popped up were starting to kind of not be able to make it. It was tougher and tougher for them to make the sales. Getty ended up gobbling up a whole bunch of those little companies, and then Getty themselves actually had trouble trying to figure out what the new business model would be for stock. Another thing that was introduced at that time, kind of in the early 2000s, the Napster age, what happened to the record industry when everybody just started sharing digital media was the introduction of microstock. That was driven by designers working digitally wanting to have images to work with in their designs quickly and then there was this kind of big idea that anything that was digital, because you can't actually touch it, it's just in a computer, you don't have to pay for it, do you? That's what happened to the record industry, and it happened to the photography industry, stock photography industry also. So there was kind of a downturn, 2008 the economic crisis that we had really kind of stopped. It didn't really kill stock photography, but it really put a halt on everything. Advertising dollars, magazine dollars, magazines just really started disappearing. It changed. And then that kinda gets us into where stock is today. Stock is alive and well today. The biggest change to come out of all of this is social media, and the way images are used today is so quick. You used to look at a magazine all month long and see those pictures. Now you pull out your phone and on Instagram or Facebook or you know, Pinterest, it's just you're bombarded with imagery. And that's worked in all of our favor, actually. It actually has made stock photography more there's not actually more value, but there's more need for it and more demand for it, because there are so many people taking pictures out there, if you get in with an agency and take a picture that is a little better, that's something a little different people are willing to pay for that again. The price of royalty-free imagery has really rebounded. There was a time when it was almost nothing. Now a lot of agencies it's, you know, $50 minimum for a picture and if somebody's buying a picture for $50, it's gonna be on a social feed for an hour. They're gonna have to buy another one an hour later. So there is money to be spent there. It's spent a little different, but it's there and it's actually in a better place now than it had been over the last ten years or so. It's ever-evolving, and there's just much more of a need now for documenting everyday life, there's a big need to document our changing planet, big concern. So there's so much out there that people want to consume and see and learn about, and they spend the money for that. So these pictures are being used everywhere. Any idea where stock photography is used? Anybody have an idea? (audience chatter) Advertising, magazines, yeah. It's used everywhere. I'm pretty sure that right down the street right now there is a Keynote presentation going on in an Amazon board room, and it's full of images and the person who put that together paid a little money to use those images for their presentation. Maybe that picture is in there. Somebody else is showing it, maybe. So there's just so much need for photos. And people now, you're giving a presentation and you see a picture that is really strong and powerful and it costs money, there's a good chance that you're gonna spend the money on it because it's useful to you. The idea of just stealing pictures and taking pictures for free, that doesn't really exist anymore. That whole thing, that whole idea is changed. There are budgets now and people are spending money. When you said that you were looking for images of yours that have sold, how are you searching for those? Just under your name or image search? So when I was with Corbis, with agencies, they tend to send a, depending on if it's monthly, yearly, they'll send a kind of like spreadsheet PDF and it's just like a bunch of numbers and symbols and what images have sold, and then it will give you what they sold for. Usually gives you the country, it'll give you some letters and numbers that correspond to what it was actually supposedly used for, what it was sold for. So I would get that, it's pretty much almost like a little pay stub you get, depending on how your agency pays you. So that's how I got those numbers. The best I could do. (chuckles) So question from the internet, one of our students says that you mentioned of models in the earlier as a stock, and it sparked a question relevant today. And I know we're gonna be talking about this later, but just maybe a quicker answer, do standard model releases hold when shooting stock? Or do you need something sort of specific? No, any model release should work, like pretty much any release. I have releases that I used back in college that are on little 3x5 index cards because that's what people had then, and I have those scanned and they still work. I'm not a lawyer, I don't exactly know this, my experience with the stock agencies are get it released, but they're not too particular about it. If somebody knowingly signs a piece of paper that has the right saying that you can use it, and their signature goes on it, and they know that, then they're really never is a problem. But it's one of those areas where don't cheat it, don't sign for somebody else, be careful with it. But no, I don't think you have to have a real big, robust, three-page model release. The model release I use is one page. In the bonus material, I'm providing a model release and a property release for you guys that will work just fine. We'll talk more about model releases, too.

"I really enjoyed Geo's course. I am now much more encouraged about stock photography."
CL Student, Coastrbc

The world of stock photography can feel complicated, but commercial and editorial photographer, Geo Rittenmyer, will show you how to create and sell stock photography from any situation. In this course, he’ll cover the essentials of stock photography, the differences between royalty free or rights managed, as well as where stock is utilized in today’s world. He’ll also be interviewing an art director at a top agency to better understand what types of imagery stock agencies are looking for. 

Topics include: 

  • Techniques for shooting when traveling and what to think about when taking a photo 
  • How to set up a low cost stock specific studio shoot 
  • How to utilize Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom CC to organize your catalog and keywords for easy access 
  • How to find a stock agency for your work 
  • When and where to use model or property releases 

Stock photography can allow you to shoot for your clients, as well as your passion. Get back to shooting what you love and make money at the same time! 



  • Personally, I really liked this class, but I can see why it wouldn’t be for everyone looking for information about stock photography. I’ve already researched and started doing microstock, but now I’m looking for more information about other options. This class was a good fit for me. Although Geo seemed new to public speaking and used too many fillers like “uh” and “um”, I found him likable and surprisingly relatable considering our different photographic niches. This class may be best suited for: Learning more about boutique galleries, rights managed stock and alternatives to microstock Seeing how this particular stock photographer works, gets inspiration and has been successful Getting ideas about current trends and sources for inspiration Getting the perspective of a creative director for a boutique agency Those interested in lifestyle photography May not be as suitable for: Broader and more in depth information about the variety of options in stock photography Those who want to focus on microstock New photographers who want detailed information about getting started and meeting technical requirements Those who prefer a more polished speaker
  • I thought this was a great class and have to disagree with some of the comments from the hands down viewers. The audience was listless and did not seem to be interested in being there. Do you know how difficult it is to stand up in front of a bunch like this and keep your mojo racing? Very difficult. Hardly anyone asked questions and they all just gave a lot of nods most of the time. If your read ahead of time the info on the class, you would see that he was going to go into Lightroom and workflow. Yes, some of it was a drag especially all those pictures taken from the condo at a FL panhandle beach. But nothing's perfect. Maybe I got a lot out of this because I am newer at photography. I was glad to know about his equipment. Everyone's personality is different and for all the talent and success Geo has enjoyed, he remains a humble and very likeable guy.
  • I loved this class! I cannot agree with some other reviews below at all Geo gives so much valuable information, and in fact I love his style much more than many other over-self confident speakers. He is sympathetic and likeable, and most importantly give very much valuable insights into stock photography. I just started with stock and got all my questions answered. I watched it already three times. The only part which I did not like so much was the post-processing part, because he could have explained better his workflow and why he chose certain actions. But that does not impact on the overall quality of the course. I can only highly recommend this class