Shooting for Stock Photography


Lesson Info


Now time for the fun part. Enough with all that boring retouching, Photoshop, archiving stuff. So I'm just gonna demonstrate some equipment that I use. And I think what's really cool about this and what I kinda like to pride myself in is that I don't own a bunch of super high-end expensive crazy fancy gear that nobody else can have. I have pretty basic stuff. I tend to be a little cost savvy. I'll buy the lesser expensive one if I don't need all the bells and whistles. So I just kinda demonstrate a little bit of some of the tricks that I have, the little different tools in my toolkit to show off. So I shoot Canon. Everybody out there shoots Canon, right? Right. Nikon. Who's Nikon? Nikon. Nikon, couple Nikon. And Canon? Anybody Sony? Olympus. Olympus. (audience member speaks from a distance) (chuckles) Anybody shoot maybe medium format? All right, well, it doesn't matter what you shoot, none of them are any better than the other one. I shot Nikon when I shot film. Early on, I sw...

itched to Canon's digital and then got a little too invested in Canon to ever switch back to Nikon. But I do really like Nikon. I like their products, they're great. I just stayed with Canon. It's just a tool. So the first thing I'm gonna show, just kind of a demonstration of some pictures with the equipment that I use. So the first camera that I use is this mirrorless camera. I don't know where the lens cap went. And this thing shoots raw files. It shoots pretty darn good pictures. I use it for a prop sometime in shoots. But I take this with me kind of anywhere when I travel. I'll just throw it in my bag if I don't have my full cameras with me. This picture, stock picture, for sale. Again, it's finding some random little toy. It was my kid's toy. We were at a resort in Puerto Rico. Went down to the infinity pool in the morning. Nobody was there. Of course, I didn't have my real big cameras with me, 'cause you don't go to the pool with your family with big camera, usually. (laughs) Unless you're planning on doing a shoot. But I had this to grab some pictures of little guy in the pool. And I was just kinda waiting there. I got another picture with a cool blackbird landed right on the edge, and then I just floated the boat out there. Took the picture with this camera. And it's kinda cool. It's fun. It's a little picture in a stock catalog for sale. So you don't have to have the biggest, best, craziest camera. I mean, anything that shoots a raw file and gives you a decent file size, you can get something of quality nowadays. It's pretty cool. So I don't know, do any of you guys have mirrorless cameras? You guys have your kinda point-and-shoot type camera that maybe you carry around with you? It works. People are selling iPhone pictures now. There's kind of a need for that. It's a whole 'nother area. But taking pictures on your phone that are of high quality is also something to keep in mind, maybe look into a little bit. The cameras that I use, I'll just kinda talk about the three different ones. I talk about 'em in the video that we're gonna see in a little bit. But I have a EOS 1DX, it's really kind of big and expensive, and the most expensive thing that I have, (chuckles) pretty much. It's good for shooting sports. For some of my clients, I have to shoot actions stuff and I use this camera for that. I also really like it. I use it for a bunch of stuff. It's not the newest, latest one. Can't really afford to go and buy another $6,000 camera. So this one still is really good. It's got pretty high megapixels, it shoots really fast. It's durable. But it's not all that necessary. Sometimes it's good to have. But the megapixels aren't great. The camera that I use quite a bit now is, I'm sure a lot of people who shoot Canon shot with the 5D series. Really good series, I'm up to the 5D IV, I went ahead and got that, sold my 3s to a friend who's an underwater photographer, who had housings made for the Mark III, so he had to buy 'em. So this one's great. It shoots pretty quick. It's got pretty high megapixels now in it so you really can crop into images now. You can shoot stuff a little wider, and play with the crop without really losing too much quality. So this one and the wi-fi function on it, you guys have tried that, it's pretty cool. You connect it to your phone and get the pictures right off onto your phone and put 'em up on social if you want. And then another camera that I have, I use this for stock once in a while. It's mostly a studio camera, it's a 50 megapixel Canon camera, it's really slow. And if I'm shooting some urbanscapes, some night scenes, something like that, I'll take this picture out, just gives me a bigger, better file to work with. But I generally, for any kind of lifestyle every day shoot, I really don't use this. It's pretty much in a studio or on a tripod. So another option if you have it. But, honestly, if you have, I mean, if you have just this, you can make some stock pictures. You have just one of these camera, you are good to go. Do you guys have multiple? How many people have more than one camera body? Okay, so quite a few of you. Yeah, so two camera bodies is probably plenty. It's a little overkill to have three. So some of the equipment that I use, different lenses. I don't shoot zoom lenses to much. There's nothing wrong with zoom lenses, people love zoom lenses. They are great. I just sort of always kept prime lenses, it's just a personal preference, so there's not any quality difference, really, or anything like that. Prime lenses just, for some, it makes them... They can't focus and concentrate, because they have to be moving physically back and forth and then for other people like me, I wanna be moving back and forth. So to think about zooming the lens, it just usually doesn't really work for me too well. With that being said, my favorite stock lens, hands down, by far, is this lens, 17 to 40 zoom lens. It's the f4 lens, this is my third one. I've gone through these of these things. (chuckles) And it's not the 16 to 35, which is the more expensive, fancier one. I don't shoot in low light a whole lot. Most of the stuff's outdoors. Every single one of those pictures there from a few different trips that I quickly looked, are shot with this camera, with this lens. And I think the majority of those are stock pictures. So have your favorite lens. And wide angle lens for stock is really good. We'll talk about that a little more in the video. So you don't have to go and buy the most expensive zoom lens. I feel like this one is like $800 range or so so it's completely kind of affordable. So, let's see, do you guys like to take pictures when you're on an airplane out the window? Everybody does. So that's our beautiful mountain here in Seattle. I have a couple lenses that I'll bring. Did I not unpack one of 'em? Of course I didn't. This was shot, I think, with the 85 or 100 millimeter prime lens. I think that those... That range, 50, is a little bit wide, but I just put an 85 on and just have camera body in my lap whenever I fly. And I get a window seat. And it's a great way to kinda shoot past the wing and get a good view. Sometimes if you got your 70 to 200, and you're sitting there like. (audience laughing) It's a little awkward. But just a 85 millimeter, 100 millimeter works really well. And a little bit about this picture that I took. I had a morning flight. I think I was going to Atlanta out of Seattle. And it was in summertime and it was a six a.m. flight and I knew that, when I was flying, that was gonna be a really pretty time. I had been up doing some other shoots recently. So I knew there was a chance of that. So I went (chuckles), went online and you can see where plane flights are, you can get flight history and all that. So I looked where this flight had been taking off in the last few days and the way it was flying around the mountain. And I went ahead and got a seat that was on that side of the plane, with the hopes that this would happen. Like I actually did plan this. (chuckles) (audience chuckling) It was way cooler than I maybe thought it would be. But I had kinda prepped myself to be in the position to do this. So always be kinda producing and planning and thinking about about you're doing. Another lens here, the shorty 40, these pancake lenses are pretty common now. I don't know if you guys have ever shot with one of these. So a lot of times, I will just put this camera or this lens on a camera body and they're not the fastest lens. The focus isn't the best. If you're shooting anything that's important or critical, I would not recommend using this. But if I put this lens on this camera and put it in a backpack or a bag, there's nothing sticking out. It's just a flat, easy to drop in your bag. And I could walk around with it. And it's super small and compact. I like it. And so places... This was just with some friends. I had the camera with me and, again, my wife is a model, playing with some, what are those? Sparklers in a backyard. And was just happened to have my camera with the 40 millimeter, and just popped that shot, another stock picture that works. So just kind of have whatever you can with you. Like you don't have to be planning and worrying and thinking about it. Just kinda get in the habit of putting a small inexpensive lens on one of you cameras and just carrying that with you. Or, you know, if you have a mirrorless, just carry it with you, 'cause you never quite know when these moments happen. I mean, that's the only picture I took. It was just... We were, I don't know where we were, somewhere in Florida, I think. And it was with some friends. And it was just a barbecue in the backyard and there was some sparklers there. And lit a sparkler, got a picture and went back to barbecuing and hanging out. So always an option. Always a good chance. But if you took that on your iPhone, you'd have a good memory, but you're not gonna have a picture that's stock-worthy, probably. So definitely the little shorty 40 on here now. I'm not really sure. I feel like that's $150 lens. It's not too expensive. Next one. This is a 500 millimeter lens. That picture I showed in the very beginning, that was shot with this lens. So this is a mirror lens. This is 500 millimeters, that's how big it is. I don't you know if you guys are familiar with these. It uses a mirror. So there's a mirror in the back of this. And that comes up and this is another mirror. And this mirror reflects back through a transparent area, in the center mirror. So, in theory, it's a lens that should be that big. It is f8 and it is manual focus. If you have an important picture to take. (chuckles) (audience laughing) This is not the lens. This is definitely a take a whole bunch of frames and play with that focus and hope you get something. It happens. This one's shot on a tripod. I can put my camera on live view and manually focus this to get that detailed picture. And that works. So that's this lens. I don't know if you guys wanna pass it around, check it out. You can buy this thing on Amazon for 200 bucks maybe. So another one... That one's actually a pretty nice lens. I have this one, with the adapters off of it. This is a 400 millimeter f8 or 6.3, I'm not sure. It's another mirror lens. I had this one for awhile. I feel like this one was like 60 bucks, like really cheap. And I had it with me one time when I was, I think at Olympic Park, the sculpture park down here in Seattle. Just playing with it. I knew the moon was coming out, at kind of a good time in the day. So just out of, I don't know, boredom, wanted to take a picture. I went out and lined up the Space Needle with this 400 millimeter lens, no, this is 500, 500. I think that one's 400. This one's 500. And got that picture, with a toy lens, with a $60, $75 online for it. So you don't need to go out and purchase a 400, 2.8 $15,000 lens (chuckles) and try to lug that around. In fact, a lot of times that the pictures that I got, like the girl from behind, with that lens. I could have a 400 millimeter 2.8, I couldn't have hiked up there with that, (chuckles) there's no way. And it gives kind of a fun... It's a little bit soft, you can push the sharpness up on it and it works well. Some other lenses that are fun. (chuckles) 8 millimeter fisheye. This is a manual focus lens, also. When you shoot ultra wide, there's not really a need to have autofocus, because it's pretty much everything's an infinity and you're probably not shooting some crazy action. So you don't need to go buy the really expensive autofocus, just buy this $200 fisheye lens. Honestly, I don't really use this lens much, it's a little too extreme. This was a picture for The Guardian of the Up house that's in Ballard neighborhood. So it's not a stock picture, it's an editorial picture, but it's the only thing I had to demonstrate this lens. I also have another really wide lens. And, here, this is a 14 millimeter corrected. So this lens, I know Canon and I believe Canon and Nikon make one of these. It's an autofocus lens. And it's really nice but it's also crazy, crazy expensive. Again, a lot of times with sort of, you know, travel or lifestyle pictures, having something that's ultra wide, I mean, this looks like it's a huge place. I mean, this water holds like the size of this (chuckles) area. Again, this is one of those places where I went online, Google search of this waterfall, saw pictures online of it, so I had a pretty good idea of how actually small and compressed it was. I didn't see anybody who had a picture that showed it from top to bottom like this. So with that, I said, all right, I'm gonna throw this 14 millimeter ultrawide into my bag. And when I went out there, I was able to get this whole thing in one frame. I know you can probably take two pictures and stitch them together or something, but it's a really good tool to have. I use this one quite a bit. And, again, it's a couple hundred dollars for this lens. So if you do find yourself shooting more wide angle stuff and really kinda gettin' in there to show, you know, kind of a sense of place with models and you wanna do something that's maybe a little wider than the 24 millimeter that you have, the 17 to 40, 16 to hundred five's good. And then these are also worthwhile. Some other stuff that I use, lenses, I have a 24 to 70. I take this with me for scouting. It's my favorite scouting lens. I usually don't shoot with it. It's a lens that I bought really cheap off of Craigslist or something, from somebody who wanted to sell it. (chuckles) It came with a kit that they had purchased, and they already had one. So I got a really deal on it. And I'd always kinda wanted one for scouting, but I was like I'm not gonna spend money for a lens just for scouting. So I got a good deal on it and I got it. It is a good lens. Sometimes I will, you know, shoot with it if I don't really wanna carry a bunch of lenses. So do most of you guys shoot zoom lens or fixed? Fixed? A lot of fixed people. Yeah, so let's see, some other tools, filters. You guys use filters on you cameras? Polarizer filters? Polarizer filter is something I always, always, always have with me. I've got several of them. I've got them, one case here, just has them in all different sizes to fit all of my lenses. If you're shooting outdoors, you're shooting kind of daylight stuff, especially for stock lifestyle stuff, it really, really does make a difference. I didn't even do this on purpose. I just forgot to turn the lens. And it's just kind of a good example. You see this before and after stuff all the time. But, I mean, that really is just two raw files, like, literally, the diffrence with a circular polarizer. So if you are shooting day stuff, you are doing travel stuff, and you are gonna be shooting midday, especially these tropical places, these clouds, anything with water, get a circular polarizer and put it on and start using it. If you have polarized sunglasses, you'll have to take them off when you're shooting with a circular polarizer. Let's you see nothing. (chuckles) So that's something I use quite a bit. And just a little reference on these pictures, I knew I was teaching this course when I went to Hawaii a little while ago, so I shot some of this stuff, specifically for this course. This is a picture of this camera, without the grip on it, on, I took the grip off when I was walking so it was lighter, with this GorillaPod. I had the GorillaPod in the backpack with the 18-month-old and a couple other things. And I put this camera on this GorillaPod, put it there. And then neutral density. Do you guys ever use neutral density? It's just sort of a fun thing. Something to try. I know some people are kind of into that stuff. I like to play with it sometimes. So I put a neutral density filter on, I have one in here somewhere, a neutral density filter on I think a 35 millimeter lens. This one's a three, so nine stop neutral density. So I put it on there, just set the camera on there. Tourists are like up there taking pictures and wondering what I'm doing. (chuckles) "Why are you leaving your camera there?" And I took this picture here. So that's like a five minute exposure with a neutral density filter. You get those cool blurs in the skies. And it's just when you're on a location, it's just thinking about different things, giving different options. Some of the pictures from the hike were selected. This is also for sale. It's a stock image now that might sell and make me a bunch of money. And it's just 'cause I got to a viewpoint and rather than sitting there and meditating, I'm kind of a camera nerd and just wanted to (chuckles) put a neutral density filter on a camera and take that picture. So these are just more tools to kinda think about and put in your bag. These are the fountains at Bellagio in Las Vegas. Had to go down to Vegas to stay for something. Knew that I was staying in a hotel that had a view of these, asked the hotel if I could get a room that looked out over the fountains, which is real nice. And they got me a room that had kind of a cool view, little bit of a tower there. So this neutral density filter's kind of a dusk. So you get kind of those cool streaks. It's on a tripod, a few minute exposure. So, again, like when you're out and just kind of always be thinking about where you can create picture and then think about what tools you can bring with you to take those pictures. Let's see. Ooh, what do we have here? On-camera flash. I have speedlight. I don't use this all that much. Sometimes. But it's really good. Some people are really good with their speedlights and people like them quite a bit. And do you guys use them at all? Yeah, no. It's a whole 'nother thing to learn is artificial lighting. So if you want to get into it, it's a good start. I would recommend just a speedlight and one basic modifier. I like this one. This was the one that was used for that picture. Just kind of a little bounce softbox, you put the flash in there. And you can kinda bend it. And it just gives a little fill. So this is on a balcony in a condo building. So it's dark inside. So we're just kinda balance that out. All I did was just put this flash on off camera on a GorillaPod and just kinda dialed it in to get that exposure. And, again, you know, another picture that if that was just a black silhouette, probably wouldn't be as dynamic. This picture is also a stock image that's for sale right now for that shoot. And it's just having a couple other little tools in the bag that allow you to do that. Other stuff that I like, I talk about in the video. I have small travel tripod. I've got lots of tripods. I'm sure you guys have tripods also. This one is a travel one. It's good. I have some smaller ones, even, that I'll take with me sometimes. They can be used as a light stand. You can use them as, you know, a tripod, like you're supposed to. Super handy. But you can fit quite a bit of this gear just into one bag when you go traveling and travel with it. So these are kind of all the things I keep. A cable release is handy. Always, always, have some gaff tape, (chuckles) always. Always having to cover stuff up or fix things. I keep a lot of it on lens shades. I can just peel it off and use it if I need. Pocket wizards, I use these. There are kinda just the cheap, basic pocket wizards. I don't go out and buy the real fancy, expensive multi max ones. These work just fine for firing off one of these flashes. Various lens shades I keep. I don't always travel with them. I don't always need them. But if I'm gonna be in a sunny location, maybe bring them with me. And CF cards, of course. I use this, I don't know if you guys are familiar, an Eye-Fi. (chuckles) It's a wireless adapter. So it's a card you can put in. So if you have a camera that has two slots, you can use this or this to take images from one of these cameras onto your phone. The Mark IV, I think the Nikon, the latest Nikons have it also, but you can connect with your phone to your camera and take pictures. It's another little item that I have. And I've got a couple other things for studio stuff that I'm gonna show. Okay, the first one. So this was a yoga studio set up. The yoga studio was a littler darker than I thought. But I didn't want to bring in complicated light and try to light this too much. So I built this. I went online and there's people who make these. I went down to Home Depot This globe is like, I don't know, a $10 acrylic globe at Home Depot. Cut a hole in this piece of wood, took a piece of speed ring apart, just kinda bolted this together. I just put some plastic in here to even dim it down even more. And then I put this on here. I had it on a boom and had it up and kinda overhead. And this would just fire on a low setting. And all it does is just bring the ambient light up in the building. So now I'm doing this shoot and I'm shooting probably, I'm gonna say, 640, 800 ISO. If I didn't have this light on, I would be like squeaking by at 1600. I might even have to go up a little higher. And then the quality just isn't quite as good. So all this is really doing is just bringing up ambient light. So if you are into lighting and you have some studio equipment, there's great little hacks online, so just kinda keep looking, get an idea. And so a shoot like this, just yoga studio in the neighborhood, just one light. It's not complicated. I don't even have to think about it. I just walked around taking pictures and this would just pop. And then, let's see, one more. Oh, yeah, back to this shoot, the one that was set up in a studio. And you might think, "Wow, that one's kinda complicated. "It's in a studio, all that stuff's staged, it's lit." So what that one is lit with is a Scrim Jim. So I've got this right here. Folds up really neat. And then I've got just a kind of a travel battery pack light. And then you open it up and it becomes, Jake will come in here, it becomes this big flat panel. It's also really good if you're shooting in sunlight. But all I did was just put this up on the opposite side of the studio here, put one light, shot one light through this, just so it balanced the light that was coming in from the window. And that's it. So it just lightens it up a little bit. It feels natural. It doesn't take a whole lot of equipment and a whole lot of knowledge of lighting to do some of this really basic stock stuff. But just adding one studio light can really just add the production value and take the quality up. So does anybody out there, you guys have any studio lights you guys shoot with? Yeah? No? This is definitely a more pricier investment, but kinda keep it in mind. And maybe if you know anybody who has lights, try it out, test it out. But it can be worthwhile in some of these shoots. So any questions on all this awesome gear? I'll get the party started over here. Excellent. If that works for ya'. Ken Duffney would like to know, "Do mirror lens cameras have the quality "to submit images to stock?" Yes. I just showed you a couple pictures that (chuckles) were of stock quality. They're definitely stock quality. They're a little artsy, so you are going to get... You're gonna get this file that's not, it's a little different. It's a little softer, there is kind of a bright spot in the middle of the file. But as long as you know that and you're creating something that kind of goes along those lines, like the pictures that I had shown from it, then, yeah, it's absolutely of quality. If a client's hiring you to take a picture that's 400, 500, millimeters and they want it to be tack sharp, and it's critical, absolutely, not. Do not use (chuckles) a mirror lens. Use a mirror lens for your own personal work and just to kind of experiment and get something different, 'cause that's the idea. What I'm trying to hopefully get through is just take pictures of everything. Just try different things. So, yeah, mirror lenses are for yourself and you will get stock quality sometimes. And what's that-- Oh, this one. What's that-- So, yeah. People are probably asking. People are asking about that lens. So this lens is my dream lens. It took me a long time to finally save up enough money to buy one of these. So this is actually, and I got a really good condition f1.8, so it's a 200, 1.8. And it's my favorite portrait lens. I do not shoot stock with this very often. It's pretty heavy. But I like to use it in studio. I like to take portraits with it. The quality is fantastic and it's kinda artsy and fun. But it was my dream lens. It took me almost 10 years to finally save up enough money to (chuckles) buy it. So I don't know if you guys, anybody out there shoot with a (chuckles) crazy, yeah. There's not too many of them out there. It's a unique, it's almost like an art lens itself, but it's really, really high quality. Yeah, other than that, some other lenses I have up here, 50 prime, use it. You'll see in the video I use it all the time. Great lens. I have a 50 macro. I don't really use it too much. And another thing up here I didn't talk about, extension tubes. These can be fun, too. These will allow you to focus closer with a lens. These are cheap ones. But there are also the ones that allow you to still use autofocus. So they don't cost very much. You don't have to buy the real expensive brand name ones. You can buy the off-brand ones. So what this does is if I put it on my 50 millimeter lens. My 50 millimeter lens says I can focus at, closest I can focus is one and a half feet, so I can focus from here to here. If I put the extension tube on, it'll now allow me to get here, this much closer. So it's that much more magnified. So it's kind of like turning a regular lens into a macro lens. It's just another little tool. It doesn't really change quality at all. You get a little bit less light out of it, but that's it. Another fun tool to try. If you have, again, any friends, anybody who has any of these, feel free to maybe ask them if you can check it out or try it. I know that I've let a colleague here borrow this lens before. She does wedding stuff, and I think she wanted to take pictures of the rings. And that's kind of a cool lens to do that with. And I think that's everything up here that I... I talk about these in the next video, gels. (chuckles)

"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