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Shooting for Stock Photography

Lesson 8 of 19

Self Producing

Geo Rittenmyer

Shooting for Stock Photography

Geo Rittenmyer

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Lesson Info

8. Self Producing

Lesson Info

Self Producing

So, this is kind of an important part of stock nowadays, is you can't really spend money on stock, it's just so hard to justify it. So you've gotta know, first thing, is to know your strengths, and most importantly, know your weaknesses. And, by that, I mean you need to know what you're good at doing and what you're not good at doing. So, if you're taking pictures, and maybe you can see this, ask your friends, ask around. Maybe there's something that's lacking. Maybe your pictures are like, whoa, they're really cool, but everybody's hair just looks kind of bad in all of them. So, maybe you don't know how to do hair. So maybe you have a friend, or maybe you do spend a little money on somebody to come in and do hair. Maybe it's that with wardrobe. It could be with all kinds of different things. Maybe it even comes down to just the retouching and toning. So know what you're good at, and what you need some help with, and what you need to reach out and ask for help with. So, places to budge...

t. First thing that you'll need is producer or casting director if you're not very good at handling the work yourself, or, maybe you're not the best at finding people. This is one that I actually do hire out sometimes and get help with. I like the help in that department. Hairstyling, I will reach out for that. A lot of times I'll work with models, or ask models, or friends or family who I know have good hair, are pretty good at doing their hair. I'm not a beauty photographer, so I don't need anything too crazy. But again, finding somebody who knows how to do their own hair, same with makeup, exact same thing. I know makeup pretty well just from working in the industry long enough, I can give pretty good direction to somebody. You can say, "Hey, can you do your makeup a little lighter?" "Keep the eyes lighter." "Go with whatever lipstick you want." "Maybe a little blush, keep cheekbones up." You can direct them if you know that, or if you have a family member for you guys who... Wife, or girlfriend, or mom. Somebody who's good at it, too, you can ask them for advice, and not have to spend money for a makeup artist. Especially for a lot of this kind of more lifestyle stuff, you don't need to have really good heavy makeup. Wardrobe and styling is important. I think this is kind of the most important today, right now, for our type of work is getting a good wardrobe and getting good styling. I've got some kind of secrets that I like to do. I go shopping. I'll go shopping with the model, friend, whoever, and find stuff for them to wear. I've got my favorite stores that I like to go to, and I like to go to these stores because I can return the clothing. I don't always return it. I try to go to places that aren't too expensive. But having a new, clean, crisp piece of clothing, it really makes a difference. Something that's been washed two dozen times, it just doesn't quite have that same kind of cleanness to it. It doesn't have to be some high-end fashion beautiful piece of clothing. So, go down to any of the lesser-expensive places. Some of my favorites, like... American Apparel's super clean, basic stuff. I'll go into H&Ms or a GAP, any of those, and buy wardrobe. And then I'll return it if I don't use it. Sometimes I'll use it, and it's also a really nice gift to just give the model. 'Cause if they wear something, and you don't think you're going to return it, or they've worn it a little too much, but you've put it on them, and they look good in it, and you say, "Hey, thanks for modeling, go ahead and keep that." You're usually pretty pumped up. So I like to do that. It's a small cost. You can write it off. But it's definitely something that's important. I talk about it in the shoot when we go out in the field, and I actually did that there. Set building and set styling. These are two things to keep in mind. Set building's like a bigger process. Maybe you're good at that, maybe not. I think this is like almost to a level that you'll know if you need to have somebody set building. But set styling is another thing. If you get a friend who just has a good eye for, kind of, architect... You know, their living room is like super well-organized and designed. You have one of those friends. If you're going and shooting at a location, maybe have them... See if they'll come and help kind of art direct a little bit with you. Move stuff in the background, move stuff around. If there's a really cool window with good light, and there's a good painting, you know, see if you can just move the couch, or the chair, or whatever in that direction. So, keep an idea of what kind of style you want and doing the set styling. And, again, this is like one of those... If you know those people who are good at this, ask them. I've never had any problems asking friends who weren't really into photography like, "Hey, you want to go on a photo shoot for a few hours "and help me out?" There usually like, "Cool, yeah, sounds fun, I can give that a try." But make sure it's somebody you like and isn't going to annoy you too much. Assistants, lighting tech, these are other things you can spend money on. I don't usually spend too much money. I like to do everything myself. Carry my own bags and everything. Just one of those people. But maybe you do want to step up your studio stuff a little more, and you want to get a little better with lighting. Maybe there's somebody you know who is good at lighting, or an assistant who does that. Maybe plan a shoot, produce a shoot, bring somebody in, and work with that. And test out your ability of lighting in the studio if that's what you're interested in. And then the last one is kind of an interesting one is editing and retouching. Editing is something I'll talk about later. It's really, really important of being able how to find the right images in all those pictures you take, how to narrow that down. But retouching, and putting this look on stuff is something that people hire out now more than ever. So if you're not really good at Photoshop, keep practicing. Watch lots of CreativeLive courses on how to get better at that. Any tutorials. Practice it, it'll definitely help keep your costs down if you can do all of that yourself. But if you narrow it down, and you've got a few images that are really good that you can even work with your agency on, and art director, or someone with, and be like, "Yeah, those are good images, "but let's push 'em to have this look." You can send those out to somebody, and pay, you know, use a little money there to have some retouching look done to it. I don't do it personally because I'm pretty good myself, but I do have friends who do this often, and they're now in love with it. They can get... They have a retoucher that they like now, that they have a relationship with, and they can get stuff done, like, you know, $20 an image. And so if you've got three images that are gonna go into stock, and you spend 60 bucks, and you spend maybe 60 bucks on a wardrobe or something for a photo shoot, like... It's not bad. That's not that much money. And it gives you kind of a relationship moving forward to maybe even do other client work with a retoucher. So, know when and where to spend money and use your money. So, a couple examples. Picture that sold pretty well. Absolutely no money spent on this, no production. Had my wife put on that hat and styled a little bit. Went for a walk in fall. Just snapped some pictures. She found a really big leaf and thought it was cool. Put it up to her face and... This thing gets used all the time. And then, here we go. This is nice. Hair, makeup, paid model, stylist. Clothing pulled from an expensive place. Effects, lots of retouching. This wasn't for a stock shoot. Ended up going into stock, it worked out. But it was something I shot myself for a self-promotional piece. It was kind of a winter holiday campaign that I did. So this picture has actually, I think, done better. I see this picture used much more than I see this picture used. So it doesn't... Spending a whole bunch of money is not necessary. Spending less money is important. So when you're out there producing, and making these pictures, try and reach out, and network, and get people to help you out, so you don't have to spend the money. The less you spend and the more you sell the more money you make. And the more money you make, the more money you can spend on making more money, and then we're all rich. Folks were wanting to know about whether you ever take on... For PAs, you take on people that you're going to mentor to help you do a shoot. Not too much. And that's just more of me personally. I don't... I travel a lot for the clients that I have, so I can't really bring people with me. And when I shoot here, I definitely will. When I lived in New York, I had a little more of a team around me, just 'cause there's more of that in New York, and I was a little more connected kind of with that. So I don't use a whole lot of PA or mentoring, but, I mean, I'm definitely open to it. When I do a shoot, it's usually just myself, maybe a producer, or, you know, like a friend, wife, somebody with me, and then whoever the subject is. So, that's just me personally. Cool. And Olga would like to know, is it crucial to have people in the pictures? No, it's not crucial to have people in the pictures. Like, absolutely not. Always be taking pictures of just stuff you see. I have sold quite a bit of pictures that don't have people in 'em. Ones that usually sell... Some of the ones I showed you earlier, like an empty parking lot at night. Urban scapes, night stuff really does well. It's just a matter... If you don't have a subject, you don't have a person, and you're trying to convey a feeling or something, it's got to be something pretty unique. Pretty different. A really beautiful picture of the Grand Canyon is everywhere. Everybody can see it. If you get to the Grand Canyon, and there's a crazy awesome sunset, and you get lightning bolts flashing in there, then, you know, it could definitely be worthwhile. But yeah, pictures of places are real important. And I use pictures of just places all the time for my own kind of inspiration. I even just going to Photoshop and will put people on different backgrounds and work stuff there. There is some stuff that I have in stock in my portfolio that's composite work. Composite work takes quite a bit of time, and money, and stuff to do, so it's not the best idea for stock. If you specialize in that and that's what you do, then you can probably do alright with it. But yeah, taking pictures of places are always worthwhile. Agencies will always take beautiful landscapes and add them into their collection. There is a need for them. They just tend to be a lot more competition. It's a lot easier to just take a picture of the Grand Canyon then to actually bring somebody in there that has a look and direct them to be part of that picture. And the picture with that person there gives you even more feeling. So it's a little bit more of a stronger image if you add a subject. But by no means don't not take a picture because there's not a person there.

Class Description

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! 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

2017 Gallery Stock Trend Report

Sample Model Release

Sample Property Release

Stock Agencies List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Amy Vaughn

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

Carol Totaro

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.

Christina Biasi

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