There seem to be at least two distinct—though not mutually exclusive—sects in the church of stock photography: Creationists – those who create images specifically for stock libraries, and also what I’ll call Evolutionists – the folks who are happy to wait for an image to come into existence naturally, then capture it.
Two of my best selling images are examples of both types of images. The hottest seller titled, appropriately enough, Creation, was an example of divine, or at least artistic, intervention, while the second relied on “natural selection.”
The idea for Creation came while I was driving to the studio with no particular shoot in mind. When I got there I was lucky to run into my friend Tom, who I noticed happens to have pretty decent hands. “Are you busy?” I asked, “I have an idea.” I truly dig my friends; they accommodate my endless quirky requests without wrinkling their foreheads or rolling their eyes – at least while I’m still looking at them.
I shot Tom’s hands holding a Styrofoam ball using the natural afternoon light from a west-facing window. Setting up the shot and shooting took maybe 45 minutes. It could have been quicker but once we started, we kind of got into it and experimented with a couple different angles and various light modifiers, like reflectors and bounce cards. Assembling all the image elements together later in Photoshop took another 90 or so minutes. Not bad, all done in under three hours.
My second best seller was a shot taken in a Montreal hotel room while waiting for my husband to get out of the bathroom. It took very little effort on my part, in fact you might say I pretty much slept through it. Sitting at the desk I happened to look up and saw how lovely the early daylight and the rumpled white sheets and pillows evoked a “morning after” feel. The shot’s artistic genius is simply I wasn’t too lazy to get the camera. Seconds later, I had the photo. Once home I probably spent about ten minutes processing and uploading the image. So let’s call it 11 minutes of work. Not bad.
Both approaches have a place in your creative hymn book when shooting stock photography. If you have the interest and the skills to create images from separate elements (remember they still have to pass the same rigorous inspection process as photos,) they can do well because they’re unique. Conversely if you remain artistically alert in your everyday activities you can capture a variety of useful and evocative images. It’s just a matter of finding your religion, and maybe not being too fanatical about it, whichever you choose.