In the last entry on producing stock, I introduced the importance of thinking like a stock photographer and addressed the difference between a working image and a pretty picture. Pretty pictures are a dime a dozen, and the diligent photo researcher knows how to get those pretty pictures for free. However, making a working image involves effort and quite likely the working photographer will not allow their efforts to be reproduced for free—or, at least, they shouldn’t. Consequently, by creating a successful image and minimizing the competition, you will be able to raise the fees for your works by placing them into the Rights Managed category and realize a premium return.
I am also hoping you found some magazines, or, better yet, went out and purchased a few new copies, to start your own research binder. Did you study the creative writing used in the taglines, the clever use of metaphors, and the more-than-likely humorous use of similes in the copywriting? By understanding how these creative words are used over and over, you will be better suited to create images that allow the copywriter to sell the product or service.
This is a time to park the ego. Stock photography is not about creating art to which you can attach your name; it is about creating images that sell. Your role is to create a photograph that will stop the viewer from turning the page—be it a paper page or a digital page—and it is the role of the copywriter to sell the message. Your image will never (or rarely) appear with a photo credit. Simply accept the fact that stock photographers are usually unknown creators, and they rejoice that the only place they like to see their name is on the royalty cheque. Stock photography is a business. It really is that plain and simple; it’s not about art or ego.
Allow me re-introduce John Lund, one of the best in the business when it comes to visually interpreting similes, buzzwords, catchphrases and taglines. I don’t know if there is any stock photographer working today who can better portray the idioms we are all familiar with: lipstick on a pig, wild and free, an elephant in the room, fat cat, raining cats and dogs, when pigs fly, and so on. While you may not recognize his name, I am quite sure you have seen his images sell everything from A to Z. Study his work, and when you understand how he thinks, you will be well on your way to the top.
There are many, many buzzwords that copywriters use in tag lines. Throughout my binders of tear sheets, I’ve jotted down some of these words from actual ads, and my notes on how I might be able to use them. For example, one full-page financial business ad ran in a well-known news magazine, and the phrase “Climbing to the top is a slippery slope” caught my attention. Off to the side I had noted, “Photograph with a businessman climbing an iceberg pinnacle.” From this one example, you should be able to see how existing ads can spark your own creativity to interpret and portray the copy that will be re-written and re-used many times over the years. How many times have you seen advertisements that say “Reach the top” or “Slippery slope” in some variation to indicate success?
If you didn’t pick up copies of magazines because of the cost, go to your local library, pull up a chair and start flipping those pages. Take pictures of ads that catch your attention so you can create your own library for inspiration. Before long you will be thinking like a stock photographer, and once you are thinking in the correct manner, you can stay focused and create the right climate to succeed.
P.S. Yes, this entry is overloaded with phrases, buzzwords, metaphors and similes. If you didn’t pick up on them, perhaps stock photography is not for you.
Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part I
Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part II
Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part III
Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part V
Micro-Managing Your Stock Portfolio, Part VI