What is She Wearing?

Wardrobe is key to a professional looking image. And the type of clothing that a model is wearing can enhance the salability of an image in more ways than one.
Here is a terrific image of a teen writing on the board in her classroom. The model's top gives a clue to the season: it is clothing that would only be worn in very warm weather. And since school is usually associated with the cooler seasons in most parts of the Northern hemisphere at least, the image usage could be limited if the user wanted to give the impression of a different season. (But then it is perfect for summer school.)
Cute Young Woman
When shooting models in school interiors, it's best to show them in seasonal neutral clothing. It's not the clothing that the image is about but the school environment and the student. The same goes for a business environment.
Business Woman Holding Laptop
A good tip for shooting portraits is to have the model bring several changes of clothing to a shoot that includes a sweater or jacket as well as lighter clothing. And certainly do so if you are implying a certain environment such as a school or university or business environment.
On the other hand you can artificially create a seasonal look in portraits by dressing the model in clothes of a definite season.
Beautiful woman in furs
When a user wants to imply a specific season these images will work just fine. And they could have easily been shot in the summer!

Photo credits: Drbouz, Mirko Pernjakovic, Nataliia Peregudova, Stephen Coburn, Steveluker.

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January 11, 2008


a lot of pictures are foreseeable and indistinquishable. As the American market becomes more and more on various ethnic plan and the business of announcement / design becomes more important and asking in the non-American and European markets, pictures have to have models of a lot of nationalities and places and even auto parts such as Acura Integra Starter but important thing is the uniqueness. Finally genuineness ' was the word of watch we accepted news of the purchasers for some time now.

November 08, 2007


Helpfull article and interesting debate. I'm an amateur just starting in microstock world. IMO when submitting photos starts to become a race for money, than it is not a hobby anymore and expenses go up also.

November 05, 2007


Nice article and a good discussion. Here, in Bulgaria, we have both hot summer and cold winter. Therefore it's quite easier to take a good outdoor pix with seasonal expression :)

October 27, 2007


I am afraid that Mark is dead-on.

I shoot 'models' that are not pro models and offer them a CD of images in return for a signed release.

All well and good...until you get to work with a pro or even a semi-experienced model.

The pros really know how to play to the camera and it shows in the finished product.

Pro models will spoil you and you won't want to work with anything less after a while. It is just so much more work to direct an amateur. Also working with a good MUA cuts your post processing time to half!

So, lets add in the cost of a pro model, an MUA and the photographers time...
anyone that stops to do the math will realize that it will takes years to recoup the costs of the shoot, unless someone buys the rights to photo outright for top dollar.

Am I bitter? No. Just a realist.

I think the real way to make $$ on microstock is to shoot anything BUT people. My bad though, I have always been a 'people' photographer. I need to change my ways. :(

September 25, 2007


Fantastic Article, here in Brazil and South America, we have a lot of summer, so we most think in summer photos. Do you thing we have to limited the colors too? To black and White? Thanks

April 05, 2007


Great article. Thanks.

There is something that always struck me as out of place and that is when there are images of children (not babies) from the shoulders up - shot indoors - and it's obvious the child has no shirt on (boys usually). Most have been great images - but I would think they would have to be cropped to 'head shots' to be useful. Probably the parent had a good candid moment. It just always struck me as odd - I'd be thinking 'why isn't that child dressed' (unless it was clearly an outdoor / swimmin or bathing shot).

April 05, 2007


Free? Are you kidding? Some poeple consider these as sunk costs. ie they would have spent them regardless so the photo is actually free.

eg. you take a picture of your family for your own personal use. Yod decide it is good so you upload it. The actual cost of that image in nominal.

Not saying this is the gight way to look at it (especially from a business perspective) but is one way.

March 06, 2007


I think some of us may be missing the message our market is sending us by accepting 'microstock standards'. As we try to improve and make a profit at this, we of course toss money into our equipment. This in turn does help produce better images, but it also means we need to make more in sales. The real goal is to make more in profit,though ... not necessarily just increase sales.

Now, concider our market as it is today ... MANY of our images end up on a website. How much technical quality/resolution/sharpness is required for web use? Not near as much as print use. The web is in, print is declining.

Microstock, at least in the beginning, was considered lower quality than trad. agencies, but it was still serious overkill for low-res web use. Our modern day buyers aren't looking for images produced on multi-thousand dollar cameras ... they would only throw away the extra detail downsampling it for the web. They are looking for a great selection of decent quality images readily available at an affordable cost. Exactly what microstock offers, thus the sucess of the industry.

Check your stats .. what is your percentage of hi-res vs. low res sales? Work with a reasonable investment in equipment, look for the missing areas in the collection that match your capabilities, and make sure your image can speak a message for the designer. While I make no claim to having it mastered, I strongly believe that success in this business requires an investment in thought ... not equipment, sets, models,etc.

February 23, 2007


But the challenge is to create attractive and useful stock with limited resources. Anyone (or almost anyone with skills) can create a good image with a budget of $30K.

I nearly fell over when I read that figure Achilles __ did you mean $3k rather than 30K? It would need an awful lot of $1/50c downloads to pay for $30K's worth of gear.

To be honest I think anyone with skills can create a good image for under $30. Even FREE. I'm not sure where the "$30K" comes from but even in the REAL stock world you would have a hard time recouping your expenses with that budget. Now if you're doing a client shoot, that's a different story.

Grab your camera and handful of model releases and take a walk. Be brave but not obnoxious and you will get some great stuff. Besides, clients also need images of "stuff" too. Not every image sold in stock has a person in it.

February 22, 2007


I'm a stylist on professionnal shooting sometimes....The production even if they pay alot for mannequin, photographer, stock agence etc....The buyer don't want to spend alot on clothes and props. So it means usualy, we have a microbudget or nothing and need to do with...

So I have now my contacts, some store rent me some props for cheap price, and for clothing, we have no budget, so we choose clothes from store which accepted to return the stock. We do it with their approbation or not. We take off price and do the shoot and put the price on and go to return....That's life!

For sure if we have a problem with make up, or need to do a reshoot in few month, they find money an buy the thing. But that's the only reason....Anyway, unfortunatly, this people think it's very easy to do (clothing) cause everybody do it by himself each day, but it's really a job, the color, material, model, etc do all the difference for the result.....So that's why we not receive a budget anymore....just for specific things.....

And I speak for professional one, we can easily do the same for amateur one.....

February 22, 2007


Interesting article and the discussion it has sparked. As a CGI artist, I come at a different angle from photographers. Upgrading my "equipment" isn't nearly as expensive, but I still have the need to cover my costs. After having spent hours setting up a scene, I'd like to see some return on my investment.


February 21, 2007


Just an aside to Mark: I just reread my post. I hope you didn't think that it was abrupt and somehow directed at you. Not so. I think what you wrote has lots of merit and sparked a really good discussion. thanks for your input!

February 21, 2007


Who said that $30k budget will be allocated for creating an image to be sold in microstock?

February 21, 2007


But the challenge is to create attractive and useful stock with limited resources. Anyone (or almost anyone with skills) can create a good image with a budget of $30K.

I nearly fell over when I read that figure Achilles __ did you mean $3k rather than 30K? It would need an awful lot of $1/50c downloads to pay for $30K's worth of gear.

February 21, 2007


Marc, your post is motivating and well educated. I don't see it as a bash, but just as sharing your concerns with us. That's the whole idea behind the articles, not just read them but to spark this kind of discussions.

The way I see it, is that you don't have to employ expensive models nor expensive locations. The better the equipment, the better the results, I do agree.
But the challenge is to create attractive and useful stock with limited resources. Anyone (or almost anyone with skills) can create a good image with a budget of $30K. There are very few that can do it with nothing.
Everyone is talking about our model these days, few know how hard it really is. And that applies to the agency too. I would love to advertise on all magazines with full double page spreads. It would be very easy. But I prefer to do it only with the ones that return good ROI, while directing the funding into good royalties and commisions.

You don't have to carry a portfolio of tens of models. There are lots of contributors making good money with 2-3 models, usually their parents, husband/wife or kids.
Then, there are people in remote places with beautiful scenery. It can cost me thousands to go where Fleyeing is already. So, I don't try to do it. I shoot in my own area, while in holiday or in my spare time and never forget to have fun.

The hard part comes if you want to make a living out of it. Many contributors do it and they do their best to improve. See where their portfolio was 2 years ago and you will notice how much they improved. They grow as our site grows.
The prices have to follow the same pace, you cannot expect to have a huge price increase, what sold for $1 to sell for $10 after one night...
The new prices will increase your royalties with 70-100% in the next months. Same thing happened last year. We grow, your revenue grows and so are your skills.

February 21, 2007


I fully appreciate the cost of a full blown photo shoot. After all I signed the check requests for over 200 productions in the last three years, most being between $6000 and $15,000 a day. But guess what? The traditional agencies have cut way back on these expensive shoots. Reason? They are finding it increasingly difficult to earn back the investment in a timely manner. Why? They all use the same creative research sources to tell them what to shoot so the work across the markets has become very predictable and self-referencing. Many use the same models and commercial rental locations. Many, many images are predictable and indistinquishable. As the US market becomes more and more ethnically diverse and the ad/design business becomes more important and demanding in non-US and European markets, the images need to have models from many nationalities and locations. Finally "authenticity "has been the watch word we have heard from buyers for some time now. Read back over the last sentences and you will easily see why I believe that microstock will be successful. And not to worry. In later articles I will talk about how to street cast for inexpensive models and how to recreate locations without paying big fees. Just look at the initial image in this article. The photographer didn't need to rent a classroom or a conference room. All he needed was a white board to create the illusion of that space. But Mark also not to worry. I predict that with the growing success of microstock, the expensive and UNIQUE shoots will become even more valuable. And thanks to you all for these studied and professiona remarks that have given me a lot to write about this morning even before my coffee!

February 21, 2007


Sorry, this is not an attempt to bash Ellens blogs. I appreciate what she is doing. I also appreciate what Afagundes and Joegough have to say. I constantly look for ways to improve my work. However it does not change the fact that microstock does not pay enough (or charge enough) for the work being produced. Prices need to be pushed back up to a more realistic range.

February 21, 2007


Hi Ellen, Mark, everybody.
Mark, you are a little acid today, take it easy, man!
You have a great portfolio and the article of Ellen is specially suited to you.
For instance, your best selling picture is of a guys arm and hand using a suit and using a credit card.
The moto on the article is to give us an insight to get more sales and take better pictures.
So, I think one of the suggestions that Ellen showed us is that you can take alike pictures (of people paying with a credit card), but using summer clothes, or jeans, or whatever.
That means you can add variety without spending much more money, I mean, if you found a model, a location, lighting, everything, adding diferent wardrobe might help you with diferent looks that could sell in diferent seasons and add variety to your portfolio with little or no expenses.
Anyway, keep the good working and I suggest you to start a new thread with the subject about prices and how other photographers get the return of their investment, that is a good subject to discuss, but it is in the wrong place here in Ellen blogs, at least, that is my opinion.
Thanks a lot for the insight, very inspiring, Ellen.

February 21, 2007



All your concerns above are true but only to a certain extent. Microstock, like anything else, is a competitive business and you have to work to your strengths. If you can't make microstock pay then you probably wouldn't be able to make 'trad' RM/RF pay either __ the unit price may be smaller in microstock but then the volume is hugely greater. There are plenty of pro photog's that have migrated some or all of their portfolios to microstock because they've found it pays better. Admittedly, the presence of microstock has undoubtedly had an effect on the trad market though.

Working to your strengths means identifying your own photographic style (i.e. what you are good at shooting), making the best advantage of whatever you have around you and only buying the equipment that you can justify economically in term of ROI. Many of the Top Contributors have never paid a model yet __ they are all friends, family or people happy to work for TFCD. There are a relatively few microstock photographers who regularly pay models but those are largely very successful full-time photographers who know that they can make it pay because of their track record __ you'll note that even then they tend to stick with a small number of regular models. The guy you quoted is indeed one of them and he was commenting somewhat ruefully on the cost of that particular church shoot as one occasion when it didn't work out. Paying upfront costs is always going to be risky and of course it won't always pay off.

If you examine the portfolios of many microstockers you can often get a pretty good idea at their main profession, their interests, their age, where they live, etc, etc. That's because they are working to their strengths and using what is around them. Microstock is full of niche markets and you just have to identify which of those markets you can provide for economically. Buying a load of gear and paying for models, locations and props won't automatically make anyone a successful stock photographer.

Opening the market to the masses, as the advent of digital technology, the internet and microstock has done, has meant things just got harder, not easier to make photography pay. It is much, much more competitive than it has ever been and to survive you need to adapt accordingly and work as efficiently as possible.

February 20, 2007


I do appreciate the articles on how to shoot more salable stock photos. But I also agree with the first poster. Microstock entered the game as a place where amateur photographers could make a few bucks on their hobby. As it gained in popularity and client demands increased, microstock agencies now demand professional quality work without paying professional prices! A bit unfair to say the least. Models wanting work for theiir portfoliors are pretty easy to come by. They can even bring much of their own wardrobe. But sometimes a specialized piece of clothing is required.... and microstock doesn`t pay enough to justify the cost. Shoots with more than one model sell better... but when you start arranging something like that, the models want to be paid. One microstock agency wrote an article on locations and the author stated how he dropped a couple hundred bucks into the collection plate to get the church to let him shoot inside... and that he figured it would take 15 years to earn back his investment "but it was worth it". Huh? I quickly exhausted my list of friends for use of their locations. Now I find locations want 30 an hour to $1500 a day to use their location. Most range around $75 per hour. Microstock doesn`t pay enough to support this expense. Actually, microstock doesn`t pay enough to support the cost of photography without the props, locations, wardrobes, and models. My first digital SLR cost $5000.00. My next will be the same. My last lens cost $2000.00 and the next on the list is $1000.00. My studio strobes were cheap... I only have about $3000 invested in them. Add another $1200 for strobes that can be used on outdoor shoots, oh yeah, the soft boxex, umbrellas, barn doors.... thie list just goes on and on. Each week it seems some new item needs to be added to the collection, or something has to be repaired or replaced. Photographers have a huge investment in their equimpment, put in many hours scouting locations, setting up sets, editing photos... Through microstock our work sells for less than a buck. Models who only have to stand there and look pretty for the duration of the shoot expect to be paid, highly paid! Those who need only to give us permission to shoot on theri property demand hundreds of dollars.... The thing I have been completely unable to understand about microstock is why when images were selling for thousands of dollars in a rights managed world and hundreds of dollars in the royalty free world that they had to slash the price to selling the images for LESS THAN A DOLLAR! Honestly, the person who pays a buck for an image could just and easily pay $10.00. And even though that price is still way too low, at least I would feel I could justify spending some money on a few props, or a makeup artist, or a location to get the shots that truely stand above the crowd. Raising the price per photo seems to me the best way to get better quality images in the library. I know there is competition, but there are really only three microstock...

February 20, 2007


Excellent article! Contrary to some of the other comments left here, I find it easy to get models as there are always people who are happy to get free pictures done.

February 20, 2007


Lovely bloog and very nice article. In my understanding the tiny boundary between pro and highly qualified amateur photographer laids exactly here: in models shooting. Shooting models means studio, backgrounds, lighting, long shooting sessions and expensive photographic equipment. Sometimes models even want to be paid for their time :-). All these means expensies both in terms of money and in terms of time that a typical amateur just can not afford. So, it is probably a good idea for your next article: How to shoot models on budget? A small tip for DT guys: can you please make comments text area wider and adda typical `blog-style/forum` stuff like preview before submit, HTML editing etc?

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