Learn from six talented photographers as they discuss how they create authentic, modern lifestyle photos featuring technology and everyday devices.
In many ways, the Coronavirus pandemic has changed our relationship with technology. From the rise of video chatting apps like Google Duo and Houseparty to our reliance on virtual tools like Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom, we’re now using technology to adapt to new ways of working and socializing. Video game websites are also seeing a boost in traffic, and of course, TikTok continues to grow in popularity.
For many stock photographers, this change in lifestyle represents a new creative challenge. While they can’t go out to shoot with models, they can work remotely and take photos at home using the technology they have at their disposal.
“Lately, I’ve noticed an increased demand for content that’s related to telecommuting and social networking, and that trend has only accelerated as a result of the lockdown measures caused by the pandemic,” Shutterstock contributor Marko Dasic, a.k.a. Likoper, tells us.
“As the majority of the global population is required to stay at home, new settings and situations have occurred to me that may be interesting to photograph, such as distance learning and working from home.”
Here, six talented photographers from around the world discuss their top tips for brainstorming and executing a marketable photo shoot around these themes.
Refer to “The Shot List” from Shutterstock
“The Shot List” is a handy resource when searching for emerging tech trends to photograph. In recent months, they’ve covered in-demand subjects ranging from home offices to social media marketing, all requested by image-buyers.
“Don’t forget that Shutterstock regularly provides contributors with specific topic requests in emails and blogs,” Artem “Artie” Medvedev reminds us. “These are good sources for new ideas. Choose a topic you’re able to cover, do some Googling to learn more about the subject, and figure out what technologies you can incorporate.
“Aside from that, it’s helpful to check what kinds of photos relating to that subject are already available on Shutterstock. The bar is likely very high already, so you have to brainstorm ways to do better and freshen things up.”
Find Inspiration in Everyday Life
Technology permeates aspects of our daily routines, from mobile banking to ride-share apps, so you don’t have to look far to find ideas.
“I notice topics everywhere and later reproduce them in my photo shoots,” Marina Andrejchenko tells us. “For example, before the lockdown, I noticed some tourists who were charging their phones from a bench with solar panels. I later came back to the same spot to do a photo shoot, when the light was better.’
“During the Coronavirus, I’m following current trends as well. In my next photo shoot, for example, I’m going to show technologies for distance learning. I am also interested in topics relating to virtual reality and the role of gadgets in people’s everyday lives.”
Explore More Than One Idea
“When it comes to technology, there are so many more topics to explore beyond the obvious ‘freelancer working on a laptop’ or ‘person typing on a smartphone,’” Medvedev explains. “You have to think of ways to diversify your portfolio, as that kind of variety will make your images useful for more customers.’
“Try to think about how technology is embedded in our lives. When I was planning a shoot around the freelancing theme, I tried to think of all the possible scenarios I could shoot. Maybe the freelancer was working in the kitchen and having lunch at the computer, or maybe he’s multitasking and working between two computer monitors and notebooks.’
“If we take it even further, the freelance theme is linked with telecommuting. So, you can show online communication by adding a webcam and video conference to your shot list. Moreover, a freelancer can be a specialist in various fields — programming, retouching, editing, copywriting, etc. Those will all include different devices, and that’s just for one photo shoot!”
Take advantage of every session you have by creating as many diverse images as possible for your collection.
Make a Storyboard
When you’re working with a lot of ideas, organization is key. “I recommend using checklists (like those on Google Keep) and storyboards to remember all your ideas and create more diverse content on set,” Medvedev adds. “It’s hard to predict which photos will sell, but you can learn by gaining experience. Create a variety of images, and track which ideas sell and which don’t.”
Consult the Pros
“Stock photographers are not experts on technology, so I suggest talking to a professional if you don’t know much about a certain device,” Medvedev says. “For example, a stock photograph of a repair technician holding a soldering iron by the hot barrel won’t sell because it’s not realistic. When in doubt, consult a specialist. Ask your friends about the technologies they use at work and how they use them.’
“You can also reach out to a marketing department within the industry you’ve chosen for your photo shoot. See if you can set up a consultation. Marketers in the tech sector can provide you with direct feedback and help. Don’t be afraid to ask!”
Tell a Story
Lifestyle photos are about people and relationships. So, even when technology plays a role, it’s important to tell relatable, human stories. “I recommend staying focused on the people rather than the devices themselves,” Fabio Principe explains.
“People tell the story and convey the message behind your photos, and they are the first things we look at when browsing photos. The device should support that story, not distract or steal focus from the people.’
“I am inspired by my sons, Giacomo and Francesco (13 and 17), and I often take pictures with them. They are experts with technology, so I do not ask them to pose. I find that spontaneity makes my images more realistic and natural. Often, I prepare a set or a device to include in the shoot, but I keep it true to my real life at home.”
Prepare Your Props
If you plan to license your photos for commercial use, you need to avoid any branded details, like the Apple logo on your laptop, the interface on your phone, or the Facebook or Instagram icons on your screen.
You can obscure these elements using tape or creative framing, or you can crop or edit them out in post-production. The first option is more convenient. “I recommend preparing any devices for photo shoots in advance,” Andrejchenko advises. “It’ll save you a lot of time in photo processing and retouching.”
If you’re photographing a screen, blur it or keep it blank. Beyond being logo-free, make sure your devices are up-to-date. Outdated gear will date your photos, so it’s a good idea to use generic, timeless props that won’t go out of style the next time an update comes out.
Track Current Trends
“My biggest tip is to read a lot of digital technology news and always keep up-to-date with popular tech blogs, YouTube channels, or social media feeds,” Teeraphat Sirisatonpun, a.k.a. Chaay_Tee, tells us. “You’ll find marketable ideas by reading up on these topics.’
“For example, micro-influencers today play an important role in online marketing, so buyers are looking for this kind of content. That’s what led me to create this photo. Think about your future customers before generating the image, and consider how the image will be used. Finally, make the subject matter clear. If a customer looks at your image for just a few seconds, they should know what it’s about.”
Keep It Simple
Image-buyers scroll through dozens of photos at a time, so yours need to be eye-catching and straightforward, even if they’re about a complicated technology. “The best way to make a commercially appealing image is to keep it simple, with as few distracting elements as possible and a good color palette,” Likoper explains.
Use the Right Keywords
Without keywords and titles, buyers will have trouble finding your photos, so make metadata part of your workflow (see this article for our keywording pro tips). “When I started, I was focused only on the image itself,” Principe admits. “I gave less importance to the title of the picture and the keywords.’
“But, the more I read and studied, the more I learned about creating successful stock photos. There are so many details that make an image salable — the message, the context, the execution, the post-production, and, importantly, the correct choice of title and keywords. You need a combination of all these elements.”
“I always advise photographers to consider how technology fits into our daily lives, and portray it as faithfully and authentically as possible,” Dragana Gordic says. “I keep my work contemporary by tracking the news and following other artists. To make my photos stand out, I always try to create a signature stamp or twist on familiar subjects.’
“At the same time, I would also like to introduce different technologies — beyond what automatically comes to mind — into my work. For example, in the near future, there might be robotic vacuum cleaners and similar smart appliances that represent the future of technology for many families. These all have the potential to become subjects we explore going forward.”
As technology continues to evolve, the demand from buyers will shift as well. So, keep an eye out for trends that might come into vogue in the future — you could stumble upon an emerging niche in the process.
Cover image by Comeback Images.
Learn more about portraying tech in stock imagery here: