What is Stock photography? Guest post by David P. Smith

Klick on the picture to visit David’s shutterstock gallery

David P. Smith has a huge gallery on Shutterstock , and is also an active forum member. He and his business partner Laurin Rinder have written three books that deal with Stock, Food and Portrait Photography.
Here is his post towards the newcomers in stock photography. I find it very useful.

“One of the biggest problems that many have in today’s photographic world is that they think Photoshop and other photo editing equipment is the holy grail of photography. They think they can fix just about anything and that the post processing is what photography is all about. Well, it isn’t.

I along with many others here come from the old days of film photography. You had no way to look at your image after you took it. Unless you knew about how to process film in a dark room you could not change anything. You had to know and understand photography and its principles.

When we took a photo we had to look at the scene, determine how we wanted to capture it, what aperture to use which in turn would control the depth of field. We needed to know what shutter speed to use and to know that we needed to know if and how fast the object of the shot was moving. Were there any natural conditions such as wind, the relationship between the aperture and the shutter speed.

We had to know how to meter and get the best exposure. We had to know how to compensate for a wide dynamic range. We had to understand light and how it interacted with what we were photographing. We had to know how to compose the shot for the best results.

Only after taking all those steps did we press the shutter and capture the shot. In short we had to be a photographer and not a software program user mainly because we didn’t have computers or software programs. They didn’t exist like they do today.

Today the camera does just about everything for you except make you breakfast. Because of this many let the camera think for them. They don’t learn how to be a photographer and depend on the machines that are now available. I have always said that I really wish anyone taking up photography today could not do it until they shot film first.

Now, what can you do? You have taken the first step by opening yourself up and posting your work for us to criticize and critique. Some of the things we say may not be all warm and fuzzy but we will tell you the truth. We do this so you can learn and understand that this is not Flickr and we are not your best buds or your Uncle Fred or Aunt Tillie who say what you want to hear.

Now, what can you do to start taking the necessary steps? Here is an answer that I give to many who come here.

The best thing to do is to first know what stock photography is and what makes a good stock shot. A stock shot is one that will help sell or promote a product, concept or idea.

I always suggest to newcomers to stock to look at magazines that deal with daily life such as Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Food and Wine, Fitness, Business etc. Look at the ads, those are stock shots.

Also look at billboards, the sides of some buses and trucks, bus benches, travel brochures etc. These are also stock shots.

A good stock shot needs to have a clear and easily recognized concept. It must have tack sharp focus in the critical area, be properly composed, exposed and keyworded effectively.

Look at the top 50 images as well as the portfolios of many of those who help here in the critique forum.

Here is an article I wrote for Shutterstock that is geared toward the newcomer. I hope it will help give you an idea of how to proceed with stock photography.


Also keep reading the Critique forum. Many new submitters have the same questions and issues. It makes for a very good learning source.

So, let’s start off by getting a fresh start. Forget about shots you have taken previously. Understand your camera and how it works. Study the principles of photography and photograph things as if photoshop doesn’t exist. As we say, “Get it right in the camera” then just enhance the image in post processing.

Work on some good clear, clean stock shots and post them here and we will be happy to help.

Laurin and I have done a series of videos that I hope will give you some additional information. Just search You Tube with Rinder Smith Photography.

Good luck and am looking forward to seeing more of your work.”

Submission Tips from a Shutterstock Veteran


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