What can you do? Infrastructure...
We honestly believe that most people have all they need to be a successful stock photographer within a 50 miles radius of where they live. We will never tell you that you must travel around the world, live in an “important” city, or spend exorbitant sums of money to start making images that sell.
In Wikipedia, infrastructure is defined as, “the basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.” Practically, these are “technical structures that support a society, such as roads, water supply, sewers, power grids, telecommunications, and so forth.” Conceptually, it is the “organizing structure and support for the system or organization, whether it is a city, a nation, a corporation, or a collection of people with common interests,” or you, the photographer. We are interested in both the practical and conceptual applications of this word.
Practically, the infrastructure of the area where you live is the most accessible resource available to you. This is your jackpot!
- urban areas
- local commerce/products
- shopping areas
- geographic/natural features and parks
- tourist destinations
- native animals/plants/vegetables/fruit
- local culture/cuisine
- social problems/solutions
- environmental problems/solutions
- transportation and traffic
- airports (aerial images)
- local pastimes/hobbies
- local fitness/sports/activities
- national/local festivals
- holiday celebrations
All of these subjects sell, especially when they are good images with clear messages.
So, go shoot them. Then shoot them again at a different time of day (with different light), a different season, or in different weather. When you’ve finished that, you could go rent a small prop plane at your nearest airport and do it again. You’ll find it worth the investment since with a mere hour of shooting, you’ll have hundreds of very sellable images. All of this could take you a year shooting full-time! Then we’ll talk about whether you need to travel to other places.
Conceptually, your infrastructure is how you organize to get access to subjects. If you are an established professional photographer, you will probably be prepared to pay for professional models/location fees, that could prove prohibitive if your images end up selling at $0.14 a piece and you pay a commission. As a non-professional photographer, you may not be able/willing to pay these professional fees, but you don’t have to write off lifestyle imagery. How can you get into places to shoot (if not open to the public)? How can you get models (without a high investment)? Where do you have a table-top and good light (natural or artificial) to create still-life and concept imagery? Before you start shelling out the big bucks, take advantage of these two resources: your family/friends network and the practice of exchanging images for access/rights.
Friends and Family
Your group of family and friends can provide you with both models and with access to places/subjects (the infrastructure list above). It´s a great way for you to start practicing and expanding your lifestyle imagery.
When working with family and friends, it’s very important that you think of them and treat them as models, in order to obtain something more than photo album material.
Clothing should be appropriate for what you want to convey, backgrounds should generally be clean and well-organized, and your kid’s face should be clean too!
The images should have iconic, and therefore, economic significance. Look for clean gestures and actions which convey believable emotions and authentic moments.
Think of detail shots of their hands, eyes, feet, etc. which can be used for age appropriate concepts. Your grandmother’s aged hands opening a jar, a flower in your young daughter’s hand, or a close-up of your teenager son’s muddy shoe and leg.
You should also take advantage of any additional skills which your family and friends can offer by shooting them participate in their sports/pastimes/hobbies or even at work. Most will be happy to sign a model release in exchange for some good photos of themselves.
It is very important that you obtain model releases for family members and friends just as carefully as you do with paid models. Also, it’s a good idea that your family/friend model understands very clearly what they are signing in a model release to avoid future conflicts (more info on model releases).
Your family and friends might facilitate your access to their workplaces, homes, and other places where you can make numerous images. Their access to certain people and places might help you to expand your Infrastructure/Resource list.
If you have found places, hospitals, factories, groups, or organizations such as nonprofits, that you would like to photograph, you might approach the place and offer to do an image exchange. You could give free (or reduced price) images in exchange for access . This could be especially effective in places that need images for their own advertising or internal purposes, such as hospitals, industry centers, hotels, restaurants, health clubs, offices, etc.
Being known as a photographer who is willing to work in this style will undoubtedly open closed doors to your camera, and expand the contacts for your infrastructure list, as well as helping your work to be known in new areas of the community. You should be prepared to show examples of your work, to show them that you are a photographer who will produce good images of what they need. Don’t forget to get any model/property releases signed to avoid any future legal problems.