Pictures that sell 6

Lee Frost gives tips on how to make money out of your photography and shares some success stories.

Posted 28/Sep/2001 - 12:00AM

Santorini
Some of my more successful stock trips overseas have been to Mediterranean countries.
Greece and Turkey in particular have shown good returns, as illustrated in previous editions of Money-Spinners. I guess this is mainly due to their popularity as holiday destinations, but that also means they should have been shot to death over the years so you'd think making sales would be tough. Not so, it seems, and I will certainly be going back to Greece again next year.
A great benefit of travelling to popular destination is you can do it on the cheap, booking budget package deals or leaving things to the last minute and snapping up cheap offers, so the overheads are lower and the risk factor with it.
Sales from trips made several years ago are still coming in, including these three, shot with many more during a week-long stay on Santorini. Most sales have been modest, for brochure and editorial use, but the biggest was a four-figure sum (£1100) I received when one of the shots was used for food packaging.
None of the shot are spectacular - they're just good quality, solid stock pictures taken in nice light. That, ultimately, is all you need if the location depicted is a popular one.

Equipment: Pentax 67 and 55mm or 105mm lens, polarising filter for churches, 81C warm-up for sunset, all on Fujichrome Velvia.
Number of sales: 12
Countries sold: UK, Germany
Uses: Food packaging, travel brochures, magazines (travel and photography)
Total sales to date: £1725

Alarm clock
This shot is an example of the type of stuff I've been shooting more of in the last couple of years - table top still-life and concept images. It's nothing fancy - all shot on 35mm, using daylight where possible, and just playing around with ideas. I'm not that experienced when it comes to complicated lighting and special effects so I just play around and see if I can achieve what I want.
In this case it was to produce a blurred shot of an alarm clock to give the impression it was going off and rattling its way towards the bedside table. It's the sound we all dread first thing in the morning, so I shot through a blue filter to give the image a cold cast and make it even more unwelcoming.
The alarm clock was actual broken, so I couldn't set it to go off. Instead, I wobbled the camera during a half second exposure to achieve the same kind of effect.
My picture library chose one of the sequence for its latest catalogue - a slightly more blurred one than this - and although it's early days I have high hopes that it will sell well, simply because it's an international concept with many potential uses.

Equipment: Nikon F90x with 105mm macro lens, blue 80A filter and Fuji Velvia
Number of sales: 3 (so far!)
Countries sold: UK
Uses: Magazines and investment newsletter
Total sales to date: £175

Ferris wheel
I took this picture, and various others, about a decade ago. The office where I worked at the time, just before going freelance, was opposite a large carpark in Peterborough city centre, and two or three times of year it would be used as the venue for a funfair.
I made the most of this opportunity and took pictures on several occasions. I never thought of them as stock images, but more as shots that could be used to illustrate technique features in photo mags on night photography, emphasising movement and so on. Over the years they have served that purpose several times. In the last couple of years, however, I've had a flurry of small sales, all through the same library, for use in educational books.
Don't ask me why, but it's always been this shot, of a Ferris wheel. Just goes to show that the simplest shots can sell if you put them with a decent picture library.

Equipment: Olympus OM4-Ti with 21mm lens and Fuji Velvia
Number of sales: 10
Countries sold: UK
Uses: Books and magazines on photography, book publisher
Total sales to date: £380

San Giorgio, Venice
Venice is one of my favourite places for travel photography and I try to get out there every year because come rain or shine there's always something different to shoot. I'm also leading a photographic holiday there next February if anyone's interested (email: mail@leefrost.demon.co.uk for details!).
This view, looking across the lagoon towards San Giorgio Maggiore from near St Mark's Square is a classic, and every time I'm there I try to come up with a new interpretation of it. Ultimately, however, there's nothing to beat a nice drop of warm evening light to bring the scene to life.
Keeping the gondolas in the foreground sharp is impossible as there's always a swell on the lagoon, and when you combine slow film with a small aperture and a polariser, the exposure is going to be at least 1/8sec - 1/2sec in this case. But I actually like the blur in the foreground, and it doesn't seem to affect sales.
This shot was chosen with a couple of others for catalogue use by my main library, and the last 12 months have seen sales start to trickle in. There are lots of pictures of Venice out there, so competition is fierce, but if you come up with something decent there's no reason on earth why it won't sell.

Equipment: Pentax 67 and 55mm lens, polarising filter and 81B warm-up for sunset, Fuji Velvia.
Number of sales: 6
Countries sold: UK, USA
Uses: Travel brochures, photo mags, bank mailer
Total sales to date: £565

Pills and bottles
Flick through any general stock catalogue and you will always find a section on medicine and science.
Many of the pictures are elaborate set-ups in operating theatres and doctors' surgeries, or shots of medical equipment, but there are also numerous examples of very simple medical concepts that anyone could set-up and shoot.
These images are just three examples of the dozens I have taken, using nothing more complicated than cod liver oil capsules, Paracetamol and vitamin pills purchased at my local branch of Boots chemist. The key is to choose 'drugs' that look serious but are also generic, so avoid brand names as they will be trademarked and keep things simple. The idea of tablets spilling from a bottle is a popular one, though going in close on a pile of pills with a macro lens can also work well.
All three were shot using windowlight, and I set-up the props on a sheet of white card which provided a plain, simple background.
These are fairly new images in stock terms - I only shot them a year or so ago. But sales are starting to come in and I'm sure there will be many more in the future. Best of all they were a doddle to shoot, and in the space of an afternoon it's possible to produce loads of new images if you have the materials and the ideas.

Equipment: Nikon F90x, 105mm macro lens, Fuji Sensia II 100
Number of sales: 5
Countries sold: UK, Canada, Netherlands
Uses: Brochure, magazine, Coca Cola mood boards
Total sales to date: £227.50

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