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June 30th, 2009

For stock success, do what’s been done before

Posted by Jessica Korman

I connected with Jessica after she wrote an intriguing post for Black Star Rising bemoaning the lack of respect for photo editors in Israel, where she recently moved. Taking maters into her own hands, Jessica created a blog, The F Stops Here, that explains what photo editors do and highlights their importance. She has also agreed to lend her expertise to the photography community on RESOLVE, with helpful posts like this one about giving photo editors what they want from stock photos.

Images from a search for "woman + scale" on

As a photo editor for a weekly women’s lifestyle magazine, I frequently had to find the same kind of image over and over again. One of the common ones was what we termed “woman on scale.” There is a weight-loss story in just about every issue of every women’s lifestyle magazine on the stands, so the need for this particular image (and ones like it), is almost endless.

Unfortunately, there never seems to be enough in the various stock coffers to keep up with demand. Especially considering that magazines will avoid using the same image twice or using the same image as another lifestyle magazine. For photographers this means — even though it’s counterintuitive — you should be shooting more of what you see the most of.

“You should be shooting more of what you see the most of.”

Do Your Research

As a photo editor, I would have loved to see more variety of these recurring images (like “woman on scale”). Photographers should first look through multiple issues of the magazines they expect will buy their images and notice which images are repeated. That will give you a few kinds of photos to focus on. Then get to know the editorial styles of each magazine and create different versions of those photos to cater to each style. Some magazines will want a very young woman, some a woman who looks more like a mother. Conservative magazines will want her legs and arms to be covered; others might want her to have the latest, tightest workout clothes.

Change Everything

Photographers often offer several images of the same model in the same clothes, changing only her the tilt of her head or the position of her hands. If you were an editor, would you use two of these as if they were “different” photos? Didn’t think so. If you are using the same model, change her clothes between photos, especially the color palette. Change her hairstyle, make-up, and expressions. Make her look like a different woman. Change the background and include a white background. Most importantly, shoot the same image with different models, especially ones from different ethnic backgrounds (although two from of the same ethnicity is still better than one). Think of it almost mathematically. Try to come up with as many permutations as possible for the same image.

Think Like an Editor

If you’re working in the women’s lifestyle genre, there are several other pictures that you’ll notice recur frequently: woman at a computer, woman performing various kitchen duties, woman in the car, woman with money, woman shopping. Remember, in addition to shooting each scenario in different locations, also shoot them on a white background to make a clean background for text. When possible, consider not only the content of the photograph but also the way the graphic designer may need to work around it when laying out a page. If you can do that, and keep supplying the images that editors have to keep going back to look for, you’ll quickly move to the top of their go-to list.

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