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Cricket, and Making Stock Imagery Work, by Stephen Shepherd

1 July 2017

Stephen Shepherd has been based in Gloucestershire since 2002 moving there from London after nine years at The Daily Telegraph. He now works for corporate and marketing clients in the South West as well as in education and for design groups. He still undertakes commissions for the national press including The Guardian & Observer, The Times and the TES.

After moving out of London it took a little while for me to get going again and this was when I got my first digital camera which instantly allowed me to work more easily for my press clients, moving pictures straight away with no concerns over processing or delivering film by courier etc.

I also realised I had to diversify if I was to keep working as a photographer and this was when I started to commit a lot of my spare time to shooting images for stock / libraries (made all the easier with the new digital set up). When I say I “shoot stock photography” I do not mean big set pieces e.g. the large production lifestyle and corporate shoots with models, hair, make up etc. my work is more about “the found” image, objects, locations anything really that I encounter whilst out and about.

The image of the cricket match was shot for my German photolibrary who primarily sell images in the European publishing world, advertising, and press. The library had recently requested “summer images, people, activities” etc. and so the walk I took out past the local sports field on a Sunday afternoon was most opportune. I just came across this scenario and shot 3 or 4 frames and moved on. The only thing I had to do during those couple of minutes of shooting was consider the possible use of the images. Composition was key, leaving space for various crops, copy etc. I was thinking about how it might get used in a magazine or if it could be cropped to portrait orientation for a book cover.

So no big story in the picture it self, the story is more about the approach to working as a freelance photographer and being able to shoot anything that might have the potential for a sale, knowing how the library works, what their market is and what their needs are. One of my picture editors had previously told me that you need to reach “the tipping point” to make stock shooting work, it's no good having a set of images as that is not enough imagery to reach "the tipping point". You need thousands of images so that eventually every month you have so many images that a handful will always sell. I have over 15,000 images for sale in four different libraries and sure enough every month some sell giving me a very welcome additional income stream. I know a lot of people think the stock market has bombed with micro stock and RF sales ruining the market, but if you find the right library, a team that cares about photographers' work and have a good client base you can still make it work for you.

One of my best sellers is an image of a thorn bush covered in frost, very simple, yet it has been used as a book cover for a recent crime novel by European author Jussi Adler Olson amongst other things, see here. This simple picture took me a total of about five minutes work, including post production and delivery, sells on a regular basis and so far has made the equivalent of about 10 days of press commissions.


See more work by Stephen Shepherd

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