Building a Stock Catalog of Lifestyle Images Through Assignment Work and Adobe Stock

Building a Stock Catalog of Lifestyle Images Through Assignment Work and Adobe Stock

Building a stock photography portfolio and generating passive income can be one of the easiest ways a photographer can make money. However, creating a sizable portfolio that generates a worthwhile income month after month doesn't just happen overnight. Chances are you have already been shooting images suitable for stock without realizing it. With just a little planning and adjustment to how you see and approach assignments, you can turn your existing and future work into a growing stock catalog. Additionally, with stock sites like Adobe Stock built right into your Creative Cloud, submitting, tracking, and learning what sells is a relatively easy task. 

When it comes to shooting stock photography, some photographers exclusively shoot stock, while others shoot assignments for clients that may generate stock opportunities. The latter seems to get lost on photographers looking to get into stock photography as a way to supplement their current work. I started getting into stock photography because the assignments I was working on consistently left me with a lot of unused content. These images, combined with personal work I did while traveling to and from jobs, left me with a large catalog of content that just ended up on my Instagram feed. Without setting out to do so, I unintentionally became a stock photographer. Unlike the traditional stock photographer who specifically shoots stock, my work had all been paid for upfront, saving me a lot of time and money. Additionally, new stock websites like Adobe Stock made getting my extra content onto the marketplace incredibly easy. Since the submission process is built into the programs I already use in my workflow, I was able to send in my extra content without expending a lot of additional effort.

These simple changes in how you shoot assignments will help you get started in stock photography. 

Getting Stock From Assignments

When most people think of lifestyle images, brightly lit photos of attractive young models enjoying life to its fullest often come to mind. As a genre though, lifestyle really boils down to people in their everyday lives. With few exceptions, most photographers are already shooting lifestyle images in their assignment work. It doesn't matter if you shoot family portraits or exotic locations for big clients; all it takes to get extra stock images out of your assignments is a little extra planning and preparation.

If you are planning to go on an assignment with the intent of producing additional stock images, you will need to retain the necessary rights beforehand. Rights will vary from client to client, but if you take the time to build relationships and learn your clients' policies, you can approach your shoots with a plan to get extra images. For example, often, editorial clients don't have the budget for exclusive rights and also may not have sets that include branded product placements. These jobs make for great stock opportunities. In contrast, advertising campaigns often retain strict exclusive rights and want something produced on brand specifically for them. This doesn't mean you can't shoot additional stock content but it does require careful conversations and know-how to keep stock imagery generic enough so as not ruin your assignment work. 

Whether on set, in the studio, or on location, there is always downtime. The bigger the crew and assortment of jobs is, the more time there is usually spent waiting. This wait time provides another opportunity to shoot extra images. When working with clients, I often try to over-produce a project and provide images that tell a bigger story, whether the client is looking for it or not. Sometimes, the client isn't interested in the extra shots I take. Other times, my initiative adds to the shoot concept that they hadn't thought of and leads to more work. Either option is a win for me as the first leads to extra images that can be used for stock and the second leads to an extra paycheck from the client.

During downtime on a shoot, I will grab a model, assistant, or occasionally even the client and start putting them in interesting scenarios, whether we're shooting in a bar, restaurant, hiking trail, or even on the sidewalk. Typically this gets a lot of laughs and can be fun for them while on set, which of course makes for even better lifestyle images. Using my assistants or makeup/wardrobe artist as my model makes getting the releases easier and also avoids any client product placement that the models might be wearing. If there are restrictions on what can be shot, I might just go around and shoot the location or any people that are casually in the area. I keep business cards and model releases on hand or on my phone. More often than not, just asking people for permission gets me a yes. When location-scouting, I often sketch out extra shot ideas in advance in case I have downtime. The more effort I put in before a photoshoot, the better the chance I have of getting extra content.

Types of Lifestyle Images

Chances are the type of photography assignments you are already shooting are full of stock images that you just never thought to shoot. The reality is that there is a massive market for lifestyle images that are made up of people of all types, ages, and activities. Once you start looking at your work with stock in mind, you’ll begin to see just how much potential you have been leaving on the floor. 

Education and Family

Do you shoot mostly family portraits or senior photos? It's fairly simple to add a little extra time to a shoot and make arrangements with your subjects that allow you to do more with the images. Have students invite their friends to the shoot and offer some sort of group deal. You might be able to get more clients and sales while also creating fun interactions between friends for your stock catalog. 

Business

Do you shoot a lot of headshots? I will often talk a client into doing additional images in their offices, sometimes working with their staff or coworkers. This provides them with some flexible images for future uses and gives me some great stock content that would otherwise take a lot of work to set up. 

Medical

The healthcare industry is massive and has a high demand for images. Few photographers have access to this field in their regular assignments, but if you do manage to find yourself with a related assignment, take full advantage of your surroundings. The majority of medical stock images I have shot were from editorial assignments I've gotten.

Sports/Travel/Recreation

This is where the majority of my catalog falls into. It’s also a great place to get started for anyone who already enjoys some type of athletic activity. Lots of sports and recreational activities incorporate equipment, athletic clothing, and interesting locations in both urban and rural settings. This makes for a lot of stock potential, as there is always a demand for images showing people both watching and participating in these activities. When I shoot local surfers, I will often bring my own board and get shots of the surfers using my own gear as props in the foreground. Likewise, if I know I will be shooting in an area that might have good rock climbing, but my assignment may be for hiking, I will try to bring some of my climbing gear and get some shots of the gear with the model. 

When traveling on assignment, I always spend my downtime shooting extra content. Previously, I wrote an article on how I shoot skylines everywhere I go. If I have friends or family in the area, I will convince them to be my models and take them out to touristy restaurants and sites. With lifestyle, anyone can be your model.

Lifestyle images can be taken in almost any field. Whether you're shooting healthy living, technology, generational living, culture, food, hunting, automotive, industry, etc., you can incorporate lifestyle shots into the work you're already doing. The list is endless. Anyone doing anything can be considered as a lifestyle stock image.

Submitting Images to Adobe Stock

One of the biggest advantages of using Adobe Stock is the ability to submit images directly through Creative Cloud apps like Lightroom and Bridge. A big part of the strategy talked about above is how to simply and affordably start creating stock content. By using Adobe Stock, I am able to minimize the submission time by using images within my preexisting workflow. I submit new images after each new shoot (depending on client restrictions) without having to create a separate time slot to do so. 

Conclusion

Although the majority of my income comes from shooting assignments, I think any photographer could benefit by adding lifestyle images to the work they're already doing and building a stock catalog that will bring them additional income over time. It's not necessary to produce elaborate shoots to build your stock portfolio. Add to what you are already shooting, and you'll find yourself with a large stock portfolio in no time without a lot of added effort. 

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17 Comments

Mike Schrengohst's picture

I find most assistants, employees & friends balk at shooting "stock" images. They ask what is in it for them? Even finding suitable models and paying them to shoot stock images is very difficult. Do you pay your models anything?
Amassing a large stock portfolio takes a lot of time, a lot of added effort and sometimes at great financial risk. It is not as easy as you make it out to be.

Michael DeStefano's picture

I guess it depends on the people you know. I don't have this problem. When I assisted I often ended up in photographers images. I always pay my models, however, like I mentioned I will double dip. If I have a model for an assignment and the opportunity to shoot something comes up I will take it. They aren't being paid per shot but by the hour. They almost always are happy to shoot extra shots as I'm happy to let them use them if they want.

Mike Schrengohst's picture

Your are correct. I have been a photographer for over 40 years. I started shooting stock before stock was even on-line. I tried the shoot extra photos with model/actors but most were union and would not just shoot extras for stock. I did hire models to shoot only stock but the logistics to shoot anything stock worthy were expensive and daunting. Look on the dozens of stock sites and you will see hundreds of thousands of excellent photos that were never downloaded. I make maybe $1000 year on stock sales. When you make $135K a year it is hard to stop and bend over for pennies.

Johnny Rico's picture

Thanks for helping to hurt the industry, cheers!

Michael DeStefano's picture

I don't see how anything I wrote is helping to hurt the industry unless you are implying using Adobe Stock is

Tony Clark's picture

I think the time for making money in Stock has passed. The last time I licensed an image for anything I'd consider impressive was nearly a decade ago. The images that I did license were shot on Editorial projects.

Michael DeStefano's picture

Are there people making 6 figures selling stock today? Yes. Are you going to start selling stock today and get to that point in the future probably not. That doesn't mean stock cant be an additional revenue source for you. Selling quality stock often brings in better licensing opportunity. I know many photographers that sell stock on their own to clients that found them through their stock portfolios on agency sites.

Tony Clark's picture

I started my Stock sales off with a +$1200 sale back in '06. The economy tanked and Royalty Free and Micro Agencies took off in '08-'09. Since then, I negotiated a license to a Pharmaceutical Company for $3250 but the Stock Agency sales are between $10-$50 minus their percentage. So, since '06 I have generated about $5K so I don't think that I'd produce personal projects thinking that it'd make much on the Stock scene. As the article says, shoot your assignments and submit a few of the images for Stock and it may result in a few sales.

What “worthwhile income” mentioned above means in monetary terms?

Anete Lusina's picture

Do they require model releases for images with people in? I dropped the idea of stock images a while ago because of the effort of submitting things, keywording, organising, etc. but would be interesting to see how easy it is to do it via Lightroom. Is it much quicker and easier than doing it via Alamy, for example? I haven't used them for around half a year so things may have changed.

Mike Schrengohst's picture

Yes all the stock agencies demand model releases and some even require that they be updated with the current info of the model. That is why I have all but stopped submitting any photos with people in them.
Where I work we finally went to a subscription with Adobe Stock - I can download pics for $2.95. I wonder what a photographer makes off of that?

Alex Kroke's picture

Sale on Adobe Stock for 1 image 34 Cent. only adobe is making money, don't waist your time

Mike Schrengohst's picture

Adobe stock is great if you buy photos. They are burying the other photo stock agencies. As was their goal and model. Of course you can try and be "repped" by a more exclusive agency but those days are numbered.

Michael DeStefano's picture

You should always get model releases. But no not all agencies require model releases. There are stock agencies that work specifically with editorial content which does not require releases. However if your content isnt newsworthy or geared towards editorial use you will have a hard time getting sales.

Don't forget guys, this is just a sponsored post/advertisement for Adobe Stock :)

J Maloney's picture

This article is false. The stock photo business is in the toilet and has been for quite some time. I was a Getty shooter for over 11 years. The entire price structure including Getty and Corbis (pre-sale) has been racing to the bottom for years. I would NEVER advise anyone to shoot and submit stock at today's current prices and royalty rates. It is an utter waste of time, money and resources for photographers. Mr. DeStafano, I suggest you talk to us photographers before writing another pro stock article. Adobe makes money, lots of money. We don't.

Michael DeStefano's picture

I completely agree if you try to treat the stock market like it was in its glory days for photographers you're not going to get very far. However, there is a whole world of new options that are not Getty and Corbis. Try one of the dozens of niche agencies that still pay higher rates. Create a relationship with the sellers that work for you to sell your work. Use your social media and website to boost your SEO for stock. Take advantage of newer agencies like Adobe to market the images your niche agencies don't want.

I never shot for Getty, although in my assisting days I did work for legendary photographers who made 6 figures a year on stock. I don't ever expect to experience it myself. I do have images that have made $20k over the course of a couple years. That isn't money I care to leave on the table because some photographers were able to make more money in the past.