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Brandon Cawood's picture

Do you buy or shoot your own stock for backgrounds, textures, etc.?

Hey guys,
I'd love to hear your general thoughts on when to use stock vs. shooting your own images for composites? I try to avoid stock like the plague, but on occasion I do have to bend and grab something that I don't have the ability to shoot myself due to time, location, cost. What about you guys? Do you use stock regularly? Are you making sure that you are following all the rules when you do use it? What are your thoughts?

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Angelo Beltran's picture

For the past few months I've bought my images. And I have also shot my own in the past. There are so many ways to manipulate them that it will take a trained sharp eye to spot it as stock. And it speeds up my workflow and deliver final product on time.

muturi kanini's picture

Hi Angelo,please advice where you buy those images,i seem to be having no luck getting old steam train images and also those of military Apache or black hawk helicopters (?)

Krists Afanasjevs's picture

Shooting my own at 90% of time :)

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I'm shooing my own unless the client requires usage of stock images they want.

Adam T's picture

I do both, sometimes the time it takes to shoot and crop an image doesn't outweigh cost and time of just spending the stock.

Garry Neesam's picture

I haven't used any stock shots (but them I've only done very simple composites so far - putting a model in front of a different background).
I spent a day wandering around my local shopping centre and industrial estate on a Sunday when nobody was around, just shooting lots of different backdrops and surfaces.

Felix Hernandez's picture

I only use stock images for backgrounds and some effects... never for my main objects... When I have the chance I shoot my own BG.... But when using stock images for BG I never use one alone... I always integrate 4 to 10 different stock images to create a new BG... In my photos I use a lot of smoke or fog to create my ambient... I shoot my models in studio with real smoke, but also integrate some smoke stock images... is a mix... anything to sale the idea... but trying to be unique.

I think that one is not always able to shoot everything yourself. E.g. if you live inthe US, how do you get historic buildings from Europe or exocit beaches? I shoot backgrounds but I am but into people. The problem is also to get the right outfit, e.g. historic garb. Therefore I create my backgrounds and use free stock for people. Since it is often difficult to find stock of backgrounds that fit for composites, I also started to offer my backgrounds to other people.

I come from the Marketing and Advertising industry where the use of stock is standard practice for a lot of things. Like you pointed out, sometimes you don't have access to what you need. My use of stock depends upon what the project is for. If it's for a private commission then yes I use stock that is either pay for/royalty free or Creative Commons At by... I don't have a problem with using stock at all as long as you follow the stock providers rules of use. I think of stock as a paintbrush. All my tools are paintbrushes. camera, stock, makeup, props, backdrops, etc... think about it this way... would you look down on a clothing designer if he made clothing out of fabric he didn't weave himself? It's silly really. There are people who make a living providing stock. It's what it's created for. There is nothing wrong with using it. >However I would like to preface I only use stock IN my composites. I don't use pre made backgrounds or stock models. A lot of times you would be hard pressed to recognize the stock image after I use it. Once it's manipulated into the image it's seamless. This image right here is about 50/50. 4 of the images were mine and 4 where provided by stock photographers who gave me permission to use them. I always record what was used and who it belongs to in case there are ever any questions later. If I'm not sure if I can use the image for commercial use I message the stock photographer and ask them directly. Most of the time they will say yes and thank you for doing your diligence and asking first...

Steve Dormer's picture

Hi I always shoot my own as I enter various competitions and all of the images must be your out.. However, I am enjoying composite imaging think of creating images not for competition.

Dan Howell's picture

I have begun to use stock images as backgrounds for a group of fashion fantasy images over the past year or so. It came about almost as a survival mechanism to fight the declining budgets/production-value some of my projects were facing. In the past I became accustomed to investing in props and hand-painted backdrops to use on projects. Quite obviously there is a cost to obtaining these, but there is also a cost to storing them as well.

One of my significant ongoing clients is always seeking to tighten their budgets which has come at the expense more sophisticated backgrounds and sets. They have been happy enough with their results, but once I spotted the trend I decided that continuing to follow that pattern would lead to me not having any current portfolio quality images resulting from these shoots.

I began looking at more simple studio shots from these projects which still had good models and good dresses/gowns that I felt could be taken to another level with more interesting backgrounds. I have linked a couple here.



Both background were found on stock websites where I bought the rights to use the image for the usage I needed.

I still work with my clients to create interesting images in-camera. Most of my day to day work does not rely on backgrounds introduced in post. Much of my fantasy fashion images have been created as portfolio pieces to secure future work, but there has been an increase in the number of times where I have had the opportunity to incorporate additional background images into advertising or editorial cover images. Stock photos increase the pallet of expressions and moods you can project for an image beyond what you can capture (especially given budget and travel restraints).

I do try to collect background images from my own studio and travel projects. The big hurdle to that is that I am NEVER commissioned to create background images because I am always commissioned to shoot the model (foreground) image. Hunting backgrounds is not a profit center for me. It might become a cost-saving venture, but in the near term I will continue to reach beyond my immediate grasp thru stock images.

Austin Burke's picture

I'm hoping to shoot my first major composite in a few weeks and will be picking up 1 stock image for it because we don't have the desert mountains here in Florida.

Aidan Guerra's picture

Whenever I have a preconceived idea, I always try to use a stock image, or if i can. At most of the time, I would try to go with my imagination from certain places to be more original throughout my creative process.