Joined: 17 Jan 2008
Posted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 2:38 pm
Six Tips for Diverse, Authentic Images
Subscriber Requests, Part 3
Shutterstock customers come from everywhere. They live in countries around the world and work in many different industries. They want realistic photos of people of all races, ethnicities and ages. If you want to connect with as many of these buyers as possible, you should keep in mind diversity and authenticity when you shoot and submit images to Shutterstock.
Many top Shutterstock submitters have learned that photographing a variety of people will produce strong sales. “I think the diversity of a portfolio is very important. It allows buyers with different needs to all look at your portfolio,” says Rob Marmion, a photographer and web developer in Cumming, Georgia. “I've been blessed to have a very diverse family and base of friends and I've used that along with the diversity of Atlanta to build my portfolio.”
Of course, this involves thinking beyond the standard, polished studio shoots. Here are six ways you can make your photographs—and the entire Shutterstock collection—more appealing to our diverse customer base.
1. Photograph people of different ethnicities.
This sentiment practically goes without saying. But in practice, it takes effort and cultural sensitivity to get it right. Diversity means more than just shooting a parade of models of different races on the same set. When you’re composing photos, pay attention to details that show knowledge and understanding of a person’s ethnic heritage. Don’t try to fake this. When you can, try shooting at people’s actual homes or workplaces for extra realism.
2. Photograph people of different ages.
Don’t get stuck in a routine of shooting middle-aged businesspeople. Pictures of children, and especially senior citizens, are both popular and important. As people live longer and stay healthier, images of active seniors are increasingly in demand. Again, pay attention to sets and props and strive for authenticity. The home of a family with children is going to look different than the home of an older couple living by alone.
3. Photograph people of different cultures.
As distinct from race and ethnicity, culture tells us something about the styles and attitudes of a person, not just where their ancestors are from. Cultural cues—like jewelry, clothing, or the objects people keep in their homes—can be subtle and hard to create on a set, so seek out some local expert knowledge if you’re trying to represent a culture other than your own.
4. Photograph people who don’t look like models.
Sure, there’s demand for photos of beautiful people with perfect hair and makeup. But many image buyers need to appeal to everyday customers, and want to see faces that convey a sense of honesty and down-to-earth values. Think of kids with braces, adults with wrinkles and people who look like your friends and neighbors, not models from a glossy magazine. There can be a real beauty in photographing people who simply look like themselves. You know it when you see it.
5. Get to know the people you shoot, and give them time to relax in front of the camera.
Whether you’re shooting friends and family, or professional models, give your subjects time to get comfortable in front of the camera and lights. Rather than giving strict directions, go with the flow and photograph people acting as naturally as possible. Spend as much time as you can with your subjects, and shoot the same people again and again. The more comfortable they feel, the more natural they’ll look in your photos.
6. Take care with keywording.
A Chinese model can be labeled Asian, but never Japanese, Korean, or some other Asian ethnicity. Similarly, never photograph a Puerto Rican family and label them with keyword Mexican. (And yes, we actually see this happening!) Use caution with the word “minority,” which means something different in every part of the world. Your keywords should help sell your work, but they must be precise.
Getting these details right will convey respect to your subjects and to Shutterstock’s customers. Follow these tips and you’ll be on the way to boosting your sales and helping Shutterstock remain a world-class image library.