Money Making Travel Photography Story And Photos By Great Art Studios

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Money Making Travel Photography Story And Photos By Great Art Studios

Discover the world of stock travel photography
Story and photos by Great Art Studios

Imagine that you're standing at a magazine rack flipping through the pages of a travel or general interest magazine? What is that first thing that catches your eye in every magazine? What grabs your interest? Of course! It's the photos!

Discover the world of stock travel photography

That's because the eye generally gravitates to color first and then to the black and white words on the page. The images that truly capture your attention are the photos that tell a complete story. Story telling images are valuable for many reasons, but to the traveler they could be worth more than memories.

The Stock Photography business needs your photos to stay in business. Stock Photography is creating photos that sit in a library until someone needs that image for an untold number of possible uses. A stock photo can be used for wallpaper on a computer screen for $5 or for a double truck ad in a national magazine for $7K and everything in between.

The Internet is packed with Stock Photo Companies. All have slightly different procedures to submit images, but they all need well composed, in focus, colorful story telling photos. Successful stock photography shooters can make fifty to one hundred thousand dollars per year. They travel to the same places you do, but instead of returning with just snapshots and selfies they return with photography worth real money.

The successful travel photographer

The successful travel photographer has two important jobs while seeing the world: one is to enjoy the traveling as much as possible and the other is to create salable images. The successful travel photographer has an entire bags of tricks that place him or her at the right location at the right time to capture the easy images. The successful travel photographer never sleeps in and is always outside at sunset.

The successful travel photographer knows that the Stock Photography business is a numbers game and with new digital cameras there is no excuse not to shoot 1000s of images on a single trip. The successful travel photographer knows that photos with people sell 20 times more than those without and everyone in the photo needs to sign a release.

couples picture

There is a rule of thumb about the money to be made in Stock Photography. There is an astronomical chance that just one photo could make some money, but in the real world it breaks down to earning $1 per year year for every photo in the system. Ten thousand photos should bring in $10,000 per year and so on.

On any trip there's an entire world jammed packed with opportunities for great photography. Any trip either across the globe or across town can lead to storytelling photos to be captured. What are the keys to turning snapshots into an airline ticket? How can another photo of the Eiffel Tower pay for a week at the Ritz? The simple truth is that you have to start truly looking at the world instead of just existing in it and following a few rules to improve your photography. It is possible for even an untrained photographer to quickly learn how to take top quality money making pictures.

couple watching sunset

Even photos taken with a smart phone may be good enough for stock photos sales, but to compete with existing professional photographers your smart phone probably won't cut it. There may indeed be stock photo agencies that will take your smart phone photos, noting today in this digital world is an impossibility. If you do want to compete at the highest level then a 35mm SLR digital camera is the baseline to start with. Camera manufacturers bring out a new model camera almost hourly, so there are plenty to chose from. There is a model for every price range from $500 to $20K. As the lure of big money increases, there are other tools to buy as in extra lenses (a 20mm to 300mm zoom might cover all your needs), filters, tripod and even a drone may be in your future.


Of course, there's more to taking salable photos than just arming yourself with the right equipment. There is also the philosophy of photography that consists of more then just snapping the shutter. Study the following techniques and start creating photos on your next vacation that might just generate income that could possible pay for all your vacations to come.



  1. Learn about light
  2. Finding the perfect light
  3. Take the high  ground
  4. Zen and the art of photography
  5. Conceptual Images
  6. Learn  about exposure –  NO auto exposure!
  7. More concepts                                                                                          
  8. Watch light change
  9. Action and movement
  10. Play the angles
  11. Fill the frame
  12. Models
  13. Travel models
  14. How many megapixels
  15. Local knowledge
  16. Take advantage of a cloudy day
  17. Bring your own color
  18. Golden hour
  19. Move away from normal perspective
  20. Long exposures at twilight
  21. One hundred attempts may be needed
  22. Planning
  23. Communicate with locals
  24. Fill flash – added to available light
  25. Using drones
  26. Tools for success
  27. Kid photos
  28. Conclusions                        

Photography Basics

The techniques you need to take exciting travel pics, the kind of photos that will generate income are not that difficult to master with enough practice. In the next several pages, we’ll introduce you to some basic skills you can use to improve the quality of all the photos you shoot.

1. Learn all about light

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Professionals know how to use the best light in all situations. The available light may be enough for most photos, but adding or subtracting light to fine-tune an image is a valuable skill. You should start paying attention to the light that exist in your day to day world. A good way to start is to ask these questions; what is the source of the light, what is the quality of the light and how do objects in your world respond to that light. Quality of light is a personal evaluation but light is either harsh as in midday sun or soft as in the light form the sky after the sun sets. Professional photographers are always aware of the light because without light there is nophotography. Determine what light looks best in different situations. You have to discover what appeals to the eye in the real world to be able to reproduce it on demand.

2. Finding the perfect light

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Sunrise and sunset offer the best time of day to capture sellable images, but you still need to know where to be at these times of the day. All locations need to be scouted first to determine if the location is a sunrise or sunset location. Photograph these locations whenever you first see them and then make plans to wake up before dawn and photograph these locations again. This technique will demonstrate how different times a day will produce striking different images. Upon review of these images once back at the home base the concept of “quality of light” will become evident. Rule of thumb on direct light, the longer the shadows the higher quality of light is present. At noon there usually are no shadows, at sunset the shadows are long and the light is gorgeous!

Finding the perfect light mountains

3. Take The High Ground

Take The High Ground beach


Landscape photography requires a good landscape to photograph and a good vantage point from which to capture the landscape. Photos taken from ground level usually don't offer an unobstructed view of any landscape unless the area directly in front is an ocean or a wide river. To capture a landscape correctly find a hill, a parking structure, climb a tree or get to the top of a high rise. The higher the camera is positioned the more of the landscape can be photographed. Landscapes offer the ability to use graduated filters. These filters are clear on the bottom with color on the top. The horizon line between the land the sky is a perfect spot to start the color.

Photography Los Angeles

4. Zen and the art of photography

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Before approaching any photographic endeavor, it always helps to stop for a moment and relax. Try to clear your thoughts of all the craziness of travel or anything else and just go ZEN for a moment. This is the time to remember all the images you've seen in your life that might resemble what you are about to photograph. How were those memorable images produced, why were they so good? Try to use your visual memories to help produce an even better image. The law (which is strictly enforced) regarding copying another image is that the new image just has to be better. Try to improve what has been done with your own personal style. If you don’t have one, then find it!

  • Zen and the art of photography elephant
  • Zen and the art of photography fish

5. Conceptual Images

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Imagine you are working as an art director for an ad agency. You've just been given the assignment to create an ad for a women's product of some type and the instructions are that the art work needs to be of a woman outside enjoying life. Pretty simple, but there is no budget to hire a photographer to create this image so buying an image from a stock agency is the only option. As the art director what image will you be looking for? The options are a photo of a woman and the outdoors. The correct image for this assignment is a conceptual photo that tells a story the client needs to help sell the product.

Conceptual Images sunset

If all your photos are just pretty outdoor scenes, then your photos will not be considered. If all you shoot is portraits of women, then your photos will not be considered. The photographers who have challenged themselves to create storytelling images will most likely get the sale. Creating conceptual images will truly make money in the stock photography world. East concepts to photograph are; success, failure, happy, sad, hot, cold, fast, slow, struggle, motherhood, rich, poor and so on. A sunset is a pretty picture, a sunset with a couple walking arm in arm on the beach is money making image.

6. Learn EXPOSURE and turn off the automatic mode

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Exposure is the all encompassing term that will determine the final photography. Any photo is first determined by three factors; f/stop, shutter speed and ISO. The f/stop determines the amount of light the lens gathers, the shutter speed determines how fast or how slow the shutter opens and closes, the ISO determines the sensitivity of the sensor. These three factors need to be understood completely to be able to consistently create money making images. The photographer that uses auto mode will produce good images 1 out of 100 attempts The photographer who understands exposure will create high quality money making images 5 out of 5 attempts. So the equation is simple - amateurs use auto mode, professionals use manual. Learn about exposure!

With a digital camera observing how exposure can alter an image is very easy. First, all the controls need to be found and then how they are operated will need to be understood. There are four controls on the camera that their location will need to be determined. The location and operation of these controls can be found in the owner’s manual. The four controls are: Mode Selector, Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO.

Here are the steps to begin the process of learning how to use the manual exposure mode on a digital camera: switch the camera to manual mode, set the ISO to 100, set the aperture to the smallest number available (could be f/2.8 or f/4) and the shutter speed to 125th of a second. Now shoot a photo where ever you are standing and check the display screen.

The image should be either very dark or very light. If the image is very dark, change the shutter speed to a smaller number until the exposure looks closer to normal. If the image is too bright, change the shutter to a higher number until it looks closer to normal. As the shutter speed goes lower the photo will become blurry. To keep the shutter speed 125th or above, the ISO will need to be raised from 100 to 200 or 400 or 800. As the ISO is moved higher the quality if the photo may be diminished.

Learn EXPOSURE and turn off the automatic mode couples

There are many combinations of shutter speed, aperture and ISO that can create high quality photos. Photographers just need to try different combinations of all three to eventually understand how each setting effects the final image. A shutter speed below 30th of a second may cause a blurry image due to camera movement, so always try to shoot with a 125th shutter speed unless you can use a tripod. Aperture settings of f/stops help control the amount of light coming through the lens, but also affect depth of field. An aperture setting of f/2.8 will allow a certain amount if light in, but will create a very shallow depth if field. An aperture setting of f/22 will allow a certain amount of light through the lenses, but create the most depth of field possible.

Using manual mode is a creative endeavor allowing the photographer to make all the decisions.

When a photograph turns out to be an award winner using manual mode, the photographer knows exactly how it was done and how those set of parameters can be duplicated for future success.

7. More Concepts

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Try to see images in real life that tell the entire story with just a glance. These are images that have real money making potential. To start the process, go for simple concepts that are very easy to spot. These are the photos that contain names as in “The Santa Monica Pier.” See how easy? Photos that contain identifying landmarks and signs are the first step in creating conceptual or storytelling images Most postcard racks at your destination will have all the classic shots. Use these for inspiration. Try to determine the best photos and then ask where they might have been taken. The photos on the postcards usually were shot at the best possible time of day when the light is perfect. When any type of sign is photographed, always shoot in the best possible light.

8. Watch Light Change

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The first and last light of day almost always provides the best opportunities for good photos. Stock photographers can not afford to sleep in. They are up before dawn dragging their gear up some hill to catch the morning light on some landmark or vista. Successful Travel Stock photographers need to be aware of the ambient light in all situations. A good exercise in light requires about a two hours of your time. Pick a beautiful park or beach near you and arrive thirty minutes before sunrise. Find a conformable spot with a cup of coffee and relax. There is no need to have your camera, this is a mental exercise in light awareness. As the dawn approaches look around and see how the world goes form dark to light.

Try to see how the surroundings are affected first by just the light in the sky and then by direct sunlight.

The dramatics of the light will be more pronounced on a cloudless morning. Watch as the shadows start to retreat as the sun moves higher in the sky. This exercise can be repeated at sunset or anytime of the day. The trick is see what the light is doing from moment to moment. If you can be aware of the changes, then you are aware of the light. This is something all photographers do on a daily basis. Light is the medium a photographer uses light to create interesting images that some will appreciate while others will gladly pay for.

9. Action and movement

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Peak action photos will sell 20 times more than static images so try to capture action where ever you go. A photo of cable car in San Francisco will sell, but a photo of a moving cable car will add excitement to the same subject. Professional sports photographers use long lenses from 300 to 800mm and motor drives on their cameras with 15 frames shot per second. This type of gear can almost guarantee peak action photography, but you can still shoot action with a 105 lens without a motor drive, you just have to as close to the action as possible and shoot a lot of frames. Remember shooting digitals frames are basically free so shoot as many as you can. One frame just might be winner.

Action and movement car rollover

10. Play the angles


Play the angles ski

Don’t always take eye-level photos. Think “bird’s eye view” and “worm’s eye view.” Lay on the ground if you have to or use a ladder, but push yourself beyond the normal “snap shot” mentality. The top floor of a parking structure can provide fantastic views of the city or any famous landmark.

Play the angles american flag

11. Fill The Frame

Fill The Frame trees


Your brain automatically isolates any subject, no matter how much wasted space surrounds it. In the viewfinder, it’s important to realize that your photo includes the entire image you see – from edge to edge of the finder. In other words, even though your brain “sees” only the subject in the middle of the frame, your photograph will include all the wasted space. Practice the technique of leaving absolutely no space around your subject. Do this until the concept of filling the frame is understood and then gradually pull back from your subject for perfect composition.

12. Models

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In the stock photography world photos with people are truly the money makers, so you need photos with people in your collection. These people in your photos also have to give you permission to sell these photos in the stock world, so random picture of random people are not useable. Real people or professional models need to be hired and photo-shoots need to be set-up. New and established models and actors always need new photos. Find them and trade their time for photos. The more people you photograph, the better your photography will be.

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13. Travel models

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Somewhere during your trip, you will meet a good-looking couple on their vacation. Ask them to pose for some travel related photos in exchange for copies and a few dollars. Make sure you have your model release ready (see Appendix A for a sample model release form). Depending on how cooperative these models are, try to place them in front of landmarks. Have them smile and look like they’re having a good time or try to set up conceptual images. Story telling travel images with people and a story will sell over and over again. If you want your photos to sell for years, try to avoid trendy clothes and hair styles.

14. How many megapixels?

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When you shoot digital photography the size of the file your camera can produce is a very important factor. Twenty million megapixels is a good size file for high quality magazine use. A twenty-million-pixel file will produce a 22 x 14-inch image at 300 dpi. That is definitely big enough for stock agencies. There are a few cameras that produce a 50-megapixel file. These produce extremely detailed images. If you truly want to impress a client buy this type of camera.

15. Local knowledge

local knowledge beach

Check the Internet for photographers in the city you are about to visit. Select several and ask for some tips on how to get the best classic images of their city. Most will be glad to help. They might even offer to show you around.

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Local knowledge sun set

16. Take advantage of a cloudy day

Take advantage of a cloudy day

Here’s a very sophisticated, but easy technique if the weather is over cast and the light is flat. Set the color temperature on your digital camera to 3200 or tungsten light and wait until the sun had set. Find interesting locations that have the cloudy sky as background. Use a tripod and vary your exposure, the results can possible be the most interesting images of you trip.

17. Bring Your Own Color

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Color photography sometimes requires that the photographer bring their own color to the party. Using models in photos to increase the value of the image will require the photographer to also act as the wardrobe expert. Of course color is a personal preference, but whites just seam to distract from the overall image and it is suggested no models ever wear just plain white. White always reflects more light than any other color and tends to be the most dominate element in a photo. Normally a person's face should be the most dominate, but a bright white shirt may distract from that pretty face. Always tell your models to wear bright or dark colors. The experienced travel photographer may even have two or three light colorful jackets for their models to wear. Try to leave nothing to chance.

18. Golden Hour

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Experienced travel photographers are acutely aware of the light. They know when to shoot and when to be a tourist. The best time of the day to be a tourist is from 10 am to 4 pm. The best time to be a travel photographer is sunrise and sunset. Society pays photographers to present the world in the most attractive way possible. Society demands good looking people, places and things photographed in the best possible light, literally! There is plenty of light at midday, but the light is harsh and the source is directly overhead. Midday light is not the best light for people's faces, landscapes or architecture. The best light of the day is after sunrise and before, during and right after sunset. These are the times of day that produce phenomenal images with little effort. Stock agencies have millions upon millions of sunsets, so never expect to make any money with a sunset, unless the sunset is only a background for your photo. Turn away from the sunset and use that light to photography anything you like. This type of light is the best, all you need is a subject, good composition and a story to tell.

19. Move away from the normal perspective

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What is it about a snapshot that makes them so darn boring? Well, let's talk about "perspective." The human eye sees the world roughly 5 to 6 feet high (above the ground) and with about a 50mmperspective. This is how humans see the world every minute of every day for their entire lives. Most snapshots are taken with a 50mm lenses roughly 5 to 6 feet above the ground. So, most snapshots resemble the same perspective that most humans see with their own eyes every minute of every day and that perspective is nothing to get excited about.

Move away from the normal perspective

If you want people to react to your photos with something beside a yawn, you need to change the perspective. Interesting images begin with offering a unique view of the world as far away from normal as possible. This is accomplished with wide and telephoto lenses. Nothing replaces actual experience using these lenses, but there are some beginning tips: 1) With a wide angle lens make sure you fill the frame with your subject and don't wasted space around the edge of the frame. 2) With a telephoto move back from your subject to increase the compression and the isolation these types of lenses offer. A good start would be buying a 18mm to 300mm zoom lens and practice, practice, practice!!

20. Long Exposures at Twilight

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Some photos don’t exist in the real world, but they are there. You just need to know the formula to create them. After the sun goes down there is usually not enough light to record a normal photo, but using a tripod and long exposure can open up a brand new world of photography. This is where a digital camera comes in handy. When this technique is used after sunset (tripod -long exposure) carnival rides or anything that is moving and has its own light source produce colorful patterns not seen by the human eye. Since most light meters can’t determine a correct exposure for special effects these images require a lot of trial and error. A digital camera can let you know immediately how your exposure is working. The amount of time the shutter is open (5 to 60 seconds) in combination with the correct f/stop can produce amazing images. It’s just a matter of finding the right subject and the correct exposure.

21. Anything of importance requires at least 100 attempts.

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Since there are more photographers than people, the competition in the photo world is certainly cutthroat. Attempting to enter the photography world will certainly not be easy, so making "100 attempts" as part of your plan will certainly ease the mental frustration of rejection and failure. Even when twenty different people or companies tell you to "never call them again" regarding your photos, it's meaningless as there are still 80 people to get in touch with. The truth is that you will never ever reach 100 attempts. You will learn so much along the way, that success will take place at number 35 or even sooner. By the way, this technique works well in all aspects of life.

22. It all starts with planning

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Before you leave home, thoroughly research your destinations. The internet is jammed pack with reference photos of the best places to photograph. Try to determine how you can capture these places with your own style. For the advanced photographers the question will be; how can you incorporate models into these beautiful travel locations to maximize the money making possibilities of next trip to Bora Bora. Locate discussion boards on the internet regarding travels and photography. ask for tips that others have learned, maybe even get a name to contact in your next exotic location.

23. Communicate with the locals

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You don’t have to be a language expert to take good photos, but any time you spend learning a few simple phrases in the language of the country you’ll be visiting will be time well spent. It will help you if you need to ask directions…and if you’re trying to convince locals to let you make them part of your photos. Note: I spent two hours speaking with two Frenchmen regarding the problems I was having with my lights on a job in Monaco. I spoke no French and they spoke zero English, but we had a common interest and they helped solved my problem. So, the technique I learned was if you are looking to connect with a local, don’t ask directions, ask about something interesting and you may just find a new friend.

24. Fill flash - added to available light

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Great photos contain a great or good subject along with a great or good background. Sunsets, sky and backgrounds can combine with your subject to create gorgeous photos. The key is to add “fill flash.” The colors of a sunset or any pretty sky may only last a few minutes so you need to plan ahead and have your subject or models ready. Select a location that has a clear view of the horizon or at least clutter free and place your subject directly in line of the color on the horizon or create the best composition possible.

The trick is to match the flash output with the available light for a completely balanced photo. A tripod is important as there are many factors involved and not have to worry about the camera position is very helpful. Select an f/stop and adjust the flash output for your subject while using the shutter speed for the right exposure for the available light in the background.

Remember your camera has a maximum shutter speed in which the flash will synch, usually 1/250th of a second will work. Check your camera to be sure. One combination of shutter speed, f/stop and flash output will be perfect. This will take some practice, but the results can be very dramatic and profitable. It’s best to have the flash off axis of the lenses. Try to make the flash as soft as possible by bouncing the strobe into a 4 x 4 bounce card.

25. Using drones

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In 2020 you are no one unless you own a drone. There must be 50 companies who now manufacture a drone to which you can use for aerial photography or video. Drones are such an easy way to capture views of all sorts of interesting places that have just not been seen before. This is one way to get in on the ground floor as far as stock images that have a better chance of selling because there are not already millions of these types of images in stock photo files. Drones rage from one that can fit in the palm of your hand for $300 all the way up to huge flying machines that can travel 120 mph hour, climb to hundreds of feet off the ground and carry high end cameras for thousands of dollars. If you’re serious about stock photography, then a drone is in your future.

I personally use a Mavic Air Drone which was purchased for $900 and I added two additional batteries for $180. Each battery last about ten minutes of flying time. This drone shoots 4K video, has internal storage (8 gigs) and an external memory card slot. This drone is very easy to use and any one can learn how to fly it.

These new drones all have excellent GPS capabilities and thus are subject to GEO Fences. The electronic fences exist so unauthorized drone operators don’t fly in air space frequented by private or commercial aircraft. Drones can wreak havoc on any airplane, jetliner or helicopter. To fly I these areas a FAA license is required. Once a license is obtained it is just a matter of requesting fight time in restricted areas.

26. The tools for success

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How much equipment should be packed along with your toothbrush on a trip to Bora Bora? The answer is just enough to capture anything and everything and the ability to bring back all these images safe and sound. Start with a high end digital camera that shoots with at least 20 megapixels. Professional photographers always bring a spare body just in case. The spare does not have to be as good as your number one body, but a spare is essential none the less.

Bring along six 32 gig memory cards, a card reader a hard drive to copy your images nightly, a tripod and three high quality zoom lenses. Try to cover all the possibilities with a wide 10 to 24mm, medium 35 to 70mm and a telephoto 100 to 400mm. Zoom are easiest lens to dial in the best composition with the lease amount of effort. A zoom may not be a sharp as a fixed focal length lens, but use a tripod to add quality to any lens. With the camera on a tripod you can shoot at a low shutter speed and a high f/stop (f 16 or f/22). This will add extra sharpness to your photos. Make sure you have at least three batteries for your camera and don’t forget your charger. Also, bring any power converters for the country you are visiting.

27. Kid Photos

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The average cost to raise a child from birth to 18 years of age is very close to $250,000. Wouldn’t it be nice to to recoup some of those funds? Clever photographers do just that. Instead of just shooting snap shots of a child’s life, these photographers can turn a child’s holiday into a money making adventure. Remember that all situations can be transformed into a stock photography image. A birthday party, a walk in park, Christmas morning, a trip to the beach and even the first day of school can eventually help pay for a child’s expenses, special toys or even a college education.

Each parent first has to be OK with images of their children splashed across the publishing world. This could be on a web site or a national ad. Of course the national ad just might garner enough for a year of guitar lessons or a tutor for that new math. A parent or guardian owns that child image until they turn 18 and thus can sign a release for permission to have images of their children thrown into the stock photography world.

The technique for turning average moments into money making images will only require time and planning. Stock shooters already own high quality cameras and know a little about light, so when little Johnnie is about to blow out the candles on the birthday cake, the parent photographer has already composed the perfect photo and made sure the lighting is perfect. Unless permission is granted from other children’s parents, only your child should be photographed.

An easy way to know what to shoot is to check what stock agencies are selling when is comes to kid photos. It will be easy to find out if your photos are good enough for stock sales. If an agency accepts the image, it is good enough, if rejected then there is more work to do. Most agencies will supply a reason why the image was rejected. Use this information to produce better quality images next time. There is one problem with turning a magic moment in a child’s life into a stock photo assignment; it just might take the spontaneity out of the event.

Cooperation from all parents needs to be present. If one parent is constantly being put off from the attempts to turn real life into a photo shoot, then these events just need to be recreated at a later date. Watching a real life event does offer the photographer a baseline at where to start and the recreation may be even better. One thing is fir sure, the parent who shoots stock of their children will eventually end up with an amazing record of their child’s life!

Model Release

In consideration of fair compensation, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, I hereby grant _______________________________ (photographer/company) full permission to copyright, use and publish photographic prints or other reproductions from all digital files, negatives or films made of me at any place or time, and to make and use photographic prints or other reproductions from all digital files, negatives or films made of me at any place or time, and to make and use photographic prints or other reproductions of all or part of said negatives or films, either in conjunction with or without using my name, and to make any changes or additions thereto or both for publication, advertising or display, whether in connection with a fictitious name,  testimonial copy or otherwise, and I hereby release (photographer) from any and all claims, damages or causes of action arising, directly or indirectly, in connection with the use of the material referred to above.

This Authorization and Model Release shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the parties hereto and their respective heirs, personal representatives, successors,  and assigns.

Signature________________________________ Date______________

Address_____________________________ email_________________

Phone Number____________________________

If the person(s) signing above is a minor, the signature of one of such person’s parents or guardian must appear below.

Signature______________________________ Date_____________


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