When I was studying graphic design, one of my teachers suggested we start taking a camera wherever we went and take lots of photos of textures, scenes and anything that could be useful for our own personal collection of stock images. Stock photos can get expensive, and everyone else seems to be using all the same free images, so having your own library to work with is valuable. I bought myself a semi-decent camera, and started the practice of taking and collecting photos. It was the beginning of a new love and practice for me. I ended up finding great joy in taking photos, looking out for details, shapes and textures that inspired me. Once I graduated,  I decided to make the most of the Boxing Day sales, and investing in a Canon DSLR. 7 years later I am still using this camera, and it gets plenty of use. I am amazed that even though I am not a 'photographer' I use photography a lot for my business. For blogging, promotional images, product shots and more. But even without a fancy DSLR, the cameras in phones these days are pretty impressive and can be used to start your own collection of stock photos.

So first why you should start taking photos to create your own stock library?-

  • Saves money. Stock photos can be expensive, and even if you find a cheap source, it can really add up when you need lots of images. And free stock photos get over used (you want to be more unique)
  • Provides you with unique images that no one else has.
  • Gives you control to make images that suit your needs exactly, and suit your brand and style.
  • You have to opportunity to stand out and create images that are different to everyone else.
  • You don't have any legal or copyright worries, these images are your own.
  • You can create on demand! While I encourage taking lots of images at a time and stock piling, if you need something specific, rather than spending hours trawling stock sites for something that fits, you can make it yourself. (Now who hasn't spent hours scrolling through stock images for just one perfect pic??) It is a massive time saver.
  • You can make sure the colours are on brand, rather than having to photoshop colours.
  • The more you do it, the better you get at it, and it will become a valuable skill and asset to your business.

So how do you do start taking your own stock photos?

  • Get your equipment together. A camera or phone, lenses (you can get lenses to add to your phone, if you want to upgrade its capabilities). Basic backgrounds/backdrops (like coloured or white cardboard) And any other lighting tools you may have or wish to use.Personally I just . use natural light
  • Collect props. Consider the tools of your trade, botanical, office equipment (even nice vases coffee mugs), stationary, inspiration, your target audience and their tools of trade (and don't just think modern, also consider vintage). Props don't need to be expensive, they can be second hand, what you already have, existing office supplies and found items.
  • Get backdrops. A good start is white or coloured cardboard. Also consider, tables, fabric, textured papers, or materials suitable to your trade. Look around your home for nice textures and also outdoors.
  • Consider your branding- What are your colours, your feel and vibe, your audience, your style and aesthetic. What story do you want to tell through your photography.
  • Perfect lighting- You can get fancy lighting equipment. But if you are wanting to keep things simple and inexpensive, use natural light, where no shadows are cast. If you have issues with shadows, use some cardboard to block the direct light that is creating the shadow.
  • Photography styles- Experiment with and try create a variety of styles, so that you have a range to choose from when you need an image. Including flatlays, still life, landscapes, portraits and lifestyle shots. When an opportunity comes up takes lots of shots in one hit, so you have a range to work with. You may find certain styles suit you or your business better, and you can concentrate on them mostly, but having a range in your personal library gives you plenty of options.
  • Composition- Play around with different compositions. Experimentation is key to creating something good when you aren't a professional. Also consider end use in your composition. If you intent to overlay text or graphics, allow room for this. Do you need something to stand out as a focal point, make sure it is the most clear thing in your composition.
  • Batch photography and editing - Have shoot days, where you get out a heap of props and just shoot lots of images in a row, and then edit all at once. This saves so much time. Also if you are going somewhere interesting or a cool event, take your camera and take plenty of shots, later you can go through them and pick put any that will be useful. Keep in mind that if you photograph people, you do need their permission.
  • Create your own library to use whenever you need a photo- Create folders and file names to make it easier to find the right image to suit the project or content. It may start off small, and you may use a lot of images up, but over time, you can collect more and more and have more to fall back on when you just need an image and don't have time to take one or search a stock site. I personally need to get better at stock piling spare images, but it is something I aim to work on.
  • Add to your library regularly. Make it a habit and part of your routine. Take that camera with you whenever a good opportunity arises, and enjoy it. Don't obsess over perfection, but grow a joy for creating and seeing the beauty in the everyday and little things.
Experiment with and try create a variety of styles, so that you have a range to choose from when you need an image. Including flatlays, still life, landscapes, portraits and lifestyle shots. When an opportunity comes up takes lots of shots in one hit, so you have a range to work with.

Tips if you feel you don't have the photography or styling skills

  • Consider how you will be using the images, if you intend to overlay text, allow space for it.
  • Study images you like the composition of, look at what they have done, and experiment trying similar layouts and compositions.
  • Lighting is EVERYTHING. If you don't have a professional set up, make the most of good natural light, and watch out for shadows. Near a window or outdoors is often ideal, and in a spot where no shadows are being cast, and not directly in strong sunlight. If you are getting shadows, look at putting something up to block the shadows.
  • Experiment, and take lots of the same photo different ways. Even great photographers, don't always get the perfect shot first go, take the same shot a few times, at different angles and moving things around.
  • Learn some basic composition rules and try them out. e.g the rule of thirds.
  • Have a focal point and lead the eye. Consider what you want someone to look at first when they see you image, how can you make it the focal point.
You can take great photos with a simple set up. Use the camera you have, cardboard as a backdrop, good natural light, and cheap and found props.

My boys like to sneak into my shoots sometimes, little fingers often appear in the outtakes :)

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