Stock & Resources
Stock & Resources
Section I: Introduction
Let’s talk about stock focusing around nature. This is my niche in the stock community. I’m not a big model and I love to be outside shooting animals and their environments. I’m sure many of you also enjoy that too. So let’s jump right in!
Section II: Shooting Nature Stock
What Camera should I use?
You don’t need an expensive camera to shoot nature stock. What you do need is a good camera that’s trusty and can take abuse. A vast majority of the stock in my gallery was shot with a point and shoot canon powershot. The camera worked well and still does despite the sand in it. The big thing you need to watch for when choosing what camera to use that is within your budgte is the image quality and size. DeviantART’s stock policy states that all stock images must be at least 1000x1000 pixels. My recommendation is try to stick with a camera that is 10mp or higher, which honestly isn’t too hard to do considering how much technology advances. You want a camera that takes crisp, clear shots with the least amount of grain. I shoot with a DSLR now and I am still learning since I have only had the camera for about 6 months now. I typically use my 18-55mm kit lens for all landscapes and my 55-250mm lens for wildlife and animal stock.
Good way to get ideas of what to shoot is to talk to artists on deviantART and browse stock. This will give you ideas of what has been done before or if there is a need for certain kind of stock. Think about places near to where you live or day trips you’d like to take. Here's some examples of stock taken at different types of places you could shoot:
State parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and nature preserves are great places to shoot nature stock! Google your state, county, province, town/city and nature preserve/center/park and you'll be able to see all the natural areas close to you. It's likely if you don't live in a big city there is a lot more natural areas around you than you think. Or if you do live in a big city, there are pocket green spaces like Central Park of New York or in Milwaukee, the nature preserves along Lake Michigan.
Botanical gardens and natural history museums are another good place to take stock. Botanical gardens are a great for place, plant, and insect stock images. Natural history museums are good for taking pictures of specimens for stock, especially for precut stock. Check if you local university/college, they might have a teaching collection of invertebrate or vertebrate specimens that they might let you photograph.
Zoos, aviaries, and aquariums are another good place to take stock of animals. Often you can photograph exotic animals easily and get close to certain species. Artists look for references of animals from around the world that are colorful. Just watch out for reflections in glass walls or dirty glass walls which may cause some fuzziness.
And finally your backyard is a great place to shoot nature stock. Do you have a bird feeder? Photograph the birds that come to it (or squirrels in my case). What about your flower beds? Do you have any stunning flowers or do you have a lot butterflies and bees? The more you look, the more you see. Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary, you'll be surprised at how much you'll find.
Taking pictures of the same place throughout the seasons or in different conditions is also valuable for artists since it can show differences and how the year progresses. Ecosystems are not static, but always changing and dynamic so if you go somewhere one time and go a few weeks later you'll probably see different stuff than you did the first time. I go to the beach a lot and these are just some examples of how the beach can vary from season to season, tide to tide, and from place to place:
What should I watch out for in my photographs?
Things to be aware of when shooting and processing images are (with examples
- Exposure/Lighting—is this over exposed or this underexposed? A stock image should not be too dark or too light. One of my tricks is to use my shadow to even out harsh lighting while out shooting. You want to avoid shooting during the harsh afternoon light. The hour after dawn and the hour before sunset, the golden hours are the best time to shoot any sort of photograph because the light is soft. Generally in the evening and morning even before the gold hours, you have soft light which does not create harsh highlights or shadows. Getting out early in the morning is great because you get to your shooting area before most other people and you have less traffic in and out of the site to contend with (especially if it’s somewhere like a beach). If you are going to shoot in the afternoon, look for an overcast day to go out in the field and shoot. This will diffuse the harsh light and soften things up.
The image of the Capybara on the left is not great stock since the large capybara's fur is overexposed in patches. This is something not fixable in photoshop. You want the lighting to be even like on the giraffe on the left. I took the giraffe photo in the afternoon when the light was harsh like I did with the capybara, but it was overcast which helped prevent the harsh lighting. Sometimes it helps to shoot animals when they are in the shade, but beware of dappling like what is on the kangaroo on the far right which like the capybara makes the image hard to use. And likewise be careful of images that are really dark.
The image on the left is overexposed in some areas which isn't the greatest, but the important parts, the rocks, are exposed ok so I posted it anyways. It can be hard to make a call when things are partly overexposed. The image on the right was taken in overcast light and is evenly lit which is great .
These two images were taken at each of the golden hour. The one on the left was taken in the morning and the one on the right was taken in the evening. Notice how the golden light gives it an almost painterly look with soft lighting. This is great for painters who want to paint landscapes like the old masters.
- Focus—Is this blurry or this sharp? Out of focus images are hard to use for both manipulators and painters since the details are lost.
These two images are of the same butterfly. Which one as an artist would you use? I know I'd use the one of the right that is in focus. Sometimes it can be really hard to get small animals like insects all in focus. You want to get most of the animal in focus like on the butterfly on the right. Tips of legs and the ends of antenna are ok to be out of focus, but it's preferable to get the whole animal in focus if you can.
- Grain/Noise—Is this image too grainy/noisy? Grain and Noise makes the images hard for manipulators to use. Sometimes other artists can use it if the grain is not too bad, but it impacts the quality of the image.
Notice how the image on the left looks speckly and somewhat gritty? It has a lot of noise in compared to the image on the right. Notice how the grain impacts the quality of the image compared to the example on the right.
- Crop/angle—Is the whole subject in the frame? Is this angle usable? You want to be careful that if you are shooting fullbody of an animal that all the parts are in the frame since a cropped off foot can make it hard for the image to be used. Manipulators and other artists want to see the whole body of the animal so that they can get all the details correct. Angles are good, but you want to be careful what kind of angles you use for stock. Some extreme angles are very hard to use in manipulations and paintings/drawings.
- Is the Horizon Straight?—This is my kryptonite. Using a tripod helps get straight horizons. My tripod is a cheap one from Walmart and works fine. You don’t want the horizon to be crooked on any stock photograph even if the artists will straighten it later. You want to save artists that extra step and also it makes your image look more appealing and natural.
- Photobombs—Cars, people, etc can all get in your photo.Try a different angle if you have issues with photobombers or if you can wait a few minutes until the bomber passes and try shooting again.
The most important thing to keep in mind is can an artist use this? That should determine what you post and what you should not post. If there is a super cool shot that you really, really want to post as stock but aren't sure if it’s useful, ask artists and other stockers. And if it’s not, hey then you can submit it as photography if you really love the shot.
Section III: Nature Stock Feature
Here is a selection of some of the nature stock on deviantART to get your creative juices going
If you have questions, do not hesitate to ask me in the comments