Part I: Shooting stock with a model

Hey all,

As mentioned previously, the best way to add commercial value to a stock image is to add a person within a frame. If you do have the chance to shoot with a model (who’s happy to sign a release), even better.

That’s precisely what I did with a young model who is building a portfolio. In exchange for free pictures, he happily signed my model release. Here’s some of my best shots from the afternoon of shooting.

Here’s a shortlist of the best images!

Young good looking skater with plenty of copy space
A natural moment at the park. Smart use of selective focus and plenty of copy space for text
Another natural looking shot with a simple message. Also a nice touristic background which happens to be the Peace Arch in Milan, Italy
Young athletic shirtless man exercising on monkey bars in a park
Monkey bars at the park. Cross fit seems to be a hugely popular theme these days so why not incorporate some exercise shots into the shoot!
Young man drinking coffee in Milan, italy
Finish the shoot off with a coffee
police - Copy
Bonus of the day is potentially catching police being bribed by migrants at the park. This image was submitted as an editorial to Alamy live news


Click here to see Part II of Shooting Stock With a Model. 




  1. Hi Alex, I’ve been following your posts for a while. Thanks for the enlightening posts. Do you think it is worth it to hire a model and pay him or her for selling stock? Have you had success with model photos so far?


    • Hi Mohammed,

      “Do you think it is worth it to hire a model and pay him or her for selling stock?”

      That’s a great and tricky question.

      My answer is that it depends:
      1) How such model would charge for their services (or how much he/she is willing to accept); and
      2) How much in terms of royalties you’re estimating that you’ll get out of those model-released pictures (in other words, how well did you shoot / direct, post-process and keyword).

      There are some model-released images which are premium and are downloaded 1000s of times at numerous agencies so it’s certainly worth the investment to pay the model. Group corporate shots of mixed/race/gender are always going to be popular. Also security type shots…if you could simulate an airport security system with someone dressed as a police officer and different types of passengers, you’re onto a winner!

      $200 for a day’s work is about average in Western Europe / major cities in the US/Canada to hire a semi-professional model. In Thailand, Ukraine and Russia you could hire for much cheaper and it’s not wonder there’s so many stock contributors from there.

      The safest bet is ask friends/relatives to pose for you in exchange for lunch/dinner…some people are more than happy to see themselves in ads, others not so much. Failing that, try to do what I did…an exchange of free pics for a portfolio in return for a release.

      “Have you had success with model photos so far?”

      Most of my work isn’t model-released as I’m always on the move and prefer to capture natural (editorial) street scenes. The few times I have used a model and asked him/her to pose has generated me some returns…nothing spectacular but then again I didn’t put in that much effort in terms of the lighting. That may change soon.

      This image has been downloaded about 100 times in different agencies, earning me about $100.

      I think my latest set with this young athletic model should earn me more than that as I got a variety of shots (working out, posing in front of famous places in Milan, with a skateboard and drinking coffee)…so lot’s of stock friendly stuff! Will keep you updated on how it does.

      Best of luck and please let me know how you get on!



      • Thanks a lot for the info. I mostly do editorial images as well, but i am exploring ideas of shooting a model or doing product or commercial photography. Here is my Shutterstock portfolio if you have the time to look at it:

        It is still not large enough, but i am trying to populate it gradually. I only started doing stock photography recently.


        • Hi Mohammed,

          I’ve taken a look at your portfolio. I was recently in Dubai so can see some shots of similar places! You have a nice fine art style. The ones at the Dubai Creek at sunset are really nice.

          One tip I would give is if you’re going to be submitting to stock agencies, to avoid using heavy filters or heavy post-processing (including too much HDR) as these will limit their commercial appeal, since creative over-processing may put off some buyers. In other words, try to make the images as generic as possible (vibrant, bright and lots of copy space). Another major tip is avoid as much as possible to submit in black and white since if a buyer so desires he/she can easily go monochrome with one click but if he/she wants colour it’s impossible to put the colour back in, so allow them that flexibility or they’ll shop elsewhere.

          If you’re thinking about making prints or submitting to fine art galleries & print on demand sites, by all means go crazy and do all the creative post-processing your heart desires. I certainly do as stock can be restrictive technically speaking.

          Hope that’s helpful and please let me know how you’re getting on!


          P.s I would have loved to visit that mosque in Abu Dhabi but didn’t have time!


    • Thank you for the great tips. As for the B&W images, I always submit a black and white image with its colored version, so I have both versions on offer. Weirdly enough, I have found some interest in black and white photos from buyers, but of course not that much. I read your Dubai article. Nice images. I should probably include more images with unidentified people for stock from now on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, always try to include someone in frame (also helps if she’s blonde and attractive – just being brutally honest 🙂 ). To Sell black and white shots I recommend Fine Art America and wrote a blog post about them recently…they are one of the biggest players in the Print On Demand business model. Good luck and stay cool in Dubai, must be boiling there!


  2. […] I recently pitched, in my google translate Italian, for an opportunity to photograph at a posh restaurant which overlooks the beautiful Piazza Duomo in the heart of Milan, Italy, The proposal was that I would photograph at their premises in exchange for them using my photos for their own marketing needs. They duly agreed but gave me an awful slot of 11am-13:00 and considering we’re in July, it’s just about the worst time of the day to shoot. I did a similar arrangement with a young model who’s building a modeling portfolio and wrote about it here. […]


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