Using Yourself as a Stock Model, Featuring the Brutally Honest Guy

Whenever someone asks me what they can possibly do so buyers select their images over and above the competition, my first instinct is to reply that they should try to include people within the frame. In addition, such person(s) should be model-released in order for the content to be licensed commercially.

Images with people are just worth more, generally

I’m not talking about still life or animal photography here. I’m talking about travel…the types of content that is used in travel blogs, travel brochures / magazines and ads.

I don’t like repeating myself so I’ll kindly direct you to another blog post I put together on why images with people are generally worth more, then get to the juicy part of the blog post.

images with poeple

Exploring Sintra, Portugal

Sintra is a picturesque Portuguese town that is set amidst the pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. This hilly and slightly cooler climate enticed the nobility and elite of Portugal, who constructed exquisite palaces, extravagant mansions and decorative gardens [source]. Unsurprisingly, the Cultural Landscape of Sintra is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Here’s a few shots from my day exploring:


How to make images stand out from the crowd

Now, since Sintra is easily reachable to Lisbon (about 45 minutes by train), a quick search on these search engines suggests that new images may struggle to be competitive to the stock market. Just way too many and some done at high technical levels.

While strolling along the giant park surrounding the Pena Castle (I avoided the castle itself as way too touristy and busy), I was often alone. I remembered that it was on my to-do list to take some self-portraits of myself acting like a tourist…so I gave it a go at a picturesque lookout point.

I have to admit that it was a fun experience, with different variations while looking at some sort of map/guide:

Sintra model
Academy award goes to…me!

I still need to do some distortion correction as you can see the Pena Palace is tilted, and perhaps clone out some of the logos on the back of my t-shirt, but overall I think it looks OK. Ideally, since the foreground was quite dark I should have used a flash but this was a low-budget improvised performance, you see.

Creating a Real-Time Video

This was a bit more tricky and required multiple takes, but I think in the end I pulled it off. What do you think? Theo says it’s great so it must be!

Do these need to be model-released?

Absolutely! I want these to be commercially available, of course! Agencies are aware that in some situations the model is also the photographer/videographer and such forms are relatively easy to fill out.

As for which agencies…I’ll upload to them usual suspects of SS, AS, P5 and SB.


This was my first attempt at a self-shot shoot and will be interesting to see how well it does (or doesn’t). In any case, I enjoyed the experience and the fact that I don’t need to rely on anybody else, both for the acting and admin means that I can pull off many of these types of content.

I’m curious to know if you’ve had any experiences with doing self-portraits? I know Steve Heap has with his cruise ship stuff and I recall that some have sold! Here’s a link to his blog post where he describes his workflow on video.


Ask me anything

I had an idea lately to have an open topic for the next blog post. Is there anything you guys would like me to cover? Any burning questions? Looking forward to some replies!

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted five years to making it as a travel photographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography

Check out my new photo review service, where I’ll help take your images to the next level and get them sold regularly!


  1. Good idea Alex, as it looks real, compared to keyed actors on a studio that never had any legs since they were photographed before a studio greenbox! Another suggestion would be using a big tablet. You could walk to the center, then stop and flip out the tablet perfectly horizontally to reveal its screen. The screen could be at max contrast with a green golor to help even those with basic edit knowledge key their video inside screen. Then you flip the screen cover to close again so the customer that does not want that part can use the rest of the video!

    Liked by 2 people

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