19 Feb 19
The Shutterstock Blog
It’s the season for painted eggs and bright spring colors. Capture cozy images of family Easter traditions with tips from eleven pro stock photographers.
Springtime is the perfect time for shooting stock, offering up hours of sunshine and time spent with family. The Easter season brings with it countless chances for successful photos, whether you’re inside decorating eggs or in the backyard playing games. The key ingredient to any memorable holiday picture is authenticity; a truly genuine moment can instantly transport us back to our own childhood memories of chocolate bunnies, rainbow-colored jelly beans, and, of course, baskets filled with toys.
Image-buyers browse Shutterstock and Offset months in advance to find the best photographs for Easter, and great lifestyle photos are in-demand during each and every season. We asked eleven talented photographers from all different backgrounds, ranging from documentary to advertising, to tell us how they create Easter-themed family photos that sell on stock. Some of them work with their own kids, while others collaborate with professional models, but whatever their approach, these artists have figured out the secret to success. Read on to learn their behind-the-scenes tricks.
1. “I find it’s better to aim for variety than consistency in a stock session.”
Image by Jennifer Bogle. Gear: Canon 5dMIII camera, 24mm 1.4LII lens. Settings: Exposure 1/200 sec; f3.2; ISO 800.
My family stock images are a mix of casual images of my own family and stock sessions with families I know. The more at ease everyone is, the more likely we are to get some great interactive photos. For a stock session, I usually plan a few fun activities, and I tell the parents up front that my goal is variety, not perfect smiles.
Keeping the activities lighthearted and fun with minimal directing generates the kinds of easy family interactions that seem to work well for stock. I try to plan wardrobes with families ahead of time to make sure the clothing and activities are free from logos to reduce editing time.
If one of the session activities is a holiday-themed activity, like decorating Easter eggs or Valentine’s Day cookies, I’ll add an activity that is a little less holiday specific. That way, a whole session’s worth of images isn’t limited to a single holiday. Images that look seasonal versus holiday-specific can work year-round, depending on where in the world the image sells.
Image by Jennifer Bogle
I find it’s better to aim for variety than consistency in a stock session. I shoot extra angles, verticals and horizontals, and I try to include some images that are a little wider than I would if just shooting a portrait session, leaving room for ad copy.
I also watch for in-between moments: washing hands after the planned Easter egg decorating, kids running in circles outside after the session, a toddler going wild and unrolling the paper towels all over the floor. These provide extra image variety with very little extra effort. The little things that happen between planned activities are often my best sellers. I also try to grab a few detail shots whenever something catches my eye, even if it seems mundane or irrelevant to the activity at hand.
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2. “I think that the most important thing in family photo sessions is to make sure that everyone is interested in what are they doing.”
Image by Romrodphoto. Gear: Canon 5D Mark III camera, Canon 85mm 1.2 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/500 sec; f2.5; ISO 100.
I think that the most important thing in family photo sessions is to make sure that everyone is interested in what are they doing. The best way to do this is to make it a game. That way, the children feel like themselves, and all the pressure goes away. When the children are having fun, the parents will naturally feel more comfortable too.
For Easter, you can bring in unusual props like bunny ears to make the children more excited about the process. Additionally, encourage them to paint and create things of their own. That helps keep everything feeling natural, and all I need to do as the photographer is press the button.
Image by Romrodphoto
In terms of selecting models, I started with people I actually knew, like my own family members or good friends and their children. For them, it was a new experience, and for me, it was good practice. When you work with people you know, you naturally have more freedom and feel more like yourself. And just a few years later, I was comfortable enough to invite other people for photo sessions without being afraid of failing.
3. “I find the images that sell best are the ones that I don’t specifically set out to make for stock photography.”
Image by Kelly Marleau. Gear: Fuji X100t, fixed 23mm (this is a crop camera so it’s a 35mm equivalent). Settings: Exposure 1/100 sec; f2.0; ISO 1600.
I find the images that sell best are the ones that I don’t specifically set out to make for stock photography. They are the ones of my real-life moments that I’d be documenting for my own family anyhow. They have genuine emotion and generally depict some sort of special relationship—between a child and parent or siblings—or they have the person focused on an activity.
I have done a few specific stock image focused shoots, and, to keep it feeling natural, I shoot in the model’s home. And, although I have them do certain tasks while I document it, I make sure those tasks are still something they’d do in their everyday life. Giving your model something to occupy their hands can be helpful in getting natural photos—holding a coffee cup, reading a book to a child, kids tickling each other, jumping on the bed, cooking a meal.
That being said, the photos that sell the best are the ones that have nice, even, natural light—and lots of it! So the images I submit to my stock portfolio tend to be ones that I’ve taken either outside on overcast days or indoors very close to a window so that my ISO is low.
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4. “We book models from an agency, but we also find real people through social media or people we know.”
Image by DGLimages. Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. Settings: Focal length 24mm; exposure 1/1600 sec; f2.8; ISO 320.
One of the most important things for us is to let the models be themselves while working with them. We always try to incorporate the models’ real hobbies and interests to achieve authenticity. We also try to use real families and friends when possible, as we love getting those “special moments” that individual models wouldn’t have together. We book models from an agency, but we also find real people through social media or people we know.
Image by DGLimages
Using both sources gives us a good balance because we can rely on the models to act out specific scenarios that real people could find challenging, and, at the same time, the real people keep our imagery and footage genuine, natural and emotional. This method also allows us to give a bit of direction, as the models expect to be directed! Our team is incredibly fun and friendly, and I think we’re quite lucky as colleagues because we have a mixed age range, so we can relate to most people we work with somehow or another.
5. “While shooting, I put a lot of focus on framing and model-positioning.”
Image by TijanaM. Gear: Nikon D800 camera, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 42mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f2.8; ISO 160.
When creating holiday content for my stock portfolio, I always make sure to do it early enough so that the photos can be online at the right moment. I usually work with freelance models who I am familiar with, who I enjoy working with, and who always do a great job. When you have models like that, it will definitely show in your photos.
For Easter or any other holiday, props are important, and they have to be bought or made in advance. I buy something every year, and I always feel prepared. This will make your life so much easier.
I am always relaxed on my photo shoots, and I tend to joke around. It is important for me that the atmosphere is good and that the models are relaxed. Sometimes, I’ll ask for quite a few repetitions to get a great shot, but that is much easier to accomplish once a good atmosphere is established.
While shooting, I put a lot of focus on framing and model-positioning. In my experience, careful framing and great expressions are what make a photo sell. And, of course, some original elements—details that will make your work stand out—are always welcome.
When there are children involved in your shoot, the best thing to do is to give them a real task to occupy their attention, whether it’s coloring, painting, or writing. While shooting, I give them some direction without breaking their attention completely. I tend to work quickly with children because their attention is at its best at the beginning of the shoot. That’s also when I’ll try to do some of the more demanding shots I have in mind.
6. “Make sure you are walking around your scene and capturing all the aspects in unique ways.”
Image by Rachel Coney. Gear: Canon 6D camera, Sigma Art 35mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/200 sec; f2.0; ISO 500.
I think the most important part of creating natural lifestyle photos is keeping it as simple as possible. This gives your images the most authentic feel. Don’t be afraid to try different angles and faceless shots as well. Some close-ups do incredibly well in sales. Make sure you are walking around your scene and capturing all the aspects in unique ways. I always try to let things flow as naturally as possible without interfering in the scene.
Image by Rachel Coney
For example, I love that the setup and scene of this image are timeless and classic. It could be from anyone’s childhood, making it relatable to a variety of clients. Having her hand in the shot still shows a human element. I took an activity that I would already normally do with my daughter but made sure the lighting was ideal and the distractions were minimal so that I could shoot while she worked.
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7. “Since I photograph children, I think the best way to get authentic images is to get on their level.”
Image by Winnie Bruce. Gear: Canon 5D Mark IV camera, Canon 35mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/3200 sec; f2.0; ISO 250.
Since I photograph children, I think the best way to get authentic images is to get on their level. I squat down and talk to the kids for a few minutes. I let them know that they are going to take pictures, but we are also going to play. Ensuring that the play element is included in the session bodes me some authentic imagery. I think it really shows in images if the whole session is set up. Simply approaching it as what it is—a documentary set—makes for more visually appealing imagery.
Image by Winnie Bruce
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8. “Realness can’t be faked or staged. True smiles, reactions, and moments sell. Try and go after that.”
Image by Allison Gipson. Gear: Nikon D810 camera, Sigma 35mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/320 sec; f2.2; ISO 250.
Don’t work too hard to stage or set anything up. It’ll show on the family member’s faces in an instant, and you can’t capture them as they would be in that natural state. Capture your day just as it is. Realness can’t be faked or staged. True smiles, reactions, and moments sell. Try and go after that.
Image by Allison Gipson
I also try to use light to add to my imagery. To me, the light adds another layer and dimension to the story that you might be trying to convey or tell. And most of all, keep your camera nearby and with you all the time. You never know what could happen, and you wouldn’t want to miss any stock-worthy shots.
9. “When children are busy playing, they give real, genuine emotions.”
Image by Serenko Natalia. Gear: Nikon D700 camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/250 sec; f2.2; ISO 640.
When children are busy playing, they give real, genuine emotions. I give my models some direction, and from there, I just need to catch the moments that unfold naturally. To do this, I sometimes shoot in burst mode to capture the most emotionally resonant photo.
An important rule when shooting children: the child should be comfortable and interested in what they’re doing. You cannot force a child to do something. Everything can be done in the form of a fun game. I am not afraid to make funny sounds or make faces to make my models laugh. It is important to interact with the child and not just be a stranger with a camera. Talk to them and set the mood.
In my Easter-themed shoots, I incorporate the classic details: eggs, animals, and various decorations. Children love animals, but if you do decide to work with animals, make sure you’re being responsible, looking out for their wellbeing, and not causing any harm. My friend’s rabbit, who you see in this photo, is well cared for and happy.
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10. “Whether I’m photographing clients or my family, I try to just be a fly on the wall and let things happen organically to get authentic moments.”
Image by Krystal Weir. Gear: Canon 5D Mark IV camera, Sigma 24mm 1.4 Art lens. Settings: Exposure 1/250 sec; f1.4; ISO 160.
Whether I’m photographing clients or my family, I try to just be a fly on the wall and let things happen organically to get authentic moments. I took this photo right before Easter, and the kids were looking forward to dyeing Easter eggs. This is one of the first eggs that we pulled out from the dye that was ready to dry.
Image by Krystal Weir
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11. “I feel that authenticity is what makes for a successful image.”
Image by Antonieta Esis. Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, Canon 28mm 1.8 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/100 sec; f2.5; ISO 400.
My best advice is not to think about creating images to be sold. When I capture images of my family, for example, I don’t create context for the session. The context is already there, and all of my energy is dedicated to documenting it with my camera. I feel that authenticity is what makes for a successful image. I usually don’t look for models for my stock images; I document my own family or do sessions for clients who love my work and allow me to share it with the stock companies I work with.
Image by Antonieta Esis
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Top Image by Romrodphoto