STOCK DIARIES - Where DSLR's can't go

WHERE - The Mac Centre

WHEN - February 2016

WHAT - Microsoft 950X Smartphone

HOW - Raw .DNG files edited in Photoshop CC


The great thing about smartphones for stock photography is they allow you to go where no DSLR can. Do you imagine I'd be able to get such an informal set of pictures with my Canon 5Ds? Of course not. Smartphones make photographers invisible. Firstly everybody seemingly has got one out and secondly it's difficult to tell whether somebody is taking a photograph, placing a bet or posting a picture of their left shoe to instagram.

But it certainly wasn't always the case that stock libraries would even entertain putting a picture taken on a mobile phone onto their websites. However, with their much improved output and the fact that libraries have realised that an entirely different kind of image, as a result of the almost unrestricted access that phone cameras have, is now possible, they have (mostly) succumbed to the inevitable. If you want to see a library that takes all kinds of images, but has a lot of smartphone shots have a look at FOAP. Incidentally, if you want to dip your toe into the waters of shooting stock, I would recommend Foap as the place to start. They take pretty much everything, the app. (you can only upload from a phone or tablet, so it's a good idea to get your images onto the cloud) is great, including a function that 'reads' your image and suggests keywords and there is a system where other contributors rate images, which gives you a good idea of how your images are perceived. A nice gentle place to see if you can get some sales.


Above is a food market that my wife Ann and I go to every now and then. Yesterday there was a Caribbean influence. After trying the Jerk Sauce, we attempted to breathe again and screwed our heads back on after deciding that our palettes were not ready for the 'shock and awe' that amazing concoction produces. (Try some at your peril. For sensation seekers and SAS trained stomachs only!!) There's nothing spectacular here, just some pretty ordinary images. But then pretty ordinary images can do surprisingly well on stock sites. Here's a few more below from some other local retail / mall / shopping centre outlets that I've visited in the last few weeks. Somewhere for photographic junkies to go in the winter and pretend they are 'street photographers'. Or should that be 'Mall Rats with cameras.'

It's important to keep this stuff natural looking and almost anti-photographic. It's almost the 'art of the snapshot'. And yes they do sell. We are in interesting times photographically. There is no all pervading style of photography. In the past there were definitely fashions and I shudder when I think of the number of times I used a grad. tobacco filter!! But these days, anything from formal large-format type traditional to heavily filtered not very sharp smartphone grabshots have a market. And if you are interested in becoming a stock photographer that actually earns money, it's a good idea to be able to embrace as many forms and styles of photography that you can.

One of the reasons for my (often surprising to me) longevity in this is that I'm only too happy to go off and experiment. I actually don't think there are many occasions when I've taken out the same gear two days running. What this has allowed me to do is put together a very varied portfolio. And on a daily basis I sell everything from 30 year old medium format film scans to "snapseeded" smartphone pictures taken in the last few weeks. 

And of course I should reveal my little secret. A lot of the above images weren't taken on smartphones at all. Several were taken on cameras such as my Leica Q, Leica T, Leica D-LUX (Panasonic LX100) Panasonic GX8 and Olympus Air. A camera hung around my neck on a strap and controlled by a smartphone which I'm staring at intently is just as unobtrusive as a smartphone. In some cases even more so, since I actually seem to be looking in a completely different direction to where I'm actually taking the photograph. 

So there are many alternatives to being inconspicuous. However, a DSLR isn't one of them. Incidentally I've got a pre-order in for one of these, which looks exactly the kind of camera I could use for this type of work.



So Smartphones, small compacts, Leicas, mirrorless etc. Take your pick for your camera of choice that allows you to get close to the action without being a part of it. It's nothing new to engage in 'fly-on-the-wall' photography, but these days we have more alternatives to achieve it. Unfortunately, with the hideous selfish 'selfie' obsession, peoples self-obsessed self-importance seems to be taking snapshot photography into an unwelcome alternative direction, but there is still a place for real photographers documenting the real world. And I guess there are enough people snapping away these days to make sure that some genuine creative content gets published in the midst of all the social media dross.