How to Photograph (and Sell) Pictures of Yourself for Stock

January is almost over, and so is this month’s Photo Challenge theme: New Year, New You.

If you haven’t submitted a self-portrait yet, you’ve got until midnight on Monday to send one in and compete for the monthly prize -- a $30 gift certificate to the AWAI E-bookstore -- and the yearly $2,000 Grand Prize in October.

Self-portraits are a great way to get started in stock photography. In fact, one of the industry’s top photographers, Lise Gagne, got her start that way. And she still uses herself as a model today.

Don’t think you’re model material? You might be surprised. Designers and photo buyers are looking for more realistic people photos these days… they’re tired of “picture-perfect” models.

And, if you happen to be a Baby Boomer, even better.  There’s a huge market right now for pictures of people over 50.

Scroll below for a few tips from Lise on not only getting these photos right, but also making them saleable…

-- Lori

Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

Interview with Lise Gagne by Bonnie Caton in Portland, OR

BONNIE: Lise, now that you have years of experience photographing yourself for stock, what tips would you give to someone who’s trying it for the first time?

LISE: First, I'd say that you have to keep trying. I was afraid in the beginning and I didn't dare photograph myself. Then one day I was alone and I tried taking a few photos holding my camera at arm's length. They weren't perfect, of course, but I realized that I could maybe push further.

Later, I put my camera on a tripod, set the timer, and with the help of a mirror, made a few photos that I submitted to iStock. I sold a few, so I started to take more.

BONNIE: As you developed and got better, what are a few things you discovered along the way that made it easier?

LISE: Here are some things that’ll make it easier:

1. Wait until you're alone, so you can be more natural and uninhibited.
2. Use a mirror, so that you can see what you’re doing and make sure that you’re not making a strange face.
3. Get a remote -- it's much easier to focus that way. Without the remote, you have to place an object where you'll be standing or sitting and focus on it manually to get the focus right in your camera.

BONNIE: Does a person have to be very good looking to be a model for stock?

LISE: No, not at all. I think that everyone can be beautiful in photos. You have to find your best angle. Don’t ever photograph yourself straight on -- you should always angle your body slightly to three-quarters. That elongates the body line and makes you look thinner.

BONNIE: Are there stock photo themes that work well for different body and face types?

LISE: Real people and maturity are needed more and more in stock. Clients are fed up with models that are too beautiful, too perfect for real life. They’re looking for reality.

Also, we’re in the era of the Baby Boomers right now, and unfortunately I think that a lot of people are afraid to photograph themselves because they think that they’re too old -- yet, it’s a niche that can be very lucrative.

Right now, the best-selling themes for people photos include: mature adult business people, health and beauty, and, of course, retirement.

BONNIE: I feel silly making faces at my own camera and it shows in my photographs.  I don’t look as natural as I do when someone else like Shelly takes my picture.  How can someone that has a similar issue get past that?

LISE: Personally, it helps me a lot to use a mirror. Don’t forget to look into the lens of the camera, not at yourself in the mirror or at the camera body. Also, I think it’s better to be alone, as I mentioned, so that you’re more at ease and it’s less intimidating.

BONNIE: Do you like photographing yourself for stock?

LISE: Yes, I do. Though I don’t have the classic “stock” face -- the “girl next door.” When I use myself as a model, I prefer to do things that are more absurd or humorous, with costumes, wigs, and extravagant make-up. That amuses me and I love it, except that it takes a lot more preparation and I don’t always have the time. Otherwise, I’d do that more often.

BONNIE: Thanks, Lise!

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]