Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker - Small business photos

Posted Wednesday, 13 April 2011 by Ellen Boughn in Ellen Boughn, Photography
National economies all over the world are fueled by small businesses. As an image creator, you would gain by adding images to your collection featuring the multitude of small enterprises as well as creating images that those businesses could use in brochures, on websites or in advertising.
Butcher with tender steak Happy baker showing his baguettes

© lovleah/Crestock

© 4774344sean/Crestock

Butcher, baker but where is the candlestick maker?

Where to start? Here's a clue: Google "best small businesses". When I asked Google that question, a list of 802 small business types was returned ranging from antique stores to computer repair services. It is best to concentrate on the most common services that will have the broadest appeal.

Small retail shops and restaurants are good targets as they are often used as examples in materials from banks gearing services to small businesses and in editorial pieces talking about the needs of the non-corporate world. For a review of tips and advice about shooting retail shops see my past post here.

Shopping accessory Shopping woman, vector

© ElaKwasniewski/Crestock

© beaubelle/Crestock

Local specialty shops where you shop are great targets for you to approach for permission to use their location.

Get a property release from the owner when you are shooting business establishments. (It must be the legal owner. A waiter in a restaurant can't sign a property release for the premises.) It's often not difficult to get the ear of the owner of a small place, especially if you offer to trade some photos for permission to shoot after hours.

Establishments with outdoor dining are especially nice as you can shoot with available light, two models and a willing waiter. As for food, if the kitchen isn't yet open or has closed for the evening, simply use menus as props or bring along a bottle of wine and two glasses.

Woman working at flower shop smiling Friend helping bride

© MonkeyBusinessImages/Crestock

© iofoto/Crestock

Top photos almost always feature models that show the business owner or employees at work or in front of their business.

A good technique to use with tradespeople: make inquiries to the owners of businesses that you frequent about the possibility of shooting there. These would be skilled shop owners such as the shoe repair person, the alteration seamstress, the florist and wine shop owner. The list is endless.

Shopkeeper holding open sign

© dgrilla/Crestock

This image works on many levels for use in articles about retail trade as well as for financial institutions promoting loans and small business support systems.

TIP: Understand that you have to make the shoot a positive experience for the shop owner by providing photos they can use: ask them what they would like to see for their website or menu. Ensure that your presence doesn't disrupt their business.

Business group looking at the camera Veterinarian

© 4774344sean/Crestock

© 4774344sean/Crestock

Small businesses aren't all made up of those in trades such as construction or auto repair, they also include small accounting and consulting firms and other professionals like vets.

One way to avoid the trouble of having to obtain property releases from any business is to create still life photos or illustrations. A still life composition of the tools of the trade is a great idea. Small hand tools are easy to assemble to indicate a carpenter or a handyman (or woman).

A close-up of a gleaming espresso machine says coffee shop (but ensure that the final image doesn't look simply like a product shot. Shoot it in context but blur the background – and avoid product names, logos and other branding symbols.)

Computer technician

© alexh/Crestock

Trying to avoid model releases sometimes results in what I call a "painful crop". That is, often someone's head is cut off! But when you are shooting someone working with his or her hands, moving in close can make for an interesting photo.

So go forth and shop, dine, get your shoes fixed, visit your taxman and have your car tuned and while you're there ask to speak to the owner about some photos.

PS - Good luck finding a candlestick maker!

Ellen Boughn

Ellen has over thirty years of experience in the stock business gained at such organizations as Dreamstime, UpperCut Images, Workbookstock, Corbis, Getty (Stone), The Image Bank (Artville) and the creative agency, After-Image, she started in Los Angeles at the beginning of her career. Having been directly involved in the creation of four major stock photography collections, Ellen offers her decades of experience to assist photographers seeking success in stock photography.

Twitter @ellenboughn Facebook ellenboughn www.ellenboughn.com/blog

Ellen Boughn's best-selling book, Microstock Money Shots, is filled with insights, tips and advice on how to create commercial images and improve your work flow to profit from photography whether you're a hobbyist or a professional photographer.
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By deanm1974 on Tuesday, 24 May 2011 3:23 PM
Good advice as always Ellen.

Finding affordable locations is one of the most difficult factors in producing low cost microstock images for a photographer today. I recently spent weeks talking with the manager of a large Gym and health company in the UK. Everything was going well and the manager was very enthusiastic. However, my efforts were in vain as the bosses at head office didn't like the idea of images of their business "turning up all over the internet" - as they put it.

This is typical here in the UK and no offer to pay top price for the privilege will persuade them otherwise. The key point you make however is to aim for the small companies that are privately owned, where there is a higher chance the owner is working behind the checkout everyday - that way your speaking to the right person from the off. This might seem like obvious advice to some but the majority of microstock contributors (especially anyone thinking of starting out) have to realise that you need to get out there and be a bit cheeky as paying location rents eats at your profit and getting past the red tape of the larger companies is almost impossible.

I like to eat out with my family in a restaurant in our home town, recently I spoke to the owner to politely tell him that the images on his menu needed updating and I would like to do it for him. He lit up when I said I didn't want paying either, I explained I just wanted to be able to shoot a young couple enjoying his food (which I would pay for) in the restaurant in the near future on one of his quieter days.

This approach works. You don't get if you don't ask?

Dean Mitchell

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