Christmas Photo Productions

Posted Wednesday, 1 December 2010 by Ellen Boughn in Ellen Boughn, Photography
The winter holidays are about friends and family, gift giving, parties and travel. Marketers use these images to draw you into their stores or to their websites. Stock photos that show families, children and couples enjoying the holiday at home are among the most prized for all winter holiday uses. Photos showing travel are used editorially in posts or articles about the perils and joys of making it home for the holidays or how to escape Christmas madness. Yet there aren’t enough photos in the collection that include people in Christmas situations. This spells opportunity.
Family All Together At Christmas Dinner Family All Together At Christmas Dinner

© MonkeyBusinessImages/Crestock

By using models of differing ethnicities, the photographer has created two similar images - one with a Hispanic family and then, with the exchange of three models, an image of a blended family.

This season I've seen shots from a MonkeyBusinessImages production popping up in several places, most notably on the landing page of a huge chain store. The photos depict a family Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. There are a dozen or so models of all ages and ethnicities throughout the different images from the production. The backgrounds stay the same, only the players' change. Check out the shots in the MonkeyBusinessImages portfolio to see the result of a full-blown production shoot that required several days in prep, casting and shooting.

Husband And Wife Affectionately Exchanging Christmas Gifts

© MonkeyBusinessImages/Crestock

Stagger model arrival times, so that you can get the single and couple shots without having the other models standing around waiting to do the large family shoot as MonkeyBusinessImages did with this shot from their big Christmas production.

Notice how props and the models' time have been maximized with a different group of models using the same dining table and food props in the MonkeyBusinessImages production. A shoot like this could cost you as much as $20,000 if produced in North America. How can you produce Christmas themed photos without crashing your credit cards and still meet the market demand for Christmas images with models?

Sexy Red Shoes

© iko/Crestock

It doesn't take a village to create a great holiday shot. A single model, a pair of red shoes and packages tells the story of a hectic holiday shopping.

For insight into what sells in this season, I once again called on Rahul Pathak, CEO & Founder of LookStat, to get some hard facts about the relative success of Christmas productions based on LookStat's current research. LookStat is a company that, among other things, gathers information about microstock downloads by analyzing a multitude of stock sales from many sources. Part of our conversation was first mentioned in last week's post.

Ellen: Rahul, what are the most successful stock photos in microstock that center on Christmas that include models? I see that there are very few Christmas productions with families on Crestock. That tells me that there isn't much competition for a very desirable subject.

Rahul: In some cases, non-people shots have more downloads than people shots in this genre but this is possibly because there isn't an abundance of family Christmas shots available.

Boy dreaming about christmas - isolated

© lightkeeper/Crestock

The most popular people only shot returned with the search word 'Christmas' in late November 2010.

A generic family gifts shoot that you could digitally alter to suggest holiday giving might be a good way to maximize costs over multiple uses.

Ellen: I think you are suggesting that since a fully propped Christmas living room with tree and multiple models is an expensive way to go for an event that only happens once a year, it would be smart to shoot a family and then add backgrounds to suggest different events? Or perhaps have the family with generic gifts and then change out those for Christmas themed presents?

Rahul: Yes that would be a good solution.

Blue Christmas

© derocz/Crestock

The above vector is one of the top selling images for Christmas. It's generic to maximize downloads and has lots of copy space.

Ellen: If a photographer wanted to budget a full-blown production with models, a set and elaborate props, what would be the themes to concentrate on?

Happy family decorating Christmas tree Family Christmas portrait

© 4774344sean/Crestock

One big prop: a decorated Christmas tree eliminates the need for an elaborate location and has a more contemporary look than some more complex shots with a living room setting.

Rahul: Lookstat's research shows that the subjects most likely to be successful are Santa by himself (See last week's post) and children and their families with gifts. We've found that men and couples aren't a big factor. This is in line with consumer spending as at least 50% of gift buying is for family presents.

Even though the winter season is a season of religious holidays for many, religious themes don't perform well in microstock. More generic shots like snowmen and wreaths find a larger audience of buyers.

Christmas Party

© pressmaster/Crestock

The office party is an iconic one but if you shoot this also use the models in a non-descript setting so that the party could be in a home.

We also found that the obvious color for winter holiday shots is red. It is the dominant color about 60% of the time. The next most prevalent color is a wintry blue.

Ellen: Thanks, Rahul!

You can do your own research: Go to the keyword tool that Google AdWords offers. Add 'Christmas' or 'winter' to the first box on the left of the screen and you'll see the most popular search terms associated with those words. Using the advanced search option, you can localize the results to your region. There WILL be some photo ideas on the list.


© Pressmaster/Crestock

Last word of advice regarding Christmas and winter holiday productions with models: At the minimum use one child or two people, in which case they should be a young, romantic couple (even though LookStat doesn't find that they do as well as families, I think if budgets are small, a couple is a good bet) or two young children. A family of four is the next least expensive and still a manageable group. Use an actual family if you can. They will be more relaxed together. Can't find a home/fireplace/decorated tree to use for your family shot and can't handle propping a full fledged turkey dinner? Get the family outdoors...must have snow...and shoot them carrying brightly wrapped packages. Then drop the packages and shoot a generic winter family day out.

It can be difficult to gain access to stores to photograph models Christmas shopping. You can simulate a trip to the mall by shooting a family with packages against white or isolate them with their overflowing shopping bags as if they were walking toward the camera on a city street.

Merry Star

© 14ktgold/Crestock

If all else fails due to your location in the parts of the world where it's sunny and hot in December, get creative!

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.

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Clarifying my Comments on People in Christmas Lifestyle Shots
By Rahul Pathak on Thursday, 2 December 2010 1:34 AM
Just to clarify my thoughts on people in Christmas images -- I think Christmas lifestyle with people is a great idea.

While on the surface, the data suggest that non-people/generic shots do better, this is unexpected. It may indicate a lack of supply of Christmas lifestyle imagery with people in it.

For example, on Crestock, only 15% of the 45,000+ results for 'Christmas' have people in them. Some reasons for this relatively low supply may be the relatively high cost/complexity of Christmas productions.

If you can find a way to spread your investment over more concepts, it could be a great idea

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