Shopping & Retail

Posted Wednesday, 22 December 2010 by Ellen Boughn in Ellen Boughn, Photography
The hectic holiday shopping days conclude with post Christmas sales and Boxing Day price cuts that create a final frenzy of buying. This action is followed by a shopping hangover in January that empties the stores of shoppers. This makes January the best time to approach shop owners with an offer to exchange photos for use of their store as a location with a property release. Start planning now.

There are several points to consider when shooting in an actual store:

Shoes Man shopping in mall

© Deklofenak/Crestock

© MonkeyBusinessImages/Crestock


  • Ensure that the shop is big enough so that you can easily light the space with the existing equipment that you own.
  • Seek out locations that belong to friends or go to shops that you frequent, as the owners are more likely to be receptive to your idea.
  • Show up with a small book of photos you have shot that show models and other shops if possible to give credibility to the fact that you are a competent photographer.
  • Also, at least in the U.S., it might be a good idea to provide the shop owner with proof of insurance against the possibility that something damaging happens during your shoot. Shoot insurance is expensive and best obtained from a trade association like ASMP for U.S. photographers. Check with the trade organization in your country.
  • Arrange to shoot after or before hours or on a day when the shop is closed.
  • Keep enough of the actual shop in the images so that the viewer can see it but not enough that the store is easily identifiable.
shopping woman Floral shoe vector

© iacobut/Crestock

© gelsomina/Crestock

Retail concepts can be more graphic and adaptable to a variety of different shops than photos.

For retail the most popular products/shops to choose as backgrounds for models are:

  • Clothing-especially women's and children's.
  • Shoe shopping with children or a single woman.
  • Jewelry-trying on a ring with a couple or a man buying jewelry as a gift. Don't show close-up of a ring as the design may be trademarked.
  • Cosmetic counter.
  • Electronics.
  • Furniture and household goods.
  • Hardware store items.
  • Bookstores.
  • Big chain hardware stores

(Remember to block or remove all brand names and logos-and change the colors of packaging to hide brand identity.)

Pretty young woman shopping at the clothes shop

© Yuri_Arcurs/Crestock

You could create a shopping shot by bringing a rack of clothes on plastic hangers into any room while dropping the background mostly out of the shot. Alternatively you can drop in a generic background and shoot the model isolated.

Generic Shots

  • Credit card being handed to a clerk. Ensure that no logos, names, branded coloration or numbers are visible/readable.
  • Trying on clothes with tags hanging down in front of a mirror to indicate that the scene is in a store.
  • Paying with money…Dollars, Euros
Detail of a man doing shopping,with bags Consumerism

© alexandrenunes/Crestock

© diego_cervo.aspx/Crestock

Men shop too! Don't ignore key demographics when casting.

Model with lots of shopping bags…this shot has been done again and again but it still is among the best sellers. See the last tip at the bottom of the post for a suggestion to make your version more authentic.


  • Have a two season (or more) wardrobe handy. Tell the models to bring both winter and season neutral clothing. In this way you will maximize the chances that the images will be downloaded year round but not miss the Christmas season.
  • No logos (again)
Woman standing at front entrance of optometrists smiling

© MonkeyBusinessImages/Crestock

When signage appears in the image, ensure that you obtain a property release or change the sign to a made up one.


  • Shoot the storefront without the store name or remove it in postproduction but leave the category. So for Ed Smith's Bookshop, you would try to remove the propitiator's name but leave Bookshop.
  • Shoot from the inside looking at the shoppers outside looking in the shop window
  • A good reason to take out the camera as you move around after Christmas: You'll be able to find lots of shop windows with huge SALE signs plastered over the glass in shopping malls and on store windows. Mind the logos and identifiable storefronts though.


How to indicate the increasingly popular online shopping experience for retail goods?

  • A model at a computer with a credit card has been done…but there are ways to improve that shot to make the point more emphatically: have a shopping list by the computer with a few items checked off. Or have a prop that looks like a catalog opened in the background or that a model is holding while at the computer.
  • Mock up a shopping screen on your computer and use that in the shot with a model at the keyboard. Partner with a designer to help you if the screen design is beyond your skills.
  • A modern update: people shopping online from their ipads or pdas.

© dolgachov/Crestock

A model isolated against white can be an easy and profitable means to getting shopping themed photos into your portfolio. The color coordination between the bag and the scarf is a nice touch.


You don't need a location for a best selling production. Remember that images isolated against white are among the top and consistent sellers in microstock. But don't take shots of single products as they look like ads for the product and may have trademark issues.

Other shopping experiences to photograph

  • Grocery/wine shopping-avoid product labels. Concentrate on fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Men shopping for gifts as well as for themselves
  • Farmer's markets (season permitting).
  • One of the most popular activities to photograph for travel photographers is the localized shopping experience. We'll discuss that in a travel post at a later date.
Supermarket Shopper A grocery bag full of healthy fruits and vegetables

© jperagine/Crestock

© pkruger/Crestock

New things are happening to one of the oldest shopping experiences: groceries. The emphasis is more on natural and organic. But I'm saving that topic for a later post.

Most surprising tip:

See all the colorful shopping bags being carried by the models in shopping photos? See how they are all empty? Put something in each bag because it is easy to tell from the way the models hold the bags that they are merely empty props. Shoot people shopping with cloth or nylon bags instead of paper shopping bags as this practice is gaining popularity especially for groceries.

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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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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Shopping & Retail
By Tailor on Thursday, 28 April 2011 11:09 AM
Your shopping blog covers all shopping categories. I like your concept and content....

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