Six expert tips for producing your own "natural" stock photography

"Authenticity" is a word that can be heard increasingly throughout the stock industry. Gone are the days of stereotypical micro-stock (think businessmen shaking hands and happy women eating salad), now we have images that reflect reality.

Brianna Wettlaufer, CEO and co-founder of Stocksy, an agency known for natural, contemporary images, attributes this trend towards the natural to the accessibility of photography. "People’s savviness to what makes a good or inspiring photo has raised the bar in expectations," she explains.

And the marketplace is adapting. Natural images are becoming more and more popular and increasing in sales. (You only have to look at our popular article on websites for non-cheesy stock photography to understand how demand is changing.)

"We’ve found clients are still looking for trusted subjects and categories notorious to stock but want an updated look and feel where you can relate and trust the realness of the people in the photos," adds Brianna.

For those of you looking to capture authenticity on camera, Brianna, along with Adobe Stock contributor and photographer Eugenio Marongiu, share their best tips for producing authentic images.

1. Think of the narrative

Central to natural imagery is the narrative – photographs that tell a story. "I like to describe myself as a lifestyle photographer, I love working with people and tell little stories," shares Eugenio. In his images, he strives to go beyond what the camera sees, and searches for stories of people’s lives.

Brianna advises photographers to think about the shoot from the mind of a cinematographer who takes the viewer through a journey. Rather than one-off compositions from multiple angles, follow through the moment. "Focus on experience, connections and celebrating the untold stories of people and placements," she adds.

2. Be a documentarian

Eugenio’s background in photojournalism gives him a unique perspective when capturing stock photos. He recently did a sports shoot at the man-made lake Idroscalo in Milan, following the training routine of five professional rowers. By shadowing the athletes, Eugenio was able to capture real moments, interactions and emotions of his models. This natural set up often yields more authentic and natural looking images than hiring and staging models who may be unfamiliar with the subject or activity.

3. Focus on action

Rather than instructing the models to pose, Eugenio suggests recreating scenarios of daily life. For example, if you’re shooting a scene in the kitchen, ask the models to actually plate or prepare the food, rather than posing as though they are working in the kitchen. This feels more natural for the model, and you can capture the action as it is unfolding.

Equally important is making the models feel comfortable on set. Make conversation and create a relaxing atmosphere for everyone involved in the production. “Creating an empathic relationship with models is essential to obtain good images,” says Eugenio.

4. Embrace Diversity

Real stock means real people. Stocksy is focused on expanding diversity and breaking traditional beauty stereotypes. “We celebrate the beauty of all people and make the everyday imperfections of life more relatable,” says Brianna. In addition to gender and ethnicity, also consider different body types and ages.

5. Take Advantage of Natural Light

Good light is a crucial ingredient in a good photograph, whether it’s a stock image or an editorial shoot. For the most natural look, Eugenio prefers to shoot in natural light. “This allows me more freedom, always searing for different perspectives, working with the light of the moment,” he explains. It also means that he has a finite window of time to shoot, and he has to be immediate, deliberate, and sometimes, spontaneous.

6. Stay curious

Eugenio emphasises the importance of constantly learning. Inspiration doesn’t just come in the form of other stock images, but also commercial imagery, magazines and books, TV shows, movies, and art.

Need some "authentic" stock imagery courtesy of another photographer? Check out Adobe Stock's curated gallery of non-cheesy photographs, available to download today. And read more from Adobe on the blog.

Or, if you need news, sports or entertainment content, you can browse Adobe Stock's new Editorial Collection, which includes 12 million editorial images from Reuters, the world's largest multimedia news provider.

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