Tiny prop – big photo sales!


When you’re thinking up things to photograph for stock, there are really two ways to go about it:

1. Go trendy.
Keep track of trends and news items and photograph what’s current and “newsworthy.” For example, right now, anything involving masks, working from home, health, and social distancing is going to be a great topic. But it may not be so “hot” in a year or two.

2. Go timeless.
Conservation, textures and patterns, seasonal themes, business, active seniors, food, and travel are just a few of the main stock themes that sell over and over, year after year.

But then there’s something magical that happens if you’re able to combine the two. That is, find something current that can ALSO be timeless.

Stock photographer Marilyn Nieves did just that… and created one of her best-selling images right in her house, with a very simple prop.

See how she did it, below…

Big Message, Little Prop
By stock photographer, Marilyn Nieves

This photo of a gavel came in as one of my top sellers this past year and it’s also an overall best-selling image in my portfolio.

Social justice is always at the top of my mind, and I wanted to touch on the topic in a general way. So, I chose to use a symbol of what we associate with justice.

I perused eBay and found a real gavel, then set up a white background in my house and used my wooden desk.

I used studio strobe lights in a three-light setup. Key (main) light is just to the right of the camera. The second light is to the left of the camera, lighting the gavel from the side, and the third light is pointed at the background just behind the gavel itself.

While this was shot in a “studio” setting, it’s a small enough item that it can be photographed in any small space.

It actually didn’t sell immediately, but did within the first year, and has become a slow and steady seller. Occasionally, I’ve seen it in action in news articles and on legal websites.

I think it continues to sell well because it’s a useful topic and one that is constantly in the media. It’s clean, well-lit and also has plenty of copy space for a designer to work with. I processed it keeping its natural warm tones.

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