Custom Imagery on a Budget
You have a killer concept that demands very specific, custom imagery. You’re not finding the right photos at any stock photo house, but the budget isn’t huge. What next? Your concept doesn’t have to be forgotten. The first thought might be to do a custom photo shoot. But that involves hiring the right photographer and models, finding the perfect locations and props, scheduling weeks in advance, and waiting to get the photos back from the photographer. Ka-ching and tick tock.
As a fast and cost-effective alternative, I often use a technique called compositing. I purchase stock photos (iStock and Getty are my favorites, and I try to purchase royalty-free images whenever possible) and piece them together to create custom imagery. This has become a perfect solution in the age of the pandemic, when marketing efforts are still going strong but a custom, in-person photo shoot is not an option.
There is a lot of thought and strategy behind choosing stock photos or the composite will not look realistic. This is also even more imperative if you’re creating a series of composite images so that they feel like a cohesive series that was custom shot.
A project I recently worked on demanded very specific imagery that wasn’t available in a stock library. Compositing to the rescue! I’ll walk you through how I did it:
The Creative Brief:
Create three product information sheets featuring images that show the concept of beauty and sustainability by using women wearing greenery as jewelry. Needs to be three women of different ethnicities for inclusion. They all need to be looking at an open box that features a leaf pattern that works with the greenery jewelry. The color of the inside of the boxes should match the models’ makeup. One set of greenery needs to include hemp leaves to promote a hemp-based product. The end use is a high-quality print piece, so the Photoshop work needs to be flawless.
What I’m thinking as I’m searching for the raw “ingredient” images:
All the lighting and camera angles need to match or be similar enough so that I can make the photos work together. All of the women need to be looking in a specific direction to work with the layout of the project. They need to be head shots shot so I don’t have to crop in and compromise image quality. They need to be wearing minimal or no clothing or jewelry so that the greenery goes in seamlessly.
Give the model a greenery hairpiece, add a shoulder strap to simulate a dress or shirt strap, replace her ring with a leaf ring, brighten lipstick and nail polish to make it more orange.
Flip the model so she’s looking the other way. Replace the collar necklace with a greenery collar. Brighten lipstick and eye shadow to make it more pink.
Flip the model so she’s looking the other way. Use the hemp leaf wreath as a necklace. Make eye shadow and lipstick purple. Tweak the hemp pattern to be a little more elegant.
The Final Series:
And there you have it. A complete set of custom imagery for a fraction of the cost, time and logistics of a custom photo shoot.
Aaren Reggis Sela
If you want to use the photo it would also be good to check with the artist beforehand in case it is subject to copyright. Best wishes. Aaren Reggis Sela
You are absolutely correct, and thank you for bringing this issue up! never use photos without permission from the photographer, and if the subject is a recognizable person, make sure the photo comes with a model release. 99% of the time I use photos from reputable stock houses that grant royalty free usage to avoid any copyright issues. Otherwise I’ll work with the photographer to ensure the correct permissions are in place.
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