How to take stock photos in a crowded place.

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Stock photo buyers look for iconic images. That means places, things, and events that are immediately recognizable — like the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.

But what about the crowds of people who are attracted to the same things? You can’t get a model release for all of them… so you need to use a few tricky techniques for getting them out of your photos.

Breakfast Stock Club member Deborah Kolb recently visited Washington D.C. during the magnificent cherry blossoms, and took some amazing stock photos, without all of the people in the background.

With a little planning and creativity, she pulled off a successful stock photo shoot, boosting her portfolio in just one afternoon.

Read on to see the photos she took… and get her fantastic tips for photographing on-the-go in busy areas.


Bonnie Caton
Creator, Breakfast Stock Club

Photographing Around the Crowds at the Cherry Blossom Festival
By Deborah Kolb in Los Angeles, California

I consider myself a Lifestyle Photographer, so I love capturing candid moments, even if I have to create them.

Learn stock photography with Breakfast Stock Club

Recently, when attending the Ultimate Photo Workshop in Baltimore, I decided to book my flight into D.C. to catch the Cherry Blossoms in bloom. The bloom prediction looked great — I would be there for the peak bloom!!! My thrill quickly turned to the realization that thousands of other people would be there to see them, too. So I decided to recruit a few models to capture the bloom for my stock portfolio.

Models being photographed for stock photography

My strategy for shooting in the crowd was threefold:

1.) First, I scouted out the least crowded spot.
2.) Next, I needed a lot of patience while waiting for people to walk by.
3.) And finally, I decided to shoot tight (meaning super close to my models) and wide-open (with a small f/stop number, to create blur in the background).

With my 85mm 1.2 lens, I shot between f/1.4 and f/2.2 to create that nice blur. Lucky for me it was overcast, so I also got a nice, even tone on my models’ skin.

A stock photography shoot at the iconic cherry bloom in Washington D.C.

Another way of working with avoiding the crowds in my frame was to shoot upward, as you see here:

Strategies for shooting stock photos in crowded places.

And a good time to get mobile device pictures for stock is when your models are signing their release with the Easy Release phone app:

Capturing candid moments with models for stock photography.

As a goal, I decided to submit my photos to Shutterstock within a week of getting home.

Though they did reject a few photos for the art in my model’s tattoos (they’re considered copyright to the tattoo artist), overall, I got 60 new photos accepted from just an afternoon of shooting!

Next time you travel, see what’s iconic… or if you arrive during a season where something special is happening… work those shots to see if you can avoid including the crowds in the background.

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