Capturing home life in an age of uncertainty

Photo Stories

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, almost nine out of ten people in the United States report that their lives have changed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. It’s changed our lives in large ways (working from home, avoiding crowds), but it’s also changed our daily habits. One survey from the University of Southern California revealed that 85% of us have been washing our hands more, and 22% have been stockpiling food and water.

For commercial photographers, these changes in lifestyle have heralded a shift in demand for licensable content—and you don’t have to leave your home to shoot these kinds of images. We’re not talking about photos of people in public wearing masks or pictures of empty streets, though we’re seeing lots of those lately as well; instead, we’re talking about the kind of relatable photos that document our everyday lives in these uncertain times.

Man sitting at desk working from home on laptop by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

Some of the world’s leading brands are getting creative with content made at home; for example, BMW has been encouraging customers to stay at home by sharing visuals of at-home activities like video gaming and listening to podcasts. Mercedes-Benz offers a downloadable coloring book for adults and kids stuck indoors. Adidas has been sharing photos from their team’s home offices using the hashtag #hometeam, while encouraging customers to post images and videos of their at-home workout routines.

Shooting at home might feel unfamiliar or restrictive to those used to shooting on public property, but this kind of content can be a valuable addition to any Licensing portfolio in the time of COVID-19, especially as brands worldwide continue to look for compelling ways to engage with their audiences. Here are our tips for introducing at-home lifestyle photography into your workflow.

Bedroom Browsing by Marvin Herrera on 500px.com

Tip #1: Work with family and friends

Photographing people you know in place of professional models isn’t just convenient and accessible, but it can also result in more natural, candid lifestyle pictures. Need proof? Getty Images recently reported that customer searches for “real family” had increased by an impressive 678%.

If you’re currently isolating with family members or roommates, indoor activities like cooking, working, and exercising can evolve into marketable photoshoot ideas. If your friends and family aren’t keen on posing for formal pictures, that’s not a problem. “Even just a hand reaching into the frame can seriously change the focus and story of a photo—and greatly increase its saleability,” the 500px Content Team tells us.

If you’re isolating alone, use this opportunity to capture some content revolving around technology and how we’re staying in touch with loved ones right now. The next time you’re video chatting with friends, consider turning it into a shoot. Remember: you will have to avoid any branded or trademarked elements (like an Apple, Skype, or Zoom logo), and you’ll need a model release for both yourself and the person you’re chatting with if they’re visible in the frame.

Small girl learning through internet indoors at home, Corona virus and by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

Tip #2: Highlight micro-moments

When it comes to creating licensable images right now, your daily life can provide a wealth of inspiration and motivation. We’ve covered the commercial trend of documenting—and celebrating—everyday mini, micro-moments that we can all relate to: toothbrushing, making coffee, watering the plants, etc. “These tasks may seem simple, but can always touch on greater themes like wellness, self-care, and resilience,” the 500px Content Team tells us.

These are the kinds of real-life situations that resonate with customers and image-buyers, and now is a great time to photograph them. Get in front of the camera yourself, and use it to chronicle your day. Even pictures that incorporate your hands and feet can work for an immersive vibe. Although photos of faces are always appealing, uploading some “anonymous” shots can also help create an atmosphere of inclusivity, inspiring customers to imagine themselves in your shoes.

Unrecognizable senior woman cleaning kitchen counter indoors at home. by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

Tip #3: Document the new normal

From the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the teams at Getty Images and 500px noticed an uptick in demand for images of people washing their hands, using hand sanitizer, and applying moisturizer. It’s not just handwashing either; during this time, many of our (previously overlooked) micro-moments and hygiene routines have taken on new meaning and significance.

Maybe documenting life in the age of COVID-19 means incorporating some gloves into your lifestyle images, or maybe it means grabbing some shots of yourself wiping down your groceries or picking up a “contactless delivery.” These simple interactions might seem ordinary and mundane, but they all tap into our current, rapidly-evolving culture, and that makes them invaluable for commercial clients.

Young woman architect sitting at the desk indoors in home office by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

Tip #4: Document the realities of working from home

From sustainable coworking spaces to the rise of the side hustle, the last few years changed the way we work—and the way we depict workplaces in photography. In 2019, Getty Images reported that customer searches for “freelance” and “working from home” went up by 99% and 122%, respectively.

Amid the pandemic, millions of people around the world have made the transition from commuting to work to working from home, and that change looks different for everyone. For some, it means hunkering down in a dedicated home office, and for others, it means juggling childcare and conference calls.

When we think of commercial photos of people at work, we might call up images of open-plan offices and in-person job interviews, but that’s all changing as our work lives evolve. Today’s workplace is in the living room, the kitchen, and the terrace, so use that to your advantage, and look for ways to create business images that stand out.

Young smiling couple working at home by Igor Milic on 500px.com

Tip #5: Incorporate tech

Photos of technology have been trending in Licensing for months, from the health and wellness sector to the travel industry. According to market research from Getty Images, 79% of us say technology makes us feel more connected to those who matter most, while 82% say it helps them feel connected with what’s going on in the world. Importantly, 62% of brands are looking to depict technology benefiting or working alongside humans.

Now that we’re self-isolating, the possibilities and connectivity of tech seem particularly relevant. Amid the crisis, leading tech companies like Facebook and Microsoft have reported an increase in traffic and users, all looking for new ways to stay in touch and connected with the outside world; in March, the number of users on Microsoft Teams grew by 37% in the span of just a week. App sales on iPhone and Android have gone up as well.

When photographing work and life at home during this pandemic, remember to include some references to the importance of tech in our day-to-day communications. If you’re new to shooting technology for commercial photography, check out our how-to guide here.

Dinner Time by Markus De on 500px.com

Tip #6: Mix it up

When it comes to commercial stock photography, you always want to get as many different pictures as possible. If you’re shooting at home, that could mean creating wide shots that show the environment and also detail shots of a meal on the stove. Maybe it means shooting some interiors in the morning light and then photographing your roommate working from home.

Although your space might be limited, the possibilities for lifestyle shoots indoors are endless. Spend some time scouting your own home; look for the spots with the best light, and take note of intriguing details and backgrounds you can use in your work.

Tip #7: Stay organized

Even if you’re shooting at home, you still need to get all your paperwork in order; for commercial Licensing, you’ll need to sign a model release and a property release (if you’re in the photo) or ask your models and the homeowner to do so (if you’ve photographed others). You can easily keep these releases together using an app like Releases and then saving them as metadata presets in Lightroom.

As with all images in your Licensing portfolio, keywords will play a critical role in the discoverability of your photos. Add searchable words and phrases like “video call with family” or “working from home” to help your photos show up when buyers need them most.

Finally, we always recommend staying up-to-date on what’s selling in Licensing. One way to do this is by following brands you admire on social media and studying the kinds of visuals they’re using these days. If you notice more work-from-home photos or pictures of families enjoying a meal, take it as a cue to start adding these subjects into your portfolio.

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