According to recent research from Blue Fountain Media, 81% of consumers think less of a brand if their website is outdated, and 39% say they’d think twice about using a product or service if the website isn’t fresh or current. Companies and marketers understand that timely, relevant content can be crucial to attracting and retaining customers, and they also know that outdated visuals can negatively impact their brand perception.

As some of the most significant suppliers of commercial images, including those used on websites, social media, and print ads, stock photographers know the importance of creating work that feels both relevant and timeless.

A trendy photo might sell quickly, but a timeless photo will sell repeatedly, and Licensing is a long-term journey. When you invest your time and talent into producing a set of images, you want to create photos that sell over and over again—ideally over the course of years, not weeks or months. You don’t want to create photos that will feel outdated in a year.

Amid the current pandemic, stock photography platforms, including 500px and its distributors, have seen an influx in customer searches related to the coronavirus, including queries related to social distancing, hand washing, cleaning, and personal protective equipment like face masks and gloves. Licensing Contributors have responded swiftly by uploading these kinds of photos, resulting in a vast collection of high-quality, marketable visuals for brands to use during this period.

Lifestyle photos related to the pandemic are in demand right now, and they will continue to be sought-after by customers, but when shooting this kind of content, it’s also important to consider how the images might be used in the future. Profitable stock photos can be used in a wide variety of contexts by a range of buyers across industries, now and later, so it can help to keep some of your images as universal or generic as possible.

For instance, a brand looking to spread awareness about hygiene during COVID-19 might want to license a photo of someone washing their hands at home while wearing a face mask. But a more timeless photo of hand-washing might not include the face mask or an obvious reference to the coronavirus.

Instead, it might be a more anonymous crop showing just the hands, or a relatable picture of a parent and child washing up before cooking dinner together. Those photos would still appeal to a brand that wants to spread awareness right now, but they would also appeal to any number of other buyers, such as brands selling home cleaning products or companies highlighting the importance of coming together as a family.

In this specific example, your best bet might be to upload several options: the photo of the person in a face mask washing their hands, the close-up photo of the hands, and the family portrait. The first one might sell more quickly, but the other two will have a longer shelf-life and therefore be more likely to give you a return on your investment.

The photos that fall into this “timeless” category are the bread and butter of stock photographers; they can tap into current trends, but they’re also subtle enough to have long-lasting appeal. The 500px Content Team tells us, “These adaptable photos offer a wider range of use and messaging and provide your commercial content increased opportunities to sell.”

Luckily, many of the photos we’re seeing now, relating to our current circumstances, also deal with universal and enduring lifestyle themes. Photos of people working from home can be used by businesses for years to come, as can pictures of people preparing or enjoying a meal at home or depictions of everyday household cleaning and sanitizing. In short, look for ways to increase the longevity of your images; maybe it’s as simple as getting a variety of perspectives and angles that can be used for more general purposes sometime down the road.

Now isn’t a good time to set up a photoshoot with huge crowds of people in close proximity; it’s not safe for you and your models, and these images aren’t in demand right now anyway. But there are ways to create sensitive photos that reflect the times without having limited potential. Maybe it means working with a real family that is isolating together to avoid having to use a mask, or perhaps it means focusing on technology that will continue to shape our lives long after this is over, such as photoshoots around the theme of remote work or video chatting.

Get ideas for your commercial shoots by studying photos you see online, in magazines, and on billboards and subways. Follow brands you admire, and see how they tailor their advertising approach to current times. Watch television commercials. Some address the coronavirus directly, but many also include visuals that feel timeless.

For example, the popular St. Patrick’s Day commercial from Guinness featured archival footage and shots of people hanging out together, while Domino’s referenced the 1983 film Risky Business with shots of a guy dancing in the living room. These small, everyday moments at home are great for shooting right now because they strike that perfect balance between timeliness and longevity.

Another tip? Think conceptually. While many might choose to illustrate our current lifestyles literally—with photos of people in masks and gloves, for instance—a more conceptual approach can lead to more timeless photos.

A photoshoot about life in the time of the coronavirus could also speak to much larger themes—beyond the virus itself—like spending quality time with loved ones or carving out moments throughout the day for self-care. With a little creativity, a photo about the literal idea of “social distancing” could also be about an abstract concept like “taking time for yourself.” Customers might search for the first term today and the second term tomorrow. By incorporating both themes rather than just one, you might double your sales potential.

If you have an idea for a timely photoshoot, remember to jot down a shot list that includes both trendy photos and pictures that you can see being relevant in three to five years. Because stock photography is a numbers game—the more photos you take, and the more variety you get, the better your chances of earning passive income—it’s important to make the most of every shoot.

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