In 2020, much of our lives were put on hold, but photographers, creatives, and marketers still found ways to produce content from home. Honda released a commercial shot entirely at home, using a toy car, while Zara had models shoot their campaign visuals from their homes. Tyler Babin shot a Nike advertisement in his living room, and Briony Douglas created gorgeous photos of Chanel perfume in the bathtub.

For photographers licensing their images for commercial use by brands around the world, working from home posed a new creative challenge, and they rose to it. Without access to expensive studios, professional models, and faraway locations, they made do with what they had and produced stunning visuals in the process. If you’re looking to update your Licensing portfolio with marketable, in-demand images (without spending a fortune), here are just six themes and topics you can shoot from home.

Food photoshoots

Food photography is an evergreen genre that doesn’t require a model and can be done on almost any budget. All you need is a recipe, simple props, and natural window light. The last year has encouraged many of us to get creative in the kitchen, with the rise of trendy dishes ranging from banana and sourdough bread to “whipped coffee”, “pancake cereal”, and hot cocoa bombs. 2021 is the perfect time to apply that same creativity to photoshoots.

The fun thing about commercial food photography is that trends evolve quickly, so there’s almost always a new concept to shoot. Keep an eye on food blogs and magazines for ideas to try, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. The food photography category covers stylized still lives and flatlays of beautifully plated dishes, but it also includes lifestyle photos of people preparing and enjoying a meal.

We recommend getting the most out of your shoots by covering every step of the process, from the selection of ingredients at the market to the cooking and plating of the dish. Even if you don’t have a model aside from yourself, you can add a human touch and create an immersive, first-person perspective by including your hand in the frame.

Food delivery also represents a hot topic in commercial photography and advertising, with Getty Images noting increased searches for home delivery/food delivery within the last year. Online shopping, contactless delivery, and pickup are all themes to consider when shooting for your commercial portfolio. Beyond that, showing reusable bags or photographing vegan dishes can help speak to important discussions about sustainability and wellness, making them even more relevant to image buyers.

Work-from-home shoots

For many, the work-from-home lifestyle is here to stay. At the end of 2020, a new survey from Pew Research Center revealed that among workers who say that their job responsibilities can be done mainly from home, more than half (54%) would want to work from home after the coronavirus outbreak ends. Furthermore, 81% of employed adults who are working from home all or most of the time said they use video calling or online conferencing services at least some of the time, and this shift has had a significant influence on how photographers visualize modern workplaces.

Last spring, Getty Images noted a nearly 2000% increase in searches for content related to video calls, video conferencing, virtual meetings, remote working, and conference calls. Work-themed commercial photography might once have centered around office spaces and conference rooms, but today, they can be set in living rooms or at kitchen counters. 9-to-5 jobs now have more flexible hours. Stiff suits can be replaced with casual wear, and parents can be seen juggling their responsibilities at home.

Education-themed photoshoots

If you were impressed by the 2000% increase in searches related to video calls and virtual meetings, consider this: in the spring of 2020, Getty Images observed a whopping 9000% boost in searches for homeschooling. The demand for these visuals reflects our changing reality, with one summer 2020 survey from Varsity Tutors showing that almost half (47%) of parents surveyed were considering homeschooling for the 2020-21 school year, while 53% of parents used “online, one-on-one, small group, or large class remote instruction.”

Photoshoots around the theme of remote learning can take several forms: siblings attending class online, turning in for video conferencing, sharing space with their parents, or getting help on homework. Online learning isn’t just for kids, either, with online tools like GetSetUp offering virtual education to older adults on everything from starting a new business to running an eCommerce website. These are all ideas to consider shooting at home with generic, tech-themed props like laptops or tablets (without copyrighted details like visible logos or design elements).

Photo sessions with pets

In 2020, more people stepped up to foster animals in need, inspired by more time spent at home and the ability to care for a pet. Adoption rates rose, and shelter euthanasia rates decreased. Meanwhile, people had more time to spend with their pets, and pet toy sales boomed; online pet store Chewy, for instance, saw a 46% rise in net sales amid the pandemic.

Even during a crisis, dogs and cats proved to be our lifelong, steadfast companions, and they also make for great collaborators. In the past year, 500px Ambassador Iza Lyson photographed her border collie as part of fun, seasonal sessions, and captured life in quarantine by documenting her daily activities, from playing in the park to lounging at home. She even took her on adventures and car trips.

When working with pets, the options are limitless. You can go conceptual with themed portraits or take a documentary-style approach with candid lifestyle photos of a regular hike in the park or afternoon at home. Our relationships with animals have never been more valuable, so think of ways to visualize what your pet means to you.

Wellness shoots

At the start of 2020, research from Getty Images revealed that the health and wellbeing of family members and personal health and wellbeing accounted for the top two things people care about, while 91% agree that it’s important for people to talk about mental health and the vast majority saying they try to take care of themselves emotionally (90%) and physically (88%).

At the start of the year, workplaces made headlines by introducing wellness initiatives like meditation, yoga, sound baths, or energy consulting, and throughout 2020, health remained a top priority, as people practiced mindfulness and tuned into virtual workouts. In the first half of the year, downloads of health and fitness apps grew by 46% globally.

Amid an unprecedented year, our focus on health and wellness, both mental and physical, has deepened, as people turned to eHealth, self-care, and more. Meanwhile, Getty Images saw increased demand for telemedicine visuals, and searches for terms like “yoga at home”, “meditation at home”, and “online therapy” went up by 1160%, 5900%, and 1130%, respectively, in April of 2020.

When shooting commercial content at home, show us what wellness looks like for you, whether it’s having virtual doctors’ appointments, setting up an at-home fitness studio, or practicing yoga. “Self-care practices can include exercise, mediation, aromatherapy, skincare routines, or even just a relaxing bath,” the 500px team tells us. “The idea is to capture people taking a moment for themselves.”

Authentic lifestyle sessions

Relatable lifestyle photos that capture everyday moments will always be in demand, and you can create them at home with your family or alone with documentary-style self-portraits. You can also combine this category with any of the other five mentioned here, from food and wellness to work and pets. “Don’t be afraid to step in front of the camera yourself,” the 500px team suggests.

“Think of your daily routine and the different ways you could capture it: waking up, brushing your teeth, making morning coffee or breakfast, cleaning and completing household chores, etc.” Today’s buyers want images that feel relaxed and unposed, so let your family and friends participate in their everyday activities as they normally would. Just think of Sainsbury’s recent Christmas ad, inspired by real customer experiences, or B&Q’s Build A Life campaign, featuring real home videos from 69 families across the UK. These are the kinds of moments and stories that connect with consumers in 2021.

A note on intellectual property issues

When shooting commercial content at home, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first, of course, is that you’re on private property, so you’ll need a property release for the location. If you’re working from your own house or apartment, you can complete it yourself. At the same time, there are some sneakier issues to look out for before your photo sessions, including artwork, toys, and branded clothing or tech, all of which fall under intellectual property protections.

“Copyright issues like cameras, buttons, and charging ports on mobile phones, side ports, and branding on laptops and computers could pose issues, as could art and copyrighted designs that may be present in the background,” the 500px team says. “Even if it’s just a poster on the wall, it’s best to avoid it in your commercial shoot unless you can get a property release from the artist. Clothing brands and logos should also be avoided.” Additionally, potentially problematic props like disposable coffee cups, single-use plastics, and cigarettes are best left out of your commercial photos.

In these cases, some pre-shoot planning can go a long way. Set aside some time to tidy up any clutter in your background, cover up any logos from props, and style the room where the shoot will take place. After that, you should be good to go.

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