How to shoot technology for commercial photography

Photo Stories

Today, a whopping 93% of millennials have smartphones, and 86% use social media. This year, 90% of cars will be connected to the internet. By 2025, ridesharing is predicted to become a $358 billion market in the US (that’s a $300 billion increase since 2017).

Technology is rapidly reshaping our world and the way we interact with it. For modern brands and commercial photographers alike, these changes are too significant to ignore. Recently, the team at Getty Images reported that customer searches for “technology innovation” are soaring—and the demand for these kinds of images is expected to rise in the coming years.

Going into the next decade, gadgets and devices will filter into unexpected aspects of our lives—they’ll appear in ads and commercials, on billboards, and in magazine spreads. Incorporating technology into your photoshoots is a great way to make them stand out to a commercial audience, but there are a few things to keep in mind when doing so. Read on for our top tips.

A young female student sitting on floor using laptop when studying. by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

Stay a step ahead

Commercial stock photography is all about trends, and so is technology, so staying-up-to-date is crucial if you want to create images with a long shelf-life. An old or obsolete device can date your photos, so follow trending topics on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to your favorite tech magazines, blogs, and YouTube channels to see what’s next on the horizon.

Some recent trends? Photos illustrating the rise of web influencers and social media personalities are in-demand, as are pictures of people working from home offices (complete with the appropriate tech and gear). Keep an eye out for niche topics to explore as well, like smart homes or cybersecurity.

Happy Asian girls taking selfie with mobile smartphone outdoor by Alessandro Biascioli on 500px.com

Use people to tell a story

Shooting technology isn’t just about phones and tablets; it’s also about how we interact with them daily. Mobile devices and social media live streams have given people the power to create their own content on their own time, and new possibilities for creative tech-themed lifestyle images abound. Think: people taking video calls, having a phone meeting, or working remotely from a coffee shop, surfing social media, and shopping online.

Incorporate models, friends, or family into your photos to capture the relationship between people and their devices, and focus on realistic, candid portrayals of everyday life in the digital age. Maybe that means photographing someone with a brand-new VR headset or snapping some pictures of your colleagues typing at the office. Maybe it means documenting your vlogger friend at work or photographing a group of people catching a rideshare; whatever it is, make sure you go in with a clear concept of what you want to illustrate.

Remember: if you include any recognizable person in your photos, you must get a signed model release to license your photos commercially. Make this part of your routine every time you set up a new shoot. You can find the 500px model release here, or download a mobile app like Releases for easy access.

Think outside the box

Years ago, commercial stock photos of technology might have been limited to hackers in hoodies and close-ups of circuit boards. But these days, technology factors into almost every facet of our lives, and there are tons of interesting ways to incorporate it into your images. Family photoshoots can include some pictures of parents and their kids watching their favorite show on a tablet; food photoshoots might include some overhead shots of someone snapping a picture on their phone to share on social media.

Even a timeless genre like travel photography can benefit from a modern, technology-related angle. According to a recent report, mobile travel bookings are growing at a rate of three to ten times faster than desktop, and up to 80% of last-minute bookings are made through mobile devices. What does that mean for commercial photographers? In addition to your classic travel shots, consider grabbing some pictures of tourists browsing the web for cool spots to visit or snapping a selfie in front of a famous landmark (don’t forget your model releases).

Spotted Berlin TV tower by Andreas Böhler on 500px.com

Remove any trademarked details

When it comes to commercial photography, you generally want to keep your tech as “anonymous” and generic-looking as possible.

Most phones, tablets, and computers are full of branded details (logos, signature typefaces, etc.), and that’s where shooting technology can get tricky. All those elements—ranging from an Instagram or Facebook icon on your phone screen to an Apple logo on your computer—are trademarked, and they will prevent you from licensing your photos commercially.

In these situations, you have two options: first, you can frame your shot to obscure or hide these details, and second, you can remove them in post-processing.

Modern Photographer by Aldrin Balisi on 500px.com

Remove any brand identifiers

Beyond the obviously trademarked elements mentioned above, look out for subtle-but-recognizable details that could connect your photo with a particular brand. On mobile phones, for instance, cameras, speakers, interfaces, and buttons will probably need to be hidden or removed.

The same rule holds for cameras. Some of the big brands are known for their colors as well as their logos, so remember to conceal or remove them before uploading your photos. Many well-known vintage camera models are also immediately recognizable, so be careful when including them in your shots.

With cars and other vehicles, this point is also relevant. Image-buyers are wary of any photos where you can recognize the manufacturer, and most cars will have giveaways that you’ll need to leave out or remove. If you’re photographing a rideshare-themed photo, for instance, be cautious about details on the dash or exterior embellishments that reveal the company behind the car. In general, it’s a good idea to avoid making a car the main subject of your photos.

Uber Driver by Victor Xok on 500px.com

Blur your screens

A common mistake Licensing Contributors make is neglecting to blur their screens. A visible screen (with visible icons and webpages) can land you in hot water for the same reasons logos can (e.g., copyright issues), so you always want to keep those blank or at least heavily blurred. A blank screen always works well for buyers because it allows them to insert their own graphics and copy.

A small girl and grandmother with tablet at home. by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

Put a fresh spin on familiar ideas

When we think of tech, we tend to envision young Millennial and Gen Z consumers playing games and sharing photos, but technology usage among older generations, including Gen X and Baby Boomers, has grown significantly over the last several years. By including seniors in your technology-themed images, you could potentially tap into a whole new market.

When working with tech, as with all subjects, it’s important to focus on diversity and authenticity. In previous decades, most commercial stock photos of tech wizards, coders, and web developers might have featured young white males, but today, buyers look for images that feature people of all genders, ethnicities, ages, and abilities. Many crave photos that break stereotypes and subvert clichés. Follow the trends we’ve outlined here, but don’t forget to put a personal and inclusive spin on them too.

Not on 500px yet? Click here to learn about Licensing with 500px.

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