Properly Shooting Stock Photography in Foreign Countries is Fun and Profitable

Planning and preparation are two requirements for shooting stock abroad

Shooting stock images abroad can be both fun and profitable.  All it requires is a plan, preparation, and the ability to stay open and flexible.  I stumbled on a system my first time out that has continued to work for me.  It is pretty simple really. There’s no reason it can’t work for you too.

Selling stock photos that we shot while on vacation sounded good.

Two of my friends and fellow photographers, and I, decided to do a stock photo shoot abroad…mainly for the fun of it.  But hey, making a profit by selling stock photos that created would make it all that much better.  We debated about whether to go to South Africa or Buenos Aires or Brazil.  After debating the merits of each we decided that Buenos Aires offered the best value. We heard that prices were good, resources for shooting were plentiful…and Buenos Aires sounded like a fun place to go. 

The first thing I did was get on the internet and check to see what kind of lodging we could get.  Went discovered a site called  There we found a gorgeous house in the swankest part of town.  The house had a pool, five rooms each with its own bathroom, a pool table, gourmet kitchen and a guesthouse.  Lots of skylights and large windows would facilitate easy shooting.  The house was even large enough to have multiple shoots going on at once.  I booked the house for a week…which cost me $1,500.00.  The three of us would stay in the house and use it for at least two days of shooting.

Getting a producer for your stock shoot is critical

The next step was to get a local producer to help us with casting, equipment rental and so forth.  I canvassed the photographers I know to find if anyone could recommend a producer.  I was able to get several names.  I sent e-mails to them and one responded.  I told her I had a budget of $10,000.  Keep in mind there were three photographers shooting for two days…so this is the equivalent of producing 6 shoots.  After two weeks, and numerous e-mails…I still didn’t have an answer from the producer…and was getting nervous.  Just as I was getting to my wits end another of the producers responded to my e-mail.  I had two weeks left before we departed.  I asked her if we could do the shoot for my budget of $10,000.00 and she said yes.  It was a go.

Our $10,000.00 got us 23 models, 3 assistants, a make-up artist, a stylist, props, wardrobe, a producer, and two catered lunches…not bad!  We stayed an extra week and did one more “produced” shoot…this time in a museum café…as well as a lot of just shooting tourist stock pictures.  We had a fabulous time and the earnings we have made selling stock photos have more than paid off the expenses and are now turning us a profit.

A stock shoot in Mexico

Encouraged by that first experience I next rented a villa in San Miguel Allende, Mexico. Again, five rooms, each with its own bathroom and balcony.  A large pool set in gardens, balconies and courtyards, and maid service too…not bad…and this time a week only costs me $1,200.00.  My producer from Argentina, as it turns out, had spent a number of years living in San Miguel, and offered to produce the shoot for me.  I accepted and invited another friend and fellow photographer, Nevada Wier, to join me in the shoot.  We shot for three days, in the house, on the grounds…and in the countryside outside of San Miguel.  In that case we rented a convertible and shot three models in various combinations enjoying a “road trip”.  We had great fun, and did a fabulous shoot for essentially the cost of a moderately expensive vacation.

Shooting Stock Photography in Bangkok

My next effort, again with Nevada, was a shoot in Bangkok…actually two shoots.  One was an office shoot and another consisted of two models that we shot in “impromptu” business meetings around the city.  We rented a van for transportation (including wardrobe changes) and drove from likely location to likely location.  We did get asked to leave in one location…oh well…but it was another successful shoot with very little expense.  The shoot was “produced” by a friend of Nevada who had never produced a shoot before, but did an excellent job procuring for us models, an office building, the van and scouting our other locations.

India has provided me with some great shots

We did another shoot in India in which our guide for the trip doubled as a producer. He found us a call center, a snake charmer, fishermen, an office building and more.  I have come to realize that a production can be accomplished by anyone with a reasonably good brain and a little gumption.  It helps if they have a lot of friends for models too! India provided me with images I’ve used to create some great concept stock images.

Of course, it really helps to have a tight shoot list.  You don’t necessarily have to stick to the list…but by starting out with a tight, detailed list of what you want to shoot the producer can prepare adequately for the shoot.  That list needs to be supplemented with visuals…drawings, tear sheets…photos from your stock files.  The visual supplements are important, particularly when you have a producer from another culture and/or country. 

Another ingredient for successful shoots of this nature is great communication between you and the producer.  Insist on seeing photos of potential models, locations and props.  As they say, seeing is believing.  Get everything in writing just to be as sure as possible that you are the same page.

I have now shot stock photos in Buenos Aires numerous times, Brazil, Bangkok, India, Paraguay, and Mexico.  As long as I start with a plan, a detailed shot list with visuals, an intelligent and enthusiastic “local” to produce, and an open and flexible attitude, I end up creating valuable stock images and having a great time.  It is important to know that things will not go as planned…but with a good attitude serendipity will probably step in and provide great images and adventures that you never thought of.  As Helen Keller said, “life is a great adventure or nothing at all.”