How to take “authentic” photos for microstock sites?

How to take authentic photos for microstock sites?

To succeed as a stock photographer, you should know what’s in demand and what the current trends are. And at the moment, the industry is saying “no” to traditional stock photography, looking for “real”, “authentic” and “candid” images.

What is authentic or candid photography?

Candid means “frank” – truthful and straightforward. In photography it means showcasing the life as it unfolds around us, capturing genuine moments and emotions.

Triggered by social media and mobile photography, the industry reveals a high demand for photography inspired by real life. Instead of inaccessible and idealized reality, people want to see images that represent something they can experience. Real personalities, real compositions. Images that they can relate to.

The word “stock” has become associated with something cheesy, unnatural, and mass-produced. Now agencies are using the term “authentic” to represent this “anti-stock” movement.

“Authentic”, or “candid” photography is a reflection of the world we live in. Driven by technology and embracing diversity which is represented by genders, different ethnicities, cultures, ages, sexual orientations, and appearances. Ordinary people, as well as unconventional personalities doing their usual activities – working, traveling, shopping, going out, exercising. This kind of photography is highly in demand.

A challenge for photographer

Industry professionals who buy stock photography are looking for inspired shots that emulate the character and spontaneity of photos taken by ordinary people. Unique instead of generic. Natural instead of staged. Raw and emotional instead of sterile. Genuine instead of cheesy.

The challenge for a photographer is to create a photo that looks as if anybody could take it, but at the same doesn’t look like an amateur snapshot.

It is tricky but possible to set up a planned photo shoot and still capture “authentic” images.

On location

One characteristic feature of candid photography is natural light, so try to find environments that are naturally well lit. Or mimic natural light using strobes.

If you work with models, the trick is to capture “authentic” feel during a planned photo shot. And it is way more challenging than placing people on white background and telling them to look in the camera and smile.

The photo shouldn’t look like it was staged. Candid photos are bits of real life captured. You do not create a moment – you let the moment create itself, and you are just documenting what you see. So let your models interact with each other and their environment, watch the scene unfold, and capture it as it is, without manipulating the situation. You can direct the models but you shouldn’t give them precise orders like “Look here”, “Now smile”, or “Can you repeat it please?” One thing you want to avoid is models looking into the camera. They should act as if the camera didn’t exist at all. You should be more like a photojournalist documenting reality. So make sure to not over-direct the models. Let them be genuine, and try to capture the emotions.

Propose your models to wear clothes that people would normally wear in this situation, but make sure the clothing and shoes are logo-free. Avoid excessive make-up and too-prefect wardrobe. Even avoid models that are “too beautiful” and look like “models” rather than ordinary people. Break the age and beauty stereotypes. Gray hair and some extra weight is not a taboo anymore.

If the theme of your photo session is “small business”, find a “real” small business owner. If you are taking photos of musicians, make sure they actually know how to play an instrument, and that they will really play, not pretend.


One approach would be avoiding heavy post-processing. Pay particular attention to skin tones, aiming for the natural look. “Keep it real.” Designers can easily add filters later if they need to.

Another approach would be to use mobile Apps to filter the photos. Or, if you are using a camera and not a smartphone, to emulate Instagram-style filters to make your photos look like if they were taken by a mobile phone. Though this applies more to the “smartphone photography style”, than “authentic style”.


To make it easier for potential customers find your images in stock photo libraries, make sure you add all the relevant keywords such as “candid”, “real”, “realistic”, “authentic”, “authenticity”, “unstock”, “natural”, “natural light”, “casual”, and “genuine”.

How to take authentic photos for microstock sites?