Today I'm excited to chat about a part of your business that you may not have put much thought into, the best stock photo sites for teacher business images. Even though you may not have thought much about it, it really is a huge part of a successful business. I am excited to share all the details and suggestions from Brett Redgate, with Molly Brett Photography. We took a look at how to have the best stock photos and mock-ups for your teacher business and why you should get started on product photography today.
There's such a huge need in our community for finding the best stock photo websites. Our members ask about this all the time. And there are very few people in the photography space that are dedicated to helping and serving teachers. And although Brett hasn’t been in the teacher-author world very long. She quickly saw the need for stock photo photography and just how big of a difference it makes in a teacherpreneurs business. It is something that takes a lot of time. It does take some skill but at the same time, it can really be easy to learn too.
Brett’s background in education started when her first son was four and she decided she wanted to try out the whole homeschooling thing. Fast forward to him being in sixth grade. Her middle son is in fourth grade and her youngest is in first and she’s been homeschooling the whole time. Brett shares that is one of the greatest joys and privileges that she’s ever gotten to have. She is just so grateful to be able to walk along beside them while they grow and learn.
Even though Brett has never had a traditional classroom she has always been a teacher at heart. Her journey to photography really started as a hobby. She originally just wanted to take some pictures of her family and then she started taking pictures of other families and it grew. Brett quickly realized that even though she loved family photography she really loves taking pictures of things. She thought it seemed a little silly to just like taking pictures of stuff. But that eventually grew into a whole idea of stock product photography and mock-up photos. It really intrigued her because it never really never dawned on her that somebody actually took all the pictures she loved.
The world of stock photos and product photography is quite enormous. When she began Brett took pictures of everything from cutting boards for home boutiques to t-shirt companies and even her co-op yearbook. She really struggled to find her niche. She remembers just desperately wanting to meet somebody or find somebody that knew what they needed. And then she would be able to take pictures for them and fill that need while adding value to the world. She was still doing pretty much any and all photography. If someone asked for new pictures for their business she said yes. She still hadn’t found what she was really passionate about. It wasn’t until she was doing a shoot for an interior designer that she put up a behind-the-scenes on Instagram and one of her friends messaged her and asked, “Who's your photographer?”
After that Instagram question, Brett met with the one and only Brittany Hedgie of Mix and Math for coffee. They became fast friends and Brett’s mind was blown at the TPT world that Brittany was telling her about. As a homeschooler, she’d run across Teachers Pay Teachers, but in her mind, it was just a website. She didn't grasp the fact that it was essentially a whole world specifically FOR teachers.
And that's how she always describes it to people now. Once she realized it was this enormous world and that people had crazy successful businesses on the website. That was when she started thinking about the fact that she had taken pictures of a number of things but never had she taken pictures of math worksheets. Brett was so confused and had no idea what Brittany did, or what she wanted Brett to do for her. So they started experimenting.
Brittany has been such an integral part of Brett’s business, sort of her inside source really because she knew the teacher-author space. Since those first few photographs for Brittany, Brett now has a TPT store. She was a photographer first. I love that she shared about Brittany because I think Brett has such a great mindset when it comes to collaboration over competition. Which is something we're really big on here at the CEO Teacher®. I actually have always been in the direct messages with Brittany where we are helping each other back and forth. She also has a very successful business. If you don't follow her on Instagram, it is Mix and Math. I'm always just mesmerized by her product photos and the things that she does. I think we all fall into the trap of thinking people do everything on their own.
We forget that we do have help behind the scenes. I have 16 people that help me on a daily basis. So you look at people and you think, how do they do it all? They don't, that's just it, they have to have help and support. I am so excited to share how Brett helps Brittany and other teacher-authors.
Brett laughed when I asked her to share the behind-the-scenes to create the best stock photos. Although she would love to show the behind-the-scenes, she mentioned how she is pretty much in a closet! The setup is just not pretty, it’s very unimpressive. Brett wants us all to be encouraged by that because it can feel like you need a whole studio or whole setup. And although Brett’s setup has progressed a bit, because it’s her job and not just a little piece that she’s trying to do along with everything else. She wants us to remember it really doesn't take a lot; some poster boards and a camera and a few little props and it's pretty easy.
Brett’s business has been ever-evolving. She has spent the last year or so really trying to identify the needs of her audience. Originally it started as solely helping private clients. For the first several months, a few of her clients put a comment in a Facebook group and asked if teachers were interested in product photography. Then they would share Brett’s info. Nobody knew her but it didn’t matter. There's a need because people feel like they aren't equipped to do it on their own.
There's also a need because people feel like their business has gotten so big they can’t spend hours doing their own product photography. It's a crucial piece, but it's a tiny piece. When you look at all the things that you do from the creation of your product to the sale of that product. You can't afford to spend hours and hours on shooting one resource. Enter the best stock photo sites on the internet.
There are also teacher-authors who want a custom look and they want high-quality images, but aren't really in a position yet with their business to be able to afford to hire custom photographers. There are so many different places that people are in. This has left Brett’s wheels spinning and trying to figure out how she can help all the people.
At the end of the day, we have to think about why it is important for us to even have quality images and why they need to stand out. Brett reminds us it needs to stand out because we're in an online marketplace where everything is on the screen. It's way too easy to just scroll and scroll because everything is looking the same. Particularly if it's a PDF and if you're not a primary teacher, and you don't have a bunch of colorful shapes all over the place. When your product is instead an essay that kids need to read. Nobody wants to look at that on a screen. It's just not interesting, but that doesn't mean that the content of the resource isn't outstanding. That's where we want to draw people in. They're going to see it before they can actually experience it. We want to draw them in with that single image. If we can get a great image first and get people to walk into the store, then all of a sudden the customer thinks this is really interesting.
Then they can start to experience your product and your resource and your content, and start exploring your store more. That's where viewers are going to turn into our customers who are going to turn into repeat customers. When your image is an awesome, professional high-quality image, not just with the quality of the photo, but we're talking the lighting and the styling too. Stock photos can begin to tell the story as an extension of your brand. Many teacher-authors know and understand that concept, they want their logos to be great, and they want their website to be great. Because then your audience can say wow this is professional, I can trust this person.
But perhaps they then get to the product and it looks like it was photographed in the kitchen. There comes a point where you don't want your products to look homemade BUT they can be made at home. We just don't want them to look homemade anymore because we want our teachers to trust that what they're bringing into the classroom and what they're teaching their students, we want it to be good. Brett shows us the importance of attaching the quality of the product with the quality of the image.
Brett brought up so many valuable points and I want to touch back on a few of those because a lot of our students are not just primary teachers. They're not just selling primary resources and as their coach, I'm really big on making sure that it looks aesthetically beautiful. I want it to look beautiful. But as a middle school teacher, I understand there's a struggle there. Cutesy is not necessarily a home run for middle school and high school, but professional is always a home run.
So if you teach middle school math, or high school ELA or science or social studies, and you’re thinking to yourself, okay, Kayse, I know I need this, but what tips and tricks can you give me? How can you help my audience to stop the scroll when people are coming through because let's be honest, a rhetorical analysis essay product, that doesn't sound like it's going to be beautiful.
Brett was fantastic when she ran through a fake product for us. If you're her client and the product you want her to photograph is mainly essays with some graphic organizers that go along with it. That is actually one thing that she recommends when you're creating your actual resource, adding some interesting graphics in there goes a long way in your images. If you have a color version or a black and white version, even though many teachers might print out the black and white just to save ink, always shoot the color version. It's just going to immediately add so much more interest and keeping it simple is great. Brett says, “It doesn't have to be this enormous elaborate set up with props out the wazoo.”
It should also include a lot of your personality. You might have a very simple clean look to your brand or just who you are, it doesn't have to look a certain way to look professional. One of the main things that Brett leans toward is shooting on a white background. In the world of TPT where people have all kinds of different types of products out there they want to stand out with their product photography. So they shoot on their kitchen table because it's wood, and different.
And while she does appreciate the fact that there is a contrast there because if you have a white sheet of paper and also a white background, some people may think they will lose the resource. However, a white background is really gonna help draw attention to the resource and not allow the audience to get distracted by all the contrast. Brett says you want all the props and everything to help elevate the resource and draw attention to that. So she wants to have a white background with really great lighting.
Brett’s top tips for product photography. Some white poster board, great lighting, and about 90% of props from the dollar store. It doesn't have to be expensive at all. And as a teacher, you have all the props that you need, you know, just think, okay, well, what are my students using? Particularly in those upper grades, what kind of writing utensils do they like, do they love mechanical pencils? Grab some bright, colorful, mechanical pencils. Make it really age-appropriate and grade-appropriate for what you do. And if it's a writing resource, she recommends a notebook and a composition notebook, just layered in the background in order to bring that pop of color.
You want to bring color into the images because you’ve got white pieces of paper. You want to draw it off the background and just by putting a few sheets of Astro bright behind it in angled ways, will separate it from the background. Once you have the contrast then add a little bit of dimension. Maybe put it on a clipboard, or binder, there are lots of different ways to play with the images. Once Brett has the colored layered paper on top of a white background she’ll put the actual resource over the top of that. One of the big things to remember is that these aren't necessarily the images that somebody is zooming in on to read all of the content. They're just getting a feel of your products. This is really just like where they're picturing this resource on their student's desks.
Brett talked all about one of my most favorite things to do. When I left the classroom in January of 2018, I had no idea my business was going to turn into the CEO Teacher®. I was still just selling my resources on Teachers Pay Teachers. And I lived for a dollar tree visit. So I did my product photography with my fancy camera, which you don't need. I would go once a month to the dollar tree. That was my monthly thing. And I would spend $10. And I would try to get as many goodies as I could for my product photography. I actually just parted with all of my props this week. I had tubs and tubs of those props. We teach our CEO Teacher® students about those foam boards from Hobby Lobby because they're really durable. And that way you can kind of throw them behind something, not worried about them getting creased.
This conversation with Brett was awesome since she shared so many product photography tips. But this post is about the best stock sites for product photography for teachers. So let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Many teachers just don't have the time to get to the dollar tree each month, nor do they want to spend money on props they may never use again. This is where stock photography comes in. You can choose an image that has all the concepts needed for a great image, and you don’t have to spend the time setting it all up!
Listen, there are 10 things in my CEO Teacher® business I never want to do again. I know I am not alone in thinking there are tasks I will always hire out from now on. Because of this mindset, stock photos are such a big thing right now. Brett quickly realized that she could only take on a set amount of clients, and she was ready to help more teachers. She felt called to serve the masses and really help them, not to mention those that don't really have the budget for custom photography. So that's where the best stock photo site membership for teachers, The Styled Stock Market, was born.
Brett’s definition of a stock image would be where someone else has taken a picture of some math manipulatives and fraction tiles and that sort of thing. That's the main image. And you as the teacher use it as a blog post featured image because the blog post is all about using manipulatives in your classroom. She describes it as one image that you're using, and it looks like you pulled it off the shelf. You need a picture of fraction tiles and there you go. You could then overlay the title of your blog post or any text on social media stock photographs.
Mock-ups are more of a whole scene. For example, the English resource that she described with the composition notebooks and mechanical pencils. Except the mock-up leaves out the resource but leaves a space for it. It's blank in the middle, where then you, as the teacher-author, get to overlay an image of the PDF into the mock-ups. So it's made to look like a custom shoot, and then you just overlay your product. We see this all the time with coffee mugs, desks, brick walls and plants, and other mock-ups like that. So you could use the same mock-up for 20 different resources because it was a mock-up of a notebook. You as the author have created multiple notebook activities, so you can just overlay it right there in the mock-up of the notebook. And that just saved you hours of printing it out, setting it up, playing with the lighting, making sure everything is perfect.
And then it saves you a ton of money because you're not having to outsource your photography. Brett realized there was a need for this type of stock photo when it was really hard to find anything that was super teacher-specific.
As a result of all of her searches, Brett realized she could create a membership site where you can basically tell her what you need. What are your brand colors? What manipulatives do you use? Her members can even tell her what STEM images they need. Her membership is growing and evolving because she has created the biggest hack for teachers. She is helping them save time and money by using the best stock photos and mock-up images designed for teachers.
Brett is dedicated to teacher-authors. People get so caught up in the niche part of things and think, Oh, I'm niching down way too much, or niching down isn’t going to bring a large audience. However, when we look at Brett’s example, she is literally just a small gap in the market, which is what's so beautiful. I coach teachers once a week and multiple people say, Kayse, I cannot find stock photos for teachers. And it's because if you go on a search, it's really difficult to find those things, especially those that match their brand colors and have the types of manipulatives that they have in their classrooms.
So I love that Brett is reaching out and saying when you think of STEM, what do you think of? I really want that for my middle school and high school CEO Teachers® too, because they feel so left out. Especially in the clip art world, clip artists can make more money if they just do elementary stuff. But they're not really catering to our middle school and high school teachers as much. And it's hard for them to find good quality clip art as well. I love that Brett found the need, and I think she hit a home run. I mean, just from the people that are her private clients, it's obvious the quality that she presents. With all her service to her clients, I wondered where Brett sees herself and her business in five or 10 years from now.
Originally when Brett first started selling her stock photos and mockups, she thought to herself, “Wow, I’ve reached my goal, people want what I have to offer.” She wants to help teachers love their products so much that they see it in a mockup and want to buy them for themselves. She is continually asking herself, “What else do they need?” So Brett started taking some of her mock-ups and created some templates because she wants to take the time aspect off of a teacher’s plate. So the templates she’s created are filling that gap in the market. It's just been a trial run so far, where she is collecting data on whether people are liking and using the templates. She wants to know if it's really working for them or just working for them just because she thinks it's a good idea. She wants to create value for her people. She is stepping back and seeing if she can help with an entire piece of her clients’ business and lessen the burden.
She is constantly working to make her market even better. Digital resources were a huge thing this year. Not that people didn't have digital resources before, but over the last six months, Brett has seen an increase in digital mock-ups in the membership. It's one of those things that she can’t see where it may go but she wants to be on the cusp of what's next. She does not want to miss what's going on for the future, but also being in the present and filling those needs as they come.
If you are a teacher and ready to have Brett solve the issue of time and professionalism for you, you can head to her website www.mollybrettphotography.com to see all the different ways that you can work together. Whether you're wanting to learn how to take images yourself through the photography for teacherpreneurs course, or in her free Facebook group Photography for Teacherpreneurs where they do lots of training, share tips and ask questions all about stock photography.
And if you're inside our membership, the CEO Teacher® School, we've got some Epic surprises coming your way from Brett and her styled stock teacher goodness.
More Ways To Use Stock Photography In Your Teacher Business:
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