How I Got the Shot – Social Security Cards

By Lane Erickson

In today’s, How I Got the Shot article I’m going to talk about something small. I’ve learned over the years that a photo doesn’t have to be of a grand landscape, or of amazing action or a fantastic portrait in order to be marketable. In fact, in the stock photography that I do it’s often the most unlikely photographs, many of small things, that sell the best. 

In April of 2016 I decided to do a series of photographs having to do with social security cards. Given all of the news articles I had been reading I felt like this would be a marketable image so I created a variety of compositions of social security cards that I have for myself and for my family. I did this in my home office where I have studio lighting that I can set up quickly and easily. 

I used a white background and stacked the cards in a way that you wouldn’t be able to see any of the numbers but you could easily see that they were social security cards. Here is what the original image that I created looked like.

The image was created with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera and I used the super sharp Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro lens.  My exposure was ISO 200, 1/160 at f/2.8, and I used an Alien Bees B800 which is a 320WS strobe with an umbrella to bounce the light onto the image. I honestly can’t remember if I actually flashed the strobe or if I just used the modeling light.

Once the photo was completed, I uploaded it to several of my favorite stock photo sites. Then a strange thing happened. I began seeing my photo all over the internet being used in various articles dealing with social security benefits. 

I first saw it on the homepage for Yahoo, illustrating an article by the Motley Fool having to do with Social Security retirement ages. 

Then I saw it several times on the Yahoo Finance page for various articles.

After that, I began seeing it everywhere. Without much effort I was able to find out that my image has been used by The Boston Herald, Forbes, Kiplinger, The Motley Fool, MSN Money, USA Today and the Social Security Administration itself. 

Out of curiosity, I did a Google image search and found 21 pages of links showing various places that my photograph has been used.

My income from this image has been great on all of the stock photo sites I have uploaded it to. So, it just goes to show you that even photographs of small things can bring about big results.  

With some reluctance, I do have to admit that I’m a little embarrassed. Not because of the success of the photo. No, I’m embarrassed because I didn’t do a very good job on my post work. When I first saw my photograph appear I realized that the top right corner is a little dark.  In other words, I hadn’t used uniform light and then I missed cleaning it up in my post work. However, because of this mistake, it is always easy for me to tell if it is my photograph, so I guess in the end it was a good thing.  

And that’s how I got the shot! I’d love to hear any questions, comments, critiques or suggestions you have.

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