Vacation Stock Shooting stock while on vacation from stock?

After 5 fantastic years of employment with Adobe Stock, I was able to take advantage of one of the many fantastic benefits Adobe offers...a one month sabbatical. No email, no phone calls...a month away from the computer in which I can do whatever I want. I haven't had that much time off at once since I was 14 years old!

What did I do with my time off from Adobe Stock? Well, I shot thousands of photos and videos to submit to Adobe Stock of course!

For the first two weeks of my sabbatical I traveled to the French Polynesian islands of Moorea and Bora Bora. What? It's a tough job shooting stock, but someone has to do it!

Of course, shooting stock of general scenery is fine but to make better money with your travel photography, it's ideal to have images showing people. I decided that rather than approach strangers or hire models on the islands I would bring a model with me.

I decided to bring my wife Lea with me on the trip for the job of being my model. I warned her it would be difficult work that could require her to hold still in one position for a long period of time and that it could get uncomfortably warm. She said she was up to the task. You can see in this photo above that I put her to work immediately. She really nailed this shoot proving that her work ethic is second-to-none!
Before we even got to our resort I was shooting stock. The ferry ride over from Tahiti to Moorea provided a beautiful introduction and photo-op of the island.
Once we arrived at the resort, it took a few hours for our bungalow to be ready. I wasted no time taking out the camera and shooting some of the scenery. I also wasted no time with an unplanned food shoot for stock..it's a rough job but I was willing to put in the effort (and the calories) for that one. On a side note, the croissants were worth the price of admission on their own! So good.
I brought a number of props with me on the trip for stock including some products I used on a daily basis. This shot of my Maui Jim sunglasses is a clear intellectual property violator for commercial stock. However, this is a great image that can be licensed as illustrative editorial.
It was a short break for Lea while I was shooting scenery with no people. Wasn't long before I had her back to work. I think she started to realize this wasn't going to be a relaxing vacation! There was a bit of push back when I informed her the next segment would require her to drink an ice cold margarita and then lay in a hammock with me. Note the color difference in our feet on day one. Wait until you see the same angle near the end of the trip!
We each received a lei of fresh flowers and a complimentary bottle of champagne was waiting in our bungalow when we arrived. Both seemed like good stock photo opportunities to me!
We rented a car and drove around the island looking for more stock photos to shoot. As a person that lives in Seattle, I still get excited when I see a palm tree. They make me feel like I'm on vacation. It probably goes without saying that I took a lot of pictures of palm trees.

It was back to work for Lea. No rest for the weary. For this stock shoot, I needed access to the black pearls that the Tahitian islands are so well known for.

Lea was required to shop for pearls so I could get the shot. Sucks right?

More palm trees. Every time I saw them I had to stop and snap a photo. Turns out, there are a LOT of palm trees on Moorea. This was turning in to a long drive on a short island.
We came across vanilla beans during our adventure. Seemed like a stock photo op to me. Then again, everything seems like a stock photo op to me so that's not really news. The vanilla sure smelled good.
Back to work for Lea. She was required to hitchhike for a ride back around the island this time.
Now I had to pull double duty as both the photographer AND the model. I know what you're thinking....how does he do it? Hard working man that Mat...I've heard it all before. It's not work if you love what you're doing. Plus, I had this rad pineapple shirt on and had brought the pineapple shades as a stock prop. Turns out, those stylin sunglasses worked pretty well for us both! #fashion
Found a herd of bovine on our road trip. Stock photo op? Duh! Note there are no tags or visible brands that identify these cows as private property. Tags or brands will disqualify your content at Adobe Stock due to intellectual property violations.

Before leaving on the trip, I did some virtual recon of scenic locations. Belvedere lookout was the obvious choice on Moorea so that was our ultimate destination.

While landscapes aren't my bread and butter when it comes to stock sales, I still love capturing images of beautiful locations...having them available for licensing as stock is an added bonus to the memories the photos provide.

I never missed a sunrise the entire trip. I made a point to shoot the sunrise in a generic manner so I can license it for stock.
Remember the shots from above where Lea and I were rockin the pineapple fashion? That was at a pineapple distillery famous for making some very good beverages popular throughout the South Pacific Islands. In an effort to enhance my stock portfolio, I invested in a box (or 4) of the signature drink for some more Illustrative Editorial content to add to my Adobe Stock portfolio.
The snorkeling on Moorea was crazy good with a wide variety of fish and wildlife to watch. I snapped a lot of fun fish photos that you'll see in a bit. To add to the story in my stock portfolio, I took advantage of the snorkel gear I brought and used it as a stock photo on it's own.
Lea thought she would get a short break while I was shooting the snorkel gear but she was wrong! This was a working trip after all! She was such a trooper...Not only did she consume a glass of the Tahiti Drink for me, she was willing and able to hold this pose for a couple of hours until I finally got the shot. Shout out to Lea for her patience and endurance.
Poor thing, that water was barely 82 degrees. She must have been so uncomfortable but didn't complain even once. #staminaanddetermination
Another prop I brought for my Illustrative Editorial portfolio...the Hydro Flask logo kills this shot for commercial use but should do very well as IEC (Illustrative Editorial Content).
She was getting tired but I still pushed Lea to continue her work as a model for me. This was just the warm-up before we got to Bora Bora. She needed to work on her endurance these days. I started to feel bad but knew I needed to shoot more stock!
I brought a second camera with me for this very purpose. Photos of photographers generally do quite well. Scrubbed the IP and voila!
Can't a guy just enjoy a cold beer on a hot, tropical day? Nope...gotta shoot some Illustrative Editorial images first!
Now I put Lea to work as the photographer. Didn't bring a male model so I did the best I could to fill the role. Not sure if the hat is going to work for stock so I may have to scrub that patch from the front.
I was happy to have brought my remote cable to run some long exposure shots at night. Quite a few clouds in the sky on Moorea which made for some interesting photos in my opinion.
The next sunrise was a good one. Heck, they were all good...this one was spectacular!

Lea couldn't believe it...5am she had to start her day as a model. She wasn't happy about it but she did it. I was pleasantly surprised with her cooperation.

I mentioned the fantastic snorkeling in Moorea right? This guy was my favorite near my bungalow. Every day I would swim by to say hello to my pal Monty, the Moorean Moray Eel. He always seemed a bit grumpy but I was determined to be his friend. Turns out that petting Moray eels is not recommended by the locals.
"Let's go kayaking!" I said to Lea that morning. She thought it was for fun and that I was finally giving her a chance to play. Nope, wrong! She did all the paddling while I created stock. She finally caught on that I wasn't doing my share with the paddle and put her paddles down in protest. Fine by me! That made another stock photo opportunity. On a side note, the lagoon is relatively calm for the most part, but holding a DSLR over the ocean while on a kayak can still increase the pucker factor of any shoot. I was glad to have brought a dry bag with me for some peace-of-mind.
I finally gave Lea a short break and snapped some photos of a couple props I brought for stock. We did more with these and the other decorations I brought on Bora Bora.
Every meal was a stock photo opportunity as far as I was concerned. By the way, people that know me, know I'm obsessed with the show "Wicked Tuna" in which boats compete to earn the most catching Bluefin Tuna in a season. I know how much work goes into catching these fish so I was absolutely thrilled to see it so readily available in the South Pacific! It's so dang good!!

Goodnight moon.

Another sunrise, another stock photo opportunity! For this shot, Lea straight up refused to work so early. Can you believe it? I had to do a selfie. Easier said than done with a 10 second timer when you are in a pool.
This was our last full day on Moorea island and we had been really looking forward to it. We booked passage on a whale watching boat that included stops to swim with sting rays and sharks!

We were truly overwhelmed by the beauty of the island as we worked our way around it in search of the humpback whales.

There were many small motus (islands) surrounding Moorea. My mind often drifted in imagination wondering what it would be like to be stuck on one for a long period of time. I'll have to ask my shrink about that I guess.

It didn't seem to be a hard life for the birds of Moorea. The water is so clear you can see fish pretty much everywhere you look.

We weren't there to see the island or the birds though...we were searching for whales and it was not looking like we were going to find them after several hours.

Then, off in the distant we heard a blow hole exhalation. We looked in the general direction and were thrilled to see a pair of beautiful humpback whales not too far away. I was so excited and shouted "YES! Stock photo opportunity!!!" Lea showed relief in her eyes that she wouldn't need to be working for these shots while the other two couples on our boat looked at me with concern. I recognized the look and gave them my standard disclaimer..."It's OK, I'm a stock photographer." While we were from different countries, they understood what I meant (possibly because their country was England and English was their first language). The smiled and nodded as I cranked up my motor drive and shot an absurd numbers of images of the beautiful animals that were slowly making their way towards us.

We lost track of them for a moment until we noticed a massive white shape directly adjacent to the boat. They had come right up to us!

"Beautiful" one person exclaimed. "Wowwww!" others said in unison. "ISO 100, 1/1,000 at F11 I muttered to myself. Thinking about what keywords I would use to make my images easier to find by Adobe Stock customers.

"whale, humpback, spray, animal, ocean, marine, mammal, animal, large, giant, wildlife, tropical, blue, water, travel, adventure, French Polynesia, Tahiti" I shouted with excitement. "Uh yeah, we know" the other passengers said with annoyance. Lea had her hand on her forehead and was shaking her head back and forth for some reason. I was concerned she was getting seasick.

The next words I heard I wasn't processing at first. It almost sounded as though the captain was shouting "Jump In!"

Wait...that is what he was shouting. What? Lea looked up in disbelief...."Seriously? More work?" She said.

I smiled, strapped on the snorkel mask and my GoPro, then pushed her in hoping she could swim (for the record, that was a joke).

We jumped in the water. Made a comment about how warm it was which is customary every time you get in the water in French Polynesia then put our heads under water. The male and female humpbacks were directly beneath us.

I shot more video than I did photos while having my mind blown by these magnificent creatures. They started below us but as you can see in the video linked above, they very quickly came up to the surface to check out the tourists. It was at that moment, I had a dramatic flashback to a previous stock photo of mine and concern crept into my mind.

Sometimes, as a stock photographer and reluctant model, I find images of myself being used in funny ways. For example, the cover of this tabloid features in image of me claiming I spent three days in the belly of a whale. It had been the better part of a year since I saw that cover but it was at this moment in particular that I remembered it so vividly. Weird right? That's a question for my shrink I suppose.
I couldn't believe this was happening. "What a stock photo opportunity" I screamed in my snorkel. I then swallowed some salt water and the male whale looked at me with judgment in his eyes. Read more in my upcoming book "How to ruin an amazing moment through obnoxious behavior." Guess where I bought the cover image for the book...yep, Adobe Stock.
The whales were fine but when I looked back to shore I couldn't believe my luck...PALM TREES! YASSSSS! Click Click Click went my shutter and the whales bailed. I was confused however as the other guests including Lea didn't seem to be nearly as enthused about the foliage photography opportunity. Some people are just weird like that.
That was a wrap for stock shots in Moorea. We slapped our masks back on and jumped on a small plane for the next step in our journey...Bora Bora!
As soon as we stepped outside at the airport I knew it was game on. The brilliant turquoise water took my breath away at first sight and WOW....look....at....all....those.....palm trees........! I started rubbing my hands together quickly and according to Lea made some sort of sound like "gishbisbeeshoogggwok." Which loosely translates to "this is going to be so good on Adobe Stock!"
When we checked into our over-water bungalow, I stepped onto the deck to see if I could work with the view. I gave a deep sigh and said "I guess it will do." Lea knew that was a bad sign for her...there would be even more work as a model on Bora Bora than there was at Moorea she suddenly realized.

I must have really gotten through to Lea how important it was to know this was a work trip and not a vacation! I couldn't believe I didn't even have to ask her to put on a swimsuit and get into the water for our first photo shoot.

That is true dedication to the task at hand right there. So selfless. A true, hard-working model if there ever was one.

What a diva. "I couldn't possibly have a glass of French Champagne. It's the middle of the day." She said. "Sorry lady, but this is for Adobe Stock." I reminded her. She knew I couldn't be persuaded away from this shoot and that arguing was futile. She finally relented and I got the shot.
Her work didn't end with a simple glass of champagne...not even close. I know some of you reading this will think I'm some sort of a monster but I had to keep working and to do so, I needed Lea to keep modeling. Out came the pineapple floatie (which consumed a great deal of our allowed luggage weight I might add) and Lea was back to work. I tried to warn her before we even booked the trip but I don't think she fully grasped the intensity of the work. It was 81 degrees Fahrenheit with a cool breeze and she was completely exposed to the elements. Being a stock model can be dangerous.
I left Lea to drift in the ocean for a bit as I became distracted by...you guessed it....a Palm Tree! Cute little private beach, gives me an idea for a shot I had planned to do....
This was the perfect location for the treasure map I had asked my daughter Savannah to draw out for me before we left. We did a couple of shoots with the map and I was very happy she made it for us. FYI, when I submit this series of images and video to Adobe Stock, I'll need to submit a property release signed by Savannah confirming that I have the rights to license content featuring the handmade map for commercial use.
After I fired off a couple thousand images during the day I think Lea finally reached her limit. "Can we please be done with photos?" She pleaded. My eyes narrowed and in a low, menacing voice I said to her "no way...we aren't even close to being done." I walked away and when I returned, I had a (very expensive) Pina Colada in my hand. She must have known it was for her so she turned to run away but I reminded her that stock photography is how we are able to afford to put our kids through school, to put a roof over our heads and to maintain my obsession with collecting PEZ dispensers and Funko Pops! The message hit home and she found her second wind. With grit and determination, she grabbed the drink from my hand and began to pose and to sip. Then to drink and to pose...then, pretty soon it seemed like she forgot to pose. I wasn't sure what was happening, but I got the shot and that's what counts right? I could tell I wasn't going to win the battle any longer and that shooting stock was done for the day.
After giving her a few hours off from her modeling job to sleep, I woke Lea up at the crack of dawn to start the next day of shooting. "Here! hold this cup of espresso" I told her with a sound of desperation in my voice. "Can I have a sip" she asked? "NO! Are you crazy?! This is for stock...you may have residual lipstick that could leave a mark on the rim of the cup. The shot would be ruined!" was my response. She understood and we snapped photos until the coffee was cold.

I'd like to say that at this point I went to the gym to lift weights, followed by a jog around the island and a 2 mile swim. If I did say that however, it would be a bold-faced lie. I am sharing images of myself with my shirt off in this presentation so there is really no point to me pretending. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Or in my case, the extra serving of pudding.

I had gone for a short walk to scout locations for more photos.

When I got back from my walk I learned what a true professional Lea really is when it comes to modeling. Once again, I didn't even have to ask her to put on her bikini and get in the water for a photo showing her getting sun tanned. It's like she just knew instinctively and was ready to put in the time. I found her like this when I walked back to the room and started snapping photos immediately.
She had been gripping the dock with her feet because the current was so strong. After some shameless begging, she selflessly let go of the dock and began to drift away for the photo. Sure, there was a big risk she would keep drifting and I may never see her again but we had to get the shot to give perspective. I had never been more proud of her than at that very moment.
Realizing the danger I had put her in, I grabbed my camera and jumped in to bring her back to safety after capturing more stock photos and videos with alternative angles. . I'm pretty sure she shouted "My hero!" but neighbors later claim to have heard her say "Get out of the way, you are blocking my sun you idiot!" Must be the language barrier, we were traveling internationally after all. Also, you may be asking yourself something right now...Did they really bring two different floaties all the way to the South Pacific for stock photos? Yes. Yes, we did.
It was this moment I remembered we are experiencing a global pandemic. While it could be argued that French Polynesia is the safest country in the world when it comes to Covid-19 (all visitors must have a test before and after arrival and no locals had a case in months) you can never be too careful so I asked her to put a mask on. Doesn't hurt that stock customers are looking for images of life back to normal with a Covid-19 filter which often means a mask.
I was getting tired so I decided to let her drift on her own and went into the bungalow for some quiet alone time. I went to put my feet on the coffee table and this is what I saw. Clearly, the current had shifted direction!
I couldn't let Lea have all the fun. I had always wanted to know what it was like to be inside a coffee table. Now I know. It's everything I dreamed it would be and more. An idea just hit me...I should make a coffee table book featuring images of people in coffee tables. Brilliant!
Once I was out of the coffee table, we caught a water taxi to the main island and rented a car to look for something specific....
Yep, you guessed it. Palm Trees!!
Did you know that it's not an uncommon way to die in the South Pacific Islands to be hit in the head by a falling coconut? Check out this pile of coconuts I found on the drive. I wonder how many dead tourists are buried in this pile with a camera in hand and a dumb grin on their face like I had when I was snapping these photos?
Lea didn't do a lot of modeling on the road trip around the island but she was very patient with me stopping for every palm tree nonetheless. I bought her a nice glass of white wine but first needed to turn the moment into a stock photo. It never stops.
Lea and I literally took a wrong turn at our resort and ended up walking away from the general property. When I realized we were off course I turned around and saw this unique view of Mt. Otemanu. This shot will be uploaded to Adobe Stock, but will also end up as a print on my wall fairly soon.
You can't visit Bora Bora with your wife who is doubling as a model and not have a flower crown made for her. You just can't. She was upset of course but knew that she had to get back to work.
A quick wardrobe change, then back in the water for some more hard work.
Sure Lea makes for a fine stock model in most situations, but could she pull this look off? I don't think so. Have you seen the movie "Couples Retreat?" In it, the objective is for the couples to learn what their spirit animal is through a week of self-discovery in Bora Bora. I found my true spirit animal. Truth is...I always knew.
Here is another shot inspired by the film "Couples Retreat." These gray objects you see near the surface of the water are as you may have guessed...sharks. What do you do when you are on a boat in Bora Bora and a school of sharks is nearby? The answer seems pretty obvious to me....
You grab your GoPro and you jump in the water of course!
We were on a fantastic snorkel cruise and couldn't get enough of the fish!
And Oh.My.Gosh....we hit the mother load! Palm Trees everywhere! People thought I had really gone round the bend when I started muttering keywords about palm trees to myself. They hadn't been there for the whale debacle.
"palm tree, island, tropical, jungle travel, vacation, water, turquoise, summer, sunshine, French Polynesia, Tahiti, Bora Bora, tree, nature, beach...." I continued to mutter to myself. "Are you OK Mat?" Captain Eduardo asked me. Lea put her hat over her eyes and pretended to be asleep.
Remember when I told you to watch for the after pic with our feet? Notice the color change? My legs still seem to be the same Seattle no-sun translucent color while Lea was really getting her tan on!
We decided for the purpose of stock, maybe just Lea was best for this shot.
We arrive at our destination...a small, private motu where a beautiful buffet filled with fresh fruit, poisson cru and other delicious food awaits us. We are going to feast while sitting on picnic tables resting in the water.
Before I can get my first bite down I feel a soft, semi-slimy but aggressive nudge on my ankle. I look down and spot a trio of stingrays and thousands of fish not-so-subtly prompting me to share my meal.
I had to oblige. Once I did, it was game over as far as lunch was concerned. These little buggers weren't going to let me get a bite for myself!
Lea and I passed the camera back and forth to trade shots. Seems I was more cut out for this particular model job. She gave it her best.
She actually started to really get into it. These stingrays really are like big, flat, slimy puppy dogs in the sea.
All jokes aside, they were absolutely fantastic and it was so much fun playing with them for the afternoon.
In addition to the abundant sea life, there were plenty of stock photo opportunities on this small little motu we grew to love.
Yes, we had a very full day on the water but our work was not finished. Lea sighed, put her flower crown back on and got to work as the sun started to set.
This session was particularly challenging. I required Lea to sit on a comfortable chair as a small fire burned on the beach. The sun was setting behind Mt. Otemanu and a duet was singing romantic music. We had opened a nice bottle of French red wine and the shutter started clicking. Work, Work, Work.
The trip was winding down so I made a point to snap a few more photos with the props I brought and some that I found.
We had one last opportunity to snap some stock so we made the most of it and used what we had learned over the week. Maximum tan, full pink floatie, floppy hat, turquoise water and a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds. What more could we have asked for? Wait...I know.....
One final shot with a palm tree of course!!
Created By
Mathew Hayward