How to take photos that sell


I’ve been making money from stock photography for about 10 years now. I very rarely organize a shoot or go on a trip thinking “I can’t wait to take some stock footage and make some money out of it”, but I managed to get some money back that I have spent on travel over the years. Although I don’t shoot full time, I do a few things to make sure that every shot brings me at least some nice stock-style images that I can try out and sell.

Be unique

One way to make stock image sales is to have something no one else (or few others) have. Let’s say you have the option of climbing and photographing K2, a mountain that about 300 people have climbed, or climbing to the top of the Empire State Building to take photos from the observation deck. What would you choose?

Although this is a ridiculously extreme example, if someone needs a picture of K2 to sell, and you have it, it’s money in the bank. If you have a photo of the top of the Empire State Building for sale and someone needs that photo, you’ll probably be faced with thousands of other photos.

I travel a lot and almost always shoot when I travel. I always make sure to photograph the parts of cities or countries where most tourists don’t want or are afraid to go, like this image of North Korea below. This is where some of my favorite photos come from. The alleys, the living rooms of strangers, the places where maybe you shouldn’t be. These locations are ideal for my style of portraiture, but they often offer different views of a city that most people can’t photograph.

be the best

The other way to sell images is to have the best photos, even if they are not rare. It requires you to be a damn good photographer. The best advice for this, of course, is to shoot as much as possible to develop your eye.

Besides being aesthetically stunning, your images should also be technically perfect. Your photos should be crisp, clean, perfectly exposed, and well-composed for stock. They may not have brand names, trademarks, or recognizable people or property without the proper permissions. Be sure to review the submission guidelines and familiarize yourself with common reasons for rejection.

Know what sells

One way to stay ahead of the curve is to look at trends in the usual places that use stock images: magazines, books, online articles, and sites like Adobe Stock. Think about these types of photos when you’re shooting. There are also forums on sites like Flickr where photographers discuss what’s selling for them and post their best sellers. Once you have a good idea of ​​what kind of photos people are buying, searching for those types of photos will become second nature.

Here is an example of an image I took at a concert, knowing that it would be a good photo to upload and sell in stock. What makes him a potential seller? For one, the lighting is unique, almost surely caught on stage at a concert. Because there are no identifying people or objects, it could be used as a header image for a newspaper or magazine article on a variety of different topics. I deliberately left a lot of blank space on the left side, which makes it easy to add copy to the image, which is something buyers often look for.

Take advantage of events you’re already likely to photograph, like concerts, weddings, and parties. This picture of a cake I took at a wedding sells out almost every month. I knew when I saw the cake, with the perfect natural light from the window, that it was a great stock photo. It’s a classic cliche, but there’s still room for a graphic designer to add text or treatments to suit their needs. Detailed photos of rings, cakes, flowers, groom’s ties and watches are also popular.

Travel offers endless storage possibilities, from beautiful landscapes to strange and interesting dishes. You’re probably unlikely to have model release forms with you when you travel, so if you’re photographing people, be sure to get their contact information.

Images with people are often among the best-selling photos, so I recommend having these types of images in your portfolio. If you shoot fashion, headshots, or headshots, it’s simple to apply for a signed model release. Variety is key, so shoot from different angles and try out different lights and scenarios. For example, if you have someone in a suit in an office, you can film them on the computer, on the phone, talking with another person, working in a team and doing paperwork – be creative!

No matter what or where you are shooting, there are bound to be stock photos to be taken, you just need to know where to look. It’s a great way to generate extra income with what you’re already doing. If you do your research, take technically excellent and unique images, and stay consistent, you are sure to succeed. If you think you have what it takes, you can start selling your images by signing up for Adobe Stock here.


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