Photographers shoot the scenes that inspire, challenge and amaze — but a scene that’s inspiring isn’t always a scene that’s selling. So how do photographers determine what photos might sell better than others before investing their time — and money — into the shot? While the top selling images sometimes are surprises, often pinpointing one — or all — of these five elements tends to drive a photo up the sales charts on stock photography sites and other avenues as well.
Finding the Trends
The images people are looking to buy today aren’t the same images they were looking to buy five years ago. Trends change over time and photography is no exception. Some trends are influenced by technology — the increase in drones lead to a rise in aerial photographs while the popularity of action cameras spurred a point-of-view style of imagery. Keeping on top of the latest trends, both by following data and studies on what’s really selling and taking in the imagery we encounter every day, can help photographers determine what buyers are looking for.
Just add people
Images with people in them tend to sell more than those without. Using people inside a photograph can create a sense of connection or even a sense of scale. We instantly know how small a coffee cup is wrapped in someone’s hands and how big a landscape is with a small person standing within it. Adding people to the shot often takes more work to hire models and file model releases, but that extra work often makes a big difference.
Stick with the seasons
Photographs freeze a moment in time — and images themed around a certain season or holiday tend to sell, at least for stock photography sites. Heading out as the seasons change is both a good way to get a variety of different shots and boost your sales. If you shoot early in the season, you can upload the photos just as demand peaks. Or, you can photograph them and save them for uploads the next time that season comes around. Besides just seasons, holiday-themed photos also tend to sell well.
Think specific subjects and abstract ideas
In stock photography, the trick is to find a subject that not very many photographers are shooting but a lot of buyers are picking up. That could be from a new technology, a rare food item or a hard-to-get-to location, just to name a few. Along with those specifics topics, photos that convey something that’s difficult to do in imagery are also sought out — perhaps a landscape can depict feelings of isolation or grandeur. Whenever a photo may encompass a more abstract idea, be sure to use those terms in the keywords, or buyers won’t even come across your photo.
Colour and Composition
The right subjects, trends and seasons still won’t sell if the photography simply isn’t good. An image with an unusual colour palette, whether that’s bright or almost no colour at all, is going to stand out right away in the search results. A unique composition, perhaps emphasising pattern or shot from a different angle, is also a good way to stand out to stock photo buyers.
Photographers that are only in it for the money often fail — but when a photographer is both driven by the art and considerate of business decisions, he or she is likely to succeed. In stock and several other areas, photographers are more likely to sell when they consider the latest trends and seasons, incorporate people or hard-to-find subjects, and use excellent colour and composition.