How to Sell an Overdone Photo

Here’s today’s photo tip…

-- Lori

Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

June 17, 2009
The Right Way to Travel, Weekly Photo Tip

By Shelly Perry in Portland, OR

Yesterday, Lori made the point that, in travel writing, people don't pay for facts and information: They pay for interpretations of facts and information. The same thing applies to photography. Lori used sunsets as an example -- and that’s a good starting place, because sunsets are one of many photo subjects that are so overdone that they’re virtually impossible to sell… unless you add your own special twist, like a silhouette in front of the sunset.

Another overdone photo subject is pet photos. Every day, stock photo inspectors probably turn down hundreds of dog and cat snapshots. Plain pet shots just aren’t that saleable… unless you add your own unique interpretation.

Take, for example, this pet photo that I’m selling on iStock:

Overdone Photos

Photos of pets with human characteristics (like reading glasses), or who are doing human activities, like “reading” a book, or “typing” on a computer, sell better than everyday snapshots.

Another way to sell more pet shots is to photograph pets together with their owners, making more of a relationship theme. Think about how you can add your own twist to your dog and cat shots to make them more unique… and saleable.

Another overdone subject is flowers. Stock agencies are already brimming with photos of flowers. Trust me, they don’t need any more. But you can use flowers in a creative way to make a whole different shot, like this spa/hospitality-themed photo:

This is a very saleable shot that you can easily take with the right light, exposure, composition, and focus. Think about other ways you can use flowers to create something new and unique.

A third overdone subject is forests. Type the term “forest” in the search bar at, and you’ll get over 115,000 images to choose from. Forests are like sunsets. They make up 30% of total land surface of the earth -- so they’re not a rare photo subject. It's important, therefore, to figure out a way to make your image stand out as something special and unique.

Take this image of a tent in the forest lit up at dusk, for instance:

Back at iStock, the photographer who added this tent to his forest image now has fewer than 400 images to compete with -- and has a much better chance of being found and used.

Of course the absolute best image of nearly any subject could be a high seller, but you give yourself an advantage when you think outside the box and add your own twist -- your interpretation -- even with overdone subjects.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]