Photo Tip: Saleable Sunsets

Today’s photo tip, from professional photographer, Shelly Perry, is a fun way to spice up your sunrise and sunset shots for sale as stock, fine art, or editorial.

Scroll down for details…

-- Lori

Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

April 22, 2009
The Right Way to Travel, Weekly Photo Tip

By Shelly Perry in Portland, OR

This is the time of year when we all get tempted by sunrise or sunset shots.

Bear in mind, however, that the sun comes and goes every day. Though the particular sunset that is begging you to take its picture is no doubt glorious, there’s no shortage of sunset photos. There’s such an abundance of them, in fact, that they’re generally un-marketable for stock.

I encourage you to take the shot anyway, to document your vacation or practice your photography skills. But, if creating marketable images is what you are after, keep this tip in mind: One way you can boost the saleability of your sunrise or sunset shot is to add a human element… by asking a friend to stand in front of the sunset and then turning them into a silhouette.

Take this sunset shot that I have up for sale on, for example:

Saleable Sunsets

The most surreal sky I had ever seen, I just had to photograph it. But, as a stock photo, this shot is a very poor performer: It’s only sold two times. And now, since sunset shots are a dime a dozen and don’t sell, iStock generally won’t even accept them anymore.

Now, take a look at this photo of the same sunset, moments later, but with the silhouette of a boy raising his arms to the sky:

This a saleable image. It’s sold 134 times.

Adding a person to the shot, giving it that human element, makes it more interesting and saleable. But I took it a step further: Instead of simply positioning my model in front of the sunset, I asked him to raise his arms and toss his head back. Then, I shot from a low perspective, giving the photo a lot more dynamic interest.

Don’t be afraid to give your silhouettes some action and ask your model to be extra dramatic in your shots.


** 1. Be sure to think about composition, placing your silhouette on the thirds line.

** 2. Try to make sure that the motion in the photo, real or implied, is moving into the frame. (We’ll talk more about this in coming weeks.)

** 3. Leave some open space (like the wide-open sky in the second photo, above) to make your photo desirable to designers who may wish to add copy.

** BONUS TIP: Make sure you’re setting your camera for proper exposure to bring out all the color and definition in those really fiery sunsets. If you’re not sure how, you can pick up a set of AWAI exclusive Photo Tip Cards and pull out the Sunset card. It’ll guide you through the steps.

[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.]