The Simple Key To Selling More Stock Photos

Over the last two days, I sent you some quick and easy ways to get started selling your photos online. If you missed those issues, you’ll find them here:

** Three Hot Microstock Sites

** Microstock Photography: A Quick and Dirty Startup Guide

Stock photo success has a lot to do with knowing what kinds of photos sell. So today, I’ve picked an article from our archives by professional stock photographer, Shelly Perry, with some insider tips on understanding what photo buyers look for in an image, and using your existing knowledge and expertise to deliver it to them. Scroll down for details…

Have a great weekend!

-- Lori

Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

April 11, 2009
The Right Way to Travel

By Shelly Perry in Portland, Oregon

The most important thing to think about when you're shooting for the stock photography market is the word "useful." You want to take photos that buyers will find "useful."

Having said that, "useful" can be anything from photos of a textured wall or T.V. static (graphic designers buy these to use as backgrounds for their designs) to pictures of people and places (these get snapped up to illustrate magazine articles, company brochures, space ads, websites, and more).

But while the content of stock photography is diverse, buyers seek out some subjects more than others. Like people shots. People shots are the number-one stock subject -- and I doubt highly that will ever change.


Now, most amateur photographers make the mistake of trying to get the people out of their photos. But, if you're shooting for a stock audience -- you should, in fact, be doing your best to get people in them. Incorporating the human element in your travel images will increase the dynamic interest of them and produce more sales.

And if you're a travel writer or travel photographer, here's more good news: People can change the context of your images so that they will not only sell as travel photographs, but can also be used in other contexts as well.

For instance, a business man with briefcase in hand running to catch the Underground in London is saleable to someone looking to illustrate an article about London. And since the guy's in a business suit, it's also saleable to someone looking for business-type images -- an entirely different market.

A couple holding hands as they watch the sunset on the beach at Diamond Head is a great photo to sell to someone interested in photos of Diamond Head. But because of the couple, this photo can also be sold to photo buyers looking for photos that illustrate love, happiness, good relationships, relaxation, etc.

By simply introducing people into your images, you not only make your photographs more unique, but you increase the potential market for those photos, expanding beyond travel into the broader range of buyers who purchase stock photography. Images with multiple uses are great for stock.


Another good way to understand what stock agencies are looking for is to open up any magazine and start looking at the ads or articles. You can be confident that a good majority of those images are stock photos.

Start with the magazines that get delivered to your door (or that you migrate to at the bookstore). Since you have an interest in the subject matter already, this might be an area for you to hone in on, especially if you have skills, equipment, and knowledge of something that the rest of us may not.

I, for instance, know very little about the violin. I can put a violin in a model's hand, but I would not know the right way to hold it, play it, and capture it in a way that was truly authentic. However, if you're a violinist, or you know a lot about the violin, you have an advantage over me as a photographer. You can use your skills and knowledge of the subject to shoot images that are not only interesting but will be more genuine and precise.

Keep in mind that stock agencies will each have their own unique list of wants, so be sure to check and re-check those lists every now and then, as they may spark a new idea for you.


Most online stock photo agencies require a model release for every photo they accept that has one or more recognizable people in it. This leaves you with two choices:

1. Carry a model release with you at all times and have no fear about approaching people with it, or…

2. Shoot in such a way that the people are not identifiable -- their heads are turned, they're in shadow without facial detail, or they're simply blurred into the background. (See examples and more details in Selling People Pictures without a Model Release. )

Either way, adding the human element to your travel images will increase the dynamic interest in them and produce more sales for you.

[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.]