Ever heard the saying “photography is the story that fails to be put into words”? Well, there certainly are many stories out there– and a lot of them need a unique and creative eye to really bring them home. Think you’re up to the task?
Whether you’re an expert who’s well-versed in photo practices or someone who’s just simply curious and passionate about this aspect of visual storytelling, it is never too late to break into the stock photo game. Follow our guide on how to sell your photos online on photo stocks and start raking in some cash!
What is Stock Photography?
Let’s first begin with a definition. Stock photos are images that people can license for use in their projects, be it personal, in-company, or other. People like designers, educators, and social media professionals use stock photography on a daily basis, providing for a considerable demand in the field. And whether you’re a professional photographer, influencer, or just someone with a strong passion for snapping shots, selling photos online on photo stocks is something you should seriously consider.
It is also important to understand what kind of work would be needed from you since long gone are the days of generic images of people obviously posing. Stock images have evolved from staid and staged over the years, with beautiful authentic photos that have come to take their place; this is also a wonderful shift from an artistic standpoint. Emotive and diverse work is valued much more these days– casual and clean images of real people in real situations have come to define and dominate the world of modern stock photography. Time to bring that camera out.
Tips to Snap Stock Photos that’ll Actually Sell
Take Your Camera (or Phone Camera) Everywhere You Go
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget about this tip. A simple look at the stock photography market trends will show you that real magic is captured in real-time. True, it is important to plan out your photos, but when those amazing authentic moments pop out seemingly out of nowhere (and they will); it is absolutely essential that you have your camera on you, at all times. It is a great way to explore subjects or niche topics you may not have realized are accessible for you.
Creating and beautifully delivering authenticity comes with an important first step–people watching, in the least creepy way possible. Begin by observing people in natural settings such as at a party or in a coffee shop or at the office. Plan out for that perfect moment by knowing how people realistically interact with each other and surrounding objects. For instance, someone sipping a drink is an easy thing to get wrong because a lot of photographers tend to instruct their subjects to pose in the process, while objectively this is far from what happens in real life.
But not everyone in your life wants to be a model, that’s okay. You can easily take candid photos or stage a similar scene with models. Unless the people’s faces are obscured or cut off, you are going to need a model release form to sell these photos. But the bottom line is; aim for realistic, even if you are featuring models. Allow for spontaneity to happen in your work through natural-looking gestures and interactions. Put yourself in the model’s shoes, picture yourself with friends and family, and–assuming everyone signs model releases–try and snap as many candids as you possibly can.
The most searched-for-keywords for stock photography are also the hardest to try and compete with. Try and think about what subject matter companies will have trouble finding unique and authentic stock images for, whether it is a medical procedure or an under-explored travel location. For this, you’re going to have to do a bit of research and find out what’s missing on stock photography sites–planning shoots around those niches would be the next step.
Walk with the Trends
Emerging technology such as commercial drones, virtual reality, and the world of crypto have much fewer stock photography options than subjects like love, happiness, or family. The latter are subjects that have existed since the dawn of time, with many people putting their own artistic spin on it; basically, a lot of content exists on these subjects already. Emerging tech often comes in the form of a product, but it is also quite possible to paint a broader picture of the product’s implications.
A stellar product shot is as important as knowing how to tell its story in a stock photo. Think of the now-iconic and meme-ified photo of the distracted boyfriend; that stock image has a story to tell. So why not stage a narrative (using to their full advantage the setting, models, and props) to convey a concept like the rise of technology or the impact social media has on people?
And as other trends such as self-care or veganism (to give a few examples) rise and become more mainstream, the need for good stock photography increases. Stock photography players like Shutterstock, Wirestock, and Adobe typically keep tabs on emerging trends and requested shot lists, which can help you plan out your future work.
Capture Real Events
Event photography is another highly requested component in the market of stock images. But again, there is a lot of authentic energy to be captured; only this time, try and plan for a shot list with a mix of candid and staged. Your photos are likely to stand out immediately if you feature people in unusual costumes or in bright, stylish outfits. And, whenever possible, try and get a behind-the-scenes shot for a more intimate outcome.
Remember, event photography follows a particular set of rules, one of the most important being knowing your light source. Learn about camera etiquette prior to traveling and attending the event itself. Model releases will again be needed in any photos that feature people’s faces.
Don’t Forget about the Holidays
When it comes to selling your stock photography, seasonal events (especially ones that are less mainstream in your area) are always in high demand. And even though certain holidays, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s, have a lot of stock photography around it, it is still more than possible to carve out a niche in those areas.
Think of the more intimate moments that get overlooked–a child happily unwrapping their Christmas gift, or families saying what they’re grateful for this year, or a couple celebrating V-day with an outdoor getaway. There’s inspiration to be had everywhere, and the same goes for creativity and uniqueness. As the seasons change though, do not forget to take into account how outdoor lightning might affect your shot.
Approach the Shot with a Concept in Mind
Despite spontaneity being key to moments of beautiful authenticity, having a rough concept in mind is equally important. Make sure you know why you are shooting and what you’re after; this comes with understanding the mood and the setting. If you’ve found yourself interested in a niche that requires a darker environment for a complex idea, going to sunny places is not necessarily going to give you the shot you’re after.
Don’t Limit Yourself to the Same Stock Photos
Finding a niche that you’re good at can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can see yourself growing and perfecting this one in-demand area, but on the other–you can end up shooting the same thing over and over again. Every once in a while, urge yourself to try something new, something you haven’t tried before; make it a personal and professional challenge. A rich diversity is a surefire way to snag buyers’ attention. For instance, you can experiment with different angles or try your hand at wildlife photography (make sure to do your research on the best cameras for this one). Take many and different shots and think of ways to make your work stand out.
Think of Certain Shots as Thumbnails
Picture a designer or an influencer scouring stock photography websites for an upcoming project. Whatever image they’re looking for, it is likely to become a thumbnail in the future. Aim to cover your bases with this demographic as well. Consider taking photos that allow for text or design treatment. This way, designers and influencers can use your work for brochures, online ads, Youtube videos, or website cover photos.
Cater to Pitch Decks
Marketers and creative directors who work on pitch decks often use these images to illustrate a certain type of persona; these are usually fictional representations of people who use their product or reflect their target audiences. Ensuring a variety and diversity when it comes to people and age groups in your images is going to do you wonders in the long run.
Post-Production Makes Perfection
After the shoot, make sure your photos are as close to being perfect as possible through post-production. This means editing; straightening crooked horizons and lines, zooming in, and removing dust marks or distractions, as well as ensuring that basic color corrections have been made. Then, help users find your stock photos more easily by adding relevant keywords and clear descriptive titles in the metadata of your images.