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Want to Take Stock Photos like a Pro? 7 Tips You Must Know

Want to Take Stock Photos like a Pro? 7 Tips You Must Know

We have had a lot of questions revolving around stock photos after Andrew posted his How I made $1.88 Selling Stock in 10 Days article.  One question we have seen a lot is, how do you take a good stock photo? Or, why aren’t any of my photos selling? I thought this was a great opportunity for another article on stock photography.

This article is intended to answer those two questions so you can start making some true passive income through stock photography.

Either if you are looking to just get started or you are an already established stock photographer, these tips can help you get started or improve your sales. If you are struggling with sales, one or more of these tips could be the reason as to why.

1. What’s Trending

You could have the best photograph in the world but if it is about a particular subject that is not in high demand, you will not get many sells.

Selling stock photos is a lot like selling anything else. Let’s say a sporting goods store is looking to sell a new high tech soccer ball that tracks metrics for the player. The retailer will not imediately go out to start manufacturing a million new soccer balls. First, they start off with some market research to see if there is a demand for the new soccer ball.

You need to do the same thing for the subject matter that your stock photo is going to target.

Luckily, both Shutterstock and iStockPhoto both display trending searches on their home pages. These lists will help you start to get some ideas on what people are searching for and purchasing.

finding trending stock photo ideas

2. Is Your Target Market Over Saturated?

An oversaturated market is easy to find within the stock photography world. These are usually the easiest photographs to capture such as clouds, flowers, animals, and so on.

If you try to make money off of stock photos that focus on one of these then you are not going to make any money. Your photograph is going to get buried under the already established cloud photographs.

Instead, find niches under these broad categories. Maybe, you could specialize in cloudscapes during major thunderstorms. Or you could specialize in animals who are playing in the water.

Finding a niche can be tricky but is not impossible.

I start by thinking about a broad category then work my way down to a more granular niche. I think of it as a breadcrumb such as – Animals -> Playing -> Water -> Swimming -> Diving Underwater -> Photo Idea: Take a photo from underneath the waters surface looking up at the animal.

3. Be Unique

Now, after all of your research, you should know what subject your photographs should focus on. Now it is time to go take some photos.

I want these new photos to really pop out on the page for your potential buyers. This is not going to happen if you use the same point of view (POV) as all of the other photographers.

Within each subject matter you chose, take a look at your competition and how they framed their photos. While you are researching start thinking how you can make your stock photo more unique than the competition.

As an example, take a look at these photos of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis on Shutterstock. Notice that the top five are all taken from basically the same POV. Even though these are very pretty photos, they are all essentially the same. When I was in St. Louis, I wanted to take a photo of the Gateway Arch from a different POV. The hotel I happened to be staying in had a high vantage point that looked over the monument. Taking advantage of this unique overlook, I was able to take the fifth photo that comes up in the Shutterstock search results.

Do not follow the crowds for your stock photography. Make your own trends. Be Unique.

4. Image Size

Make sure your images meet the guidelines of Shutterstock or iStockPhoto. The bigger the resolution your image is, the better. That way your photo can be offered for as many possible sizes for your potential buyers.

Shutterstock requires that your stock photography uploads be at least 4 megapixels in size. They accept either JPEGs or TIFFs.

iStockPhoto (also GettyImages) require the photograph to be at least 3 megapixels in size. They allow you to upload as big as 256 megapixels! The biggest thing they stress is no upsizing of your stock photos. This can really decrease the quality of the photograph.

5. Editing

This goes a long with what is trending. As you are researching about what you should take a photo of, you should also be studying the trending styles to mimic.

I know, I said you should make your photo unique. I was talking about being unique the way you frame and shoot your photo. Editing is different.

The way your photos look after editing should have a particular look and feel that the market demands. This might require you to reedit and resubmit your stock photos after the trends change.

editing your stock photo

6. Tagging

Your stock photos need to be found amongst all of the other millions of photographs uploaded. Using the proper tags will help your photos be found by potential customers.

When tagging, try to be as thorough as possible so your photo covers a wide footprint. Do not just put ‘dog’, ‘brown’, ‘animal’ as your only tags. The photo will never be found. Try to be as broad and detailed as possible such as: ‘dog’, ‘brown’, ‘animal’, ‘happy’, ‘running’, ‘grass’, ‘tennis ball’, ‘chocolate lab’, ‘playful’, ‘playing’, ‘sunny day’.

If you are struggling with coming up with tags. Research what others have used. I have done this for every stock photograph I have uploaded.

7. Be Honest With Yourself

This one can be tough on people but is something that needs to be asked. Is your photo really worth paying money for? Do you really think that your photograph is good enough that someone would use for a marketing piece?

If your answer is yes, then go ahead and upload.

If your answer is no, that is fine! Instead of being sad, think about how you can improve your photograph. Think how you can go back out, reshoot it, and make it better. This happens to me all of the time! I will go out and take a photograph thinking it is amazing. When I get back home to take a look at it on my computer screen discovering that the photo looks horrendous!

This happens to me all of the time! I will go out and take a photograph thinking it is amazing. When I get back home to take a look at it on my computer screen discovering that the photo looks horrendous!

When in doubt. Ask someone you know and who will be honest with you if they would buy the photo.

stock photo of silly food

No matter how delicious your food was, do not worry about uploading every single dinner you have taken.

Conclusion

One big pattern you should see within this article is research!

Do your research before you decide to take a photo so you can figure out if it is actually in demand or not. Do your research so you take unique photos. Do your research so you can make trendy edits. And finally, do your research so you can make the proper tags.

Not only do these tips apply to stock photography but they will apply to earning money through several different avenues with your photography. Learn about these other avenues to earn more money in my 5 Simple Ways – How to Sell Photos Online article.

5 Simple Ways – How to Sell Photos Online

5 Simple Ways – How to Sell Photos Online

Alright, before we get started. Let me say I’m excited about this article! I really enjoy bringing a personal touch and felt this article “How To Sell Photos Online” allowed me to bring in some personal experiences on what really works for selling photos. I’ve done most of these.

As many of you already know from other posts, I love photography. This hobby is one of my true passions in life though, sadly, I do not get to play with my camera much anymore. Thankfully, before this downturn in production, I was able to gather a lot of different experiences that taught me how to sell photos online for extra income.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to shoot my photos all over the U.S. and the world. It took a lot of honesty with myself, patience, and persistence to build my skills to create some decent photographs. Many of my photos have sold to people around the world using several different platforms of selling. It is a very fun and addicting experience to have someone purchase a photograph that you created from scratch.

Here are some of the different ways you can sell photos online.

1. Stock Photography

Okay, everyone knows about this method on how to sell photos online already so let’s get it out of the way. Using Shutterstock or iStock Photo is probably the easiest way to earn extra money online selling your photos. All you have to do is head over to one of these sites, sign up, upload, get accepted, then sit and wait to get paid.

I have used stock photography to make true passive income for the past four years.

About five years ago I was in St. Louis. While there we visited a high vantage point in a hotel that over looked the St Louis Arch. I snapped a quick shot (this article’s featured image) through the glass window not thinking anything about it. Later on I decided to add it to Shutterstock and iStock Photo. To be honest, compared to the other photos I was uploading, I was not too excited about the one of the arch. To my surprise though, it has been a best seller for me. Between the two hosting services I have made over $1,000 off of the photograph.

Why did this photo do so well? My theory is because it is from a different angle than your typical St. Louis Arch photograph. Go ahead and take a look at the top St Louis Arch photos on ShutterStock and compare to mine above. Notice how it is completely different from the other top sellers. This is what you should do for your stock photography. Find a topic on one of the stock photography sites that is selling well. Then analyze the competition figure out how you can do your photo better bringing fresh content to the topic.

For some more great advice on stock photography check out Andrew’s experience on Selling Stock Photography.

2. Direct Sells

A few years back I was very active at marketing my photographs. I was blogging every day, creating conversations on Twitter, and gaining visitors like crazy. This is when I had a few people directly contact me to use my photos. One client was a hospital in Iowa looking for photos to use on their website. The second client was a marketing company out of Sweden looking to use my Portland Headlight photo for one of their clients.

Overall, I only made $75 off of these two deals but I was still very excited. One thing I learned was to only work with clients who have a budget. The hospital did not so I gave them a one year license for free as long as they gave me credit for my work on the site. I thought this would give me exposure. It did not.

I learned from this mistake when the Swedish deal came up. Here I made sure that I was going to get some money out of them. We came up with a deal for $75, they signed the license, then I sent them a digital copy of the image. It was essentially a direct stock photography deal.

3. Etsy

If you read my 8 Extremely Flexible Part Time Jobs for Us Grown Ups article, you know I once started an Etsy shop a while back. I did not spend much time on my shop to get it going but did sell a couple of photographs there. I have heard that if you work fairly consistently on your own shop for about a year that it can become pretty lucrative.

Like I said, I did not really work very hard on my shop so nothing huge ever materialized with Etsy. Out of the photographs I did sell, I made around $100.

Hopefully in the near future I can get back into my Etsy shop. I think this could be a really nice way to make some extra income.

Etsy allows you to sell your own crafts as a part time gig.

4. Magazines

One time, I had the editor of a digital magazine contact me to take some photographs around the Denver area. They were doing a spotlight on the city and wanted me to take photos of local landmarks, things to-do, and my favorite, food! I went around taking these photos, signed a contract with them, and then got paid a couple hundred bucks. Later on, the article was published which was an incredible feeling!

To start your own freelance journey on how to sell your photos online, I recommend you to contact editors of any magazine around the country. This will let them know you exist and that you are hungry for some work. Do not get discouraged if they say no right away. If they turn you away, remember to follow up ever couple months or so.

Also, I am sure there are freelance websites around the internet to help you find new gigs. I do not have any personal experiences with these websites though. Oh! Article idea!

5. Consignment Shops

Alright, this idea is not about how to sell photos online but rather at a physical store. It is very similar to Etsy and Direct Sells so I wanted to include it for you. Here you can find locally owned gift stores that sell items from local artists. Most of these stores sell items like a consignment shop would. They give your item space in the store for a certain amount of time. Once it sells then they take a cut of the income and you get the rest. Pretty sweet!

Selling at a local store is also one method I do not have personal experience with yet. I have been wrestling with the idea for a while now but have not pulled the trigger yet. Once I do, I will let you know how it goes.

Wrapping it All Up

Here are five fantastic and very probable ways on how to sell photos online. Most of which I have done myself. Some of these methods take more time than others. Some are truly passive while others require you to reach out and find work. If you are ambitious it is possible to do all five of these methods to sell photos online. I would recommend starting with only one at a time instead of trying to start with all five at the same time.

It takes time, patience, and persistence to sell your photos online. Do not give up if you have not sold anything in the first week. Keep pushing forward analyzing your work to make sure that it actually looks good compared to others. If not, learn how you can make your work better. Remember that failure is okay and if you learn from your mistakes you will come out ahead.