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How to create stock images that sell

Updated on April 12, 2013

Back in the early to mid 2000’s, selling stock photos was easy. You could literally take a few pictures of flowers in your garden, upload them to a handful of stock photography sites, and watch as the money rolled in. Those were the days!

Fast forward to the present. Even if you are lucky enough for a popular agency to accept your flower photos (most won’t anymore), your chances of selling them are slim to none. That doesn’t mean that the demand for flower photos has dried up (no pun intended) - and in fact, it’s exactly the opposite. The stock photography business is stronger than ever and many stock image websites are posting higher and higher profits every year. Generic images such as flowers are selling (strong, actually) but the problem is competition. Flower pictures are easy to produce, and that means that everybody tries to sell them.

If you want to make money selling stock photos, you’ve got to do several things:

1). Think outside the box a little bit. The world doesn’t need any more flower pictures, but it does need images centered around the latest trends, fads, and fashion. These things are always changing, so that means the content you produce should be changing as well.

2). Think like a buyer. How are people most likely going to use your images? Does your image look like something that would make an excellent backdrop for a poster? In that case, leave a lot of extra open space for text and images! Help the buyer out and do this for them. The reason why people buy stock photos and images is because it saves time.

3). Create a lot of visual impact. Fact it - people are attracted to “bling”, and the more your image contains, the more often it will sell. Have a look at these two example stock 3d illustrations (borrowed from a colleague who runs a successful stock illustration website): The image on the left is a simple illustration of a globe. It sells several times a year. The image on the right is a globe too, but it contains a lot of rich visual elements that make it really stand out in a sea of competition. This image sells several times a month.

Simple vs. Complex images

Even though you may prefer the simple image, it doesn’t matter. More people are drawn to images and illustrations that contain a lot of visual depth. If you want to generate a lot of sales, you have to cater to the desires of the majority. If you can’t do that, the stock photo business is not for you.


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      amperial 3 years ago

      Try Photos, video, music, 3d models and vector illustrations

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      Jerry 4 years ago

      Good simple explanation that makes sense. Your left vs right image mistake in the article and other typos can confuse some.