photo by vorDa via iStock
How do you make your stock photos stand out from the gigantic array of images available to buyers? The answer for how to improve stock photography images is very closely related to how to make good images in general. While stock photos have a few different rules or ideas behind a photographer’s approach to stock photography, it still pretty much comes down to simply creating good photographs.
You probably are already a very good photographer, with people telling you all the time that you should sell your images, which is why you’re considering how to take stock photos since stock photography is a very real source of possible income from your photography.
So, let’s take that good eye of yours and your knowledge and skill of photography as an art and a craft and put it all to good use so you can join the ranks of professional photographers making money from stock photography.
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Make the Exposure Work for You
photo by Sasha_Suzi via iStock
A properly exposed photographic image will have more appeal overall than one that isn’t. But, what determines what is proper exposure?
This is a vitality important part of creating compelling imagery, since by means of exposing for certain parts of the scene or for a specific effect, you can radically change the entire look and feel of an image. By changing from the meter recommended exposure settings to other settings, you can change the image to high key, low key, or accentuate a certain color.
I like to talk about an old school photographic technique concerning exposure values and how to control them called pre-visualization. Ansel Adams made a complete discipline about pre-visualizing exposure values called the Zone System.
Ansel Adams / Public domain
In the Zone System, different shades of black to white were given Zone numbers, from 0 to XII, eleven zones in all. Though he designed it around black and white film photography, it works just as well for color and digital imaging.
Adams controlled everything about the image the entire way through the process, from choosing the film, exposing it, developing the film, printing on paper, and developing those prints. Every step has variables which affect the final presented photograph. The same things work in digital photography, from deciding the file type, ISO, and how the image file is post processed and delivered.
Controlling exposure being included in my stock photography tips is our way of letting anyone wondering know that digital photography for stock photos is still “drawing with light,” which is the essence of photography.
Compose With Feeling
photo by luchezar via iStock
A stock photo, even a simple one showcasing a product, is a composition of elements. There may be only one element in the stock photo, but it will still require proper placement within the frame and within the scene. That’s composition.
Using the well established rules of composition is a good idea for many stock photos. The Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, Repetition, the Golden Spiral, S Curves, Symmetry, and others are valuable techniques to learn and use.
photo by PPAMPicture via iStock
To compose with feeling and make our stock photos stand out, sometimes we need to follow one or more of these rules to the letter, other times we should break the rules for a superior image. That’s where the feeling comes in.
Sometimes, you can dramatically alter an image by creative composition, other times it’s more of a fine tuning. Knowing how to use the rules in the first place will give you the ability to creatively break them as needed.
Capture Familiar Views
photo by gorodenkoff via iStock
Stock photography categories are full of everyday objects, everyday people doing everyday things. These familiar views, properly exposed and composed with balance make viewers feel comfortable. This feeling of comfort and familiarity can break the ice for your stock photo with the viewer and turn them into a buyer.
What stock photo subjects will benefit from this treatment is a topic you will need to research and keep up on in order to have people stop at your portfolio instead of scrolling right past it.
As part of a complete stock photography tutorial, I like to suggest that photographers look at other people’s social media, pay attention to trends, and really look at printed and online ads that catch your attention. If an ad image caught your eye, they did something right.
photo by katleho Seisa via iStock
It also helps to show objects being used in a familiar way, too, whether it be a BBQ grill or a schoolbook. While a jarring juxtaposition can also draw attention to a stock photo image, it may likewise turn someone off from appreciating the image.
Research and paying attention to trends is the best way to know which way to go. Many of the top sites for stock photos have tools that you can use to check out current viewing popularity and buying trends.
Show Another Side
photo by RyanJLane via iStock
The unfamiliar can work, too, for capturing a buyer’s attention. How do you know which way to go, familiar or out of the ordinary? Why not do both?
As we used to say in a previous decade, film is cheap. DIgital file space can always be expanded, just use high capacity cards and have several of them on hand whenever you go out shooting for stock photos.
photo by Brasil2 via iStock
A car looks great in the standard angled view from the passenger side front fender, but a low level shot of a sports car’s front air dam, grill, and sloping hood can accentuate the power and speed of that same car.
Whether it’s stock photos of people, places, or things, while capturing all the familiar and comfortable views, make sure to also gather several out of the ordinary perspectives, too. That way, you’re covering several different schools of thought and the tastes of different buyers.
Include Negative Space
photo by pixelfit via iStock
Negative space for stock photos is a part of the image that doesn’t have a whole lot of visual interest going on. It doesn’t actually have to literally be blank like a blue sky, but by leaving some space in images, you increase your chances of hitting just the right ratio that an ad illustrator might need.
A huge number of stock photos are used as a simple illustrative device to help make a story flow better, this article has some stock photos used in that way. But an equally large number of images are used with ad copy or editorial copy right in the image area. Giving illustrators and editors options for how to use your stock photos can result in increased sales for you.
Create a Series
photo by Viktorcvetkovic via iStock
An image series can make a viewer stop and take a look, which is great because lingering increases the chances that they will download an image. Having a series of the same object, place, people, or theme might even result in multiple sales since the buyer can already see in the mind’s eye how they may want to use more than one of your stock photos.
photo by Viktorcvetkovic via iStock
A series can be made by varying where the negative space in the image is placed or you can make a series showing progressive effort or continuous action.
photo by Viktorcvetkovic via iStock
Once again, keeping up with current trends through the agency you’re using for your stock photos will be of vital importance, since 9 images in a row of a biker riding past you may be popular one week (think Tour de France week), but not gather any attention the next. Which is why the last of my tips for how to improve stock photos is no less important that the previous six.
photo by AleksandarNakic via iStock
A popular TV astronomer from my youth used to have a catch phrase “Keep looking up!” He meant that if you don’t look at the sky every now and then, you could miss out on something really cool. (Jack Horkheimer, the Star Gazer, of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium in case you’re wondering, it showed on PBS.)
Same idea works equally as well with your hopes and efforts concerning stock photos, if you don’t keep shooting, eventually you’ll have nothing left to show and sell. Most of us are photographers not only for making money, but also because we love the art and craft of photography.
If you keep shooting, you’ll always be on the lookout for new ways to express your creativity. Not only will keep you abreast of current trends in selling stock photos, but it will also make you happy. I know I’m happy. I never work a day in my life because I love what I do. I’m positive you do too, so keep shooting and make your stock photos shine.