photo by Mike_Pellinni via iStock
I’ve written a bunch of stock photography articles lately encouraging photographers to try to break into the field to bring in some extra money during the pandemic.
For instance, I recently wrote an article outlining different research methods for photographers looking to begin selling their images on stock photography websites.
But, I haven’t covered the different popular stock photography categories. This is obviously a problem since some stock photography categories are incredibly niche and others are very sought after.
While we need photographers working all different types of stock photography, you should at least know about the popular stock photography categories because these are the categories that are most likely to bring you in regular income.
I’ve outlined a group of 11 popular stock photography categories here that are either always popular or have been exponentially growing over the last few years.
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One of the most popular stock photography categories is “lifestyle.” While everyone defines lifestyle stock photography a little differently, I like to think of it as anything you may do in your free time when you’re not working.
So, things like hobbies would be considered lifestyle stock photography, as would things like church, household chores, and parties.
Lifestyle stock photography can be a little difficult because they might require you to get model releases, but since lifestyle photos are one of the most popular stock photography categories, you can rest assured that you will get much more money back than what you pay your models.
photo by FatCamera via iStock
As the general population ages, photos of aging people are becoming one of those most popular types of stock photography.
A lot of the stock photography currently available of older people fall into a few distinct, stereotypical categories, like grandparents, sickly people, or houseridden people.
Since this is no longer representative of the aging population, it doesn’t make sense to keep producing the same images.
photo by monkeybusinessimages via iStock
Photos of older people working out, traveling, working on computers or in offices are definitely needed.
Since those who are 75+ aren’t always ill or boring, why do all stock photos depict them this way?
The more interesting photos you can snap of the aging population, the better.
photo by july7th via iStock
Photos of nature have always been one of the most popular stock photography categories because they are beautiful and can be used in a variety of situations.
Nature photos are also a stock photographer’s dream because they don’t require any releases, and so do not require payment to models up front.
While you may not be able to travel to grab nature stock photos right now, you should try taking photos of nature that you can find immediately around your home. There are thousands of photos of Iceland on iStock, there may not be very many of the woods near your hometown.
photo by monkeybusinessimages via iStock
This is the first category that has really been booming over the last few years, and has especially grown over the last few months.
While many popular stock photography categories tackle happy or benign subjects, this category will take some sensitivity on your part since it is a touchy subject for many people.
Still, mental health photos are in high demand for corporations looking to push different HR campaigns and they can bring in a lot of money. It’s all about making the photos look both realistic and beneficial.
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Since just about everyone is working from home nowadays, stock photography websites have seen a huge boom in photos of employees on Zoom calls, or photos of employees trying to juggle both their personal lives (kids and pets) and their jobs at once.
This will probably never return back to normal, if you listen to what the experts have to say about it. Taking photos of modern businesses and modern business people could look like taking photos of people working while traveling, like on trains and airplanes. It could also look like images of moms working on computers with toddlers strapped to themselves or pictures of businessmen with suits on only half of their bodies and pajama pants on the rest.
This category is fun because, let’s face it, working from home can look pretty ridiculous at times!
photo by Ranta Images via iStock
While not very many people are traveling right now, I’ve actually seen more travel articles recently than I was seeing before because those with the travel bug are going crazy at this point.
Travel stock photos are one of those really wide-reaching popular stock photography categories because they can include images of every step of the process, from packing to flying to landing and checking in at your hotel.
Modern travel also looks a lot different than it ever used to. Check any of the stock photo websites right now for travel and nearly every image features people wearing masks and carrying hand sanitizer.
photo by svetikd via iStock
As the younger generations grow up, they’re making sustainability a huge piece of many parts of their lives.
Sustainability efforts are no longer confined strictly to HR campaigns in large corporations looking for a boost to their public image, they pervade every part of our lives.
photo by Gabriel Shakour via iStock
This means that we need to be taking photos of them. Sustainability stock photos include different types of alternative power sources, trash-free shopping and trends like metal straws or Hydroflasks.
Since the sustainability movement is, at its heart, a political one, this means it is constantly evolving. This provides you a great chance to get in on the ground floor of the next sustainability stock photo trend.
photo by JJ Gouin via iStock
I’ve obviously been talking about the coronavirus pandemic a lot because it has changed all of the popular stock photography categories and this is an excellent example of breaking news stock photography.
Just about the minute the pandemic was announced, stock photo websites were flooded with coronavirus photos.
photo by glegorly via iStock
While not everyone has photojournalism experience, you don’t necessarily need to be on the ground covering stories in order to hop onto breaking news stock photography.
For example, unemployment in America is at an all time high right now. Even if you don’t have a long line of people waiting to get unemployment benefits in your city, you can take images of people filling out unemployment forms online or take images of stressed people in business attire.
photo by LightFieldStudios via iStock
A lot of these popular stock photography categories are intertwined and this is another example.
As people tend to grow older than they ever have before, they are more concerned about staying healthy so they can enjoy their twilight years.
People are also especially concerned with health nowadays because of the pandemic.
Health stock photos are also wide-reaching. They include images of health food, exercising or visits to healthcare providers.
photo by ArtistGNDphotography via iStock
Holiday stock photos have always been popular and they will always be popular because holidays are never going away.
One way to produce images that may be in higher demand is to pick a niche holiday that isn’t celebrated by as many people and so hasn’t been covered as extensively yet.
photo by Orbon Alija via iStock
Aerial images are also in high demand as there are not as many photographers with drones.
Aerial photos of housing are used quite frequently by real estate agents while aerial photos of beautiful, exotic locations are used by those in the hospitality and tourism industry.
While landscapes have been extensively covered in this stock photography category, try and think of something feasible for you to cover that will provide a unique take on drone photography.