photo by Prostock-Studio via iStock
As someone who has been stuck at home like the rest of you, I’ve been working a lot with stock photography sites because it’s one of the ways I can still bring in revenue without putting myself or others in danger.
I’ve been working with different stock photography sites for more than a decade, and definitely consider myself a professional at it at this point in my career, but I realize not everyone is so lucky.
So, if this pandemic has made you think twice about how sustainable your photography business truly is, I definitely suggest you start following our string of articles on stock photography tips.
This article is going to be much more straightforward and is geared towards beginners. Here are some basic stock photography tips you should know before you start shooting.
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Keep Everything Classic
photo by izusek via iStock
One of the greatest stock photography ideas is to hop on breaking news pieces.
For instance, I spent a good amount of time this year taking images of people working with masks on, or people working from their new home offices. I knew that COVID-19 was going to be a huge selling point in the stock photography world because a ton of businesses were going to be trying to abruptly train their entire workforces to work from home in a matter of days.
This trend is not what I’m talking about.
Unless you are very specifically covering breaking news, like creating stock photos that you are planning to sell within the next month, then you need to make sure that the stock photos you are taking are timeless. The best way to do this is to make sure that your photos have a classic look.
photo by Todor Tsvetkov via iStock
For example, don’t dress your models in fringe fashion that will be out of style by the end of the year. Asking your models to stick to basic color choices for their outfits will also be helpful, think blacks, browns, whites and other non-neon solid colors.
Another way you can keep your stock photos timeless is by refusing to use any brands or logos in your photos. Out of all of our stock photography tips, this one can be tricky because a small logo is really easy to miss. But, by sticking to a timeless look you are going to greatly extend the life of your stock photography.
Shoot for a Global Audience
photo by filadendron via iStock
Most stock photography tips leave out one of the most important tips, at least for me and definitely for Americans. We tend to get into this American mindset since our country is so large and we forget that, in doing so, we may accidentally be excluding a huge number of potential clients.
What I mean by this is that if your photos include any cultural norms, even accidentally, then those photos automatically exclude a huge audience.
photo by monkeybusinessimages via iStock
One really great example of this is cars. If you’re taking a photo of someone driving and they’re on the left side of their car, you automatically excluded nearly all European clients.
It’s obviously impossible to strictly shoot photos that are going to be globally recognizable, but even keeping audience-centric stock photography tips in mind while you’re shooting means you are going to expand your reach.
Run Your Photos Through a Thumbnail Test
photo by marekuliasz via iStock
When you’re learning how to sell stock photos, one of the most helpful stock photography tips is to start using the thumbnail test.
The thumbnail test is when you take your stock photos and make them around 15-20% of their original size in order to test whether your image still has a very clear theme and subject.
This is helpful for you because it will teach you how to convey a clear story with an image instantaneously, but it is also helpful for you to simply see your photo and how your potential clients are going to be seeing your photo.
No matter which stock photography website you choose to work with, your photos are going to be just one small blip on a page filled with thousands of options for your clients. If your image doesn’t convey a clear message to you when it’s on your desktop alone, it will definitely not convey that message to your clients.
photo by Manuel Tauber-Romieri via iStock
This is another tip that a lot of stock photography tips articles leave out: don’t be afraid to use models.
I understand that using models can be intimidating because it requires more legalities, like model waivers, but if you ever hope to become a successful stock photographer then you simply can’t do it without people.
Plus, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
This video by Matt Granger walks you through how to create a model waiver, and while he isn’t a lawyer, he is a photographer that’s been working in the business for a long time.
Another reason why using models in your stock photography is absolutely essential is that people are simply drawn to images with people in them over images without people in them. You’re going to make more money the more photos you create with models.
This is especially true of photos that use your models very prominently. If you’re planning on shooting a lot of stock photography in the future, you can pretty much put your wide angle lens in a closet because you want images that focus on your subjects.
Try and fill your whole frame with your models if you can (I mean, you’re paying them to be there after all).
Less is More
photo by PeopleImages via iStock
If you’re thinking about selling only the best, most composed shots as stock photography then you need to think again.
One of the best stock photography tips my mentor ever gave me was this one: less is more. All of those “luxury” shots you see on stock photography websites, like the one above, were created for an incredibly specific audience. “Luxury” shots, or shots that are hyper posed and clean, are typically only going to be purchased by lifestyle magazines.
And frustratingly enough, once one lifestyle magazine has purchased your shot, another one probably won’t.
Another way to look at this is that instead of constantly worrying about whether you’re following all of these stock photography tips or not you should be worried about creating something that looks like something you might see in your everyday life.
Don’t Be Afraid of Strong Emotions
photo by Rowan Jordan via iStock
If you’ve ever worked in marketing, then a lot of these stock photography tips may seem pretty obvious to you, especially this one.
Don’t be afraid to exhibit really strong emotions in your photos. A lot of the time, businesses are simply going to search basic human emotions, like “fear,” “anger,” or “sadness,” when looking for a stock photo because they translate to every industry in the world.