photo by Marisa9 via iStock
I’ve been writing a series of articles on how to shoot stock photography over the last few weeks. I’ve covered things like the most popular stock photography categories and ideas for making your stock photos stand out. I’ve even covered some more basic stock photography tips.
But, the one thing I haven’t covered yet is stock photography mistakes. That’s because giving stock photography advice is pretty easy, but teaching someone what not to do is much more difficult, especially when you’ve been creating stock photos for as long as I have been.
But, we’ve gotten a ton of messages asking for us to do an article on stock photography mistakes, so I asked around the office and pulled together a pretty solid list. Here’s how not to do stock photography.
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Don’t Be Too Harsh on Yourself
photo by Nicola Katie via iStock
While a lot of stock photography mistakes revolve around problems with composition or lighting or storylines, even more stock photography mistakes are due to self-editing.
If you’re too harsh on yourself, your stock photos are going to suffer for it. I’ve seen photographers who were so self-conscious of their stock photos that they were unable to put more than a dozen up online. I’ve also seen photographers who were so self-conscious about their work that they ended up in an endless research cycle and never got around to actually taking photos.
While it’s normal to self-edit, make sure you don’t spend more than 10% of your time critiquing your work.
Don’t Copy Yourself
photo by Cecilie_Arcurs via iStock
This is another one of the most common stock photography mistakes that people new to stock photography make.
Once you start to sell stock photos, you’re going to get really excited and want to continue that revenue stream. So, a lot of people start to copy the photos that they created that actually sold.
Essentially, if a photographer creates a stock photo that showcases an interracial wedding and it sells, they may be tempted to continue shooting similar photos of interracial weddings.
The problem with copying past work that you’ve created that sold is that you’re stealing clients from yourself. Instead of convincing more clients to purchase your work, you’re giving the same niche of clients more options to choose from.
This means that you aren’t going to sell more. Instead, if you find a niche that works for you, take photos in that niche that don’t look exactly the same, or incredibly similar, to work you’ve already sold.
But Don’t Copy Others, Either
photo by grinvalds via iStock
I never said stock photography is easy. Many stock photography mistakes overlap with one another. While you don’t want to copy your past work, you also don’t want to copy other photographers.
Other photographers have gotten popular because they found an individual niche for themselves, and while it can be tempting to try and dip into that pre-established client pool, all you’re really going to do is make that photographer frustrated.
You don’t want to work against yourself, and copying other stock photographers is the number one way to do so.
Don’t Forget About Your Schedule
photo by baloon111 via iStock
Some stock photography mistakes are also business mistakes. While it can be tempting to let your life overrun your stock photography business schedule, you will never be able to create a steady stream of income in this photography niche without dedicating a solid amount of time to it.
Every week, I sit down and I build two goals for myself for the week. The first goal is to figure out exactly how much time I want to devote to stock photos for that week. The second goal is to figure out when I’m going to do that and actually build a calendar for myself.
This way, if my calendar doesn’t pan out the way I want it to, I can still keep myself on track with my larger goal for the week.
Of course, this doesn’t work every week. Sometimes I can’t hit my weekly goal. The important thing is to still take some photos.
photo by RyanJLane via iStock
Of all the stock photography mistakes I see photographers making, this is the worst one.
Stock photos need to communicate a clear emotion or idea, but that doesn’t mean they need to be overly obvious. Photos of people staring right at the camera or photos of people with their faces frozen in incredibly uncomfortable and unrealistic places are not the way to go.
This is also one of the more frustrating stock photography mistakes for me because I understand why new stock photographers do it. If you go to any stock photography website and search a basic keyword, like “angry,” all of the photos that come up are going to be incredibly over-posed simply because they match the keyword perfectly.
But these are not the photos that your future clients are really going to connect with.
Don’t Create Fake Photos
photo by DNY59 via iStock
Sort of along similar lines, you typically want to avoid creating obviously fake photos. What I mean is that you don’t want to create photos like the one above and you don’t want to create unrealistic scenarios in your images.
The reason for this is that images like the one above don’t have as broad of appeal. Yes, someone, somewhere will want this photo (like us for this article!), but sticking to images that have more uses for more people will give you more revenue coming in.
Don’t Forget to Do Your Research
photo by NickyLloyd via iStock
I’ve linked to a number of articles on PhotographyTalk about creating wonderful stock photos. I suggest you read them. But, I also suggest you read articles about taking stock photos on other websites.
Research is an important part of avoiding stock photography mistakes. You can learn proper technique, discover types of stock photography you can try, and figure out where to sell your stock photos, among many other things!
Don’t Throw Your Formal Training Out
photo by Geber86 via iStock
Finally, do not throw out all of your past training. If you’re a good photographer, that doesn’t necessarily mean you're going to be a good stock photography photographer, but it definitely gives you a huge advantage over your competitors.
All of the basics of photography still apply to stock photos. Don’t forget about your composition, framing, lighting, posing, and so forth when creating stock photos.
While the overall point of stock photos are very different from other photos in different photography niches, the same things still draw people to them. For instance, stock photos that feature people are going to be purchased much more frequently than those that don’t. Similarly, stock photos that are well-composed and beautiful will result in more sales.
So, if you doubt your ability to create compelling stock photos, simply avoid the mistakes outlined here and rely on your skills as a photographer. Doing so will help you get on track with your stock photography game!