7 Tips to Create Stock Photos that Sell

Wemark editors on how to stand out and capture clients in a world of limitless photos.

Photography has evolved beyond the classic “decisive moment” — it’s been absorbed into the human psyche as a visual language with infinite angles and approaches. As technology continues to spread the medium more than the legendary Henri Cartier-Bresson could have ever imagined, nearly anyone can take photos that get close to the proficiency of the pros. But images are everywhere and their perceived value is decreasing by the minute. In 2017 alone, there were more than 1.2 trillion digital photos taken worldwide, according to InfoTrends. Many photographers feel like they have to give their images away — just for a chance to be seen.

The bar between what makes a good and a commercially viable photograph is constantly raising and shifting. The endless sea of images and growing visual literacy among consumers means professional image makers must push their work further to stand out and engage their niche market. This especially holds true in the world of stock photography, which expands by thousands of new licensable photographs every day. So how can a photographer take photos that stand out enough to sell? Our editors compiled seven tactics to guide your work into the next level of sales.

Keep It Real

“Authenticity” is one of today’s biggest marketing buzzwords, and for good reason: image buyers want to see organic and original ideas. They’re constantly looking for “real people,” one of today’s most popular stock photo search terms. So naturally, your work should celebrate your unique style. Produce shoots that represent your passions and unique perspective of the world. Find a way to maintain your own style consistently across multiple projects. Your work can be about you and your community as much as it’s about your clients.

Embrace Diversity

The world is filled with many cultures — images should reflect that. Keep in mind that brands and image buyers are international and their needs vary. Embrace diversity in your subjects, honoring how human experience differs from person to person and place to place. But most importantly, respect the people that you’re photographing and avoid stereotypes at all costs.

Produce Unique Shoots, Regardless of Location

When you’re shooting in a new location, highlight unexpected details and avoid the travel clichés you’ve come to expect. Think about how to add your own vision to a popular destination. Even the Eiffel Tower — one of the most heavily photographed locations in the world — can be photographed with an innovative lens.

Stay Current

What makes a good photograph attractive to image buyers? Its ability to stay ahead of visual, social, and style trends. Content carries as much weight as technical acuity. The zeitgeist has appeal, especially to buyers who are looking to use your images to sell their products in today’s market (hint: they all are!)

Get Technical

As much as buyers love naturally lit images that feel “real,” showing your technical chops in a new way can drive buyers to your work. Push yourself to play with radical lighting or compositional techniques. Work with a stylist or makeup artist for creative collaboration. Play with different color combinations to create intrigue. Let your artistry, production skills and prowess show.

Concept Creatively

When you’re staging shoots, think like a potential client. How might you portray your subject matter in a dynamic way that can sell their product, but hasn’t been seen before? It’s all about showing up for your shoots ready to be in the moment, and finding creative ways to make your subject — no matter how mundane — shine for clients.

Keep it Clean

Your photos don’t even have a chance to get accepted into the marketplace without adhering to a general set of standards. Unless you’re a photojournalist shooting a news story, remember that all visible branding, trademarks and other identifying information must be removed from your images. Make sure to get property and model releases to protect the rights of all subjects. Most importantly, images should not contain defamatory, pornographic, or otherwise offensive content.

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