Six Killer Tips to Increase Your Stock Photo Sales

You’ve decided to become a stock photographer. You upload a handful of images, sit back and wait…and crickets. Weeks and weeks go by without making a single sale. You become despondent. Stock photography is meant to be easy street, right? Wrong! In this article, I will share how you can increase your stock photo sales by using six specific tips.

First off, you need to set your expectations lower. If you are uploading your photos to one of the major stock photo websites, you will find that their library of existing images is so huge, it will sometimes feel like you are just one grain of sand in a huge beach. Know that it can often take up to three months before you start seeing your first sales from that set you just uploaded. Selling stock photos is a marathon, not a sprint.

If you just take some random photos with a camera or phone or whatever you’ve got, upload it to stock photo libraries and you think that overnight you’re going to generate income, you will be very, very disappointed. You have to take it as a job. You have to be willing to work hard, upload constantly and you mainly have to be willing to improve on a daily basis.

When I started taking stock photos, I was a terrible photographer. I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to use my camera at all, I had no idea what to shoot. I didn’t understand what the stock photography market really wants. I had my camera on automatic mode, I was just snapping photos around and I thought that you know I’m taking photos and I’m going to be selling it.

Obviously, they were zero commercial value. I didn’t sell anything. Those photos were not sellable. From my own rejections I was getting better and better because I had to get better. I was learning. I was improving in order to get accepted.

Six tips to increase your stock photo sales

  • Take timeless photos
  • Master one topic at a time
  • Shoot bold and simple
  • Different libraries, different tastes
  • Be authentic
  • Copy yourself

Without any further ado, let’s go through six tips to increase your stock photo sales.

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Take timeless photos

Trends come and go, they’re just like fashion. What’s popular these days will be probably forgotten in a few years time. Technology changes constantly. What is hot, popular or trendy today will be old school tomorrow.

If you are taking photos of models and you’re picking their outfits, try to use something very general looking. Something which is timeless. Nothing really fancy and popular. The same thing applies to technology. If you’re taking photo of a model holding a phone, just use some generic looking phone. Don’t use a very trendy phone.

If you’re shooting stock for a very long time, you can shoot for sure something trendy here and there to kind of pop your sales. The buyers usually if you have one very popular photo will look at the rest of your portfolio and possibly pull up more photos from you.

However if you only shoot trendy photos, your sales will be poor. If you shoot timeless photos, your sales will be far better, and that’s what you want.

Master one topic at a time

Master one thing, never stop learning, always improve and become a perfectionist. Think about it; what do you like to photograph the most? Did you just say anything? Narrow it down. Is it people? Is it pets? Is it nature? Is it objects? What is it? That one thing or two things will become your niche and you need to study that niche.

Type keywords related to that niche into the various large stock photo sites. Take a good look at what sells and study those photos and think. Do your photos look like those photos there? If the answer is no, then definitely there is room for improvement. You need to improve. However that should not stop you from uploading right now. That should not stop you at all.

Practice makes perfect. You will improve as you go and you will start seeing sales. Once you master that first niche, then you can get another. The worst thing you can do though is try to copy somebody else’s top selling photo. Why? The chances are, it is not a good look at all.

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How many times I’ve seen people trying to copy my best sellers? The same type of models, the same pose, everything. It never looked that good. The best thing would be to just let go. Be creative, come up with something new and unique. You will come up eventually with your own top-selling shot.

Shoot bold and simple

Keep simple, be bold. Lose the clutter, make it very, very simple. Look at the main image in this blog post, for example. It is very bold and the silhouette works a charm. Make sure that the message comes out very clear in the photo. For example, if I am taking photo of a person’s face to get a specific emotion or expression, I will zoom in close on the face to show the expression.

If I am taking photo of a relationship of a mom and daughter, I choose very simple kind of generic background, because I want that relationship to pop from the photo.

Different libraries, different tastes

I have noticed that my best selling photos on one marketplace is quite different from the next. In fact, when I overlay all marketplaces and their sales, only 20% of my photos appear in the same top 10 sales.

Each stock photo library have their own desires and trends in a way. Obviously there’s overlap, but then there are unique elements too. Upload a number of different images across a multitude of libraries, and see which ones sell where.

Be authentic

Fake shows, so focus on having authenticity, real expressions and real models. Authenticity has never been more requested ever like now. No more fake stuff. Do you remember those commercials when they were just kind of like doing the full smile and just selling stuff? Well, that’s gone. Just look at TV commercials. Look at the people they are using.

Look at how they are acting. Look at their faces, their skin tones, their hair color. When you’re casting models for stock, they should not look like a supermodels. They should be just very generic looking people with friendly face and beautiful smile. It will also depend on the scene shooting.

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A number of years ago, I wanted to photograph a woman in the kitchen so I just grabbed a model. Well, the photos don’t sell. Why? She doesn’t look like a cook. She doesn’t really belong to that scene. She’s also more of a fashion model in the face, so that’s why they don’t sell.

And then I called my friend, who is a chef. She’s an amazing cook. Those photographs sold really well. You know why? Because my friend was the better casting choice. She’s authentic and real.

When you pose your models, don’t be afraid of doing real acting, real expressions. And not just the positive expressions. Negative expressions sell really well as well.

Copy yourself

Recreate your own top-selling photos. Whenever you get a photo which sells, which kind of pops, study it. What is it about that photo that really sells? Is it the model? Is the location? Is it the lighting? What is it about that photo? Make more of those.

Maybe change something little. Add something extra, use different lighting techniques, shoot the whole set. Here’s another example from my own angle; I once took photos of a model doing yoga. These photographs sold really well, so I ended up shooting a lot more photos of models doing yoga.

Increase your stock photo sales

If you follow the six tips above, I pretty much guarantee that you will eventually increase your stock photo sales. Be patient, remember it isn’t instant, and you need to have patience.

  • Take timeless photos
  • Master one topic at a time
  • Shoot bold and simple
  • Different libraries, different tastes
  • Be authentic
  • Copy yourself

If you keep doing those six actionable steps over and over again, you will be on your way to generating your own passive stock photography income. Be patient and consistent, continue to practice your craft and good luck!

Photo by Zukiman Mohamad from Pexels