Stock Photography for Beginners


posted on 30th of june, 2010

It is hard to sell your photos as stock easily, you have to learn what people are looking for, and what editors like to accept. If your images are desirable, of good quality, and large enough to be useful for different applications, you can make some pretty decent dough selling them as stock photos.

I will be the first to admit, I am far from a professional photographer. I started off using a small, cheap, well…crappy 35mm film camera. I used to take pictures of flowers and landscapes, and they were anything but good. But still I persisted. One day I found out that I had won a contest, the first and only thing I have ever won. The prize was a small, 3.5MP (if I remember correctly) point and shoot digital camera. It was definitely not what the professionals were using at the time, but it worked just fine for me.

I started taking more creative, artistic shots. My photos began taking on hidden meanings, different compositions, and a slight sense of lighting. While I thought I was becoming a professional photographer, I soon started to realize that my images were not only very far from the caliber of the greats (Ansel Adams, David Muench, Dorothea Lange) but as I started to submit them to different stock agencies, I began to realize that my images were not very valuable as stock images. What they lacked? Desirability. Marketability.

A stock image must be something that a designer can use. Most designers don’t just find a pretty picture, slap it on the website, magazine, brochure, or billboard that they are designing, and call it a day. No. Most designers manipulate the images they purchase to fit the situation. Therefore, they want images that are somewhat “generic” in composition, so they can incorporate them more readily into their designs. Designers are looking for objects standing alone on a solid background, a unique lighting and depth that they can use to enhance their creations, but as for the unconventional composition, if they want to crop the image, they can do that on their own. You don’t need to crop images because you think it is artistic and desirable, because what if the designer wanted it cropped differently? You just lost a sale. (Strangely enough, being a designer, it took me a long time to learn this.)

The three main points I want you to take from this article:

* Designers want marketable images, something they can incorporate into their design, and personalize it to make it their own.
* Don’t try to be too creative with composition. If a designer only wants to use part of an item, that is their call. It is your job to provide them with a whole shot of that object.
* Don’t get too smug with yourself just because you bought a fancy new Digital SLR camera, it doesn’t automatically mean you are a professional photographer. Try to think about what a customer might want.

Some of my images:

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Comments (16)

Posted by Rceeh on July 26, 2010
Wow, great article, very good advise and i see that you already have two customers. Good show.
Posted by FabioConcetta on July 25, 2010
You wrote a nice article, congratulations for the contest you have won, has been a great satisfaction! Personally with DT I increased my skills such as creativity, style, but also a hard and difficult path, also made of discarded and rejected many pictures where the camera does not count, just the difference you do! Greetings!
Posted by Plaincrazy on July 20, 2010
this is a great artical helps alot. I do drawings and illistrations as well and will help with that as well. I new but great articals like this will help
Posted by Sukarni on July 10, 2010
great article ,i just started taking pictures a few month ago,most of my shots had been rejected,now i know why..thanks jamie its really helpfull.
Posted by Alitvfilm on July 07, 2010
Thanks Jamie....beginner like me should read this....good advice and really helpfull.
Posted by Sutprattana on July 04, 2010
Great article very good advise, this is really helpful. Thanks Jamie.
Posted by Ehcks on July 02, 2010
Well said. As a designer using a stock site, it feels like I am slogging through tons of "Composed stuff" and often feel like there is not one thing that suits my needs. Many times I have rejected an otherwise fantastic image, simply because it has been overcropped, or too much focus is placed on an arbitrary element. Other times I feel like I am settling for something that is less attractive, simply because it was "cropped" or "composed" less than the others.
Posted by Preckas on July 02, 2010
Very nice article. I primarily shoot photos for the "art" of it. I do admit though that the thought "will this be an image that can sell" does cross my mind!

I do admit though that trying to shoot with stock in mind has helped me improve my skill. I got a long way to go till I get to be like Ansel Adams but all the fun is in the voyage of learning and experimenting!
Posted by Digitalexpressionimages on July 02, 2010
You beat me to it. I was going to do a blog on this subject. As a designer myself, I often look for very specific things in images and often do not consider how well it's composed.

The editors on DT, like most stock sites, need to think like designers and less like photographers. Good stock is not the same as good photography in some cases.
Posted by Frantab01 on July 01, 2010
great blog, thanks for sharing :)
Posted by Jamiet757 on June 30, 2010
Physi28 says: still don´t have 100% clear is that sometimes if I uploaded an image uncropped it was refused by DT because of "lack of composition", as soon as I cropped it according to 1/3 rd rule, it was accepted without any problem.

Yes I am in the same boat. There are many that advise to leave copy space in a picture so the designer can fill it with his content. But then again the picture is not very attractive like that and can be refused.

I never really thought about that, I have had lots of images refused for that reason. It would seem to me that a designer would prefer to do the cropping themselves.
Posted by Mariaam on June 30, 2010
Great article! Thanks for sharing!
Posted by Jdanne on June 30, 2010
Thanks a lot for sharing!
Posted by Gmargittai on June 30, 2010
Physi28 says: still don´t have 100% clear is that sometimes if I uploaded an image uncropped it was refused by DT because of "lack of composition", as soon as I cropped it according to 1/3 rd rule, it was accepted without any problem.

Yes I am in the same boat. There are many that advise to leave copy space in a picture so the designer can fill it with his content. But then again the picture is not very attractive like that and can be refused.
Posted by Physi28 on June 30, 2010
thanks for your very interesting advices and comments, one thing about cropping which I still don´t have 100% clear is that sometimes if I uploaded an image uncropped it was refused by DT because of "lack of composition", as soon as I cropped it according to 1/3 rd rule, it was accepted without any problem.To begin with I would also agree with you that we should let the cropping to the client but..
Posted by Igorello8323 on June 30, 2010
Ак-47 Витекс и Макс



Comments (16)

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