The mystery of what sells


posted on 22nd of april, 2008

Like many other contributors on this site, I have placed some of my images on other stock sites to get as much coverage as possible of the stock agency market. This inevitably means giving up Exclusivity on some sites, but that is something I'm prepared to do for the moment.

Spreading images over two or more sites gives us amateur photographers a fine opportunity to see what sells and what doesn't sell. What makes this process even more intriguing is the fact that, all too often, there are no clear answers.

You'll soon find that unless you've been lucky or skilled enough to take an exceptionally outstanding image, you are going to get some very mixed results about what sells and what doesn't. For instance, if you have 100 of your best images on three different sites, and leave them for, say, six months, then return to those sites, you'll get some idea of different tastes for different markets.

Of course, if you have 10 good images in your portfolio, those 10 are much more likely to be nearer the top than the bottom. But what I've found is that, all too often, an image that does outstandingly well for me on one site, does very averagely on the others, and vice versa.

To make this process even more complicated, images that I thought would do very well for me often don't earn me much, while 'snapshots' taken in just the right light, at just the right angle, of just the right subject, have sold phenomenally well. On one site my top earner is Canary Wharf in London, on another it is Tower Bridge in London, and on Dreamstime it is the Pyramids of Giza (see below).


All three images were 'snapshots', taken in the right light, at the right time, and of course international landmarks will always be popular to some extent.

On the other hand, the great irony is that images I have worked really hard to get, such as the Houses of Parliament reflected in the Thames at dusk (tripod, police intrusion etc), or traffic streaking past the Colosseum at night, have earned me nothing.

I guess there is a lesson in all this. Simply, it is keep taking as many photos as you can, wherever you can, because the more you take, the greater your chances of getting that one shot that becomes your bestseller. And, as I've discovered, sometimes the image that is really worth its weight in the gold was incredibly simple to take in the first place.

I'd like to hear any thoughts.

Comments (4)

Posted by Davidgarry on April 24, 2008
Oh yes, the keywords! Well done, Teresa, that was one MAJOR oversight! One of the reasons I enjoy Dreamstime more than any other stock agency is that it specifies what the buyer was searching for when he/she bought the image in the first place. And that is priceless as it makes you realise what weight your keywords carry. If you keyword correctly and cleverly, but have a mediocre shot, you should outsell a photographer who has a very good shot but keywords badly!

Thanks for the comments all.
Posted by Rebeccaosborn on April 22, 2008
i agree, sometimes images that i think are not very good, get all the attention and visa versa!!
Posted by Yunxiang987 on April 22, 2008
F8, and be there?
but we can not change ourself just for sale! just for $!
Posted by Amyemilia on April 22, 2008
Perhaps the true lesson is that simplicity sells? Maybe that is what photojournalist Weegee was trying to tell us when he said in response to a question about his technique - "F8, and be there!".



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Photo credits: Davidgarry.

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